Abolition Day is a public holiday observed annually on October 9 in Saint Barthélemy. It’s to commemorate the time when slavery was abolished on the island in the year 1847. The day is an opportunity for citizens of Saint Barthélemy to reflect on their horrific past and celebrate their present freedom. The date marks a day off for the general public when most businesses, non-essential government offices, and schools are closed. The older generations get an opportunity to share the experiences they went through and the younger ones have a new appreciation for their freedom.
History of Saint Barthélemy: Abolition Day
Saint Barthélemy, also known as St. Barths or St. Barts, is a French overseas collectivity located in the Caribbean. It is believed that the island was first contacted by Taíno and Arawak people, followed by the Caribs, but it was not permanently inhabited due to its poor soil and sources of water. Christopher Columbus was the first European to arrive on the island in 1493. The French settled on the island in 1648, encouraged by the lieutenant governor of the French West India Company. In 1656, the settlement was attacked by the Caribs.
Phillippe de Longvilliers de Poincy, the lieutenant governor, continued to rule the island until he died in 1660. In 1665, the island was bought by the French West India Company, and it became part of the Kingdom of France in 1674 because the Company was dissolved. The economy on the island was not thriving, and the island became subject to the activities of pirates as well as the British, who attacked the island in 1744. The island was then traded to Sweden by King Louis XVI in 1784.
Slavery was practiced under the Ordinance concerning the Police of Slaves and free Coloured People of 1787. On October 9, 1847, the last legally owned slaves were granted their freedom. Due to the natural disasters destroying the economy, Saint Barthélemy was sold back to France in 1878. It was administered as part of Guadeloupe, an overseas region and department of France, for many years. In 2007, Saint Barthélemy separated from the administrative jurisdiction of Guadeloupe, and it became a French overseas collectivity following a referendum in 2003.
Saint Barthélemy: Abolition Day timeline
The French colonists arrive in Saint Barthélemy with enslaved Africans from the island of St. Kitts.
With an increased enslaved population, a group of slaves kills 11 white men in December.
Slavery is legislated under the Ordinance concerning the Police of Slaves and free Colored People.
Sweden outlaws the slave trade as part of the Treaty of Stockholm with Britain in 1813 following movements against slavery and Britain’s own abolition in 1807.
Although slavery has been long abolished, the last legally owned slaves are only granted their freedom in the Swedish colony of Saint Barthélemy.
Saint Barthélemy becomes a French overseas collectivity.
Saint Barthélemy: Abolition Day FAQs
What's St. Barts known for?
Its world-class cuisine, calm waters, luxury lifestyle, and sophisticated yet laid-back atmosphere.
Is Saint Barthelemy safe?
Saint Barthélemy is considered one of the safest places in the world with low crime rates.
Is St. Barts tax-free?
Saint Barthélemy is one of the best countries to offer the freedom of no income tax.
How to Observe Saint Barthélemy: Abolition Day
Appreciate the freedom
There is nothing better to do than appreciate the freedom that you now have. Do whatever you want, responsibly, as also a way to appreciate the freedom you have. You may want to eat food you’ve never tried or go someplace you’ve never been to with family and friends. As a symbol, you may also want to buy a caged bird, then let it be free.
Share your knowledge on social media on the history of Saint Barthélemy. Do your part to create awareness about the horror that is slavery.
Take action by supporting a cause
The world is still plagued by many forms of injustice and inequality. Take this time to find and fight for a cause important to you and/or prevalent in your corner of the world.
5 Facts About Saint Barthélemy
It was originally called Ouanalao
Saint Barthélemy was called Ouanalao by the Arawak people.
French is its official language
The official language of Saint Barthélemy is French, but English is also spoken by many.
The sun’s present all year round there
Saint Barthélemy is said to have no more than five days per year without sun.
It supports coral reef restoration
Saint Barthélemy is dedicated to helping support coral reef restoration.
It’s a shopper’s paradise
From designer clothes and accessories to locally made items, Saint Barthélemy is a paradise for those with eclectic taste.
Why Saint Barthélemy: Abolition Day is Important
We get to commemorate an important event
Abolition Day is to commemorate the time when slaves were granted their freedom. This is worth remembering so we don’t forget the importance of human rights.
We get to appreciate and enjoy our freedom
Freedom is expensive, so it has to be appreciated by all who have it. As a public holiday, Abolition Day is an opportunity for us to enjoy this day off.
We get to create awareness about slavery
Slavery has been universally condemned for some time now. Sadly, according to the International Labor Organization, there are more than 40 million people who are victims of modern slavery.
Saint Barthélemy: Abolition Day dates