In the early 1760s, Berbice, Guyana was a Dutch-held colony with a population of almost 350 White people, close to 250 Indians in bondage, and close to 4,000 Black slaves. If a rebellion were to occur it would be essential to get the militia to rural areas as soon as possible. In the case of Berbice Slave Uprising, that proved easier said than done.
On February 23, 1763, the Magdalenenberg Plantation was the site of a major rebellion. Slaves were fed up with treatment from Dutch masters and turned hostile. The main house was set ablaze and other important structures on the plantation were destroyed. The slaves effectively had control of
As is often the case with slave rebellions that continue to snowball, the Magdalenenberg rebels move to other local plantations doing the same and freeing other slaves along the way. A number of these slaves would join the rebel forces as combatants with several leaders—particularly Cuffy and Akara—training them to effectively fight the Dutch militia. At their height, the Berbice rebels number around 3,000 and controlled the southern part of Berbice.
End of the Uprising
Akara proved to be one of the more aggressive leaders, attacking Dutch forces on several accounts and taking losses. There was a falling out between Akara and Cuffy with the latter eventually meeting with the Dutch to establish a truce. The terms were that the Dutch would take coasts—where business came through—and the escaped slaves the body of Guyana.
The Dutch stalled for support and Cuffy began further attacks on their caravans and resources. The end of the rebel forces came down to internal conflict. Akara didn’t approve of Cuffy’s methods and formed a group to oppose him. Eventually, Cuffy lost and took his own life.
With the Dutch close to defeat after losing half its population in Guyana, help arrived from the British and French. By the spring of 1764, the Berbice Slave Uprising was over and the colony was back in Dutch hands.
Today, February 23 is a national holiday in Guyana and Cuffy the national hero.