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Shani Roper

chief minister of Barbados (1948–1958); premier of Barbados (1954–1958); and prime minister of the West Indian Federation (1958–1962), was born on 28 April 1898 in Government Hill, Barbados. The third of seven children born to Fitz Herbert and Rosa Adams (née Turney), Adams attended St. Giles’ Primary and later Harrison College. In 1918 Adams was awarded the Barbados Scholarship, which enabled him to attend Oxford University to study law. At Oxford, he regularly participated in political debates and became a member of the Liberal Party there. He campaigned for the Liberal candidate Frank Gray in 1922–1923 and canvassed for C. B. Fry in 1924. He returned to Barbados in 1925. Adams met and eventually married Grace Thorne in 1929 One year later she gave birth to their only child John Michael Geoffrey Adams otherwise known as Tom Adams prime minister of ...

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A. L. Dawn French

was born on 8 January 1951 at Riviere Doree, a community in the southeast section of the island. He was one of nine boys of David William Barnard and Andrazine Anthony, better known as (and officially known as) Lucy Rosemond, who hailed from Saltibus. They also had two girls, both of whom died in infancy.

Anthony grew up in the south of the island, in the villages of Degatierre and River Dorée. His education started at the River Dorée Anglican Combined School, but was interrupted when he moved to the nearby island of St. Vincent. From 1959 to 1963 he attended the Kingstown Preparatory School in the capital, Kingstown. In 1963 he returned to Saint Lucia and attended the Laborie Boys School for one year; in 1964 he moved to the Vieux Fort Secondary School. Upon graduation in 1968 he worked at the business house of Minvielle and Chastanet ...

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Dexnell G.L. Peters

was born Raymond Quevedo on 24 March 1892 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. He was born to a Trinidadian mother and Venezuelan father. Quevedo won a government scholarship, receiving his secondary education at St. Mary’s College or the College of Immaculate Conception, a prestigious Port of Spain school. He likely spent the years 1904 to 1908 at the college. It should be noted that secondary education at the time was a privilege only afforded to those of the wealthier classes or those able to attain one of the few available government scholarships. Although this privilege allowed Quevedo the opportunity to pursue various career options, he eventually decided to become a calypsonian and later was popularly known by the sobriquet “Attila the Hun.” In 1911 he sang his first calypso publicly and later began singing in calypso tents venues where calypsonians performed regularly and where he grew tremendously ...

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Iris Berger

South African labor organizer and women’s movement leader, was born in the diamond-mining town of Kimberley, the fourth of six children. Her father Herman Maswabi had come from Bechuanaland (now Botswana) to work on the mines and was a steward in the local Methodist church; her mother, Sara Voss, also Tswana, came from Kimberley. When her father’s brother and sister-in-law died, Baard’s family took in their children, and her parents sent her to stay with her father’s sister in Ramotswa, a village not far from Gaborone, where she was confirmed in the local Lutheran church. After Baard, then around eight years old, suffered serious burns in a cooking fire, her mother brought her back to the family home in Beaconsfield, just outside of Kimberley. She attended a Methodist school, learning in both English and Tswana. Shortly after she returned, her mother passed away during the 1918 flu epidemic.

When Baard ...

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Eric Paul Roorda

labor leader in the sugar industry during the Rafael Trujillo regime, was born in Sabana Grande de Palenque in the province of San Cristóbal, Dominican Republic, on 23 September 1910. He was the son of Daniel Báez, a sugarcane cutter, and Julia de los Santos. They moved to San Pedro de Macorís with him when he was young. He began working in a company store on the Colón sugar estate, and later he became a stevedore in the port of San Pedro. These places of employment may have provided him the chance to gain literacy, although he had no formal education. What he had was intelligence, charisma, and a great public speaking ability.

Báez became a leader of the nascent labor union movement in the cane fields around San Pedro de Macorís and La Romana in the early 1940s He was one of the leaders of a brief localized ...

Article

Arturo Taracena

was born in Puerto Barrios in the Izabal department of Guatemala. Izabal has been the homeland of African-descended Garifuna people from the Caribbean since the late eighteenth century, but Bennett’s family were more recent black migrants from Jamaica. His parents’ names and occupations and their precise date of arrival from Jamaica are not known.

Although little is known of his early life, by the 1940s Bennett had emerged as a union leader of the Railroad Mixed Mutual Aid Society (Sociedad de Auxilio Mutuo Ferrocarrilero) and regional representative of the Communist-led General Confederation of Guatemalan Workers (Confederación General de Trabajadores de Guatemala). As leader of the Workers’ Union of Puerto Barrios (Unión Sindical de Trabajadores), Bennett was very active in the post–World War II labor struggles in Izabal on the part of the employees of the United Fruit Company (UFCO) and the International Railways of Central America. In 1946 the ...

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Ingrid Y. Castañeda

born to Creole (English-speaking) parents in British Honduras in 1897. Betson attended primary school at a Methodist institution and in 1916 volunteered to fight in World War I as part of the British West Indies Regiment. Upon return to Belize from the Middle East in 1919, black former servicemen rioted over poor conditions at home and abroad. While he apparently did not participate in the riots, the radicalism of the period, combined with the appeal of Marcus Garvey’s ideas, had a lasting impact on Betson. After his military service, he returned to work as a master shipwright, repairing ships on the waterfront.

British Honduras was again gripped by social upheaval in 1934 as the Great Depression battered the colony s economy Sparked by the government s lack of response to a disastrous hurricane the colony saw strikes and street protests demanding jobs higher wages and better living ...

Article

Cleve McD. Scott

was born on 7 December 1910, to Theophilus Bird and Amanda Edgehill in St. John’s, the capital of Antigua and Barbuda. He grew up in poverty and received only a primary level education, factors that would drive his future political activism. At age 15, Vere joined the Salvation Army, a religious organization. He was trained at its college in Trinidad and joined the college’s staff on completion of his stint. By age 21, the near 7-footer had attained the rank of captain and was assigned to Grenada, where he worked until the early 1930s before returning home.

The 1930s in the Anglophone Caribbean was like a boiling cauldron producing widespread social and political upheaval and this was the backdrop to Bird’s rise in the labor movement and politics. In 1939 on the heels of the visit by the British colonial Moyne Commission investigating the causes of the labor ...

Article

was born on 16 September 1916 in St. Paul’s Village, St. Kitts, to domestic worker Mary Jane Francis, and blacksmith and laborer William Bradshaw. His interaction with trade unions began at an early age. His grandmother often sent him to pay her union dues to her union representative, one Gabriel Douglas, on his way to school. Like many boys in his community, Bradshaw worked on the neighboring sugar estate after completing his education. At the age of 16, he was apprenticed to the foreman in the machine shop at the St. Kitts-Bassetere Sugar Company. He joined the St. Kitts Workers League on the recommendation of his boss in the machine shop. In 1935 another boy pushed Bradshaw and his right hand went through a glass window during the altercation severing all the tendons After he recovered Bradshaw was promoted to the office of the machine shop This accident changed ...

Article

Christian Høgsbjerg

was born in 1885 in Barbados, then part of the British West Indies. As a teenager, he enrolled as a seaman in the British merchant navy, before settling in Chicago and raising a family. During the World War I, like many other black colonial seamen, he rejoined the merchant navy. After the war, Braithwaite returned to the United States, this time to New York, where he found work in a bar and possibly witnessed the month-long New York Harbor Strike in October 1919.

In the early 1920s, Braithwaite crossed the Atlantic and settled in Stepney, London, where, after meeting Edna Slack, a young white woman whom he married in 1936 he raised a new family with six children He found work with the Shipping Federation as an agent in the Pool a part of the River Thames where many ships came to dock He was charged with finding ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

was born in New York City on 29 September 1915, the son of Charles Breechford Burnham and Louise St. Clair Williams Burnham, Afro-Guyanese migrants to the United States. A cousin of Guyana prime minister Forbes Burnham, Louis Burnham stands as a marked contrast to the common stereotype that Guyanese socialists are mostly of East Indian descent, while Guyanese of African descent are more conservative in their politics.

Some sources presume that Burnham was born in Barbados, but census records show that while his Guyanese parents were both born there, his mother immigrated to the United States in 1909, and that his father did so no later than 1914, perhaps before 1910. Neither was a naturalized citizen in 1920, when the family lived at 253 West 139th Street in Harlem. He had an older brother, Charles St. Clair Burnham, born in New York in 1914 ...

Article

Sandria Green-Stewart

and the first “First Lady” of independent Jamaica, was born Gladys Maud Longbridge on 8 March 1912 in Parson Reid, Westmoreland, Jamaica, to working-class parents, Rebecca Blackwood and Frank Longbridge. Lady Bustamante, in her Memoirs, identified the role of her family (including her extended family), the church, school, and the local community in molding her early years and inculcating the values of responsibility and giving back to others. She attended the Ashton Primary School, which was run by the Moravian Church. As an ambitious 18-year-old, she moved to Kingston, the island’s capital, to pursue further education at Tutorial Commercial College, where she studied to be a secretary. It was in Kingston that she began her journey to become associated with Jamaica’s early trade union movement and a contributor to the project of nation-building.

Bustamante described her early life in rural western Jamaica as happy and carefree She was involved ...

Article

Born William Alexander Clarke, of an Irish immigrant father and a Jamaican mother of indigenous and African descent, Bustamante grew up in Blenheim, Jamaica, but ventured out into the world at the age of twenty-one. As a young man he served in the Spanish army, then worked in various capacities in Cuba, Panama, and New York City. He returned to Jamaica in 1932 as a wealthy entrepreneur. Although shrewd investments had made him rich, Bustamante's concern for Jamaican Sugar plantation workers led him to participate in protest marches, organize strikes, and become the treasurer of the Jamaican Workers and Tradesmen's Union (JWTU), which he helped found in 1937. His political activism continued alongside the social upheaval occurring in the 1930s throughout the West Indies. After he was jailed and released in May 1938 he became a symbolic leader of the workers movement ...

Article

Anton L. Allahar

also known as “Buzz,” was born in St. George’s, Grenada, on 21 January 1897 and emigrated to Trinidad at age 21. His father worked as a blacksmith and also served as the sexton of the St. George’s Anglican Chapel, which gained the young Uriah entry to the well-regarded St. George’s Anglican School. Beyond this there is little available information concerning his family and formal education, but it is generally believed that his education was minimal.

Like a number of British West Indian young men at the time while still in his teens Uriah enlisted in the British army during World War I and was stationed in Egypt but here too not much is known of his exploits in the army Butler s limited education in no way impaired the kind of contribution he would make to his adopted country in the turbulent decade of the 1930s when a still young ...

Article

Lorraine Anastasia Lezama

Though born in Grenada, Tubal Uriah Butler would eventually develop his career as a labor organizer and politician in Trinidad. In Grenada, Butler was affiliated with the Grenada Representative Government Movement, and served as a volunteer in the first contingent of the West Indies during World War I. In 1921 he migrated to Trinidad, where he settled in Fyzabad, a southern industrial town populated by workers from the dominant petroleum industry. He held a variety of positions in the oilfields—pipe fitter, rig man, and pump man—until 1929, when he was seriously injured.

Butler was a charismatic speaker, and he quickly became influential in the Trinidad Labour Party (TLP), an organization committed to expanding the voting franchise and to lobbying for constitutional change. His ascent was matched by his growing disillusionment with the TLP and its leader, Captain Arthur Andrew Cipriani Butler believed that the TLP was both ...

Article

A. L. Dawn French

was born and raised in the island’s capital, Castries, on 7 June 1916. He was the son of James Charles, a political activist, and James’s wife, whose name is not recorded. George Charles attended the Methodist School and St. Mary’s College. Like many young West Indians of his time who migrated to the Dutch ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao), Charles went to Aruba, where he worked for a year with the Lago Oil and Transport Company, and where he was first exposed to trade union activities. On his return to Saint Lucia in 1945, he championed the cause of the workers at the Vigie Airport Renovation Project, where he was employed as a timekeeper. His solidarity with the workers on that occasion propelled him to the post of general secretary of the Saint Lucia Workers Cooperative Union.

A devastating fire in June 1948 razed 75 percent of ...

Article

Peter D. Fraser

was born on 18 December 1884 in Georgetown, British Guiana, the son of James Nathaniel Critchlow (a dockworker from Barbados) and Elizabeth Critchlow. He attended Bedford Methodist School in Georgetown, which he left, at age 14, on the death of his father. He worked first in a foundry, then in a cigarette factory, and finally became a dockworker.

The early twentieth century in British Guiana was a time of economic recession. Workers’ conditions deteriorated, and late in 1905 Critchlow helped organize a strike of dockworkers, joined by the equally affected sugar workers on estates near the capital of Georgetown. Rioting in Georgetown and the shooting of sugar workers led to Critchlow’s arrest, but he was released without charge. He would later cite this event as crucial in shaping his thinking about organizing labor and his belief in negotiations rather than violent confrontation. He continued organizing, and in 1916 and 1917 ...

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Cleve McD. Scott

was born on 16 July 1892 in St. Croix, then a Danish colony in the Caribbean, to Anne Elisa and William Crosswaith. When Crosswaith was about 13 years old, he left St. Croix for New York to study. After finishing high school, through a scholarship provided by the New York–based socialist paper the Jewish Daily Forward, he attended the Rand School of Social Science, a higher education institution established by associates of the Socialist Party of America to advance workers education and consolidate class consciousness.

The United States purchased St. Croix from Denmark in 1916, and in 1927 its people became American citizens. By 1927 Crosswaith had become one of several well established Caribbean born political leaders in New York He had quickly gained a reputation as an inspiring public speaker and a black labor union leader He was initiated into the labor movement during his time ...

Article

Patricia Glinton-Meicholas

was born in 1922 to Charles Darling, an Acklins, Bahamas, fisherman and farmer, who took cyclical work in Panama. Termed “The Bahamas Nazareth” by Sir Arthur Foulkes (eighth Bahamian governor-general of The Bahamas), Acklins was one of the chronically depressed southern islands of the Bahamas archipelago, which forced its people to migrate to Nassau, the capital, or elsewhere in search of work. Charles married Aremilia Johnson, and Clifford, the seventh of their eleven children, was born on 6 February 1922 in Chester’s, Acklins.

Darling’s limited formal education began at Chester’s all-age school and continued at public schools in New Providence. Quietly ambitious, he seized opportunities for learning whenever they appeared. That he was intelligent was evidenced by his appointment as school monitor (pupil teacher) at age 14. His six shillings per month wage was a boon to his family following his father’s death in 1933.

In 1938 Darling ...

Article

Mohamed Adhikari

South African trade unionist and political activist, was the only son of David Gomas and Elizabeth Erasmus. John Stephen Gomas was raised in Abbotsdale near Cape Town. After his father abandoned the family, Elizabeth moved with her son to Kimberley in 1911. Here Gomas entered an apprenticeship at a tailor’s workshop in 1915, where his employer, Myer Gordon, a Russian immigrant, introduced him to socialist ideas. In 1919 Gomas joined the International Socialist League, the African National Congress (ANC), and the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU). Toward the end of that year his participation in a successful clothing workers’ strike transformed the quiet, bookish youth into a vociferous champion for workers’ rights.

In 1920 Gomas moved to Cape Town where he worked privately from home as a tailor He was active in the ICU the ANC and the Tailors Industrial Union Attracted by its militancy and ...