Emancipation Day is a public holiday in the UK dependency of Turks and Caicos that commemorates the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. The law abolishing slavery was passed on 1 August, 1834, but Turks and Caicos now celebrates Emancipation Day on the first Monday of August instead to create a long weekend.
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The movement toward abolition of slavery was gradual in Britain, but it began much earlier than most people realise. By the same token, full and true freedom took up to six years past 1834 in some cases.
In 1772, the ruling of Somerset VS Stewart concluded slavery violated English common law, though nothing was done about it. In 1796, the Slave Act somewhat restricted the right of slave holders to punish their slaves and declared, among other things, that they must get Christmas off work, be provided with food and clothes, and be subject to “compulsory religious education”.
In 1807, the slave trade was abolished, along with slavery in the UK itself. Finally, on 1 August 1834, the Slavery Abolition Act (passed in 1833) was implemented. But it took four to six more years before slaves were finally fully free.
Emancipation Day is a time when Turks and Caicos remembers the horrors of slavery and celebrates its final demise.