Sint Maarten celebrates Emancipation Day in 1 July to commemorate the day when their then-colonial rulers in the Netherlands abolished slavery in both Sint Maarten and throughout all Dutch-held realms. That was on 1 July, 1863.
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The Dutch colonised the southern part of the island of Sint Maarten, the northern half being colonised by France. The island’s soil and climate were right for growing cotton, tobacco, and sugar cane, and soon enough, African slaves were imported to provide the labour. The plantations grew prosperous, but the slaves were treated cruelly.
Quite often, there were slave uprisings in Sint Maarten, and since there were very large numbers of slaves in the colony, this often put the plantation owners in great fear. In 1848, France abolished slavery on its half of the island, but the Dutch didn’t follow suit until 1863.
In Sint Maarten, Emancipation Day commences at church with a special service. Later, there is a commemorative wreath-laying ceremony at monuments dedicated to those who fought for emancipation and freedom.