Burma Road Riot

Topics: Nassau, Bahamas, The Bahamas, British Empire Pages: 5 (1792 words) Published: April 3, 2013
(a)Give a detailed account of the Burma Road Riot in Nassau Bahamas.

A Riot is a violent disturbance of the peace in a crowd. The Riot is referred to as Burma Riot because the rioters left Burma Road for the journey.
During the time of World War II, Edward, Duke of Windsor served as governor of the Bahama Islands. It was during his term of office that the Burma Road Riot occurred. This event was destined to change the social, economic and political fabric of life in The Bahamas. The masses or blacks were faced with racism, discrimination, poverty and lack of education and lack of political representation as well as high unemployment. In 1942, U.S.A decided to expand Oakes field and established a new air base at the western end of New Providence. The Pleasantville Company of U.S.A was granted contract and employed two thousand four hundred Bahamians. This company was willing to pay eight shillings per day, when the average Bahamian wage during this time was two shilling a day. From all out islands workers came to Nassau, workers from Exuma who worked on the sea plane base reported that the American government had paid them eight shillings per day. Nassau workers heard about their payments, and go upset and complained. The Bay Street Boys were upset and horrified, they claimed that a wage like that would upset the economy and make the Negroes unmanageable. The Pleasantville Company had been put under pressure; they withdrew its offer and set wages for unskilled workers at four shillings per day. Colored black Bahamians had driven trucks for one shilling an hour while Americans were receiving at least one dollar and fifty cents per hour for the same work. The black Bahamians saw this as racial discrimination. However, the wage dispute was the immediate cause of the riot. Other reasons for the riot also could be that there was Political Disadvantages, Poor Health Facilities, Poor Educational Facilities, Inadequate Housing, Socioeconomic, and Racial Segregation. Blacks were also barred from all restaurants, movie houses, hotels, schools and even churches.

The 1942 riot of Nassau was the last in the series of riots and strikes that occurred throughout the British West Indies after 1934. Distressed conditions of the black laboring population were brought to the attention of the Colonial office. Concerns from the British government, appointed that a royal commissioner would study the area. The commissioner, however, did not visit the Bahamas situation. It failed to see that beneath the surface, as in the rest of the British West Indies there were oppressive socioeconomic under which the masses lived. The riot demonstrated that there was an absence of effective political and social organizations through which grievances could be vocalized.

General historians of the Bahamas, because of space limitations, have been unable to analyze the riot in detail. It had for the most part been described as a wage dispute. However, the late political activist, Dame Doris Johnson, and former Labour leader, Sir Randol Fawkes, both attributed a deeper significance to the riot. Sir Randol Fawkes better known as the Father of Labour in The Bahamas gives an eyewitness account of the day he saw “hundred of ragged, black workers moving downhill towards us. I thought all the gates of hell hand opened and the demons let loose.” Also recognized as the beginning of a political change. Colin Hughes suggested, that is was more of a symbolic event which was later mythicize and used a heroic movement by the blacks, when a political movement had finally started. In light the arguments ant he British West Indian situation, the immediate and long standing causes of the riot will be analyzed. The Second World War brought mixed blessings for the Bahamas; it caused the collapse of the tourist and building construction which exacerbated the already serious unemployment problem. Of its strategic position in the hemisphere the Bahamas benefited from it. New...
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