Memory of the World

Barbados and United Kingdom - An African Song or Chant from Barbados

'Song of Slaves in Barbados’ is a single page document containing the written melody and words to a song that was written down in the late 18th century by anti-slavery campaigner Granville Sharp "from the information of Dr William Dickson who lived several years in the West Indies and was secretary to a Governor of Barbados. The document is in the Gloucestershire Archives, U.K. The document is a written transcription of the oldest known song sung in English by enslaved Africans in the Americas. It captures thoughts and emotions of enslaved sugar workers as they work under arduous, depressing conditions. It evokes tremendous pathos and suffering at the hands of a brutal colonial system and demonstrates the strength of spirit and resistance against overwhelming odds.  The document and the song are relatively unknown, even in Barbados. therefore, its registration to the MoW International Register would bring recognition and appreciation to a unique and historically significant piece of musical heritage of Barbados and the African diaspora.

Photos: © Gloucestershire Archives

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