I started this Petition to Preserve & Digitize Indian Indentured Servant & Enslaved African Records in the Caribbean after not being able to access this information online, and hearing many stories of how the ship records were crumbling in the archives.
I'd been wanting to do it for a while and finally launched the Petition on August 31, 2022 (Trinidad's Independence Day). I was inspired by Eric Williams' motivation to complete his book, "The History of the People of Trinidad & Tobago," in just 30 days.
I received positive feedback from many in the Caribbean diaspora. I have since expanded the Petition to include the entire Caribbean instead of only Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago.
I have been posting regular updates on the Petition page. One of my most exciting updates was that Mr. Arthur Torrington's successfully attained digitization of the Registers of Enslaved Africans in Former British Colonial Dependencies.
I want all of the ship records and ancestry records preserved without further delay. The British and Caribbean governments owe it to descendants to make this information freely accessible.
I am going to send the below proposal to the President of Guyana, Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago, and CARICOM on November 1, 2022. Please sign the Petition and share with your family and friends so that they know how important this information is to all of us, and society as a whole.
Dear President Ali, Prime Minister Rowley, CARICOM, and Representatives:
From the 1600s to 1917, approximately 5 million of enslaved Africans and 500,000 Indian indentured servants were transported to the Caribbean. Their inhumane work and living conditions have continuously impacted historical and cultural preservation. Descendants face tremendous challenges when trying to understand their ancestry.
Most of our ancestors were forced or deceived into migrating to the Caribbean from Africa and India. They endured months at sea aboard ships where they were seen as mere labor, instead of equal human beings.
The British and its colonies kept ship records of the Africans and Indians taken to the Caribbean. These slavery and indentured servitude ship records are key to understanding this forced migration.
But most of these records are not maintained and publicly accessible. Many are crumbling. Some have been lost to rain, heat, water, and/or fire. Others are being eaten by insects. And certain records can only be viewed if you travel all the way to England.
These ship records may be the only evidence for families regarding which ancestor came to the Caribbean, and when.
The British and Caribbean governments have a duty to the descendants of enslaved Africans and Indian indentured servants. These governments need to ensure preservation and free accessibility of the ship records.
Some records have been scanned. However, the local Caribbean governments need to properly fund all of the projects by (a) pushing the British government and/or foreign corporate investors for funding, or (b) creating their own funding plans. Preservation and digitization need to be completed immediately and without political interference.
These governments should afterwards preserve and digitize wills, land deeds, birth/marriage/death certificates, church records, “slave claims,” and census data to facilitate further genealogy tracing.
We have collected [total amount to be inserted on November 1st] signatures of those deeply interested in preserving and learning about our history through these ship records and ancestry records.
If we know where we came from, we can know how valuable we are.
Descendants of Enslaved Africans and Indian Indentured Servants,
Melissa D. Goolsarran Ramnauth, Esq.,
West Indian Diplomacy, LLC
The Petition was originally named "Petition to Preserve & Digitize Indian Indentured Servant and Enslaved African Ship Records in Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago." It has been amended following many requests to include the entire Caribbean so that we can all learn more about our past, and the British’s slavery and Indian indentured servitude systems.
This correspondence will be made available on www.WestIndianDiplomacy.com for anyone interested in forwarding to another group, president, and/or representative to further access to information regarding the British’s slavery and indentured servitude systems.