Burma Road Riot 1942

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  • Topic: The Bahamas, Trade union, Bahamas
  • Pages : 7 (2287 words )
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  • Published : March 16, 2013
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The Burma Road Riot
"The 1942 riot in Nassau was a short-lived spontaneous outburst by a group of disgruntled labourers, and occurred against a background of narrow socio-economic and political policies." Quoted from "The 1942 riot in Nassau: A demand for Change?" by Gail Saunders.  "The construction project promised a relative bonanza for the local unemployed, a chance to sell their labor for something like the rates they knew were normal on the mainland ... Unknown to them, however, the Bahamas government had agreed to peg local wages for unskilled labor at the rates established in 1936." Quoted from Islanders in the Stream: A History of the Bahamian People (From the Ending of Slavery to the Twenty-First Century) by Michael Craton and Gail Saunders.  Causes of the Riot 

"The June 1st 1942 labor action that began outside the city centre but culminated in a riot on Bay Street was an important event in the country’s history. It spoke to the growing dissatisfaction of the Bahamas’ black majority with the (very real if relatively mild) system of apartheid that hemmed them in politically, economically and socially. It demonstrated the willingness of the hitherto silent black majority to stand up to their colonial masters and the local ruling white oligarchy. It signaled the beginning of the end of second class citizenship for blacks in the Bahamas. Therefore, this riot continues to occupy a unique place in the Bahamian imagination and has helped to cement Bay Street as the important center in the Bahamas." Quoted from "Bay Street and the 1942 Riot: Social Space and Identity Work in the Bahamas" by Nona Patara Martin and Virgil Henry Storr.  The fledgling Bahamas Federation of Labour chose Dr Claudius R. Walker to meet with the Duke of Windsor on behalf of the workers following the riots: "The underlying causes for this social unrest are manifold," he told the ex-king of England. "We are in the majority but we have minority problems. We are poorly housed, poorly fed and poorly educated. Truth to tell, we are the wretched of the earth."

What Happened?
The crowd of workers, now buttressed by women and children from the black over-the-hill neighborhoods, gathered outside of the government buildings at Public Square. Attorney General Eric Hallinan addressed the workers from the steps of the Colonial Secretary’s office hoping to mollify them. ... He warned them to be careful “not spoil the good impression that they had made.” ... Although there were reports that some of the laborers threw their sticks in a heap and went home when they heard this news, for the most part, the crowd became even more incensed. Mr. Christie, Captain Sears and a number of others tried to convince the mob to go home but to no avail. Eventually, a group of men broke off from the main assemblage, tired of listening to what they must have thought was cheap talk. They headed down Bay Street, “smashing as they went.”" Quoted from "Bay Street and the 1942 Riot: Social Space and Identity Work in the Bahamas" by Nona Patara Martin and Virgil Henry Storr. Consequences of Burma Road Riot

Project workers received a 25 per cent increase in pay plus free lunches. And a few weeks after that a House of Assembly committee led by Stafford Sands recommended compensation for the (mostly white) merchants whose stores had been damaged.  After the riot, the Duke appointed a commission of inquiry composed of a non-resident Englishman and two white Bahamians. At the end of November 1942, the commission called for wide-ranging social and political reforms, including modern labour laws and trade unions, more local government for the Out Islands, reducing the life of parliament from seven to five years, raising taxes to make the wealthy contribute more to the cost of running of the country, and introducing a one man, one vote ballot.

The 1958 Strike in The Bahamas
Prelude to the Strike
In the year 1958 in The Bahamas the classic battle lines were drawn between an...
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