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The Roots of Caribana

Caribana was created in 1967 as a community heritage project for Canada's Centennial year. Based on Trinidad Carnival, this street festival now also includes the music, dance, food and costumes of Jamaica, Guyana, the Bahamas, Brazil and other cultures represented in Toronto, the world's most culturally diverse city.  Toronto's Caribana Festival falls on the anniversary of the emancipation from slavery in Trinidad, Aug 1 1834, and also on the date of a European festival celebrating the first loaf from the new year's wheat and the opening of the fields for common pasturage -- known as Lammas in Scotland.

The street festival aspect of the Trinidad Carnival began in about 1834 with the emancipation of the slaves. In 1840 Rev. Alexander Kennedy of Greyfriars Presbyterian Church in Trinidad was honoured by the Anti-Slavery Society for his work in bettering the conditions for slaves. Born near Cumnock, Ayrshire, Rev. Kennedy had been a University of Glasgow classmate of Robert Thomas McCowan, eldest son of David McCowan, an architect in Trinidad. It is possible that David McCowan (also from Cumnock) along with his son, Dr. Robert McCowan, had some influence in bringing Kennedy to Trinidad to preach at Greyfriars. Rev. Kennedy arrived in Port of Spain in January 1836. Both McCowans donated to the building fund for the construction of the first Greyfriars church (After Many Days, A Memoir... Rev. Alexander Kennedy, 1910, C.B. Franklin, pg. 18, 26-7). During this period Robert McCowan was a military surgeon in Trinidad. 

It is strongly believed that David McCowan and his brother James may have been emancipated from the virtual slavery of coalmining in Scotland in 1799.

Please also have a look at our Immigration Oral History Project.

The Harriet Tubman Resource Centre on the African Diaspora and the Department of History of York University in Toronto are organizing the conference "Revolution, Independence, And Emancipation: The Struggle Against Slavery In The Circum-Caribbean" in Limón, Costa Rica from 27 to 29 August 2004. The United Nations has designated 2004 as the International Year to Commemorate the Struggle Against Slavery and for Its Abolition. To recognise the event, the conference will focus on the key role of the revolution in St. Domingue in the 1790s, the independence of Haiti in 1804, and the ongoing influence and legacy of this struggle. Other themes to be discussed include: the impact of British abolition of the slave trade after 1807 on Caribbean societies; the wars of Independence in Spanish America and the resulting emancipation of the enslaved populations after 1820; emancipation in British and French colonies in 1834-38 and 1848; the struggle against the continuation of slavery in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the southern United States; emancipation and the U.S. Civil War; and revolution and emancipation in Cuba.

The Scarboro Heights Record V12 #7


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