Descendants of Barbadian Emigrants to Liberia to Return
... The pilgrimage will take place during the Season of Emancipation, a time when Barbadians commemorate the abolition of slavery in 1834. The event will feature a variety of activities, including ancestry tracing at the Barbados Archives, visits to historical sites, and cultural exchanges.
Descendants of Barbadian emigrants to Liberia will return to Barbados for the inaugural SANKOFA BACK2BARBADOS PILGRIMAGE from May 6-13, 2024.
The event, expected to attract more than 700 Bajan-Africans, family members, friends and well-wishers from across Africa and the global diaspora, will be the first of many to be held under the auspices of The Africa-Barbados Heritage Initiative (TABHI).
TABHI is a foundation founded by Ambassador L. Llewellyn Witherspoon dedicated to memorializing and promoting the role played by emigrants from Barbados to Liberia, as well as laying the cornerstone for the building of strategic relations between families across West Africa, those in the diaspora and Barbados.
The pilgrimage will take place during the Season of Emancipation, a time when Barbadians commemorate the abolition of slavery in 1834. The event will feature a variety of activities, including ancestry tracing at the Barbados Archives, visits to historical sites, and cultural exchanges.
“This pilgrimage is an opportunity for us to come together and celebrate our shared heritage,” said Witherspoon. “It is also a chance for us to learn more about our ancestors and the sacrifices they made to build a better future for their descendants."
The pilgrimage is open to all descendants of Barbadian emigrants to Liberia, regardless of their country of residence. For more information, please visit the TABHI website at www.tabhi.org.
In 1864, an offer of citizenship and fertile land by the President of Liberia to “brethren of the Antilles” (as the Caribbean was then called) was made, and the Barbados Company for Liberia agitated for financial support from the American Colonization Society. This led to the first – and only recorded - post-Emancipation organized mass emigration of African-Barbadians to Liberia in 1865.
The brig CORA sailed from Bridgetown to Monrovia on April 6, 1865 carrying 346 persons (roughly 50 families), 260 of which were settled in Crozierville, which has since been hailed as a Bajan outpost in Africa.
Two of Liberia’s presidents, Arthur Barclay and his nephew, Edwin Barclay, were of Bajan descent, as was the longest serving First Lady of the 20th century, Antoinette Padmore Tubman. The township, where dozens of Barbadians proudly built homes, churches, schools, and community, still exists today.
Descendants of Barbadian emigrants in Liberia have been researching the origins of their families in Barbados for quite some time. Some useful resources included the 1965 Centennial Address of Burleigh Holder, “A History of Crozierville,” the doctoral thesis and 2019 book of academic Caree Banton, More Auspicious Shores.
Barbadian Migration to Liberia, Blackness, and the Making of an African Republic and numerous related publications by archaeologist Dr Matt Reilly, in addition to his archaeological digs related to the Back-to-Africa Heritage and Archaeology project.
A soon-to-be-released videographic docuseries by Barbadian-Liberian historian, Cherrine Goodridge-Smith, “The Children of Lemongrass Street: Barbadians in Liberia,” based upon more than 80 interviews of Barbadian-Liberians across the world, will provide a rich family history and contextual guidance to future researchers.
The findings of a 2020 Paper documenting the research of the PORTE family in Barbados,” Portes Find a New Home in Liberia: Story of the Post-Emancipation Emigration of The John Prince Porte Family from Barbados, West Indies, to Liberia in West Africa in 1865.
The Executive Producer, Witherspoon, had to travel to Barbados and, visit other historical sites including Irish Town in St. Thomas Parish where his great-great-grandfather was believed to have last lived, worked, and attended church.
During his research, including DNA testing, the Ambassador learned that his ancestors originated from the south east of present-day Nigeria (Igboland).
He also learned that one or both of his great-great grandparents were of Irish ancestry (and descendants of indentured servants referred to as Poor Whites or Redlegs). It is widely held that most Barbadian settlers in Crozierville were originally of Igbo descent.
A meeting with Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley during the visit would prove pivotal to stimulating her interest in both establishing diplomatic ties with Liberia and, especially, solidifying and intensifying engagement and interaction between the families of those who settled in Liberia and those alive and still residing on the island.
Then and there a request was made, and a pledge was given to organize and execute a Back to Barbados pilgrimage event in Bridgetown in 2024.