The date of the first arrival of enslaved Africans in Guyana is not known. However, it is believed the first group was brought by Dutch settlers who migrated from Tobago from as early as the mid-17th century. As plantations expanded on the coast of Guyana, more enslaved Africans were brought from West Africa in ships owned by the West India Company.
Upon the arrival of slave ships at different ports in Berbice, Essequibo and Demerara, auctions were held and planters came from all over to find bargains. The enslaved Africans were exposed, naked and closely inspected by prospective buyers to determine if they were healthy. They were made to jump, swing their arms and legs and were examined like farm animals.
Entire families were auctioned, but buyers showed no concern for family bonds, making purchases that separated husbands and wives and children from their parents. Friends and relatives were also separated from each other in the process.