The Newtown Community Centre is one of Dominica’s military heritage sites. The Newtown Community Centre (old Roseau Boys School) was built in 1784.
The city of Roseau sits on an alluvial fan formed hundreds of years ago as the Roseau River meandered across the area from what is now known as Newtown to its current location.
The information below is the Copyright @ Witikubuli Virtual Museum
ON 25 APRIL 1837: 437 AFRICANS FROM BENIN-DAHOMEY WERE LIBERATED IN ROSEAU, DOMINICA, .
437 people from Dahomey, in what is now Benin, were liberated in the Roseau harbour from a ship that was smuggling them illegally to enslavement in Cuba. Their descendants still live in Dominica today.
While slavery and the slave trade had been abolished in Dominica and other British colonies, certain African traders on the coast of West Africa resented its demise and conspired, mainly with Portuguese shippers, to maintain the supply of slaves to places such as Brazil, Cuba, and the United States. The British Royal Navy was detailed to scour the Atlantic and Indian Oceans to apprehend slave ships and free their human cargoes.
In 1837 Dominica received an unexpected influx of new Africans in this way. A Portuguese vessel, the brig ‘Don Francisco’, was bound illegally from Ouidah (in what is today Benin) for Cuba, with 437 enslaved Africans aboard. They had been captured by agents of African Chief Gezo of Ouidah (SEE PHOTO) and sold to Portuguese trader Don Francisco Felix de Souza. The slave ship was sighted and captured by the Royal Navy frigate HMS Griffin some miles off Dominica and it was brought into Roseau. Within half and hour the citizens of Roseau had collected clothes for them and many went out to the ship to inspect it because a slave ship had not landed in Dominica for thirty years and they wanted to see what it was like.
The Africans were immediately set free and housed temporarily in what is known as the Old Roseau Boys School in Newtown. They eventually settled in areas such as Portsmouth, Woodford Hill, Castle Bruce, and Soufriere although a number of men were pressed into service in the West Indies regiments and taken to Trinidad, the revolutionary Daaga among them. Many of those refugees in Dominica maintained their African surnames such as Mingo, Akie, Cuffy, Firmin, Popo and Sango, while others, gathered around Woodford Hill, adopted the surname, Africa.
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