Search for Caribbean History on The Black Presence in Britain

Mary Prince A Slave

Mary Prince  - BookMary Prince (1788-1833) was a Bermudian woman, born into slavery in Bermuda. The published story of her slavery was the first account of the life of a black woman to be published in England and the book had a galvanizing effect on the anti-slavery movement.Mary Prince (1788-1833) was a Bermudian woman, born into slavery in Brackish Pond, which is now known as Devonshire Marsh, in Devonshire Parish, Bermuda. The published story of her slavery was the first account of the life of a black woman to be published in England and the book had a galvanizing effect on the anti-slavery movement.

The parents of Mary Prince were both slaves: her father was a sawyer owned by David Trimmingham, and her mother a house-servant of Charles Myners. When Myners died in 1788, Prince and her mother were sold as household servants to Captain Darrell, who gave Prince to his granddaughter, Betsey Williams.

When she was 12, Prince was sold again to Captain John Ingham, of Spanish Point, but never took easily to the indignities of her enslavement and she was often flogged. As a punishment, Prince was sold to another Bermudian, probably Robert Darrell, who sent her in 1806 to Grand Turks, which Bermudians had used seasonally for a century for the extraction of salt from the ocean.

Salt was a pillar of the Bermudian economy, but could not easily be produced in Bermuda, where the only natural resource were the Bermuda cedars used for building ships. The industry was a cruel one, however, with the salt rakers forced to endure exposure not only to the sun and heat, but also to the salt in the pans, which ate away at their uncovered legs.

Mary returned to Bermuda in 1810, but was sold to John Wood in 1818, and sent to Antigua to be a domestic slave. She joined the Moravian Church and, in December 1826, she married Daniel James, a former slave who had bought his freedom and worked as a carpenter and cooper. For this impudence, she was severely beaten by her master.

Mary Price in London

In 1828, Wood took her as a servant to London. Although slavery was illegal in Britain, she had no means to support herself, and could not have returned to her husband without being re-enslaved. She remained with Wood until they threw her out. She took shelter with the Moravian church in Hatton Garden. Within a few weeks, she had taken employment with Thomas Pringle, an abolitionist writer, and Secretary to the Anti-Slavery Society.

Pringle arranged for her narrative to be copied down by Susanna Strickland and it was published in 1831 as the “The History of Mary Prince”, the first account of the life of a black woman to be published in England.

The book had a galvanizing effect on the anti-slavery movement. Scandalised by its account, John Wood sued the publishers for libel, but his case failed. Subsequent attempts were made to tarnish Mary Prince’s reputation, particularly by James MacQueen and James Curtin, both supporters of slavery. In turn, she and her publisher sued for libel, which suit they won.

Prince remained in England until about 1833.

Related Websites

The History of Mary Prince A West Indian Slave Related By Herself. – eBook


Posted in Black History Month UK, Black Women, Caribbean History, SlaveryComments (0)

Books about Black British History

Black History BooksA reading list of books related to the ongoing Black presence in Britain, Slavery, colonialism and black Settlement in the U.K
The list is by no means exhaustive!

Books about Black British History

  • Staying Power-The History of Black people in Britain by Peter Fryer
    (Pluto Press 1984)
  • Black England-Life before Emancipation by Gretchen Gerzina
    (John Murray,1995)
  • Black Settlers in Britain 1555-1958 by Nigel File and chris Power
    (Heinemann,1981; reprinted 1995)
  • Black Edwardians-Black people in Britain 1901-1914 by Jeffrey Green
    (Frank Cass 1998)
  • Wonderful adventures of Mary Seacole in Many Lands by Mary seacole
    (1857; reprinted by Falling Wall Press,edited by Ziggy Alexander and Audrey Dewjee,1984).
  • Black Londoners 1880-1990by susan Okokon
    (Sutton Publishing Limited, 1998)
  • The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave
    (1831; reprinted by the University of Michigan Press, edited by Moira Ferguson,1993).
  • The first Black footballer-Arthur Wharton 1865-1930 An Absence of Memory by Phil Vasili
    (frank Cass,1998, reprinted 1999)
  • Colouring over the white Line- The History of Black footballers in Britain by Phil Vasili
    (Mainstream Publishing,2000)
  • Breaking Stereotypes-Perspectives of Selected Black and Asian Leaders Edited by Clinton A.Valley,EdD.
    (Minerva Press, 2000)
  • West Indian Women at War-British Racism in World War II by Ben Bousquet and Colin Douglas
    (Lawrence and Wishhart, 1991)
  • Roots of the Future-Ethnic Diversity in the making of Britain
    By Commission for Racial Equality, 1997
  • England Affric-An Ethnological Survey by Ahmed ali and Abrahim Ali
    (Punite Books, 1995) ISBN 0 9518924 4 4
  • A History of the Black Presence in London (Greater London Council, 1986)
    ISBN 0 7168 1679 2
  • Black and white- the Negro and English Society 1555-1945 By James Walvin
    (Allen Lane, 1973)

For a more exhaustive list of useful Books on Black History, you can download a copy of the the Black & Asian Resources available at the British Library.

Posted in African History, Black Britain, Black History, Black History Month UK, Black People in Europe, Caribbean History, SlaveryComments (3)

Caribbean Women in WW2

West Indian ATS

West Indian ATS

Caribbean Women in WW2 Britain

There were plenty Caribbean Women serving in WW2. When we think of the British Armed Forces, there is often a tendency to think exclusively of men.  In the past this has been largely due to the majority of Armed forces being made of almost entirely of men.

However, WW2 saw plenty of Women sign up to the British Armed Forces.  The exact numbers of Caribbean women serving in the BritishArmed forces can be difficult to pin down to an exact number.  However, Richard Smith, writing in the Oxford Companion to Black British History. 


About 600 West Indian Women were recruited for the Auxiliary Territorial Service, arriving in Britain in the Autumn of 1943.  The enlistment of these volunteers was accomplished despite official misgivings and obstruction.

Around 80- Caribbean women joined the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) and 30 joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service.(ATS)


Caribbean Women in WW2

Caribbean Women in WW2 © IWM

Lilian Bader

Lilian Bader

Lilian Bader

Liverpool Born, Lilian Bader is one of three generations of her Family who Served in the British Armed Forces. Her Father had been a Merchant Seaman in the first world war.  She and her brothers were separated after they were orphaned. Stephen Bourne recounts in his book ‘The Motherland Calls’, that Lillian was popular in school but found it difficult to secure fulltime work. After securing a job in the NAAFI at Catterick camp, she was ‘let go’ due to a colour bar that existed in the British Services at the start of the war. Not deterred by the initial knock back, Lillian determined to join the RAF after hearing a groups of West Indian soldiers on the Radio, say how they had been rejected from the Army, but they had better luck with the RAF.

In March 1940 Lillian was accepted into the WAAF, but found herself the only coloured person. Despite the obvious differences Lillian worked hard and soon became an ‘acting corporal’. Whilst in the Services she met her future husband, Ramsay Bader, who was of mixed race, having a White English mother and a Sierra Leoneon father.

Constance Goodridge Mark (Connie Mark)

Constance Goodridge Mark, nee Mcdonald, was another example of  displayed loyalty typical of Caribbean women in WW2, wanting to serve Britain in it’s hour of need.

Born in Kingston Jamaica. She joined the British Army in 1943, serving in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, The Womens royal Army Corps working She later became the Senior Medical Secretary in the Royal Army Medical corps, Where she served for 10 years, working in the North Caribbean.

Many years later she took part in the “Their Past your Future” Campaign run by the Imperial War Museum.

Connie had felt that the contribution of ‘West Indians’ in WW2 was being ignored.She decided to do something to try to educate people about the contributions of Black people in the Second World War. Recounting a story about an Age Concern Meeting, she had taken some photographs of West Indian ex-servicewomen.

quoteThat caused such a stir, people said, “We never knew there were black ex-servicewomen”, and that we even came to England”.

After that she applied to the ‘Greater London Arts for a Grant. She searche ,for photographs in the Imperial War Museum and obtained others from West Indian Ex-Servicemen and Women.  She put together an exhibition for the 5oth Anniversary of the end of WW2.

Listen to a clip of Constance talk

West Indian A.T.S Girls Abused

Whilst the vast majority of reported stories have a lot of positivity, There were of course negative reports to be found. In an Article Called ‘These Coloured “Intruders” ‘ The weekly magazine ‘John Bull’ reported some of the racism that Caribbean service personel had to endure whilst billeted in Britain.

quoteRudeness to colonial Service girls in this country is surprisingly common…
A West Indian girl in the A.T.S. was refused a new issue of shoes by her officer, who added:’At home you don’t wear shoes anyway.’ An Army Officer to a West Indian A.T.S.: ‘If I can’t get white women, i’ll something well do without.’


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Posted in Black History, Black Soldiers, Black Women, Caribbean HistoryComments (3)

Finding African Ancestors in the Caribbean

Windrush Foundation presents its first community event for 2013 on Saturday 16 February.  It will bring together people who are interested in finding relatives who lived between 1800 and 1900 in the Caribbean. This will be presented by leading African Caribbean genealogist Sharon Tomlin.

The presentation, Finding African Ancestors in the Caribbean is a major part of EMANCIPATION 1838 which marks, this year, the 175th anniversary of the liberation of nearly a million Africans in the Caribbean.

The project focuses on the socio-political, economic and legislative changes that preceded (and resulted in) the 1st August 1838 emancipation (including major ‘slave revolts’ and acts of resistance in Caribbean islands/nations such as Barbados [1816], Guyana (‘Demerara Rebellion’ [1823]) and Jamaica (Christmas Rebellion [1831-32], etc).

It explores the transitional systems of apprenticeship and indentureship that saw the arrival of Portuguese, Indian, Chinese and West African indentured labourers to replace the formerly enslaved islanders as a workforce in the aftermath of 1838, as well as the decades of political struggle and resistance against imperial rule that eventually led to decolonisation and to the process of independence.

The EMANCIPATION 1838 exhibition which opens on 1 August 2013 will be structured into a series of sub-themes, and will feature archival sources, maps, artefacts, news cuttings, documentary photographs, audio recordings of oral reminiscence sessions, film, and literature/poetics about (as well as from) this period of Caribbean history, from the early-19th century to the present day.

During 2013 there will be a series of community events, workshops, etc, include information of key 1820s abolitionists in the Caribbean and Britain, the British Parliamentary Debates of the 1830s, the social, economic and cultural situation in the Caribbean on and soon after Emancipation Day, the situation up to and after 1865 (including Paul Bogle’s leadership, the Morant Bay massacre and the debates about conditions in Jamaica, and the Caribbean as a whole.  At the time, contributors to the debates included John Bright, Charles Darwin, John Stuart Mill, Thomas Huxley, Thomas Hughes and Herbert Spencer (in support of the Caribbean Africans) and opposing them were individuals like Thomas Carlyle, Rev. Charles Kingsley, Charles Dickens, and John Ruskin.

The aims of EMANCIPATION 1838 are to
(a) develop and sustain interest in the diverse post-enslavement histories and lived experiences of African Caribbean people including a focus on their legacies for descendant communities in Britain;
(b) initiate an information dissemination programme and advocacy campaign to have the events of 1st August 1838 commemorated annually as a historically significant date in the UK’s national heritage calendar;
(c) elevate and promote the lived experiences of African Caribbean women during the 19th and 20th centuries to re-balance gendered and Eurocentric historical narratives.

The learning outcomes of EMANCIPATION 1838 include: Increasing our understanding of the roots of the African Caribbean family.  Developing a better appreciation of African spirituality, music, dance, poetry, story-telling/literature, carnival, mas(querade), food/cuisine, etc. Gaining a new understanding of the shared history and interdependencies of Britain and the Caribbean. Increasing our understanding of the role the islands and nations of the Caribbean region, and their diverse, diasporic communities, have played in the making of modern Britain.

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Carmen Bryan and the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962

As an insight to the 1960s was a period of rapid social, political and moral change I have written about a case that changed the political landscape of 1960s Britain. The case for the deportation of Miss Carmen Bryan under the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962.
Carmen Bryan had been living in the UK for 2 years when she was convicted of petty larceny – shoplifting (value £2) and for this minor misdemeanour she was given a conditional discharge, however, she was also sentenced to deportation and therefore held in prison following her appearance in the London magistrates’ court.

Commonwealth Immigrants Act

In 1962, in the initial seven weeks following the introduction of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act (CIA) by the Conservative Government, there were in excess of eighty recommendations for deportation from the UK – many for misdemeanours. When deportation orders were initially discussed in Parliament relating to the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill specific assurances were given that such orders “would not be made in the case of Commonwealth immigrants for relatively trivial offences and the powers sought were for only serious offences”.

The incumbent Home Secretary at the time, Henry Brooke, was criticized for his decision to deport one particular woman: Carmen Bryan. This case brought into focus the integrity and good faith of the government. On 2nd June 1962, the day after Part II of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act came into operation, Bryan, a 22 year old Jamaican who had been living and working in England since 1960, pled guilty to petty larceny (she shoplifted goods worth £2) and as a result of this plea at Paddington magistrates court she was given a conditional discharge, without a fine, and an additional recommendation for deportation to Jamaica. This was the first case under the CIA (1962) to have come before the particular magistrate and he decided that Bryan had not settled down in the UK successfully so it would be better for her if she returned to the Caribbean. Since her arrival in the UK in 1960 Bryan had been working in a welding factory, however, following a bout of illness and a subsequent operation she was unable to resume her employment there. Consequently she had attempted to obtain clerical work but was unsuccessful in obtaining employment in any other field.

Carmen Bryan sent to Prison

Despite the conditional discharge Bryan was subjected to detention in Holloway Prison pending her removal from the country. The magistrate’s court had the power to release her pending the confirmation of deportation but they did not choose to do so notwithstanding the petty offence she had committed. Whilst detained in prison for six weeks – without any conviction – Bryan was not offered any legal advice nor did she have access to the Jamaican High Commission for over four weeks. Bryan was also denied contact with friends within the UK: for over a month she remained totally isolated within the prison system.

Bryan’s deportation proposal was confirmed by the Home Secretary, Henry Brooke, who agreed with the sentencing of the local magistrates and as a result of this decision there was a political and media outcry. In July 1962 the Home Secretary was subsequently questioned by Sir Eric Fletcher (member for Islington East) “Is it the intention of the Government to treat Commonwealth immigrants, as regards deportation, worse than aliens and to use their powers in respect of trivial offences of this kind— on a first offence?”.

Brooke argued that his conviction regarding the deportation was partially because Carmen Bryan had expressed a personal desire to return to Jamaica as she was unemployed and had no relatives in the country. The member for Islington East (Sir Eric Fletcher) explained that Bryan had not been given the opportunity to appeal because she had been incorrectly informed that any appeal could potentially lead to an indefinite long-term sentence in Holloway Prison followed by inevitable deportation. After four days Henry Brooke withdrew his recommendation and Carmen Bryan was freed from prison and allowed to remain in the UK.

Deportations Suspended

As a result of this change in decision deportations for misdemeanours were accordingly suspended. Many discussions on this matter followed in the Houses of Parliament#, where it was suggested by some members that if the principle of deportation for a minor offence was established then there was a possibility that people wishing to be repatriated to their countries of origin would be encouraged to commit petty crimes to facilitate free transportation.

The concerns raised in the Carmen Bryan case were that Bryan’s was not in fact an isolated case: in July 1962 there were already around 50 cases of deportation pending. This particular case served to highlight several serious and grave principles of procedure and application of the CIA(1962). It was suggested, by George Brown MP, that, contrary to the Government’s stated intention of the CIA(1962), the judicial benches were applying the recommendation to deport Commonwealth immigrants as a matter of course and – other MPs agreed – that the law may have been applied in a harsh and vindictive manner. George Brown suggested that the preponderance of deportation sentences were a result of decent people being misled and becoming full of hate and prejudice#.


This article was contributed by Marjorie Morgan.Writer, Researcher. © 2013 | Blackpresence has special permission to publish this article.

Posted in Black History Month UK, Caribbean History, Guest Blog PostsComments (3)

Tracing your Caribbean Ancestors

Tracing your Caribbean Ancestors: 3rd Edition By Guy Grannum.

ISBN: 9781408175699 £16.99 Paperback

If you have ever wanted to trace your Caribbean ancestry then this could well be the book for you.  Guy Grannum has been working in the National Archives for more than 20 years. During that time he has built up a wealth of knowledge regarding Caribbean records and slave genealogy.

The latest edition of the book includes many of the changes to record keeping systems that have taken place over the last decade. The National Archives hold records for many people who lived in British West Indian colonies. Emigrants, plantation owners, slaves, soldiers,sailors and transported criminals are all to be found in the records held by the National Archive.

Any genealogist who is seeking West Indian ancestors will find this book of use. The book draws together and highlights a wide range of  research materials and resources. Some of which is available online.

Despite the detail provided, Grannum helps the reader further by providing details of how to access archives, supplying lists of further reading to set both the experienced family history researcher or the budding genealogy enthusiast on a trail of exciting and revealing discovery.


Tracing your Caribbean Ancestors

‘Tracing your Caribbean Ancestors’ is a fascinating read.

Getting Started with Family History Research

Readers are given a gentle introduction into how to begin their research, and how to get prepared for set backs and dead ends.  As someone who has done a fair bit of genealogy myself, I know that this preparation is essential in managing expectations.  Sometimes people embark on family history research with romantic notions of being able to trace their direct line right back to Africa.  Whilst in some cases this is possible, in most cases it is not possible without the assistance of DNA technology. Even then, this does not always produce the desired results. It is more likely that you will be able to trace your ancestry back a couple of hundred years.  This is still an excellent result.

The book goes on to talk about the various resources that are your disposal, such as local, regional and national libraries and Internet databases.

Sound Interesting? That’s just the introductory chapters.  You will learn about Migration to the Caribbean, through migration from Europe, to the Transatlantic Slave Trade, The settlement of Black American loyalists, and poor Europeans, who arrived as indentured labourers or  transportees. Other chapters cover military records, slave registers, colonial workers, and the connection between the West Indies and the Britain since post war migration.

Details of how to access the records of all the Caribbean Islands is also provided, including those Islands that were not part of the British West Indies. Every Chapter provides further reading resources.

This book is a must have purchase for anyone of Caribbean descent who is interested in Family History.  Historians, professional and amateur alike would benefit from the knowledge Grannum shares. Those who make their living as family history researchers could only enhance their knowledge and skills by owning this book.

Black Presence recommends that you purchase a copy today from Bloomsbury.

An Article by Phil Gregory: Editor, Black Presence in Britain Website

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Arthur Wint Commemorative Blue Plaque and UK Book Launch


On Friday 19th October 2012 a blue heritage plaque organized by the Nubian Jak Community Trust, and the British launch of a book based on the life of Arthur Wint will take place in his honour. By all accounts Arthur Wint was an extraordinary human being whose list of achievements reads as if it was written for a Hollywood screen blockbuster.

He was born in Plowden Hill, in the parish of Manchester, Jamaica, in 1920, and attended Calabar High School and Excelsior College. It didn’t take long for his teachers and peers to discover that he had a remarkable talent for Track and Field athletics.

At the age of 22 he went to Canada to train as a pilot. His reason – to assist Britain in its military efforts during WW2. Whilst there he set the Canadian 400m record, before moving to Britain and joining the RAF. He was one of only a small group of Caribbean pilots who took to the skies in Spitfire Aircrafts, and eventual rose to the rank of flight lieutenant. After the war ended Arthur decided to pursue a career in medicine and became a medical student at London’s St. Bartholomew’s hospital in 1947.

However, his love for track and field never waned and a year later at the 1948 Olympic Games Arthur Wint achieved global fame by becoming the first Jamaican athlete to win an Olympic gold medal, equaling the Olympic record for the 400m (46.2 seconds). In 1949 he married Norma Dorothea Marsh, and three years later was part of the historic 4x400m relay team that won Olympic gold in Helsinki by setting a new World Record.

He retired from athletics a year later, finished his internship and graduated as a doctor. In 1954 was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) by Queen Elizabeth II. Arthur returned to Jamaica, but then returned to England where he studied surgery at Manchester University. He later settled in Hanover as the only resident doctor in the parish. He was awarded the Jamaican honour of the Order of Distinction in 1973, and in 1974 became the country’s high commissioner to Great Britain. He passed away on 19th October in 1992, Heroes Day and was given an official state funeral attended by people from all over the World.

The blue plaque unveiling and UK book launch by his daughter Valerie will take place exactly 20 years to the day he died. Arthur Wint is survived by his wife Norma, and three daughters, Valerie, Alison and Coleen.


WHEN:- Friday 19th October 2012 at 12:00 pm and -13:00 pm

VENUE :- 22 Philbeach Gardens, Earls Court, London, SW5 9DY (12:00)

RECEPTION:- Jamaica High Commission, South Kensington, London, SW7 5BZ (14:00)  


Event and Marketing: Chinara Enterprises Ltd, 07501 497920

General Enquiries – Nubian Jak Community Trust Ltd – 0800 093 0400


 Jamaica High Commissioner Her Excellency Aloun Ndombet Assamba said:

I welcome this activity which seeks to honour a great Jamaican.  Not only was the late Arthur Wint an Olympian, but he is a former High Commissioner for Jamaica to the United Kingdom.  As current High Commissioner, I am very aware that I am benefitting from the legacy of his work in the Jamaican Foreign Service”.


Mayor of Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea Coucillor Buckmaster said: “It gives me great pleasure that Arthur Wint, a former RBKC resident, is being commemorated with Nubian Jak blue plaque. I hope this plaque will remind people of his life’s achievements and serve as an inspiration to local people.” 

Former British Olympian at the 1948 London Games and friend, John Parlett Said:

I was running with and against Arthur in the RAF, London University, and other teams from 1946 – 1951. He was a great athlete and sportsman, and was also “one of the boys”.  He was an inspiration for many generations of Jamaican athletes.

 Founder of the Nubian Jak Plaque Commemorative Plaque Scheme Jak Beula said“It is pleasing and appropriate that during Jamaica’s 50th anniversary celebrations, we in the UK should recognise and commemorate one of it’s sons, Arthur Wint. A larger than life real life superhero!”

 Royal Air Force Group Captain Adrian Maddox Said: “Flt Lt Arthur Wint was an extraordinary man who volunteered to serve Britain and the Commonwealth during a time of great need and personal danger, he epitomises the spirit of the Royal Air Force.  We are proud to salute this outstanding individual who stands as a role model for us all’.

Councillor Jonathon Read, ward Councillor for Earl’s Court, said“I am pleased that the Earl’s Court ward councillors have been able to help provide this plaque to commemorate the life of Arthur Wint.  The City Living, Local Life ward initiatives have a number of aims and we feel that in this Olympic year we should recognise the first Jamaican to win a gold medal.”

Notes to Editors

1. The Arthur Wint Tribute is being organised by the Nubian Jak Community Trust, Chinara Enterprises, the KPM Group and Black History Walks in association with the Jamaican High Commission in London. The tribute forms parts of Jamaica 50th anniversary celebrations in the UK, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and follows in the wake of Jamaica’s success at the London 2012 Olympic Games. The tribute also supported by local dignitaries, councillors, members of the public, national and international press and media:  2. The book “The Longer Run” written by Valerie Wint, will launch the British leg of her worldwide book tour. The book is available in the UK from Central Books on 0845 458 9911, and can be ordered from all book shops in the UK.

3. The Nubian Jak Community Trust is the only national BME plaque and sculpture scheme in the UK. For more information contact: 0800 093 0400 or email

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Joseph Chatoyer – The National Hero of St Vincent

Joseph Chatoyer – The National Hero of St Vincent:  by Veronica Williams.

St Vincent and the Grenadines an island in the Caribbean is without doubt one of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean.  Like most of the islands in the Caribbean it was colonised by Europeans, namely the French and British for a period of time. St Vincent is now an independent country, but the struggle to remain free can be seen through the carib wars which took place.  One of the main proponents of the struggle was Joseph Chatoyer, who eventually became known as the Chief of Chiefs of the Caribs.

The original inhabitants of the island were thought to be the Ciboneys and Arawaks.  These two groups moved further north and were replaced by the Caribs.  I mention that the original inhabitants of the island were thought to be Ciboneys and Arawaks, but arguably the first people to populate the Caribbean islands originated in Africa.

Africa is, as we know the birthplace of mankind and if we look at a globe we can theorise as to how black men travelled throughout the globe.  One such theory is that the world was constructed differently and that there were connecting lands or land bridges between Africa and the Caribbean.  Another idea is that they travelled east around the globe until they reached North America and the Caribbean.

I put forward this view primarily to support an idea that some of the original inhabitants of the Caribbean islands were African men who were the indigenous people of the islands; and not necessarily slaves who had runaway or been shipwrecked and had made these islands their home. It may be argued that when the Europeans arrived and met the carib population they were both yellow caribs and those who were black and very obviously of negro origin. To all extents and purposes both the yellow and black caribs seemed to live quite harmoniously and seemed to have inter- married and assimilated each other’s cultures.

Joseph Chatoyer was in this latter category a black man or Carib(Garifuna).  A strong black man of a noble race who fought and died to preserve the land of his fathers. Chatoyer was an outstanding warrior with great leadership skills and qualities.  It was claimed that he was a master strategist and diplomat.  He earned a great deal of respect from both other Carib leaders and from the Europeans with whom he fought.  It is said that after his death some panic ensued from the French who withdrew from the war for some time.  The Caribs were also quite distressed and needed some time to recover before once again taking up arms.1   

Chatoyer was a significant figure in the struggle to retain the lands and liberty of the original inhabitants of St Vincent.  Although the exact date of his birth is not known, we gain an impression that he was middle aged and married with sons.  In my opinion this hero can be described as a famous general who was both brave and strong in resisting the British in their quest to take away their lands.

It was during the second Carib War that Chatoyer met his death at the hands of Major Alexander Leith.  The story about his death is recounted in tragic terms, and the profound loss at his death was deeply felt by both Caribs and French allies.  In March 1795, Duvallier the Windward Carib Chief took down the British flag at Dorsetshire Hill, which was a distinct challenge to the English.  Chatoyer eventually joined Duvalier at Dorsetshire Hill and took command.  Sadly on the night of March 14th 1795 the English stormed Dorsetshire Hill and Chatoyer was killed.

Chatoyer’s influence on others  is successfully established through a play which was written by the first black playwright.  It effectively delineates his exceptional abilities as well as portraying his struggle to resist the British. The play which is entitled  “The Drama of King Shotaway was written and produced by a gentleman named Mr Browne. A write up to the play states that the facts were taken from the ‘Insurrection of the Caravs in the island of St Vincent.’  The playwright acknowledges that the play was written from his own personal account of the events which took place, it also illustrates Chatoyer’s determination to outwit the British.  Mr Browne is recognised as the father of black theatre in America.2     

Every year on March 14 in St Vincent and the Grenadines  a public holiday is held to respect the great contributions of their national hero Joseph Chatoyer.

Veronica Williams

1.Chatoyer (Chatawae) National Hero of St Vincent and the Grenadines by Adrian Fraser (PhD) Published Galaxy Print Ltd (2002)

2. Our Cultural Heritage Vol.IV Famous Vincentians – Published by Department of Culture, Ministry of Tourism & Culture, Kingstown, St Vincent and the Grenadine

Veronica Williams

Veronica Williams
Veronica Williams is a graduate in English Literature and has a Masters Degree in Cultural Studies.  She was an educator for 25 years and is now retired from the teaching profession.  Veronica has a wealth of experience to share and draws on her Christian background when discussing some of her views.  In addition to writing educational resources she also writes articles for magazines and newspapers.  Additionally she has written her autobiography, which is entitled The Mind of the Individual.  She moved to the Caribbean in 2010.


Contact :

Telephone No. 1(869)664 6438

Links to other published articles by Veronica Williams

Wisdom Magazine’s Web Edition  Article for July 2012

It Isn’t Always Appropriate to Laugh

Wisdom Magazine’s Web Edition Article for March 2012

Why It’s Okay to Cry


SKN Vibes (26/06/2012)

How to Remain In Paradise

Posted in Black History, Black History Month UK, Caribbean History, Guest Blog Posts, SlaveryComments (3)

Events on Haiti at Nottingham Contemporary

The programme at Nottingham Contemporary this autumn
With its focus on Haiti and a number of
international speakers, art exhibition, films etc – –

Some highlights are: 

Kafou: Haiti, Art and Vodou (20 October – 6 January)

Film: Bitter Cane (30 October)

David Scott on The Theory of Haiti (13 November)


Film: Aristide and the Endless Revolution (20 November)


Conference: 1804 and its afterlives (7-8 December)

Posted in Black History, Caribbean History, Guest Blog Posts, SlaveryComments (0)

Staffordshire Black History month 2012

The Staffordshire Newspaper, ” The Sentinel” reported on Saturday the 29th of September that “BLACK History Month has been launched in style”.

The newspaper reported that the Stoke-on-Trent group NORSACA had held a celebration at Lindsay Annexe, Hanley.  They opened the events  with a performance of African music by Joliba Drums and a lunch of Caribbean cuisine.

The project is part of an annual “Black Awareness” campaign. NORSACA are putting on both fixed and portable exhibitions reflecting black achievement, cultural influence and history in Britain. A list of events can be found on the NORSACA website.

One theme of the project will be the influence of black music, including the blues and gospel, on British culture and psyche. Performances will take place at venues around Stoke-on-Trent in October.

A video featuring the memories of members of the African and Caribbean communities in Stoke will also feature.

For more information, or to use the mobile exhibition in schools and centres, contact Robert at Norsaca.

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