Rock Hall was the first Black slave community established in 1841 after slavery was abolished in Barbados. What makes the history of Rock Hall interesting lies not in the name, but in the history surrounding how the community came into being.
In 1841, a group of freed slaves with the Mount Wilton Estate bought a swathe of land named ‘de rock’ with monies placed in trust for them by their slaveowner. The Barbados government erected a monument in honor of their memory, according to the National Cultural Foundation.
The first residents who settled were 38 people after the emancipation in 1834. They carried solemn tales of working long hours in the sugar plantations of Barbados under torture and harsh working conditions.
On the brown marble plaque, the government wrote, “from the belly of the slave ship to a; the spirits of the African; ancestors become the enslaved souls, guiding them to the first free village”.
Sitting on top of the plaque is an imposing bronze statue of a family of three made of a mother, a father and a child at the heritage site, representing three of the freed slaves. The monument, which was designed by Standford Haynes, stands for the perseverance and resilience exercised by the enslaved in the fight for their freedom.
Delving into the history of the heritage, one of the tour guides, Lenora Arthur, said Ronald Elcock Alleyne, who died in his early thirties, bequeathed money to the enslaved of the Mount Wilton Plantation, as reported by Barbados Today.
He left those monies in his will directing that they should be given to the freed slaves when he passes on. The funds matured in 1841, and were used to purchase plots of land in an area called ‘de rock’.
The freed slaves bought several acres of land from other slave owners when the trade was no longer profitable because of the abolishment of slavery. A wall of the early buildings erected by the freed slaves still exists today for future generations to connect with the history it embodies.
The National Cultural Foundation said Rock Hall Freedom park is an important aspect of the cultural heritage of the people of Barbados. It stated that its relevance as being the first free village for the enslaved cannot be underscored enough.
Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs and Parliamentary Representative for the constituency, Cynthia Forde, said the institution of the memorial will put the souls of the departed freed slaves at peace because of the honor done to them.
The deputy director of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society, Kevin Farmer, said the monument does not only represent the travesty of justice slavery brought on a group of people but also the inhumane system the wealth of a nation was built on, according to the Institute of the Black World.
He said the heritage site has also preserved artifacts and documented history; the place where signage of the monument has been situated is where runaway slaves were held till their owners reclaimed them.
The Rock Hall Freedom Monument is situated north of the capital city of Bridgetown, where the freed slaves first built their village.