Abolition Day in St. Barts
Abolition Day is a public holiday observed in Saint Barthélemy — a Caribbean island colloquially known as St. Barts, known for its white-sand beaches. This holiday is observed annually on October 9th and in French is known as “Abolition de l’Esclavage.”
This day is observed because it commemorates the date when slavery was abolished on the island in 1847. Because this is a public holiday and one that is widely celebrated, it is a day off for the general population. It is also a day when non-essential government offices, businesses, and many schools are closed. It is a day for everyone to reflect on their barbaric past and to appreciate the freedom they now enjoy.
The History of Abolition Day in St. Barts
Saint Barthélemy is an overseas collectivity of France located in the Caribbean. It is believed that the island was first contacted by the Arawak and Taino people but wasn’t permanently occupied because of poor soil and water. When Christopher Columbus visited the island in 1493, it was unoccupied.
During the 17th century, the French West India Company bought the island and transferred it to the Kingdom of France in 1674. It would remain in French hands until 1784 when it was traded to Sweden due to its economy not being as successful as the French had hoped.
While under Swedish rule, slavery was practiced on the island, and that would remain the case until October 9th, 1847, when slavery was abolished. After a string of national disasters, the French bought the island back from Sweden in 1878. In 2007, the island became a French Overseas Collectivity.
Observing Abolition Day in St. Barts
Although there aren’t many large events that take place on this day, there are cultural and historical events that highlight the importance of the date in St. Barts. It is also a day off for the general public, so people spend time with loved ones, eat, drink, and generally enjoy their time off.