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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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


Ahmed Jdey

Tunisian union and political leader, lecturer, political activist, founder of l’Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail (UGTT; Tunisian General Labor Union), was born on 2 February 1914 in AlʾAbbassiya, a village in the Kerkennah Islands, off the east coast of Tunisia. His father, Mohamed Hached, was a laborer and a sailor, like most people of that region. His mother was Hana Ben Romdhane. Hached attended primary school in the village of Al Kallabine. In 1922, when he was eight years old, he had learned the basics of Arabic, French, arithmetic, drawing, and writing.

In 1928 Hached finished primary school at the head of his class However because of his family s poverty he was unable to pursue his studies particularly after his father died in the 1930s At that time Hached now an orphan was obliged to work He was only sixteen years old at a time when Tunisia ...


Ethan R. Sanders

Kenyan trade union leader, Mau Mau organizer, and politician, was born in Nairobi, British East Africa (later Kenya), in 1917. His father was Gideon Kubai, a Kikuyu clerk who was involved with the Anglican Church Missionary Society. Kubai began his schooling in Nairobi but later attended Buxton High School in Mombasa. After finishing his education in 1931 he took a job as a telegrapher with East African Posts and Telecommunications, with whom he was employed for the next fifteen years. During this period he worked at several stations throughout Kenya, including a two-year post in Lodwar with the signal battalion of the British Army during World War II.

Kubai resigned from his telegraphing job in 1946 and immediately joined the African Workers Federation. Over the next several years he became a key player in the Kenyan trade union movement. In 1947 he founded the Kenya African Road Transport ...


Jeremy Rich

Congolese (Brazza-ville) political and social activist, was born in Manzakala in the Republic of the Congo (Brazzaville). His father Ngoma, a Lari-speaking man originally from the village of Mpangala, died before Matsoua was born. His mother Nkoussou, born in Manzakala, thus had to raise him herself. As a child and adolescent, he attended Catholic mission schools in the Mbamou region and at Brazzaville, the capital of French Equatorial Africa. Although he attended seminary, he ultimately abandoned plans for a religious vocation and moved to Brazzaville in 1919. There, the French government customs agency hired him as a clerk.

In 1922 he joined a French military unit and left Brazzaville for Paris. The matriculation badge 22 he received as a new recruit later became a common image employed by his followers. After receiving training in France, Matsoua participated in the Rif campaign in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco in 1925 ...


Eric Young

A renowned civil servant, soldier, and labor organizer, André Matsoua’s career continued even after his death. As a youth he studied to become a priest but resigned in 1919 to join the colonial customs service. He later traveled to France and joined the army, serving in North Africa during World War I. In 1926 he settled in Paris, where he became involved in labor-union organizing and founded Amicale, a self-help organization. Seeking recruits and financial contributions, the movement spread to the French Moyen-Congo, where the colonial administration, upset by Matsoua’s outspoken opposition to the discriminatory indigenant, or indigenous, classification of many Congolese, arrested him in 1929.

Although Matsoua was by then a legal French citizen an African traditional court in Brazzaville sentenced him to three years in prison and a decade in exile in Chad Six years later he escaped was soon caught escaped again and found his way ...


David Goldsworthy

Kenyan political leader, was born Thomas Joseph Odhiambo Mboya near Thika, north of Nairobi, on or about 15 August 1930. He was the eldest of the six children of Leonardus Ndiege, a sisal cutter from Rusinga Island, Lake Victoria, and Ndiege’s wife Marsella Awuor. By ethnic identity Mboya was a Suba Luo. He was baptized a Catholic and was given the additional name of Joseph at his confirmation. Between the ages of 7 and 17, he attended Irish-run schools in widely dispersed parts of the country. In his book Freedom and After (1963), he maintained that his nontribal outlook in later life owed much to a childhood during which he lived among and learned the languages of several of Kenya’s major ethnic communities, notably Luo, Kikuyu, and Kamba.

From 1948 to 1950 Mboya attended the Jeanes School a vocational training college at Kabete near Nairobi There ...


Robert Fay

Tom Mboya was born in Kilima Mbogo, Kenya, near present-day Nairobi. The son of a poor Luo sisal cutter, he realized that he had a “keen sense of the political” while attending mission schools. He became politically active through the labor movement—the only legal avenue for social protest in colonial Kenya—while working as a sanitary inspector.

As elected secretary of the African Staff Association in 1951 and founder of the Kenya Local Government Workers Union in 1952 Mboya had an initial goal of better working conditions for Africans Soon however the British colonial government s repressive response to the Mau Mau Rebellion convinced him that economic improvements were not enough At a time when many nationalist leaders were detained in concentration camps Mboya became a leader in the independence struggle with strong support from Kenyan workers After spending two years at Oxford University studying industrial relations Mboya was elected ...