The Abolition of Slavery in Mauritius, also known as Abolition Day and observed annually on February 1, commemorates the abolition of slavery in the nation. The Slavery Abolition Act of 1833, helmed by the British parliament, took effect a year later, with most British colonies freeing enslaved Africans spanning the Caribbean and South Africa. In 1835, Mauritius followed suit, officially becoming the last British colony to gain freedom. Planters were compensated with two million pounds sterling for their slave loss. Mauritius (colonized by the Netherlands), France, and Great Britain became independent in 1968.
History of Abolition of Slavery Day
Although today the tropical island with a population of 1.2 million people tops the list of luxury destinations boasting some of the most beautiful landscapes, beaches, lagoons, and reefs, Mauritius’ early beginnings show a staggering irony. Before the Arabs, the island lay uninhabited by humans. But, the history of Mauritius would not be complete without a delve into slavery. The history of Mauritius dating back to the first period lacks documentation. Hence, the earliest dates of the country’s history sink deep into the mystery.
Mauritius, said to be over 702 miles east of Madagascar, situated off the south-eastern coast of Africa, traces its roots to the discovery by Arabs and Malays in 1507 before the Europeans-Portuguese, came into the picture in 1510 naming the island ‘Cirné.’
By 1598, the Dutch took and renamed it after their head of state, Maurice, Prince of Orange, and Count of Nassau, and from there, it officially started to gain recognition in the early 16th century.
The 1640s saw the Dutch usher in the first slaves. Through the leadership of the commander of Mauritius, Adriaan van der Stel, a hundred slaves were brought. The Dutch administration meted untold treatment on slaves, and any attempt at confrontation brought dire consequences.
By the 17th century, the island played host to about 200 Dutch alongside slaves from Madagascar, Africa, India, and Java. In 1710, following no longer favorable conditions for the Dutch, they left, and the British took over in 1810. By then, the Island was made up of a great percentage of slaves from Madagascar and East Africa.
In 1834, the British Empire had already proclaimed the abolition of the slave trade following the passage of the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833, but Mauritius dragged its feet for months before the apprenticeship system convinced slave owners otherwise. They followed suit on February 1, 1835, becoming the last British colony to abolish slavery.
Abolition of Slavery Day timeline
Colonial administrator and explorer Pedro Mascarenhas discovers the island, as part of the Mascarene Islands, consisting of Mauritius (largest), Réunion, and Rodrigues.
The island is renamed Cirné, but the Portuguese do not settle there.
Wybrant van Warwijck, the first Dutchman to land on the island in 1598, renames the island in honor of their head of state, Maurice, Prince of Orange, and Count of Nassau.
The island, which become a French colony after the Dutch abandon it, is renamed ‘Ile de France’ under the French East India Company.
This is after defeating the French in battle at Cap Malheureux.
Under the treaty, Mauritius, Seychelles, and Rodrigues are confirmed to belong to Britain.
On August 1, the Slavery Abolition Act is passed by Britain, forbidding every form of slavery throughout its colonies.
Mauritius adopts the Indian rupee because the influx of the currency had already begun circulating throughout, resulting from immigration from India.
On March 12, following a series of Constitutional Review conferences between 1961 to 1965, Mauritius becomes an independent state within the Commonwealth.
Abolition of Slavery Day FAQs
When was slavery abolished in Mauritius?
In 1835, slavery was abolished in Mauritius by the British empire. However, before this, there was already an escalating discontentment about slavery globally.
Why was slavery abolished in Mauritius?
Generally, the decline of profits globally was a catapulting force for slave trade abolition as wage labor became more profitable.
How is Abolition Of Slavery Day celebrated in Mauritius?
Although events are held throughout the country, commemorating freedom of slavery on ‘Abolition of Slavery’ day, February 1, many specifically gather at the foot of Le Morne mountain for festivities. Le Morne is said to be surrounded by caves, a secure hiding spot for fleeing slaves in the past.
How to Observe Abolition of Slavery Day
Lend your voice
Although slavery has been officially abolished, modern-day slavery is very prevalent; disguised in forms of forced labor, debt bondage, forced marriage, and human trafficking. Speak up against these vices and make the world a better, more secure, and happier place
Go down memory lane
With the abolition of the slave trade, the world was transformed. Celebrate the ushering of peace, unity, and equality the day brings by delving into history. Keep yourself abreast with your roots.
Join the conversation on social media
It's a significant holiday that binds us together. You could join in on social media conversations and updates using hashtags #SlaveTrade #AbolitionofSlaveryDay #InternationalDayfortheAbolitionofSlavery
5 Important Facts About Mauritius
Mauritius was colonized by different colonies
The island, with volcanic origins, was colonized by the Netherlands, France, and Great Britain before attaining independence in 1968.
Le Morne signifies freedom in Mauritius
A peninsula at the extreme southwestern tip of the Indian Ocean island, Le Morne, said to be a haven for fleeing slaves, was symbolic of freedom.
Mauritius derives its name from a prince
In 1598, Admiral Wybrand Van Warwijck named the island ‘Mauritius’ after Prince Maurice of Nassau Maurice van Nassau, ruler of the Dutch Republic.
The symbol of Mauritius
The dodo, the flightless bird, and the symbol of Mauritius was found only in Mauritius but went extinct in 1681 due to humans.
Sugarcane is Mauritius’ main export
It takes up a large percentage of the island.
Why Abolition of Slavery Day is Important
It drives equality
It reminds us to fight against all forms of racism and discrimination. It also serves as a reminder of the importance of perseverance and the fight for freedom and basic human rights.
It preaches the need to speak up
It creates awareness about slavery, modern-day slavery, and its long-lasting impact on our world. It invites people to speak up about injustice by drawing attention to the injustice of the past.
Strengthens the fight
40 million people worldwide are victims of modern slavery, and delving down memory lane brings that fact to the fore, charging us to do better and be better as humans. Why not celebrate the day by learning more about modern-day slavery and what you can do to help?
Abolition of Slavery Day dates