QUAW was an enslaved man living in Barbados in the early 19th century, captured in Guinea at 13 and emancipated by age 37. In 2013, a part of the University of The West Indies at Cave Hill was named Quaw’s Quest, with the unveiling of a monument depicting replicas of the ledgers recording the names of Williams and the 294 other enslaved people who were all emancipated after living in the area where the campus now stands. There is also a statue representing Quaw, who took the surname Williams upon his emancipation and became the sexton at St. Stephen’s Church.
The English colonized the island in 1627. Most of the enslaved people labored on sugar estates under brutal working conditions. Across the mid-17th century, Barbados’ planter class purchased 130,000 enslaved Africans; by 1700, just 50,000 were still alive. In 1834, when an act of Parliament abolished slavery in Barbados, approximately 83,000 enslaved people lived in the colony.