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Emancipation Day
Trinidad and Tobago

Emancipation Day 2019 and 2020

Emancipation Day is celebrated every 1 August in Trinidad and Tobago to commemorate the day in 1834 when slavery was officially abolished on the two islands.

YearDateDayHoliday
20191 AugThuEmancipation Day
20201 AugSatEmancipation Day

The act abolishing slavery in the British Empire was passed in 1833, but did not come into force until 1 August, 1834. And even then, only slaves age five and under were immediately and fully freed. The rest were forced to work as “apprentices” to their former slave-masters until 1 August, 1838, in order to compensate them for their loss of slave labour due to the abolition act.

Thus, slaves were really mostly transferred over into a kind of “indentured servant” status at first. It was in 1838 that they were really freed, basically.

In 1985, Trinidad and Tobago became the first country to declare a national holiday commemorating the abolition of slavery. And they also got rid of Discovery Day, which had commemorated the sighting of the island of Trinidad by Columbus on 31 July, 1498.

The actual celebration of Emancipation Day begins on 31 July. There is an all night long vigil, church services, parades, patriotic speeches, cultural performances, and more.

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