National Hero of Guyana
Cuffy, or Kofi (died in 1763), was an Akan person who was captured in his native West Africa and sold into slavery to work in the plantations of the Dutch colony of Berbice in present-day Guyana. He became famous because in 1763 he led a revolt of more than 2,500 slaves against the colony regime. Today, he is a national hero in Guyana.
The Berbice Slave Uprising
Cuffy lived in Lilienburg, a plantation on the Canje River, as a house-slave for a cooper (barrel maker). An uprising broke out at Madgalenenburg plantation, upper Canje River, on February 1763 and moved on to neighbouring plantations, attacking owners. When Governor Van Hogenheim sent military assistance to the region, the rebellion had reached the Berbice River and was moving steadily towards the Berbice capital, Fort Nassau. They took gunpowder and guns from the attacked plantations.
By 3 March the rebels were 500 in number. Led by Cosala, they tried to take the brick house of Peerboom. They agreed to allow the whites to leave the brick house, but as soon they left, the rebels killed many and took several prisoners, among them the wife of the Bearestyn Plantation owner, whom Cuffy kept as his wife.
Cuffy was soon accepted by the rebels as their leader and declared himself Governor of Berbice. Doing so he named Akara as his deputy and tried to establish discipline over the troops. Accabre was skilful in military discipline. They organized the farms in order to provide food supplies.
Decadency of the rebellion
Van Hoogenheim committed himself to retake the colony. Akara attacked the whites three times without permission from Cuffy, but they were driven back. Thus began a dispute among the two rebels. On 2 April 1763 Cuffy wrote to Van Hoogenheim saying that he did not want a war against the whites and proposed a partition of Berbice with the whites occupying the coastal areas and the blacks the interior. Van Hoogenheim delayed his decision waiting for support from neighboring colonies. Cuffy then ordered his forces to attack the whites on 13 May 1763, but in so doing had many losses. The defeat opened a division among the rebels and weakened their organization. Akara became the leader of a new faction opposed to Cuffy and led to a civil war among themselves. When Akara won, Cuffy killed himself.
The anniversary of the Cuffy slave rebellion, 23 February, has been Republic Day in Guyana since 1970. Cuffy is commemorated in the 1763 Monument in the Square of the Revolution in the capital Georgetown.