• TABLE OF CONTENTS
HIDE
 Front Cover
 Title Page
 Foreword
 Table of Contents
 Acknowledgement
 The Caribbean scene: The Islan...
 The slavery background
 The economic structure
 The condition of the negro wage...
 The land problem and the negro...
 Native education
 The political problem
 The future of the Caribbean
 Reference notes
 Bibliography
 Appendix
 Back Cover






Group Title: Bronze booklet
Title: The Negro in the Caribbean
CITATION THUMBNAILS PAGE IMAGE ZOOMABLE
Full Citation
STANDARD VIEW MARC VIEW
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00087166/00001
 Material Information
Title: The Negro in the Caribbean
Series Title: Bronze booklet
Physical Description: 119 p. : ; 22 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Williams, Eric Eustace, 1911-1981
Publisher: Associates in Negro Folk Education
Place of Publication: Washington
Publication Date: 1942
 Subjects
Subject: Blacks -- West Indies   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
 Notes
Bibliography: "Reference notes": p. 110-114. "Select bibliography" : p. 115-117.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00087166
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 01446173
lccn - 42016832

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Title Page
        Page i
        Page ii
    Foreword
        Page iii
        Page iv
    Table of Contents
        Page v
    Acknowledgement
        Page vi
    The Caribbean scene: The Islands
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
    The slavery background
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
    The economic structure
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
    The condition of the negro wage earner
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
    The land problem and the negro peasant
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
    Native education
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
    The political problem
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
        Page 97
        Page 98
    The future of the Caribbean
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
    Reference notes
        Page 110
        Page 111
        Page 112
        Page 113
        Page 114
    Bibliography
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
    Appendix
        Page 118
        Page 119
    Back Cover
        Page 120
Full Text











q inth










THE NEGRO
IN THE CARIBBEAN







ERIC WILLIAMS, B.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.)
Assistant Professor of Social and Political Science,
Howard University














GREENWOOD PRESS, PUBLISHERS
WESTPORT, CONNECTICUT









The Library of Congress cataloged this book as follows:

Williams, Eric Eustace, 1911-
The Negro in the Caribbean, by Eric Williams. New
York, Negro Universities Press [1969, *1942]
119 p. 22 em.
Bibliography: p. 115-117.




1. Negroes in the West Indies. L Title.
F1629.N4W5 1969 301.451'96'0729 71-88421
SBN 8371-1809-3 MARO
Library of Congress 70 (41









Original copyright 1942 by The Associates in Negro Folk Education

All rights reserved

Originally published in 1942 by The Associates in Negro Folk
Education, Washington, D.C.

Reprinted with the permission of Prime Minister Eric Williams

Reprinted by Greenwood Press, Inc.

First Greenwood reprinting 1969
Second Greenwood reprinting 1971
Third Greenwood reprinting 1975
Paperback edition 1976

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 71-88421

ISBN 0-8371-1809-3 Cloth edition
ISBN 0-8371-8987-X Paper edition

Printed in the United States of America








EDITORIAL FOREWORD


To give the layman a panoramic but not superficial
over-view of the Caribbean area, its islands and their
people, is in itself a large service. But this study goes
further to set the West Indies meaningfully in the
perspective of their historic past, as well as to present
the problems of the present in a challenging and con-
structive interpretation looking toward their future.
At a time when the Caribbean has become one of the
crucial foci of national, hemispheric and international
politics, such an approach, and the more comprehen-
sive understanding it makes possible, seem imperative.
Dr. Eric Williams, the young Negro author, has
peculiar competence to carry all these converging inter-
ests through to integrated interpretation. Born 1911
in Trinidad, graduate of Queen's Royal College there
in 1931, he studied on an Island Scholarship at Oxford,
1932-1939. There he won his B.A., with Double
First in the Honour School of Modern History, and
then proceeded to his D.Phil. degree with a thesis on
The Economic Aspect of the Abolition of the British
West Indian Slave Trade and Slavery. In 1940 he
revisited the West Indies on a Rosenwald Fellowship,
gathering material for this study, and two prospective
more comprehensive works on The Sugar Economy of
the Caribbean and Capitalism and Slavery. As now
for several years a teacher in the United States and a
citizen of the Americas in the larger sense, he is emi-
nently fitted to link up hitherto isolated segments of
the racial problems common to this hemisphere.
From the racial angle, it is hoped that this study
will furnish a closer and sounder bond of understand-
ing between the Negro-American and his brother West-
Indian, known all too limitedly merely as a migrant
rather than with regard either to his home background








or with reference to our common racial history and
problems. From the national angle, shared too by
the Negro minority, it may also be expected to con-
tribute to a more realistic inter-American understand-
ing and to suggest ways of helpful economic, political
and cultural collaboration. Both selfishly and altruis-
tically, for national as well as international interests,
it behooves the United States to pursue constructive
economic and political policies in the Caribbean, and
without a realistic and objective understanding of the
situation and its problems such an enlightened, long-
range program is impossible. The issues of this analy-
sis present a challenge to us which, rightly solved, will
lead to the constructive enlargement of Western democ-
racy. Alain Locke.













CONTENTS


THE NEGRO IN THE CARIBBEAN

Foreword and Acknowledgments
CHAPTER PAGE
I. The Islands ..... ............ ..............1. 1
II. The Slavery Background .................... 11
III. The Economic Structure..................... 17
IV. The Condition of the Negro Wage-Earner....... 32
V. The Land Problem and the Negro Peasant....... 46
VI. The Middle Class and the Racial Problem........ 57
VII. Native Education..... ........... ........... 70
VIII. The Political Problem........................ 83
IX. The Future of the Caribbean.................. 99

Reference Notes.................................. 110
Bibliography.......... ............. ..... ...... 115
Conspectus Table: Statistics of the Caribbean......... 118












ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


To three of my colleagues at Howard University,
I am indebted for careful reading and constructive
criticism of this manuscript;-Dr. W. O. Brown of the
department of Sociology, experienced student of the
race question in South Africa, Puerto Rico and else-
where; Professor Ralph J. Bunche of the Department
of Political Science, now Senior Researcher in colonial
affairs of the Office of Defense Information, and Dr.
Alain Locke, Professor of Philosophy and Editor of
this series. Their kind and valuable suggestions have
been very helpful and have removed many, though not
all of its defects.
The Editor, after commissioning the study over two
years ago, has generously allowed me to get accli-
mated to this country, and readily consented to further
postponement so that Imight re-visit the islands for
more recent observation and materials. That visit,
and this study in its present form, was only made pos-
sible by the generous grant of a Fellowship from the
Julius Rosenwald Fund, which permitted me to spend
the summer of 1940 in Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican
Republic and Puerto Rico. In this way I was able not
only to check, from first-hand sources and observa-
tions, my own personal knowledge of the British Carib-
bean, but to make contacts in the French and Spanish
areas which were as pleasant as they were instructive.
Eric Williams.
Howard University,
January 30, 1942.









THE NEGRO

IN THE CARIBBEAN

CHAPTER I

THE CARIBBEAN SCENE:

"THE ISLANDS"

Stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic
Ocean is a wide expanse of sea dotted with a number
of islands called, after their original Indian inhabitants,
the Caribbean Sea and the Caribbean Islands. In the
West, Cuba is within easy reach of Florida; to the
South and East lies Trinidad, at the mouth of the
Amazon, within a day's sail of the Venezuelan coast.
Lying in between are a heterogeneous collection of
islands, varying in size but uniform in climate and
economic structure, while far to the North, well in
the Atlantic, stands Bermuda in its isolation. On the
South American continent are the Gulanas, the El
Dorado of Sir Walter Raleigh, vast stretches of terri-
tory shared between England, France and Holland.
These, with British Honduras in Central America,
represent, apart from Canada, the only European
areas in the Western Hemisphere. For reasons of
convenience they may well be considered together with
the Caribbean islands to which they are similar in
economy as well as in the racial character of their
population.
Discovered by Columbus in his search for a west-
erly passage to India, the name he gave them, "West
Indies", is still in vogue today. Originally the mon-








opoly of the Crown of Spain, imperialist rivalries up
to 1900 transferred various islands to other powers.
The British West Indies are a collection of nineteen
scattered island units. Martinique and Guadeloupe
remain as survivals of a magnificent French empire in
the Western Hemisphere which once included Canada,
Louisiana and Haiti. The Dutch are still represented
by Curacao and its dependencies. Spain and Denmark
have vanished from the scene, the one driven out, the
other bought out by the United States. Cuba, Haiti
and the Dominican Republic have succeeded in main-
taining a precarious independence which they wrested
from Spain and France.
In area the islands proper comprise some 90,000
square miles, somewhat more than one-third the size
of Texas, with a population of over thirteen millions,
or more than double that of Texas. By far the larg-
est island is Cuba; the size of Pennsylvania, its popu-
lation is approximately one-half. The Dominican Re-
public, double the size of Vermont, has a population
four times the population of that state. Haiti, its
population three times that of Nevada, is one-tenth
of the area of Nevada. The British West Indies
comprise an area somewhat more than one-third of the
area of Indiana with a population approximately one-
third less. In the French islands of Martinique and
Guadeloupe, a population more than double that of
Delaware lives in an area less than half the size. The
Dutch colonies, one-seventh the .size of Delaware, have
a population less than that of Wilmington. American
Puerto Rico, one-twelfth the area of Pennsylvania,
supports the population of Philadelphia.
The islands vary in size from the 44,000 square
miles of Cuba to the 166 of Barbados and the 32 of
Montserrat. The population of Cuba is over four
millions. Puerto Rico, one-twelfth the size of Cuba,








has a population slightly under half that of its larger
sister. The 166 square miles of Barbados support a
population of 193,000. The density of population is
enormous, the struggle for survival consequently fierce.
Every acre of cultivable ground in Barbados is in use;
the density of population is 1163 to the square mile,
and is even higher, if only cultivable land is taken into
consideration. Puerto Rico supports an average of
506 persons per square mile, or 1375 for each square
mile under cultivation. The estimated density per
square mile for Trinidad is 229, for Tobago 241, for
Grenada 665, for Guadeloupe 442. Much of Cuba
is too mountainous for cultivation; of Haiti's 10,700
square miles, only one-quarter is plain, the rest is moun-
tainous land.
At first sight the mainland areas present a different
picture. The three Guianas, in area larger than Cali-
fornia, have a total population less than that of Los
Angeles. British Guiana, larger than Minnesota, has
a smaller population than Minneapolis. French Guiana,
larger than Maine, can boast of a population, convicts
included, only six per cent of Maine's. British Hon-
duras, larger than Massachusetts, has only half the
population of Cambridge. The density of population
in British Honduras is six per square mile. In British
Guiana it is less than four. But less than 200 of its
90,000 square miles are under cultivation, giving a
working density of nearly 1700 per square mile. These
islands and colonies need living space far more than
the totalitarian countries with their much-vaunted
claims.
The climate of the entire area is in the main tropical.
It is, however, more equable than tropical. The an-
nual mean temperature is about 80 degrees for all the
islands. The temperature too is uniform all the year
round; the average temperature for the warmest
3








month seldom exceeds 82 degrees, while the size of
the islands leaves them exposed to the sea breezes, and
the humidity of the summer months in the United
States is unknown. The frequent assertion that white
men were unable to stand the strain of manual labor
in the islands is in fact a myth. White settlers were
deliberately encouraged by the Spanish Government
to settle in Cuba and Puerto Rico, and the Cuban
tobacco industry has always been, in comparison with
its counterpart in Virginia, a white and free industry.
The Dutch islands of Saba and St. Martin are the
home of pure white north Europeans who have lived
there as peasant workers for several hundred years,
and one day Hitler may remember a pure German
colony of peasants in Seaford, Jamaica, descendants
of immigrants in 1834. Moreover, the climate of
Cuba and Haiti is rather sub-tropical than tropical,
hence perhaps one reason why the mortality of the
Negro slaves in these islands exceeded the mortality
in other areas in the Caribbean. A few miles outside
of Port-au-Prince in Haiti is the summer resort of
Kenskoff. At sunset one would think one was in Swit-
zerland rather than in the tropics. There are only
two seasons, the wet and the dry-the one very wet,
the other very dry. The wet season is the season of
the hurricanes, those tremendous storms which Edmund
Burke once described as a correction of the planters'
vices or a humbler of their pride. The period of hurri-
canes is indicated by an old rhyme:
June, too soon.
July, stand by.
August, come it must.
September, remember.
October, all over.
They come up suddenly, leaving a trail of havoc be-
hind when the sun returns shining bright, like the ebul-
lient inhabitants of the islands, quick to lose tempers,








cause great damage, and then re-emerge smiling as if
nothing had happened. A severe hurricane in 1928
caused property losses estimated in Puerto Rico at
fifty million dollars; another of 1932 the loss of 225
lives, the injury of 4,800 persons and property damage
estimated at thirty million dollars. Most of the islands
are of volcanic origin. The volcanoes are practically
all extinct, though the people of the Caribbean have
not forgotten the year 1902. In that year Mont PI66
in Martinique erupted. In forty-five seconds the
capital, St. Pierre, with its 28,000 inhabitants, was
completely wiped out; the ashes covered the northern
half of St. Vincent, causing the loss of some 2,000
lives. A wreck of a steamer crawled into the harbor
of St. Lucia. "Who are you," shouted the watching
crowd, "and where do you come from?" "We come
from hell," was the reply. "You can cable the world
that St. Pierre no longer exists."
In this climate tropical products are in their natural
element. Sugar cane, coffee, cocoa, cotton, tobacco,
coconuts; tropical fruits such as pineapples, bananas,
oranges, grapefruit, avocado pears, plums of all sorts,
grow in abundance and, as it were, naturally, together
with a variety of others whose names would hardly
be known outside of the Caribbean,-the guava,
mango, sapodilla, balata, soursop and sugar-apple.
Tropical vegetables are legion, making the table of
the well-to-do colored bourgeois a treat for the most
fastidious gourmand-eddoes, dasheen, yams, cassava,
cush-cush, plantains, calaloo, okra and a host of others.
The luxuriant vegetation of the tropics is everywhere;
the greenheart (whose hard, heavy wood is eminently
suited for docks, quays and piles), the mora, mahog-
any, cedar, purpleheart, and, the best known of all,
the stately palm. Flowering trees and shrubs in pro-
fusion add that charm and scent which have made the








beauty of the islands almost legendary: the immortelle
with its flame-colored flowers, that serves as a shade
for cocoa plantations, and which the Spaniards call
"cocoa-mother", the jasmine, bougainvillea, hibiscus
and poinsetta. Spices abound, cloves, nutmegs, peppers,
tonca beans. Birds of exquisite beauty, some peculiar
like the humming bird; fish of all sorts, some delicious
like the kingfish, red fish, flying fish, others dangerous
like the shark, the barracouta, the stingaree; poisonous
reptiles, such as the rattlesnake, the coral snake, the
mapipire and boa constrictor; alligators, scorpions,
centipedes, lizards, turtles, tortoises, all contribute to
the diversity if not security of the landscape. There
are fine beaches everywhere-Silver Sands and Bath-
sheba in Barbados, Doctor's Cave in Jamaica, Grand
Anse in Grenada, Varadero in Cuba. The Kaieteur
Falls in British Guiana are the highest in the world and
would make six Niagaras; smaller ones are found
elsewhere. The natural harbors, the blue skies and
clear water make these islands the resort of tourists
in large numbers. What Charles Kingsley wrote of
one island is true of all: "The island, from peak to
shore, is like a gorgeous jewel, hanging between the
blue sea and the white surf below, and the blue sky
and white clouds above." Nature in the Caribbean
has been as kind as man has been unkind.
Everywhere, in every island, is seen the pre-eminent
product, mile upon mile of sugar cane, unvarying,
monotonous, signifying the magnificent wealth of its
owners at one pole and the magnificent misery of its
cultivators at the other.
It is ironical to recall today that it was tobacco and
not sugar which at the beginning was the gift of the
New World to the Old. The sugar cane was brought
from the Old World to the New; though the New
World was, as it were, called into existence to supply








sugar to the Old. But if sugar still retains today pride
of place among the islands' products in the world's
markets, it is by no means the only product for which
they are famous. The bananas of Jamaica and Mar-
tinique have a well-deserved reputation in the markets
of England and France. Sufficient on a cigar is the
word "Havana". The "Blue Mountain" Coffee of
Jamaica fetches the highest price in the world coffee
market. The bay rum of the Virgin Islands is as cele-
brated for external use as is the rum of Jamaica for
internal use. The name Curacao connoted to the world
only a justly famous liqueur before the Nazi threat
to the Western Hemisphere revealed that it was also
an island in the Caribbean. Trinidad is the largest
producer of oil in the British Empire. In addition,
Trinidad possesses in the Pitch Lake one of the natural
wonders of the world. Cuba has mineral deposits,
small in quantity, but valuable as strategic war mate-
rials. The Guianas have deposits of gold, diamonds
and bauxite, indispensable in the construction of aero-
planes.
The great age of the Caribbean, however, was the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when sugar occu-
pied in the international market the place later usurped
by cotton and taken today by oil and steel. Today the
islands would have remained in relative oblivion except
for curious tourists and romancers and treasure hunt-
ers: Hitler saved them from that hardly undeserved
oblivion. For the Caribbean is one of the most im-
portant seas, strategically speaking, in the world. It
lies athwart the trade routes from the Atlantic to the
Pacific. Who commands the Caribbean commands the
Panama Canal. Kingston, Jamaica, is 550 miles from
that vital artery; Trinidad, 1170; Barbados, 1225;
St. Thomas, 1035; Curacao, 696. Bermuda is less
than 700 miles from New York, and San Juan, Puerto








Rico, 1400. Nassau, capital of the Bahamas, is less
than 1200 miles from Miami; Trinidad is 3122 miles
from Rio de Janeiro, and Barbadgs 2000 from Per-
nambuco. Bermuda is 2800 miles from the Azores,
and 2700 from Dakar.
The Caribbean islands are, in fact, a vital link in
the chain of hemisphere defence. The Caribbean has
become for the United States "our sea", the "Amer-
ican Mediterranean", with Puerto Rico as its Gibral-
tar. That fact has been brought home to the Amer-
ican public, by press and radio. The United States
Government has acquired leases on bases in the Brit-
ish islands; the Pan-American Conference held at
Havana in July, 1940 was summoned to discuss the
future of the European dependencies in the Caribbean
should the European war result in a victory for Ger-
many. The United States is keeping a sharp watch on
Martinique, with its large stock of gold, its aeroplanes
and its capital ships, and above all its harbor, Fort-de-
France, incomparably the best between Cuba and South
America. A recent agreement with the Dutch Govern-
ment makes the United States partly responsible for
the defence of Dutch Guiana, dangerously close to
Dakar.
An island, however, is more than a naval or aerial
base; it is home for many thousands who teem on it as
ants on an anthill. It is a scene not only of military
activity; it is the stage for the struggle for survival of
people living in dire poverty. In these poverty-stricken
areas the overwhelming proportion of the population
is Negro or mulatto. Pure Negroes are estimated at
over 90 per cent in Haiti, 77 per cent in Jamaica, 74
per cent in the British Windward Islands. The Domin-
ican Republic is overwhelmingly mulatto, about 68
per cent of the population being of mixed blood, while
a further 18 per cent is pure Negro. In Haiti, where
8








they constitute the ruling class, the mulattoes are less
than 10 per cent of the population; in Jamaica 18; in
the British Leeward Islands 17. Negroes and mulat-
toes make up between 80 and 90 per cent of the popu-
lation of the Dutch islands. The percentage of Negroes
or people of Negroid descent in the former Spanish
colonies is smaller, partly because of the policy already
referred to of encouraging white settlers, partly be-
cause of the great losses suffered by the Negroes in
the Cuban wars of independence against Spain. But a
distinguished authority in Puerto Rico estimates the
colored element at somewhere between 30 and 50 per
cent, whilst in Cuba it can confidently be reckoned as
at least one-third. Conversely, whites are more numer-
ous in these former Spanish colonies, which were home
and not exile to the settlers from Spain. Among the
other colonies, the percentage of whites is highest in
Barbados, where they constitute seven per cent of the
population. Nowhere else in the area is the proportion
nearly so high. A few Chinese are to be found in
places, as well as some Jews; Indians, introduced after
emancipation from British India, and Javanese from
the Dutch East Indies, constitute about one-third of the
population of Trinidad, two-fifths of British Guiana
and almost half the population of Dutch Guiana.
So large a Negro population must necessarily be an
object of interest to the Negro minority of the United
States. If the traffic between the two Negro groups
has been one-way in the past, from islands to the North
American mainland, the future will surely see a greater
movement in the other direction, from the United
States to the islands. These islands are also of great
interest to the student. For studies of African sur-
vivals, of relationships between a variety of races,-
Negro, whites of all nationalities, Chinese, Indian-
the islands are a great unexploited laboratory. The








political scientist will find in Bermuda one of the oldest
assemblies in the world, after the House of Commons;
he will see in twentieth century Barbados an Eliza-
bethan survival in the form of the vestry system. But
particularly today these islands and their inhabitants
must be of great interest to the American public in
general, now that the Pan-American policy demands
closer cooperation and a mutual understanding of one's
neighbors. Strategic considerations must not be
allowed to overshadow the human element of the equa-
tion. It is this human element, basically Negro, that
this study mainly proposes to treat.










CHAPTER II


THE SLAVERY BACKGROUND

The original inhabitants of the Caribbean islands
were speedily exterminated by the Spanish conquerors,
of whom it has been said that first they fell on their
knees and then they fell on the aborigines. The islands
were useless to their owners without a labor supply.
It was to satisfy the labor requirements of the West
Indian islands that the greatest migration in recorded
history took place. This was the Negro slave trade.
The slave trade introduced the African Negro to
the Caribbean stage. This great inhumanity of man
to man had its origin not in contempt for the blacks
or in any belief that the black man was destined for
slavery. These were the later rationalizations invented
to justify what was in its origin basically an economic
question, one which can be expressed in one. word-
Sugar.
The establishment of the sugar industry created the
demand for labor in the West Indian islands. That
demand was for a constant supply of cheap labor,
black, brown or white, with the emphasis on the cheap-
ness of the labor rather than the color of the laborer.
It happened that in the fifteenth and sixteenth cen-
turies the cheapest labor was black labor. The Span-
ish planters discovered that one Negro was worth four
Indians; the British planters, in their turn, realized
that the money it would take to buy the services of a
white indentured servant for ten years would buy a
Negro for life. There was, in fact, in the Caribbean
not only black slavery, but white and brown as well.
But neither the white nor the brown men were forth-








coming in sufficient quantities to supply the demand;
Africa had inexhaustible human resources. The white
indentured servant, too, was rewarded, after the ex-
piry of his contract, with a small grant of land. These
new freemen were too poor and their land too insig-
nificant to afford the vast outlay of capital required for
establishing a sugar plantation. The white indentured
servants, too few to become a regular labor supply,
were, therefore, a nuisance. The transported Negro,
on the other hand, in a strange environment, handi-
capped by his ignorance of the white man's language,
was pre-eminently fitted for continuous exploitation
as he could be kept completely divorced from the land.
This, then, was the origin of the Negro slave trade
and Negro slavery. It was a choice, frgm the sugar
planter's point of view, of Negro labor or no labor
at all. Sugar meant slavery; only incidentally, and by
process of elimination, did it come to mean Negro
slavery. Thus was the Negro introduced into his new
habitat, and drawn into the orbit of Western civiliza-
tion to make his contributions to that civilization. If
today he is the white man's problem, he was in the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the only solution
of that problem.
The Western World is in danger of forgetting today
what the Negro has contributed to Western civiliza-
tion. The American continent would have had to pay
a high price for the luxury of remaining a white man's
country. No sugar, no Negroes; but, equally true, no
Negroes, no sugar. "Someone had to pick the cotton."
That was not why darkiess" were born; but it was cer-
tainly to cultivate the sugar cane and later pick the
cotton that they were transported from Africa.
It was, in fact, sugar which raised these insignificant
tropical islands from the status of pirates' nests to the
dignity of the most precious colonies known to the








Western World up to the nineteenth century. It was
the Negro, without whom the islands would have
remained uncultivated and might as well have been at
the bottom of the sea, who made these islands into the
prizes of war and diplomacy, coveted by the statesmen
of all nations. These black "bundles", these "logs",
as the Negroes were referred to, meant sugar together
with other tropical products. Between 1640 and 1667,
when sugar was introduced, the wealth of Barbados
increased forty times. All the European wars between
1660 and 1815 were fought for the possession of these
valuable Caribbean islands and for the privilege of
supplying the "tons" of labor needed by the sugar plan-
tations. Between 1760 and 1813 St. Lucia changed
hands seven times.
Tremendous wealth was produced from an unstable
economy based on a single crop, which combined the
vices of feudalism and capitalism with the virtues of
neither. Liverpool in England, Nantes in France,
Rhode Island in America, prospered on the slave trade.
London and Bristol, Bordeaux and Marseilles, Cadiz
and Seville, Lisbon and New England, all waxed fat
on the profits of the trade in the tropical produce raised
by the Negro slave. Capitalism in England, France,
Holland and colonial America received a double stimu-
lus-from the manufacture of goods needed to ex-
change for slaves, woolen and cotton goods, copper
and brass vessels, and the firearms, handcuffs, chains
and torture instruments indispensable on the slave ship
and on the slave plantation; and from the manufacture
of colonial raw materials,-sugar, cotton, molasses.
The tiniest British sugar island was considered more
valuable than the thirteen mainland colonies combined.
French Guadeloupe, with a population today of a mere
300,000, was once deemed more precious than Canada,
and the Dutch cheerfully surrendered what is today








New York State for a strip of the Guiana territory.
These islands were the glittering gems in every imperial
diadem, and Barbados, Jamaica, Saint Domingue (to-
day Haiti), and then Cuba were, in that order of suc-
cession, magic names which meant national prosperity
and individual wealth. The wealth of the sugar barons
became proverbial. Signs abounded in England and
France, the "West Indians" held the highest offices
and built magnificent mansions, which in Cuba, with
a due sense of their importance, they called palaces.
Sugar was king; without his Negro slave his kingdom
would have been a desert.
This contribution of the Negro has failed to receive
adequate recognition. It is more than ever necessary
to remember it today. England and France, Holland,
Spain and Denmark, not to mention the United States,
Brazil and other parts of South America, all are
indebted to Negro labor. As Mr. Winston Churchill
declared four years ago: "Our possession of the West
Indies, like that of India,... gave us the strength, the
support, but especially the capital, the wealth, at a time
when no other European nation possessed such a
reserve, which enabled us to come through the great
struggles of the Napoleonic Wars, the keen competi-
tion of commerce in the 18th and 19th centuries, and
enabled us not only to acquire this appendage of pos-
sessions which we have, but also to lay the founda-
tions of that commercial and financial leadership which,
when the world was young, when everything outside
Europe was undeveloped, enabled us to make our great
position in the world."
Slavery was fundamentally the same everywhere,
but it is important to notice a significant difference in
the cultural pattern. As a necessary instrument of
production, the Negro's condition did not vary whether
his owner was Latin or Anglo-Saxon. But where the
Anglo-Saxons had plantation colonies, with only the








bare minimum of white owners, agents, supernumer-
aries and slave drivers, the Spanish colonies were home
to the white immigrants, and the slaves benefited ac-
cordingly. As soon as the Spanish colonies, however,
began to produce for the world market, Spanish slav-
ery lost its patriarchal character. This happened in
Cuba but not in Puerto Rico, and in Cuba relatively
late as compared with the British and French colonies.
Hence, possibly, the absence of the extreme racial ten-
sion characteristic of French St. Domingue and the
Southern States. The Anglo-Saxon, too, was appre-
hensive that baptism, requiring instruction in the Eng-
lish tongue, would give the Negroes a common lan-
guage and thereby foment sedition and revolts. The
Latin, on the other hand, insisted on baptism and
Christianity for his slave. Laugh at the Pope's sanc-
tion of slavery or his Catholic Majesty's prosecution
of the slave trade; the cultural pattern presents a dis-
tinction of great significance. Spanish laws, and French
to a lesser degree, were notoriously milder to the
slave, and it is a sad commentary on the nature of
early democracy that the Negro slaves were treated
most harshly in the British self-governing colonies.
When Trinidad, for instance, passed into British from
Spanish hands, the British Government refused to abro-
gate the Spanish laws and to concede self-government
to the planters. Popular franchises in the hands of
slaveowners were the worst instruments of tyranny
ever forged for the oppression of mankind. The greater
percentage of whites, too, in the Spanish islands
reduced the disproportion between the races which was
characteristic of the British colonies, and which, after
Saint Domingue had gone up in the flames of the slave
revolution, made all whites in the Caribbean fearful of
slave conspiracies. It is perhaps in this fact that we are
to find a partial explanation of the comparative absence
of racial tension today in the former Spanish colonies.








Kind treatment and Christianity might mitigate
slavery, they alone would not abolish it. If the Negro
slave eventually became, at various times in the nine-
teenth century, a free man, the reason is to be found
not only in the belated recognition of morality and
Christian precepts but also in the fact that slavery, as
an economic institution, had ceased to be profitable.
That is why slavery in the British islands was abolished
fifteen years earlier than in the French and fifty years
earlier than in the Spanish islands. Emancipation of
the Negro was a juridical, a social and political change.
In the eyes of the law the slave, formerly the property
of his master, a human beast of burden completely in
the power and at the discretion of his owner, became
free, with all the rights, privileges and perquisites per-
taining thereto. But emancipation was not an economic
change. It left the new freeman as much dependent
on and at the mercy of his king sugar as he had been
as a slave. It meant for him not the land, which was
incompatible with the requirements of the capitalist
sugar industry, but the Bible, which was not at vari-
ance with that industry. It meant a change from chat-
tel slavery to peonage, or, as has been said in another
connection, a change from the discipline of the cart-
whip to the discipline of starvation. The slave was
raised to the dubious dignity of a landless wage
laborer, paid at the rate of twenty-five cents a day in
the British islands. Sweet are the uses of emancipa-
tion To free the Negro it was necessary not so much
to destroy slavery, which was the consequence of sugar,
as to alter the method of production in the sugar indus-
try itself. This simple point is essential to an under-
standing of the situation of the Negro population in
the Caribbean today. The black man, emancipated
from above by legislation or from below by revolution,
remains today the slave of sugar.









CHAPTER III


THE ECONOMIC STRUCTURE

The abolition of slavery, in those islands where the
land was already appropriated, left the Negro with
no alternative but to continue his former occupation.
In the absence of mineral resources, except in Trinidad,
Cuba and the Guianas, agriculture continues to be the
main industry. The Trinidad oil industry employs
14,400 persons and asphalt 650, as compared with
23,800 in the sugar industry. British Guiana's mining
industries, bauxite, gold, diamonds, provided employ-
ment for less than 3000 people in 1938. An exception
to the rule is the Dutch West Indian colonies, whose
import and export trade centers around petroleum.
They are conveniently located for the oil of Venezuela
and Colombia, which is brought by pipe lines to the
huge refineries on the islands. Elsewhere agriculture
predominates. Roughly half of the occupied popula-
tion in the British colonies is engaged in agriculture;
more than half of all the workers, and two-thirds of
the male workers, of Puerto Rico are directly engaged
in agriculture. A mere seven per cent of the Haitian
population is urban. In addition, the sugar mills,
refineries, rum distilleries and tobacco factories, are
directly dependent on agriculture. Fluctuations in
prices in the world markets, the devastation of hurri-
canes, competition from more favored areas, all react
on the large majority of the population, and conse-
quently affect, to a greater or smaller degree, the Negro
population which finds in the agricultural labor to
which it has been accustomed since the regime of
slavery, its main occupation and chief sustenance.








In this agricultural picture pride of place goes to
the sugar industry. Exports of sugar and by-products
represent 95 per cent of the total exports of Barbados
and 97 per cent of Antigua. In St. Kitts-Nevis and
Cuba the proportion is about four-fifths; in the Domin-
ican Republic the average for the decade 1929-1938
was nearly two-thirds. Sugar has always constituted
more than half of the total exports of Puerto Rico
under American control; in 1938 it was over three-
fifths. British Guiana and Guadeloupe are dependent
on sugar and its by-products for three-fifths of their
exports; sugar accounts for half of the exports of the
American Virgin Islands, 45 per cent of St. Lucia's.
Even in areas that are more diversified than is normal
for the Caribbean, sugar plays no mean role. In
banana-land, Jamaica, sugar represents one-fifth of
the exports; in the land of coffee, Haiti, sugar exports
increased from less than three per cent of total exports
on an average of the years 1916-1926 to 14 per cent
in 1938-1939 and nearly one-fifth in 1939-1940.
Haiti was once the sugar bowl of the Antilles; it was
also the greatest slave mart. Sugar is king in the
Caribbean as much as it ever was during the regime of
slavery.
Two-thirds of the cultivated land in Martinique and
one-half in Guadeloupe are devoted to sugar. Half
of the cultivated area in Barbados is planted to cane,
two-thirds in St. Kitts, one-third in British Guiana,
one-sixth in Jamaica, one-tenth in Trinidad, four-fifths
in Antigua. The entire population of St. Kitts and
Antigua is dependent upon sugar, two-thirds of the
population of Barbados, one-half of British Guiana,
one-third of Trinidad, one-tenth of Jamaica. In Puerto
Rico nearly half of the working population is employed
in sugar; whereas 100 acres in sugar employ an average
of forty-six persons, the same acreage in other cultiva,
18







tion employs an average of thirty-one persons. Sugar
is the most important source of purchasing power in
the island; without sugar the budget cannot exist. Sugar
pays thirty million dollars a year in wages, 40 per cent
of the total wages paid to all agricultural laborers.
The Negro in the Caribbean is at the mercy of an
agricultural autocrat whose rise and fall in the world
market has little effect on the picture of unrelieved
misery which sugar has always produced in the islands.
The sugar industry is still the source of great wealth.
An indication of this wealth is the enormous influx of
American capital since the war of 1898 which drove out
Spain. It has been estimated that ten millions of
American money are directly invested in Haiti, forty-
one millions in the Dominican Republic (three-fourths
of this in agriculture), six hundred and sixty-six mil-
lions in Cuban enterprises-about one-quarter of all
such American investments in the twenty Latin Amer-
ican Republics. More than one-third of this invest-
ment is in sugar, though the money value of this sugar
investment declined from five hundred and forty-four
million dollars in 1929 to two hundred and forty in
1936.1 Thirty million dollars are invested in the
Puerto Rico sugar industry alone; sugar accounts for
90 per cent of the investments in the Dominican Re-
public, 54 per cent in Haiti. Uncle Sam is the "Sugar
Daddy" of the Caribbean.
American companies in Cuba control three-fifths of
the acreage in cane, nearly three-fifths of the workers
in the sugar industry, and more than one-third of the
active sugar factories.2 Up to 1914 Haiti had strin-
gent laws governing the ownership of land by aliens.
The old order is being imperceptibly restored. Amer-
ican corporations are increasing, in number, size and
influence. The Haitian Agricultural Corporation and
the Haitian American Development Company-both







sugar corporations--control respectively 1415 and
10,868 acres. A third company, Standard Fruit, owns
2500 acres. A decision of the Supreme Court of
Puerto Rico handed down in 1935 describes the situa-
tion in that island: "the census of 1935 shows that
251,000 acres, or one-fifth of the agricultural land, is
employed in the production of sugar cane: that no less
than 196,757 acres, or a little less than 70 per cent
of the total area planted to sugar, is the property of,
or is controlled almost exclusively by, absentee share-
holders (in continental United States); that the com-
panies thus organized and controlled normally manu-
facture 59 per cent of the total of sugar produced by
the island, thus controlling almost 40 per cent of the
agricultural wealth of the island." From 1901 to 1934
the area planted to sugar cane in Puerto Rico increased
about four times, production eleven times. The quan-
tity of sugar exported by Haiti increased eight times
between 1916 and 1939. Yield per acre has been
increased enormously; modern methods have made
production immeasurably more efficient.
The number one crop in the area has been a very
paying proposition. The average profit in the British
sugar islands is six per cent; the sugar firm of Tate and
Lyle, with a capital of forty million dollars, made a
profit of forty-five million dollars in five years, and in
1939 declared a dividend of 131 per cent on ordinary
capital. Four American companies dominate the
sugar industry of Puerto Rico; in 1936 they earned
over eight and a half million dollars. The South Porto
Rico Company paid over a period of thirty years a
steady dividend of eight per cent on preferred stock;
in 1920 it paid 120 per cent, the Fajardo Sugar Com-
pany over 100.
Sugar, clearly, is a valuable crop. The enormous
dividends of absentee shareholders who never see the
20








islands provide the background for a consideration of
the remuneration paid to those who produce the wealth.
The abolition of slavery in the British West Indies
was followed by incessant demands from the planters
for labor from India, and between 1842 and 1917 a
never-ending stream of indentured laborers flowed to
the British sugar colonies, chiefly Trinidad and Guiana,
to meet the labor requirements and compete with the
"lazy" Negro. Between 1833 and 1917, when the
system was abolished, Trinidad received 145,000 In-
dians, British Guiana 238,000. Up to recent times,
the demand for labor by Cuban sugar plantations dom-
inated by American capitalists was responsible for a
large-scale introduction of black laborers from Haiti
and Jamaica until in exasperation, the native Cuban
workers, black and white, well organized and opposed
to the "africanization" of the island, forced the gov-
ernment to suppress this indentured traffic and repa-
triate the aliens. Between 1913 and 1924 Cuba ob-
tained 217,000 laborers from Haiti, Jamaica and
Puerto Rico; in the single year 1920, as many as 63,000
from Haiti and Jamaica. According to the 1931 cen-
sus there were nearly 80,000 Haitians resident in Cuba.
Of these 30,000 were repatriated between 1936 and
1937. The average annual exodus from Jamaica,
largely to Cuba, was 10,000 for the half century before
1935; in the five years ending in 1935 approximately
31,000 were repatriated, chiefly from Cuba. The
Dominican Republic dealt more drastically with the
imported laborers; a wholesale slaughter of Haitians
took place in 1937. The official estimate of those
massacred is 5000, though unofficial estimates are much
higher. A further 5000 were repatriated, but in 1937
there were still 60,000 Haitians resident in the Domin-
ican Republic, which has since insisted that 70 per cent
of all employees must be Dominicans. Sugar cultiva-








tion is still a question of labor; indentured labor, once
white, then yellow or brown, is now black. What a
Trinidadian Mayor said in 1888 is true of indentured
labor all over the Caribbean and planter attitude to
it: "no men could be more grandiloquent about their
intention, in all they proposed to do, being the develop-
ment of the resources of the island; no men could be
more determined, as shown by their measures, to do
no other thing than bolster up the more or less nominal
owners of sugar plantations."8
"An industry", stated the Colonial Secretary (white)
of Trinidad in 1937, "has no right to pay dividends
at all until it pays a fair wage to labour and gives the
labourer decent conditions." A Barbados Commission
in the same year repeated the warning: "We have been
impressed by the high dividends earned by many trad-
ing concerns in the island and the comfortable salaries
and bonuses paid to the higher grades of employees
in business and agriculture. If the whole community
were prosperous and enjoyed a comfortable standard
of living, high dividends might be defensible, but when
these are only possible on the basis of low wages the
time has clearly come for a reconsideration of the fun-
damental conditions and organization of industry ....
A fundamental change in the division of earnings be-
tween the employer and his employees is essential if
hatred and bitterness are to be removed from the minds
of the majority of employees."4 The male laborer in
the British West Indies gets an average of 25 cents
a day, with a lower wage for women. The average
earnings of male laborers on sugar-cane plantations in
Puerto Rico in 1933 were $3.50 per week, for a 23-
hour week. A recent study has been made by the
School of Tropical Medicine in Puerto Rico of condi-
tions on a sugar-cane plantation purchased by the
Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration and manned







predominantly by Negro labor. This study gives an
average annual income for farm laborers of less than
$120 per worker.5 The minimum wage of a field
laborer in the Cuban sugar industry is 80 cents a day.
A social and economic study of the West Indian
islands, says a South African professor, is necessarily
a study of poverty. In the words of the Puerto Rico
Reconstruction Administration: "the sugar industry
does not satisfy the requirements of the economic life
of the island and should be adjusted in order to meet
the needs of the people."6
It must not be assumed that the sugar industry,
while it is the greatest offender, is the only offender.
Wages are equally low in other occupations, with the
difference that the capital required in coffee, fruit, and
tobacco cultivation being less than that required in the
sugar industry, the percentage of alien ownership is
reduced, the number of small proprietors greater. A
study of nearly 6,000 families with over 34,000 mem-
bers in various coffee, fruit and tobacco regions in
Puerto Rico reveals a mean daily wage rate for all
areas of 60 cents and an annual income per worker
of less than $100 for three-fifths of the farm laborers
investigated, while the remaining two-fifths earned less
than $150.7 The average daily wage for unskilled
labor on the oilfields of Trinidad is 72 cents, while oil
companies declared dividends of 45 and 30 per cent,
and while the profits for 1935-1936 were four times
the wages bill.8 In a recent broadcast speech the Secre-
tary of State for the Colonies in England attributed
the poverty of the British West Indies to their lack of
"highly prized products". This is absurd. There is
great wealth produced in the West Indies; but it fol-
lows its absentee ownership abroad, and only a little
stays behind.
In the urban areas of the Caribbean the Negro wage-
23








earner is scarcely better off. The Cuban Census of
1907 shows a predominance of the following occupa-
tions: carpenters, domestics, laundresses, tailors. Add
to these the police force-wholly black or colored in
all the areas-bus conductors, railwaymen, and one
exhausts the openings available to Negroes. In the
skilled trades they are clearly better off than as domes-
tics or in the laundry business. But no one could speak
of the urban areas as a paradise for the Negro wage-
earner.
Proof of this is to be found in the needlework indus-
try of Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rican woman, white
or Negro, had inherited from the Spanish regime a
tradition of high quality needlework; the "runaway
sweatshop operator from New York or New Jersey"
was not slow to discover the possibilities. Mass pro-
duction has meant not only a transfer of Puerto Rican
handicraft from Fifth Avenue to smaller concerns; it
has meant wholesale export of the raw material to
Puerto Rico there to take advantage of the plentiful
labor and low wages. Today these textiles constitute
one-sixth of Puerto Rico's exports and provide an
annual income of seven to ten million dollars in the
form of wages and commissions. Normally valued at
twenty million dollars, the industry provides work for
65,000 persons in factories and home. Essentially it
is a sweatshop industry. According to the United
States Department of Labor, earnings in the factories
in 1934 averaged 12 cents per hour, while 90 per
cent of the home workers earned less than four cents
an hour. The attempt of the Federal Government to
enforce a 30-cent-an-hour minimum resulted in a vir-
tual shutdown of the industry. The inference is clear:
sweated industry or no industry. This quotation on
low wages from a bulletin of the Agricultural Station
of the University of Puerto Rico may be taken as indi-
24







cative of the attitude of the official class as a whole
over the area: "With laborers who produce less, it is
impossible to pay the same salaries as in the Mainland.
The lofty aims of the hours and wages legislation are
appreciated, but it is considered that a blanket appli-
cation of a wage minimum to areas so dissimilar in the
labor productivity per man can only place the area of
lower productivity per man at a disadvantage."9
Always the same theme, with variations, always the
same old refrain-"it does not pay", despite the high
dividends. We may ask, in exasperation, as the Royal
Commission to the British West Indies asked in 1897:
"Sugar does not pay--this and that does not pay. Is
there anything that does pay anywhere?" Like the
peasant in feudal France, the Negro laborer in the
Caribbean pays for all.
The plight of the Negro wage-earner is aggravated
by the intermittent character of employment available.
In sugar cultivation there is a long "dead" season be-
tween harvest time, which represented, in slavery days,
a great drain on the planter's resources. The modern
absentee corporation is not as shackled by obligations
to its "free" labor force as was even the slaveowner
to his slaves. Total unemployment is by no means
negligible even in the busy season. This is what expert
investigators say of a study of certain coffee, fruit and
tobacco regions in Puerto Rico: "The families affected
by unemployment are nearly one-eighth of the total
number of families investigated and the persons unem-
ployed are about one-tenth of the total number of gain-
ful workers in the surveyed area. In judging the situa-
tion it should be kept in mind that this unemployment
occurs among P.R.R.A. workers' families and precisely
during the months in which the employment rate was
highest."10 In Jamaica in 1935 at least 11 per cent
of the wage-earning population were continuously un-
25








employed, and it is the considered opinion of the
Labour Adviser sent out in 1938 from England to
report on labor conditions in the British islands that
"the present prospect (in Kingston) is of a body of
some thousands of permanently unemployed main-
tained by heavy expenditure on what are really relief
works."" In 1935 nearly half the wage-earning popu-
lation of Jamaica obtained only intermittent employ-
ment, and the government and private employers have
deliberately adopted the policy of rotational employ-
ment, whereby a man works for two weeks and then is
discharged to make way for another-a new version
of the theory of the greatest happiness of the greatest
number. In Grenada some employers provide five days'
work per week, others no more than two. The aver-
age for the whole British West Indian area is about
three days per week. Laborers in sugar-cane planting
in Puerto Rico work on an average thirty-four weeks
in the year, only 10 per cent of the unskilled and 41
per cent of the skilled workers being employed during
the whole year.12 The 25-cent-a-day wage in the Brit-
ish islands, the 60-cent-a-day wage in Puerto Rico must
be viewed in the light of this under-employment. In
the words of a Puerto Rican scholar, Dr. Rafael Pic6,
"the sugar plantation economy, based on the seasonal
employment of thousands of inadequately paid peones,
does not offer any hope for the amelioration of social
and economic conditions; rather it aims to perpetuate
the present deplorable situation.""1
The despotism of King Sugar, in the islands, is per-
petuating another unhealthy feature of the slavery
regime-a fatal dependence on monoculture, a fatal
concentration on a single crop. Monoculture is the
curse not of nature but of man. The economy of these
islands was always artificial. Producing in the main
valuable export crops, they always depended on foreign
26







sources for food imports, and the use of land for the
growing of foodstuffs or for pasturage was and is be-
grudged. It was not altogether the planter's fault. In
1698 the merchants of England sent a petition to Par-
liament protesting against a law which prohibited the
export of corn, meal, flour, bread, biscuit to the West
Indies. The law would encourage the planters to grow
food instead of sugar, and would thus be detrimental
to the home country. Since emancipation sugar has ex-
tended its sway and ousted other crops which tended
to diversify production and consequently to reduce the
dangers of an adverse year. Cotton and coffee very
early disappeared from the list of important exports in
the British islands. The American acquisition of
Puerto Rico has reversed the relative importance of
coffee and sugar under Spanish and American rule; it
has reduced coffee exports from 20 per cent in 1901 to
one per cent in 1938, while tobacco exports too have
shown a decline. In 1902 sugar constituted nearly half
of Cuba's exports, tobacco nearly two-fifths, minor
crops one-eighth. In 1939 the figures were four-fifths
sugar, one-tenth tobacco, one-eleventh minor crops.
Where the absolute monarchy of sugar has been de-
stroyed, it has been replaced not by the liberal democ-
racy of a diversified economy but by another crop
dictatorship. Thus cocoa was for many years synony-
mous with Trinidad; the banana is to Jamaica in the
twentieth century what sugar cane was in the nine-
teenth. It represents three-fifths of the island's exports
and about one-fifth of total world production, and em-
ploys two-fifths of the laborers in the island. Limes
monopolized the attention of planters, large and small,
in Dominica, until the appearance of a fungus disease;
coffee represented nearly three-fourths of Haiti's ex-
ports on an average of the decade 1916-1926 and one-
half in 1938.








The persistence of a trend towards monoculture has
made the islands more dependent on imported food and
reduced the acreage of land formerly devoted to food
crops within the various units. Three times as much
land is devoted to sugar in Martinique as to food crops.
In Puerto Rico, food crops decreased from two-fifths
of the total cultivated land in 1899 to one-third in
1929, though the population increased by three-fifths
in the same period. Puerto Rico imports all of its fats
and oils, all of its wheat, nearly all of its rice and
potatoes, nine-tenths of its fish, three-fifths of its pork
and legumes. It spends two million dollars a year on
peas and beans; one-fourth of its imports in 1940 was
accounted for by foodstuffs.
Imports of food are responsible for one-seventh of
Haiti's imports, one-fourth of Jamaica's. Despite the
diversification program begun in Cuba under the stim-
ulus of the world depression, foodstuffs still consti-
tuted more than one-fourth of imports in 1932-1933
as compared with more than one-third for the period
1924-1928. Tinned milk and butter figure largely in
the imports, owing to deficiency of cattle. In islands
around which fish of all varieties abounds, vast quan-
tities of salted fish are annually imported, while, to
make the situation more fantastic, two island depend-
encies of Jamaica exist largely on the export of salt
to Canada for the curing of the imported article.
Jamaica spent over a million dollars on imported fish
in 1936. In a population of nearly two million in
Puerto Rico, only 600 professionals derive a regular
livelihood from fishing; the annual catch is barely
worth $200,000. In densely populated areas like Bar-
bados, or Puerto Rico, not even if all the land were
devoted to food crops could the total population be
fed. But that cannot justify the tinned pineapples or
tinned soups which one sees in every Puerto Rican
28







grocery store, or the tinned beef and fruit which pass
for luxuries in Trinidad. The argument advanced, in
Puerto Rico and elsewhere, is that the gross income
per acre of land in sugar makes it possible to buy more
units of imported food than can be raised on an acre
of land in any island. Export crops, it is held, gener-
ally yield higher incomes per acre than most of the
food crops produced for the local market. Higher
incomes, yes; but not to the Negro, forced to work for
wages on sugar cane plantations and buy imported food
at high prices. What if the price of sugar falls in the
world market as the price of Cuban sugar fell from
twenty-three to two cents in a few weeks after the last
war? The price of food may not fall likewise. What
if a World War reduces the volume of shipping and,
by increasing insurance costs, increases the already high
price of the imported article?
It takes a crisis of the first magnitude to bring home
to the rulers of the islands what is clear to the meanest
intelligence. The crisis over, back go the planters to
the old vice. The Bourbons of the Caribbean, they
learn nothing and forget nothing. As far back as 1813
the governor of Demerara* wrote that the colony could
raise corn and rice and rear cattle sufficient to supply
all the islands, but, he confessed pathetically, "unfor-
tunately these humble paths to certain profit are over-
looked by people whose whole attention is absorbed in
the expectation of obtaining rapid fortunes by the
growth of sugar, coffee or cotton". These humble
paths, not so much to profit as to stability, attract atten-
tion only in a period of storm and stress. At other
times, adequate subsistence for the working population,
the social stability which comes from a diversified
economy, have meant no more to foreign capital than
to the man in the moon.
* Now a part of the colony of British Guiana.








The European war has cut off many of the islands'
products from their normal markets. In 1934-1935,
99 per cent of Haiti's coffee went to European markets.
Decline set in with the denunciation by France in 1936
of the commercial convention with Haiti, but in 1938-
1939 Haiti was still dependent on Europe for three-
fifths of its coffee exports. Belgium, Holland, Norway
and Denmark consumed nearly one-fifth of Haiti's total
exports before Hitler's conquest; in 1938-1939, over
one-fifth of Haiti's exports went to France. The
Dominican Republic found in the United Kingdom a
market for three-quarters of its sugar in 1935 and one-
half in 1937. The percentage of Jamaican bananas ex-
ported to the United Kingdom rose from 16 to 78 in
the eleven years before 1935. The British Govern-
ment, owing to the war, has had to purchase some
seven million dollars worth of Jamaica bananas, largely
to be destroyed, and even this represents decline of
one-seventh in Jamaica's exports. The French islands
have been brought to the verge of famine by the Brit-
ish blockade which cut off their trade with the parent
country.
In this critical state of affairs a new policy is being
developed in the islands, and publicized with all the
furore of a great discovery. Puerto Rican officials
have suddenly recalled the major food crisis occasioned
by a five-week dock strike in 1938. They are now full
of wise saws and ancient instances about the need of
crop diversity and development of subsistence farms.
Haiti's new president places great hopes on rubber
cultivation. The Dominican Republic has recently
been granted a large loan by the Export-Import Bank
of the United States to develop a meat industry which
will supply crowded Puerto Rico. "New problems for
the British West Indies", say writers suddenly aware
of these islands. The problem is as old as the islands
30








themselves, under European control. Years ago an
acute observer wrote as follows: "in the multiplicity
of evidence that every day brought forth, it became
more and more clear that any conclusions that could
be drawn would be in the nature of well-established
truisms. The observer of whatever kind, and whether
he remains in the West Indies for a few weeks or for
some years, will find no new panacea for the troubles
of these colonies."14
Apologists for monoculture-and there are many-
argue that the path of wisdom is to concentrate on "the
increase of the total volume of agricultural produc-
tion". This ignores the vital fact that such an increase
has already taken place. An exchange economy is no
doubt, on paper, other things being equal, superior to
a strict self-sufficiency. But in the Caribbean other
things are not equal; the Negro, that is the laboring
class, loses both ways if it is impossible for him to insist
that decent wages and decent living conditions come
before dividends in an export crop dominated by ab-
sentee interests. Under the present arrangement the
Caribbean islands are richly endowed by nature, with
a pauperised and impoverished population.
Ill fares thtland to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.










CHAPTER IV


THE CONDITION OF THE NEGRO
WAGE-EARNER

The Negro in the Caribbean, we emphasise, is pri-
marily an agricultural laborer, working for pitifully
low wages. As the saying goes, he produces what he
does not eat, and eats what he does not produce. He
produces sugar, but it is for the world market, and he
cannot live by sugar alone. He cannot even afford the
refined article and has to be content with brown sugar.
His food, as stated above, is largely imported. How
much does he eat? The Negro cannot be adequately
fed on a 25-cent-a-day wage for three days of the week.
The weekly budget of the Barbadian laborer is less
than two dollars; of this food costs him seven cents a
day.' A special study of a small Puerto Rican town
reveals a daily expenditure for a family of six of
twenty-three cents on food.2 The price of food is
increased by colonial dependence on nations with tariff
walls. The Negro cannot possibly buy in the cheapest
market; he must buy in the market of his "mother
country", and "mother" demands adequate remunera-
tion. The cost added by the Puerto Rican tariff was
three-fourths in the case of rice, two-fifths for wheat
flour, over three-fourths for dried beans, over one-
fourth for codfish.$
Evidence of malnutrition abounds over the whole
area. A medical visitor from the Dutch East Indies
to Trinidad in 1935 was "shocked by the evidence of
malnutrition."4 The laborer in Barbados is fed worse
than a gaolbird; he cannot afford milk in his tea; say
the planters, he does not like milk i" The Puerto Rican







rural laborer has an income of twelve cents a day for
all necessities of life-four cents more than the cost of
feeding a hog in the United States.6 Between two-
thirds of the income in the sugar regions and four-fifths
in the coffee, fruit and tobacco districts are spent on
food: "a sure indication", says one study, "of the in-
adequacy of an income of which such a high proportion
has to be devoted to mere subsistence."' Most rural
families are heavily in debt; the larger part of these
debts is incurred wholly or partially for food. The
extent of petty larceny in Trinidad and elsewhere is
enormous. It increases like the death rate, in direct
ratio to depression and poverty. It represents in the
main thefts of food; the only remedy suggested is the
cat-o'-nine tails.
Malnutrition means not merely insufficient food, it
means defective food. The actual diet of the Carib-
bean Negro consists of quantity rather than quality,
with an undue proportion of carbohydrates and conspic-
uous absence of fats and proteins. The British West
Indian would be at home with the "national" diet of
rice and red beans of the Dominican Republic or Puerto
Rico. "Most of the people", we read of Puerto Rican
sugar conditions, "have only black coffee or coffee with
milk for breakfast, codfish and vegetables for lunch
and rice and beans for dinner."8 A study of 884 rural
families in Haiti reveals that 15 per cent eat only one
meal a day, 45 per cent eat' two meals, while of those
who eat three times a day, lunch consists of a modest
piece of cassava or boiled banana. Over 10 per cent
have only black coffee for breakfast, eggs were eaten
in the morning by only eight families, at the evening
meal by only seven. Some families go two or three
months without meat, others spend between two and
four cents a week on fish, fresh or dried. A Haitian
soldier gets fifteen cents a day for food, prisoners ten
33








cents, inmates of public charitable institutions six to
eight cents.9 A commission of the Foreign Policy
Association sent to investigate the problems of Cuba in
1935 estimated the cost of the food needed by a Cuban
adult male at $38,10 a figure far too high for the income
of the majority of laborers.
The daily consumption of fresh milk in Jamaica's
capital, with its 30,000 children of school age, is one-
fifteenth quart per head; the Jamaica politicians say
that the Negro prefers condensed milk. The average
monthly consumption of fresh meat per head of popu-
lation in Kingston, Jamaica, is barely one pound, and
even this does not represent the true position, for the
eaters of fresh beef are almost entirely confined to the
middle and upper classes.1 "The diet of the average
worker can be classed at the best only as a maintenance
diet, and there is no reason to doubt that many
households live on the borderland of extreme pov-
erty."12
The results of this deficient diet -are devastating.
Measurements of 15,500 Puerto Rican laborers, 16 per
cent of them colored, reveal that they are shorter and
lighter than American army recruits or American
adults.'1 The Caribbean islands are distinguished by
an enormously high incidence of preventable diseases,
many of them traceable directly to malnutrition. Ma-
laria, hookworm, tuberculosis, venereal diseases, wreak
havoc with the Negro population. There was a time
when the islands were the white man's grave; yellow
fever killed them like flies. Health conditions may
have improved in the islands, but the official picture of
conditions in Trinidad describes every adult above the
age of 20 years as affected by deficiency diseases, and
the working life of the population reduced by at least
one-half. "A condition of lethargy pervaded the whole
community, which was only broken on festive occasions
or in times of disorder."14
34







The major curse of the area is hookworm. Hook-
worm is essentially a problem firstly of nutrition, sec-
ondly, of sanitation. The larva of the hookworm lives
in excrement. In dry places, its life is forty-eight hours,
in wet anything up to three weeks. Inadequate food
renders the Negro peculiarly susceptible to this disease
which is produced by defecation in the fields, and is
commonest around exposed and insanitary latrines.
The larva enters through the pores of the feet. The
barefooted Negro therefore has no protection against
this disease. Latrines are located far from the place
of work, too far for an emergency; many of the filthy
dwellings in which the Negroes live are not provided
with latrines, or at best with communal latrines, cess-
pits, the stench of which is unbearable. Of the fam-
ilies investigated in Puerto Rico on a sugar-cane planta-
tion, over two-fifths have no sanitary conveniences of
any kind in their homes. In the coffee, fruit and tobacco
regions, the percentage is over one-half. "The sur-
roundings of the workers' houses are, in most instances,
very unclean, and the latrines are so poorly kept that
it is not surprising that many people avoid their use
and use the sugar-cane fields and the bushes, thus de-
feating the primary objective of a privy, which is to
prevent soil pollution and the consequent spread of
diseases of the gastro-intestinal tract."'"
Two things, above all, will remedy this situation.
Firstly a sewage policy for the islands. A British oil
aristocrat, sitting in the House of Lords, has already
asked complacently whether Trinidad is "the only
place where there are bad houses, no roads, no water,
no sewage?"'1 The second remedy is shoes for the
population. The Dutch Government eradicated hook-
worm among the whites of St. Martin by installing
a policeman to compel the villagers to wear shoes. It
would need an army to compel employers to pay decent
wages, if hookworm is to be eradicated among the
35







Negroes. The Negro cannot buy shoes when he earns 25
cents a day. As the investigators on the Lafayette sugar
plantation observed: "three-fourths of the children
from 1-4 years of age, three-fifths of the children from
5-9 years and nearly one-half of the children 10-14
years do not wear shoes. In no group do all people wear
shoes, the percentage in all ages above 15 years fluc-
tuating from 60 per cent to 69 per cent, except in the
age group 65 years and over in which the percentage
of people wearing shoes is only 55.7. Another point
of interest is that the percentage of colored people
wearing shoes is consistently lower than the percentage
of white people."17 All God's chillun may have shoes,
but not in the Caribbean.
The ravages of hookworm are eloquently shown in
the vital statistics. The percentage of hookworm
infection in rural districts of Trinidad varies from 79
to 98, is 69 per cent in certain areas of Barbados and
83 per cent in Puerto Rico. Hookworm, say the Brit-
ish Commissioners sententiously, "must be a major
factor in reducing efficiency."18 A campaign conducted
by the Rockefeller Institute against hookworm in
Dominica had to be abandoned in the face of the
apathy of the local government. The medical profes-
sion in the islands prefers to cure hookworm by injec-
tions rather than by higher wages and improved sani-
tation.
After hookworm, malaria. The Caribbean, from
the health point of view, is a battleground of man
versus mosquito. Where the Negro masses are con-
cerned, the mosquito emerges victorious. The death
rate from malaria is enormously high. In Puerto Rico
an average of 30,253 cases were reported during 1932-
1936.19 Mosquito nets are a luxury, the Negro being
forced to be content with the primitive method of
burning green leaves in the houses; the anopheles mos-
36








quito is left to enjoy, practically undisturbed, the sanc-
tity of his swampy breeding ground, and the Negro's
house is built in unfavorable situations. "Only too
frequently", says a Puerto Rican study, "houses have
been built in places where the soil is very poor, or
swampy, so they should not encroach on the sugar cane
plantations. The information gathered indicates that
more than one-fifth of the houses have swampy sur-
roundings."20 One of the favorite breeding areas of
the mosquito is irrigated sugar lands.
Tuberculosis is another of the many plagues of the
Caribbean countries, strange as it may seem in regions
where winter is unknown, where the sun shines all the
year round. Tuberculosis was the principal cause of
death in Puerto Rico for the five-year period 1932-
1936, being responsible for 15 per cent of all deaths
from all causes, a rate almost unequalled in any part
of the world. It affects not only urban residents, but
the rural population as well, to such an extent that a
comparison with the five rural states in the United
States registering the highest death rates from tuber-
culosis gives these results: the Puerto Rican rate is
more than one-half greater than that of Arizona, it is
more than three times the rate of New Mexico and
Tennessee, almost five times the rate of Nevada and
seven times the rate of Colorado.21
The explanation lies in the insanitary slums which
are a feature of the area. This is an English news-
paper correspondent's description of the Jamaican
hovel: "Strands of dried bamboo are woven round a
framework of stakes and the 'room' thus formed is
covered with palm thatch. There is no furniture except
sacking on the earth and some sort of table to hold
the oil-stove."22 The furniture in the home of a
Haitian peasant is valued at from two to fifteen dollars.
Less than half of the families studied owned a bed;
37








only one-quarter owned more than a bed, chairs and
a table.28 The furniture of a Puerto Rican rural fam-
ily is "scanty and of the cheapest quality, a few
benches, some empty boxes, a small table, one or two
cots and a home-made wooden bed is about all that
is seen, and in some of them, not even as much as that."
Of these Puerto Rican homes, nearly nine-tenths on
the sugar plantations lack bathing conveniences.24 The
lack of latrines has already been referred to. Even
the names of slavery days, "barracks" and "ranges",
exist to shock hypersensitive Britons who do not wish
to provide grist for Hitler's mill. Commissioners from
England visited such dwellings in Trinidad and found
them "indescribable in their lack of elementary needs
of decency." In one of these barracks three water-
closets were provided to serve 48 rooms with an esti-
mated population of 226. The closets were 150 yards
from the furthest dwellings.25 This is a description of
what the Royal Commission of 1939 saw in Jamaica:
"At Orange Bay the Commissioners saw people living
in huts the walls of which were bamboo knitted together
as closely as human hands were capable; the ceilings
were made from dry crisp coconut branches which
shifted their positions with every wind. The floor
measured 8 feet by 6 feet. The hut was 5 feet high.
Two openings served as windows, and a third, stretch-
ing from the ground to the roof, was the door. A
threadbare curtain divided it into two rooms. It
perched perilously on eight concrete slabs, two at each
corner. In this hut lived nine people, a man, his wife
and several children. They had no water and no
latrine. There were two beds. The parents slept in
one, and as many of the children as could hold on in
the other. The rest used the floor."2'
Many sugar plantations provided such dwellings for
their workers, with or without rent. "It is hardly too








much to say that on some of the sugar estates the
accommodation provided is in a state of extreme dis-
repair and thoroughly unhygienic."27 A well-known
Englishman, C. F. Andrews, was told on a visit to
British Guiana of 100,000 just voted by a British
sugar company for new machinery. When he suggested
to the manager that the filthy, insanitary "ranges"
should be demolished and single cottages erected in
their place, he was informed that "the London directors
would not give any money for such a purpose."28
Even Commissioners are put somewhat out of coun-
tenance by this rather too open contempt of elementary
standards of decency, and have to warn short-sighted
directors that "the claim of the workpeople for the
common decencies of home life should be one for
primary consideration, and that by maintaining the
existing conditions they were providing ground for
justifiable discontent."29 A recent official survey in
Jamaica puts the size of the average room on the
plantation at 640 cubic feet, with an average occu-
pancy of two or two and one-half persons. Light and
ventilation were deficient in half, latrines were bad in
nearly three-quarters, almost half needed repair; while
water supply and cooking and washing facilities were
conspicuously poor." Of 860 families surveyed on the
Lafayette sugar plantation in Puerto Rico, there was
an average of 3.5 persons per sleeping room."1 A
similar study of families in the coffee, fruit and tobacco
regions, reveals even more serious overcrowding: 5.1
occupants per sleeping room.82 This overcrowding
is not only responsible for the high incidence of tuber-
culosis; it contributes to the high illegitimacy rate
among Negroes characteristic of the Caribbean.
Slum clearance schemes, very admirable, exist on
paper. Let a municipality, however, attempt to trans-
late them into action, church dignitaries and all the








members of the city corporations who are owners of
or have interests in slum property will veto the scheme
or render it ineffective. Public health doctors, if they
are good churchmen, hesitate to prosecute a church
dignitary for violation of the slum ordinances, so,
instead, they persecute the tenants for living in such
surroundings. Not without reason did Mr. Lloyd
George describe the British West Indies as "the slums
of the Empire".
"A faulty diet, heavy parasitic infestation, inade-
quate housing, poor sanitary conditions, etc., coupled
with the weariness resulting from a strenuous work,
seem to reduce the rural Puerto Rican worker to a
miserable physical condition which becomes more seri-
ous with age."38 This is substantially true of the adult
Negro over the area as a whole. What then of his
children? Before even they are conceived, their
chances are reduced, with the prospective mother half-
starved and debilitated by hookworm, open to water-
borne diseases. How serious the impurity of the water
supply is, we can see from British Guiana. On the
majority of plantations the water supplies of laborers
are provided by open unprotected trenches, which are
used in some cases as navigation canals for sugar punts
and are thus liable to contamination by laborers and
animals. To the obvious demand for artesian wells,
the reply has been given that plantation laborers do
not take readily to artesian well water and prefer
trench water.84.
Mention is always made of the high birth-rate in
these tropical areis. Much more staggering, much
more significant is the high infant mortality rate. Take
the case of the British West Indies. For England
and Wales the figure is 58 per 1000 live births; for
Trinidad it is 120, 137 for Jamaica, 171 for Antigua,
187 for St. Kitts, 217 for Barbados. The high infant








mortality rate is of great value in solving to a limited
extent the "surplus population" problem. In one of
the municipalities covered in the sugar-cane plantation
survey in Puerto Rico, the rate is 144; for Puerto Rico
as a whole it is 126 per 1000 live births. For Comerio,
a town in Puerto Rico, 23 per cent of all deaths in 1934
were of infants under one year of age and 43 per cent
occurred prior to the fifth year, as compared with 11
and 15 per cent respectively for the same age periods
in the United States. Certainly the separate figures
for the Negro, the lowest paid of all laborers, are not
likely to be more flattering.
The malnutrition we have already described in the
case of mother and father is to be found among the
children. Malnutrition is officially given as the prin-
cipal cause of one-eighth of all deaths under one year
for the years 1933-1936 in Dominica." Diseases of
the digestive system cause the deaths of three-fifths
of Puerto Rican children under two years of age, clear
proof of deficient nutrition.88 Of the total deaths in
Jamaica in 1935, over one-third were of infants under
five years of age. One recent examination of 12,000
school children in Kingston, Jamaica, revealed that
two-fifths were undernourished.37 An examination of
1360 school children in St. Thomas in 1937-1938 dis-
closed that nearly one-quarter were afflicted with intes-
tinal parasites, seven-tenths had anemia, and three-
quarters suffered from malnutrition.88 Of nearly 2800
school children examined in Dominica, about one-half
were less than 10 per cent under standard weight, and
one-third more than 10 per cent below standard weight
for height and age.89 A popular superstition emphasises
the beautiful white teeth of the grinning Negro. Of
nearly 9000 workers examined in Puerto Rico, almost
half had from one to eight teeth missing, and one-
seventh nine or more teeth missing. "Undoubtedly as








a result of the lack of economic resources, dentistry
work to mend these defects was practically unknown."40
Thirty per cent of the school children in Kingston have
carious teeth.4" Of 78,000 children examined in Haiti
between 1931 and 1937, less than six per cent had all
their teeth intact, slightly over 12 per cent had clean
or passably clean teeth. Of another examination of
more than 10,000 school children, only six per cent
used toothbrushes.42
Government canteens for underprivileged children
are today accepted in all civilized countries. A Bar-
bados Nutrition Committee, in recommending a modest
scheme for distribution by the government of some milk
and "two square white biscuits" to school children, at
an estimated annual gross cost of $35,000, had to
admit that "the proposal is certain to be received with
derision by many".43 In the absence of any extensive
scheme for the dissemination of knowledge of contra-
ception, it is safe to assume that there are always more
babies where others have come from.
The conditions described above serve to explain the
large-scale exodus from the British West Indies until
recent years. What opportunities were provided for
Haitian and Jamaican labor by the development of
sugar plantations in Cuba and the Dominican Republic,
we have already seen. Barbadians and Jamaicans
flocked to the banana plantations of Costa Rica. They
were imported in large numbers to build the Panama
Canal, seriously undercutting the white labor there,
by the deliberate policy of the United States Govern-
ment. They flocked to the United States, where they
became doctors, lawyers, professional men, good Amer-
ican citizens, even though "monkey chasers" to many
of their American cousins: any "Who's Who" of Har-
lem will indicate this. They made money and did not
forget the less fortunate folk at home. "Panama








money", it was called in Barbados. The average
annual remittances sent to Jamaica from overseas
reached $600,000.44 In 1930 nearly one and a quar-
ter million dollars were remitted by Barbadians abroad,
a sum nearly equal to one-third of the value of Bar-
badian exports for that year.46 But the collapse of
sugar in Cuba, the world depression, the tightening of
immigration restrictions in the American republics have
closed these avenues of emigration and wealth, and
have repatriated thousands of British West Indians
to intensify the struggle for survival and introduce
broader, more radical ideas. But emigration, at best,
could be only a partial solution of the Negro problem
in the Caribbean. That problem must be solved at
home.
In Puerto Rico they teach families to prepare "well-
balanced diets on a minimum budget". But the Negro
cannot afford meat. What is the use of an anti-malaria
campaign if he is forced to live in swampy surround-
ings? A doctor may diagnose hookworm and yet the
cure can only be temporary, if the patient is too poor
to buy shoes, and the government or the sugar com-
pany loath to provide adequate sanitation facilities.
At the same time it must be added that plantation
proprietors are at length awaking to the futility of
giving a bottle of medicine to a man who needs one
square meal a day. As a Nutrition Committee in
British Guiana put it, thinking of the working days
lost and the cost to plantations of quinine: "we are
strongly of the opinion that a concerted drive against
malnutrition in the East Indian and the raising of his
nutritional standard of living will result in measurable
benefit to the sugar industry."46 For "East Indian"
substitute Negro, and it becomes clear that what the
claims of humanity have not effected, the claims of
sugar may. Paris may well be worth a Mass








Local hospitals are inadequate. There are insuffi-
cient beds; sleeping on the floors is not unknown; it
is commonly stated that the attitude of nurses and
doctors to syphilitic patients does not encourage the
latter to return for treatment. Conditions are best in
the urban areas, worst in the rural districts where
medical facilities are most needed. A common accusa-
tion against Public Health Officers in the British col-
onies is that pauper patients are attended to only after
those who can pay. Doctors' plates are to be seen all
over the capital city of any island: the overcrowding
of the medical profession in the capital means a serious
dearth in the districts where doctors are most necessary.
In 1934 nearly half of the doctors in Cuba were resi-
dent in Havana alone; over half of the doctors in Haiti
are found in Port-au-Prince. Of the municipalities
studied in the coffee, fruit and tobacco regions of
Puerto Rico, it is said: "the fact that there are less
professional men and, in general, fewer medical facili-
ties in the group of 47 municipalities, is a sure indica-
tion that the economic conditions are worse in this part
than in the rest of the Island.""4
"I am emphatically of opinion", wrote the British
Labor Adviser in 1938, "that one of the benefits most
needed by the West Indian worker is a cheap health
service."48 The statistics given above as to the health
conditions in the Caribbean make the case for island-
wide medical services, free for all the indigent, over-
whelming. Yet the St. Lucia branch of the British
Medical Association opposed this "blanket" applica-
tion of civilized ideas to backward areas as demoraliz-
ing to the Negro, who would thereby be given some-
thing for nothing.49 No wonder that the Vice-Chair-
man of the British Royal Commission which visited
the Caribbean in 1939 could say: "Barbados has to
thank God for health, not the medical profession."50








"A land of beggars and millionaires, of flattering
statistics and distressing realities Uncle Sam's
second largest sweat-shop.""1 What a well-known
Puerto Rican authority has said of his native home,
is true of the whole Caribbean area. Uncle Sam, John
Bull, Marianne; Stars and Stripes, Union Jack, Tri-
colour; different ways of saying the same thing, sugar.
The important thing in the history of the Negro in the
Caribbean is not the political flag that floats over him
but the economy that strangles him. The Negro must
be given a more equitable share of the wealth he pro-
duces. The sugar industry and the land that goes with
it can no longer continue to be the monopoly of a few
absentee companies. These, however, are political
questions, and experience teaches that political ques-
tions are solved by political methods, the specific nature
of which are beyond the scope of this study.









CHAPTER V


THE LAND PROBLEM AND THE NEGRO
PEASANT

The unit of production in the Caribbean still betrays
the main features of the slave regime. The disappear-
ance of slavery has not meant the disappearance of the
large plantation; on the contrary, the large plantation
has become larger. But the emergence of a Negro
peasantry in the British islands since emancipation, the
tenacious struggle of the small proprietor in Mar-
tinique or the colono in Cuba to retain his land in the
face of those hostile forces described in a preceding
chapter, make a fascinating story in the history of the
Caribbean.
We must not harbor the mistaken notion that the
alternative to the plantation system with its army of
landless blacks is a system of peasant proprietorship,
the division of the large estate into small farms. The
small-scale production of subsistence farming would be
reactionary. The Haitian revolution was a mass revolt
of the Negro slaves against their masters. The revolu-
tion achieved one fundamental result; it destroyed the
plantation system and gave the land to the Negro
masses. Today three-fifths of all Haitian peasants
own their land. Land redistribution, however, is not
everything. Peasant ownership, by itself, is not a solu-
tion, and by itself may even be an impediment to
progress. But wisely encouraged, in conjunction with
legal restrictions on the size of plantations, it forms a
necessary part of any solution of the problem of the
Negro in the Caribbean.
The only compensation the British abolitionists could
46








think of making to the emancipated Negro was the
Bible. The planters, more wise in their generation,
knew that the Negro, not solely other-worldminded,
aspired to own land. All sorts of obstacles were put
in the way by the local and imperial governments to
prevent the purchase of land by the freed Negroes;
high price of land, heavy taxes which would force the
Negroes to work, and finally the importation of Indian
and other contract laborers to compete with the
Negroes and reduce wages. This situation did not
apply to old colonies like Barbados and Antigua, where
all the available land was already appropriated. Peasant
proprietorship has made progress only in Trinidad,
Guiana, Jamaica, and above all Grenada, which,
significantly, is not a "sugar island".
In Cuba and Puerto Rico there was always the Span-
ish tradition of small or medium-sized farms, especially
in tobacco and coffee. The "colono" or independent
cultivator, mainly white, has survived American occupa-
tion, though his tenure is becoming more and more
precarious every day. In the heyday of competition
between the large corporations which rushed into the
profitable sugar industry, small proprietors growing
cane enjoyed a period of prosperity. Under the colono
system the independent cultivator makes a contract
with a sugar factory to deliver so much cane annually.
He might own his land, or he might lease it from the
sugar company. His contract would obviously be
more favorable if he owned the land. The cane is
ground by the company, which pays the colono a certain
fixed rate. The elimination of competition which has
come from the merging of companies into one industrial
giant, or the disappearance, for various reasons, of
rival companies, has resulted in more onerous contracts
for the colono. Frequent complaints had always been
made of unjust prices for the cane delivered, of unjust








estimates of the saccharine content of the cane; and
it is clear that in many instances the sugar company
unscrupulously defrauded the colono. The growth of
latifundia, above all the tremendous development of
private railways owned and operated by the sugar
corporations, have gradually reduced the colonos to a
state of economic vassalage which becomes worse each
year. The independent cultivator owning his land is
forced to sell, at prices fixed by the company; he
becomes a landless wage-earner, unless he prefers to
lease land from the sugar company. In the present
position of the Caribbean the prospects of his survival
are decidedly not bright. Cuba and Puerto Rico, under
American capital, are fast being reduced to the status
of Barbados, one vast plantation, with the Negro's sole
raison d'6tre to provide labor for the sugar economy.
To what extent is the system of peasant proprietor-
ship desirable? Let us note in the first place the com-
petence of these proprietors, the contribution they have
made to Caribbean economy. The peasant soon
demonstrated that the cultivation of the so-called plan-
tation crops was not beyond him. Cocoa, for instance,
is a permanent crop which requires comparatively little
capital or comparatively little cultivation after it has
been planted. It is therefore well suited to cultivation
by peasants. The golden age of cocoa in Trinidad
is the story of the rapid rise of the Negro peasantry.
Of 10,000 cocoa planters in Trinidad even today,
nearly 70 per cent cultivate farms of less than ten
acres, and farms of less than fifty acres represent half
of the land in cocoa. Coffee is another crop well suited
to peasant cultivation, with the additional advantage
that the peasant can grow food crops at the same time
between the coffee shrubs. Coffee is the major export
of Haiti; it is the chief crop cultivated by the Haitian
peasant. Arrowroot in St. Vincent, nutmegs in Gre-








nada, limes in Dominica, have all played their part
in the development of the peasantry. Long despised
by white planters as a "backwoods nigger business",
the success of the banana in Jamaica is to be attributed
to the peasant pioneers and their successors who richly
deserve the tribute paid them by Jamaica's Director
of Agriculture in 1924: "It is not an industry that
we owe to science or to Bureaux or to the Director of
Agriculture. It had its beginning from a very modest
source. It has been built up by the genius and courage
and industry and capacity of the people of this
colony. It is the most democratic agricultural
industry to be found in the West Indies .... It is a
fact that the small man in Jamaica is the largest pro-
ducer in this trade and that it is principally due to him
that the banana industry has been built up to what it is
today."1 The large planters no longer despise banana
cultivation, and huge corporations like the United
Fruit Company and Standard Company have their
tentacles stuck deep into this once lowly and despised
livelihood. On an average -of the years 1929-1935,
these two corporations handled nearly three-quarters
of the exports and together they controlled three-fifths
of the acreage under bananas. But the peasants have
maintained their position; holdings under five and
holdings under twenty acres represent nearly one-fifth
and one-half respectively of the acreage under bananas.2
The place of the banana in Jamaica is taken in Brit-
ish Guiana by rice cultivation. The vanilla of the
French islands, the cotton of the Leeward Islands, both
have their place in this story of the peasantry. But
the peasant's greatest victory has been won with the
plantation crop par excellence, sugar. It had long
been assumed that sugar was beyond the scope of the
backward peasant. The colono system in Cuba and
Puerto Rico contradicts this assumption, while there








remains the inescapable fact that today two-fifths of
the cane in Puerto Rico, one-fourth in-Martinique, and
nearly one-half in Trinidad come from small farmers.
A report to the President of the United States in 1934
disclosed that in Puerto Rico colono cane is cheaper
than cane produced on plantations; whereas company-
grown cane was produced at a cost of $5.60 per ton
in 1930-1931, colono cane cost $4.79 per ton.8 "It is
largely as a result of the industry and hard work of
many thousands of small growers", wrote the Assist-
ant Commissioner of Agriculture for the West Indies
in 1930, "that the cost of production of Trinidad com-
pares favourably with that in other parts of the
Empire."4 The 125 colono farms investigated in
Puerto Rico harvested an area of 20,400 acres, thus
giving an average of only 163 acres per farm. Five-
acre farms are clearly too small to be efficient. It is
the medium-sized farm which should be encouraged.
In the words of a Puerto Rican scholar: "the need
for more than 500 acres per farm for efficiency in pro-
duction has not been substantiated by facts. In view
of the unsocial distribution of income that results from
concentration of large tracts of land in the hands of
private individuals, the practice of owning more than
500 acres should be condemned."5
The system of peasant proprietorship is therefore
not unjustified on economic grounds. From the social
point of view, it has even stronger justification. The
plantation system lacks the -social stability which
inevitably accompanies peasant proprietorship. The
evidence is enormous as to the relative zeal and effi-
ciency of the Negro slave when working for himself
or for his master. Today the Negro will work his
own land, where he refuses to work for low wages.
"The small colono", writes a Puerto Rican, "is the
romantic figure of individualism in an industry con-








trolled by a handful of corporations or powerful
partnerships. While farming to the sugar-cane cor-
poration is merely a manufacturing business, it is a
way of living for most colonos. The colonos constitute
an element through whom a better distribution of part
of the large income produced by the sugar industry
is obtained."
We have a sympathetic description of just how much
the land means to the landless Negro in Martinique.
"The acquisition of a piece of land is for the small
farmer a sign of his ascent into a higher social class,
the just reward of his energy and ability. Thereafter,
the new landowner, known hitherto only by a country
nickname, is called 'monsieur', in the first place by his
wife, especially in the presence of the neighbors. On
Sunday she prepares for him a white suit, suitably
starched, with a starched handkerchief to adorn the
top pocket. Shoes, preferably of patent leather, a
Panama hat, a pair of cuffs with large cuff-links, and
a watch-chain will complete the outfit. If he has a
watch, the little farmer will hardly use it, accustomed
as he is to telling the time by the length of the shadows.
Of course his wife improves her own wardrobe, his
daughters follow the European fashions and use the
latest make-up. Nevertheless these people are far
from being ridiculous. They are sometimes fine people,
naturally distinguished, whatever their origins. And
certainly the starting point of their social rise is an
honorable one."'
Those numerous commissions, furthermore, which
are a feature of British West Indian history give us a
clear insight into the social merits and desirability of
peasant proprietorship. As this is the burning ques-
tion of the moment in the Caribbean, their opinions
are worth considering in some detail. The Royal Com-
mission of 1897 reported as follows: "The existence








of a class of small proprietors among the population
is a source of both economic and political strength ....
No reform affords so good a prospect for the perma-
nent welfare in the future of the West Indies as the
settlement of the labouring population on the land
as small peasant proprietors." The Sugar Commis-
sion of 1929 drew a contrast between the prosperity
of those colonies in which a peasantry existed and the
degradation and squalor of those in which the lower
classes were largely plantation laborers, and repeated:
"The settlement of labourers on the land as peasant
proprietors offers the best prospect of establishing a
stable and prosperous economy in the West Indian
colonies." Where peasant cultivation prevailed,
according to a Jamaica Commission on Unemploy-
ment in 1936, conditions were comparatively favorable
and there was little extreme hardship.9 "A matter of
paramount importance" is the laconic comment of the
Commission sent out from England to Trinidad in
1937, recommending the extension of land settlement.10
The consensus of opinion (among non-owners of
plantations, naturally) in favor of peasant proprietor-
ship is overwhelming. Yet the Administrator of St.
Vincent, in an address to the Legislative Council in
December 1935, admitted that more than half of the
privately owned land and most of the best cultivated
areas were owned by some thirty plantations, while of
the 2763 peasants in a population of 55,000, 95 per
cent owned holdings of less than ten acres. The
Government was "studying" the means of extending
land settlement. Since 1899 it had been studying it
and had purchased 8250 acres. Yet the Administrator
"saw no easy solution of the difficulty"."1 In Barbados,
three-quarters of the holdings are less than one acre.
In Jamaica, more than half of the total area was com-
prised in 1930 in less than 1400 properties, each aver-
aging 1000 acres.
52








The situation outlined above is true also of the
former Spanish colonies. In 1900 a law was passed
in Puerto Rico limiting farms to a maximum of 500
acres. That law has remained on the statute book,
openly violated, transgressors unpunished. Only in
recent months has any attempt been made to enforce it,
and a commission has recently been appointed to study
the question. Under Governor Tugwell, seven mil-
lion dollars have been appropriated for the purchase
of 200,000 acres of sugar-cane land owned by corpo-
rations, dividing them into lots of 500 acres or less,
and selling them on 40-year terms. So far not a cent
has been spent.1" In 1930, sugar farms of less than
twenty acres represented nearly three-quarters of the
number in the island, but slightly over one-tenth of the
acreage in farms. Farms of 500 acres or more, less
than one per cent of the total farms, occupied nearly
one-third of all the area of Puerto Rico included in
farms.18 Of 247,000 workers engaged in Puerto Rican
agriculture, less than one-fifth own the land they till.
The number of farms in Cuba declined more than one-
third between 1899 and 1935; the percentage of cane
produced by free colonos declined from 27 in 1929 to
10 in 1933.14
Why the recommendations of the past have been
ignored is simple in the extreme: land settlement is
contrary to the interest of the planter. Three cen-
turies ago he destroyed the small white farmer; today
he is determined to destroy the small farmer, black,
white, or brown. As the Sugar Commission to the
British islands in 1929 recognized: "if they (the
planters) encouraged action which, in their belief, must
tend to diminish their labour supply, they would be
cutting away the branch upon which they sit."15 Only
an explosion makes the planters realize that these
repeated recommendations in the past are not platonic.
While the Secretary of State for the Colonies in
53








England was telling Parliament in 1938 of $110,000
spent on land settlement in Jamaica in the past year,
the unemployed and underpaid Negroes of the island
went on strike and began rioting. Immediately the
governor of the colony allotted $2,500,000, later
increased to $3,250,000, to land settlement schemes.
The case for peasant proprietorship is clear. The
Pan-American Labor Conference which met at Havana
in 1939 called for the destruction of the large estates.
They included in this Cuba but not Puerto Rico, Haiti
but not Jamaica, the "independent" republics but not
the dependent colonies. The destruction of the large
estates is not a Cuban or Dominican problem but a
Caribbean one.
We must not, however, be romantic about this ques-
tion of peasant proprietorship. Peasant ownership,
by itself, is no solution of the agricultural problem of
the Caribbean. Haiti is the glaring example. The
average holding is small, from three to six acres, and
lots of one-fifth of an acre are not uncommon. The
method of cultivation is primitive in the extreme. The
plough is unknown. A hoe and cutlass, valued at
$1.20, represent the sum total of the peasant's instru-
ments of production." He is ignorant of questions of
fertility, selection of seeds and plants, protection
against insects and disease. His is essentially a subsis-
tence agriculture, a pre-capitalist economy in which
wages are unknown. To the primitive methods of
coffee cultivation and preparation is to be ascribed the
earthy flavor of Haitian coffee which makes it un-
popular in the world market. The preparation of the
soil is the task of the family or an organization known
as the "coumbite", a primitive method of co-operation
which has been described by Dr. Simpson as "one of
the most popular, most beneficial, and most durable of
Haitian institutions."17 The Haitian peasant is poor,







miserably poor. In the expressive creole dialect of
the country, he is a "toutiste": he does everything for
himself. The annual incomes of peasants in the dis-
trict of Plaisance have been estimated at from 40 to
300 dollars, with the maximum figure rare. It is this
poverty which has encouraged the Haitian to emigrate
to the "superior" opportunities of field work in the
sugar industry in Cuba and the Dominican Republic.
The Haitian peasant owns his land. But that is only
half the battle. For peasant ownership to succeed,
the peasant must be taught and educated, and his
primitive instincts corrected. For failure to do this
the mulatto overlords of Haiti bear as great a respon-
sibility as the white foreign overlords elsewhere in the
Caribbean who have consistently opposed peasant own-
ership.
"The experience of a large number of countries",
says a West Indian student, "entitles us to say that,
given adequate facilities, a system of advice and instruc-
tion, and centralised processing and marketing,
peasants can compete effectively with any plantation
system."'8 In the extension of co-operative methods
lies the best hope for improvement of peasant cultiva-
tion. The establishment of co-operatives has made
some headway in the Caribbean. Co-operatives mean
improved methods of production, improved methods of
marketing, above all organization for the obtaining
of credit-to reduce the stranglehold in which colo-
nos find themselves, from the necessity of taking
advances at such usurious rates as banks and sugar
companies care to charge. There is a co-operative of
vegetable growers, another for the disposal of cotton,
still another of colonos in Puerto Rico. The outstand-
ing example of co-operativism in the Caribbean-
admittedly in a peculiar form-is the Jamaica Banana
Producers' Association, the overwhelming number of
55








whose members are small farmers. Co-operation is
making progress in British Guiana, where a Small
Farmers Committee has published ap invaluable report
emphasizing not only the need of redistributing idle
private land among peasants in five- or seven-acre plots,
on easy credit terms, but of improving peasant cultiva-
tion by means of district agricultural co-operative so-
cieties.19
This is not to say that there are no organizations in
the Caribbean devoted to the study of improved
methods. Large sums of money are devoted annually
to research for improving production, increasing effi-
ciency, controlling plant diseases. Every island has its
Agricultural Department, its experimental stations.
The peasant benefits little from this research. Trinidad
has a magnificent College of Tropical Agriculture
where colored students are, to put it mildly, unwel-
come, though they cannot be completely discouraged.
This college is of as little benefit to the Trinidad
peasant farmer as Oxford .University. Much work
remains to be done in the future in this question of
expert advice to the peasants. The institute run by
the Haitian Government at Damien is at present try-
ing to correct the evils of the past, but its importance
is clearly still to be realized. The fiscal year 1939-
1940 saw a decline in the expenditures of the Haitian
Government of less than four per cent. Yet the
budget of the all-important Department of Agriculture
and Labor was cut 36 per cent. Advice to peasant
farmers, improvement of their methods and organiza-
tion, depend upon a definite settled policy with refer-
ence to peasant proprietorship. This ultimately is a
political question; the future course of the struggle
between planter and peasant depends on changes in the
political structure of the islands.










CHAPTER VI


THE MIDDLE CLASS AND THE RACIAL
PROBLEM

In the early years of slavery the social divisions were
extremely simple: at the top of the pyramid was the
small handful of whites-owners and overseers; the
base was the Negro slaves. Juxtaposition of the two
races soon produced a third class. The slave had no
legal rights; if the male slave was in most instances
denied the privilege of marrying, the female slave was
denied the right of refusing access to her bed on the
part of her owner or his overseer. The refusal of
sexual intercourse with a white overseer was equivalent
to mutiny. It was no uncommon thing for a planter
to line up his slave girls before his guest who was
invited to take his choice for the night. The slave
women were defenceless under the regime of slavery,
and the white man's preoccupation with his slave
women, his neglect of his white wife, and the tolerant
attitude to concubinage were responsible for no small
part of the disgraceful cruelty of white women to slave
girls.
This picture, true as it is of the Caribbean as a whole,
varied in different islands. The Frenchman and
Spaniard, lacking, then as now, the cruder aspect of
racial prejudice which, then as now, distinguishes the
Anglo-Saxon, in many instances married his concubine.
But concubine or wife, intercourse with slave women
produced an increasingly large colored or mulatto
element in all the islands. In the eighteenth century
the British Leeward Islands made a profitable busi-
ness out of rearing quadroon and octoroon girls and
57







sending them to Dutch Guiana to be sold for the Carib-
bean harem.
It was customary for white planters to free their
mulatto offspring, though the tendency was stronger
among the Latin races than among the English. Dur-
ing the slavery regime this mulatto class, with a few
free blacks, came to occupy a more and more important
position. It was the mulattoes of French Saint
Domingue who began the revolution in that colony
demanding the political equality with whites to which
their wealth and education entitled them. It was said
of this class of people in Jamaica in 1827 that they
were men of property, who compared favorably with
the impecunious whites. In Barbados they were
superior to many of the whites in refinement, morals,
education and energy, and, significantly for the future,
the governor wrote to the home government in 1833,
on the eve of emancipation: "you will see a large pol-
icy in present circumstances in bringing these castes
forward. They are a sober, energetic and loyal race;
and I could equally depend on them if need came,
against either slaves or white militia."
This intermediate caste in slave society despised the
black side of its ancestry. The mulatto woman pre-
ferred to be the mistress of a white man than to marry
a black. Like the similar group in New Orleans and
Charleston, they occupied a privileged position before
emancipation. With the prestige of white blood in
their veins, they refused to do laboring'work. They
despised the "no-good niggers", and where, as in some
cases, they themselves owned slaves, they were as
vicious and tyrannical as the poor whites. Some few,
educated by an indulgent white father, eventually be-
came owners of land; others, more numerous, settled
in the urban areas and became artisans, small clerks,
etc. They formed the humble beginnings of the
colored and black middle class in the Caribbean.








Emancipation gave a decided stimulus to this class.
Making rapid progress, they learned to read and write;
they resorted to retail trade and commerce; tilling their
small plots judiciously, they increased their ownership
of land and made money in cocoa or bananas. Desir-
ing above all things "independence" for their children,
they sent the latter to European Universities where
they became doctors and lawyers and returned to their
native land to monopolize the professions. The colored
middle class had arrived.
Today they occupy an important position in the
Caribbean structure. They are concentrated in the
towns, where they are easily distinguished by their
lighter skin. Even in Haiti, according to Dr. Price
Mars, while 80 per cent of the country people are
black, from 40 to 50 per cent of the city folk are light
in color.1 Where the colored middle classes are to be
seen on the countryside, they figure as landed gentry.
They are, too, essentially professional people.
Squeezed out of retail trade by the waves of Chinese,
Portuguese, Syrians and Jews who have in that order
invaded the Caribbean, and who today control the rum
shops, dry goods stores, groceries and laundries, the
colored middle class virtually monopolize the profes-
sions of medicine and law in the British and French
islands. Even in Cuba and Puerto Rico their impor-
tance in these professions is great. They dominate the
lower ranks of the civil service bureaucracy; they are
to be found in the legislative councils; they are
gradually pushing their way into the higher ranks of
the government. One of the most famous Chief Jus-
tices in Barbados was a poor mulatto boy who rose to
be Sir Conrad Reeves. A Negro of Dominica was
Chief Justice of the island in 1873, Solicitor General
and Attorney General of the Leeward Islands between
1881 and 1886, Registrar and Provost Marshal of
Dominica from 1886 to 1891. Today by far the
59








dominant figure on the Trinidad scene, a prominent
lawyer, King's Counsel, Knight of the British Empire,
is a colored man, the legal representative of the oil
companies. A Barbadian Negro, Arthur Barclay, be-
came President of Liberia in 1904.
In training and in outlook these middle classes are
European. They retain little or no trace of their
African origin except the color of their skin. Some
have been educated at Oxford, the Sorbonne, Madrid.
They are colored Europeans, in dress (carried to such
absurd lengths as wearing the dark colors and heavy-
weight suits of the colder mother countries), in tastes,
in opinions and in aspirations. They often marry white
women, English, French, Spanish, Canadian and Amer-
ican. When they go "home" every four years to enjoy
a well-earned holiday they imply by "home" not Africa,
but England, France, even Spain. In the British islands
they save or borrow to see the pageantry of England
at the time of a coronation or jubilee. The visit of a
Prince of Wales, the honeymoon of a royal couple find
them ready to display their loyalty to the throne, their
affection for the mother country. They remain pro-
foundly ignorant of the neighboring islands, each group
basking in its splendid isolation. They would as soon
think of going to Timbuctoo as of spending a holiday
in Haiti.
Thirty years ago Sir Harry Johnston launched a
bitter attack on the Haitian middle class which is
typical of the Western attitude to that country. What
he condemned in Haiti is equally true today of the
Negro middle class all over the Caribbean. "Haiti
possesses one of the most magnificent floras in the
world and a wonderful display of bird-life. Do you
suppose any Haitian knows or cares anything about the
trees, flowers, or fruit, beautiful or useful, of his own
country; the birds, the fish, the butterflies, the rocks,








minerals, rainfall, or wind force? Not one. And yet
these same men amongst the two hundred thousand
educated people know a good deal about the land-
scapes of France, England, Germany and Italy; can
quote with appreciative delight the nature studies of
Tennyson; admire the art of Corot and Daubigny; and
have even heard of Turner. The amazing beauty of
their own country is only apparent to them when their
attention is called to it by utter strangers; and then
they put forward quotations from foreign writers on
Haitian scenery as an excuse for their political short-
comings or financial defalcations. They know all about
the nightingale and nothing of the Haitian warblers.
In their poetry they refer to the eagle and swan (com-
pletely absent from their sphere), but never to the
frigate-bird or flamingo."2
In the days of slavery the role of the mulatto concu-
bine was to inform against conspiracies of the field
slaves, in the Caribbean as in the United States, while
the free people of color, as a class, served as a social
barrier between, the slaves on the one hand and the
slaveowners on the other. In the present society of
the Caribbean the role of the people of color is by and
large to collaborate, wittingly or no, with the dominant
whites. The attitude of the majority of the colored
middle class to the black workers is one of open con-
tempt. What an English observer has written of
Jamaica is true of all the islands: "the Jamaican bour-
geoisie knows even less about the people than the
English bourgeoisie about its proletariat."' They are
adamant in their refusal to countenance any extension
of the franchise to "the barefooted man" who, they
say sagely, is not yet ready for such a boon. No one
in the British West Indies talks so glibly of the "lazy"
black as his colored brother.
The colored middle class, in fact, except in the areas








where whites predominate, are in a privileged political
position. In Haiti, the ruling mulatto elite dominates
the country economically, politically and socially. In
the British West Indies high property qualifications
disfranchise all but a handful of colored and white
voters. In Trinidad one must earn over $300 a year
before he can be registered as a voter; the agricultural
laborer gets 25 cents a day. Prospective members of
the Legislative Council must own real estate to the
value of $10,000 or derive an annual income of $1000
therefrom. This is true, with variations, for all the
British islands, with the exception of Jamaica, which
has the 10-shilling vote (all chauffeurs paying a tax
of two and a half dollars). Consider the results. The
percentage of voters in Trinidad is 6.6 of the total
population; in Jamaica 5.5; in Barbados 3.4; in An-
tigua 3; in British Guiana 2.9; in St. Lucia 2.2.4 The
privilege of voting, of membership in the Legislative
Councils is restricted to the handful of whites and a
fraction of the colored middle class. In the recent
uprisings in the British West Indies the colored middle
class, some of them working as clerks and salesmen
for $20 a month, rushed to volunteer for service against
the black strikers, or, as an English writer, referring
to Trinidad, put it, "to learn how to defend the inter-
ests of the class they enter against the class they hope
they have left."5
The racial situation in the Caribbean is radically
different from the racial situation in the United States
and is thus rather incomprehensible to the native of the
United States, black or white. It should first be clearly
understood that there is no overt legal discrimination.
The islands know neither Jim Crow nor lynching;
there are neither separate schools, separate theaters,
separate restaurants or special seats in public convey-
ances. Cases of rape of white women are unknown,
62








and we have the testimony of an ex-governor of
Jamaica as to the safety of white women, anywhere
at any time. White, brown and black meet in the same
churches in which pews, at a price, can be obtained by
one and all. Graves of whites, browns and blacks are
seen side by side in the cemeteries. The declaration
of fundamental rights proclaimed by the Constituent
Assembly of Cuba in 1940 may be taken as indicative
of the legal situation in the Caribbean: "All Cubans
are equal before the law. The Republic recognizes no
privileges. All discrimination because of sex, race,
color, or class, or other affront to human dignity is
declared illegal and punishable."
The racial consciousness which permeates the Amer-
ican Negro is also not found in the islands. This is a
constant source of surprise and even exasperation to
the American Negro visitor or student, who goes to
the islands with his cliches and his prejudices, seeking
for any violations of his own code of racial solidarity.
It is annoying, for instance, to find the term "Negro"
little used and almost an epithet of abuse or contempt,
at least among intimate friends. The Haitians con-
sider themselves "blacks", not Negroes. It is difficult,
too, for the American Negro to realize that the term
"colored" signifies a distinct group in the Caribbean.
It is an old definition, dating back to the days of
slavery. The English islands spoke of the "people of
color"; in the French they were "gens de couleur";
in the Spanish "gente de color". One is not a mulatto
in Cuba or Puerto Rico-one might be "pardo", or
"moreno", or "triguefio", indicating different shades
of brown.
If in the United States one drop of Negro blood
makes a man a Negro, in the islands one is white or not
according to the color of one's skin. If in the United
States one is classified as a Negro if his Negro ancestry








goes back to the fourth generation, then in the Carib-
bean one is considered white in the second generation.
A common remark in the British West Indies of colored
schoolboys to a companion of lighter skin whom they
consider uppish is: "go home and look at your grand-
mother". There is a similar saying in Puerto Rico,
in a popular song which says: "and your grandmother,
where is she?"
Of overt legal discrimination, therefore, there is
none in the Caribbean. Economic differences prevent
the color question of the United States from arising.
Only on the social level does racial prejudice present
itself, but there in a radical form. A white skin, in a
society still obsessed economically and therefore cul-
turally by the slave tradition, is an indication of social
status and the best passport to political influence. The
nearer one is to the coveted white skin, the more likely
is one to be accepted in society. If one is not fortunate
enough to have a white skin, the next best thing is a
partner with a white skin. Married to a white woman,
a young Negro rapidly ascends the ladder of success.
How could it be otherwise? If the white skin means
superiority, then the white woman, in the interest of
white prestige, must be given an opportunity to live in
a way and on a standard compatible with white dignity.
It is this high market value of a white skin, in addi-
tion to the stigma of past slavery and its consequences,
which is responsible for those color distinctions for
which the islands are notorious: These distinctions
have the greatest effect in the lack of cohesion which
exists among the middle classes. We have a picture
of these color distinctions of middle class society in
the British West Indies, drawn by a native Trinidadian.
It may be taken as indicative of the colored middle
class over the whole area. "Between the brown-
skinned middle class and the black there is a continual
64








rivalry; distrust and ill-feeling, which, skilfully played
upon by the European people, poisons the life of the
community. Where so many crosses and colors meet
and mingle, the shades are naturally difficult to deter-
mine and the resulting confusion is immense. There
are the nearly-white hanging on tooth and nail to the
fringes of white society, and these, as is easy to under-
stand, hate contact with the darker skin far more than
some of the broader-minded whites. Then there are
the browns, intermediates, who cannot by any stretch
of imagination pass as white, but who will not go one
inch toward mixing with people darker than them-
selves. And so on, and on, and on. Associations are
formed of brown people who will not admit into their
number those too much darker than themselves, and
there have been heated arguments in committee as to
whether such and such a person's skin was fair enough
to allow him or her to be admitted, without lowering
the tone of the institution. Clubs have been known to
accept the daughter and mother, who were fair, but to
refuse the father, who was black. A dark-skinned
brother in a fair-skinned family is sometimes the sub-
ject of jeers and insults and open intimations that his
presence is not required at the family social functions.
Fair-skinned girls who marry dark men are often
ostracised by their families and given up as lost. There
have been cases of fair women who have been content
to live with black men but would not marry them.
Should the darker man, however, have money or posi-
tion of some kind, he may aspire, and it is not too much
to say that in a West Indian colony the surest sign of
a man's having arrived is the fact that he keeps com-
pany with people lighter in complexion than himself.
Remember, finally, that the people most affected by
this are people of the middle class who, lacking the
hard contact with realities of the masses and unable








to attain to the freedoms of a leisured class, are more
than all types of people given to trivial divisions and
subdivisions of social rank and precedence."6 Pros-
pective brides look for light-skinned men. They pray
for "light" children, who might marry white. Expect-
ant mothers abstain from coffee or chocolate. As the
saying goes in Martinique, one who has reached the
dining-room should not go back to the kitchen.
For Haiti, Dr. Price Mars, himself a Negro, writes
on this subject: "an enormous difference exists between
the peasant majority, whose life is essentially bound up
with the cultivation of the land according to methods
that are ancient and obsolete, and the small minority
engaged in business, industry and public office in the
cities. Their economic interests are apparently diver-
gent. One produces, the other buys either to consume
or to resell. They dress differently--one is rigged
out in cotton and goes barefooted while the other is
attired in the latest European style. Finally their
mentalities are distinct; whereas one group is hardly
emerging from a primitive condition, the other is prey
to all the troubled heritage of the western civilizations.
Such an immense difference exists between these two
categories of Haitian society that they seem to belong
to two different worlds."7
The middle class elite in the Caribbean is Christian
or free-thinking, while the masses still cling to ancient
beliefs and rites, as the "voodoo" of Haiti, the
"shango" of Trinidad, the "pocomania" of Jamaica.
The Haitian masses speak a debased patois, the colored
middle class perfect French; the two classes would not
understand each other but for the fact that the use of
"creole" in ordinary everyday speech is universal. The
main aim of the Caribbean colored middle class is to
forget their African origin. The solitary exception is
Cuba, where there exists the Society for Afro-Cuban








Studies, whose founder and inspire was a white lawyer
and author, Dr. Fernando Ortiz, the leading scholar
of the Caribbean. Many colored Cubans are asso-
ciated in this Society which has been doing excellent
work, of both scholarly and practical value, in show-
ing the contributions, material and cultural, of the
Negro element to Cuban society.
The question on everyone's lips in the Caribbean
today is what effect will the closer military ties with the
United States have on the racial situation in the islands.
Latin America, with its large mulatto or mestizo popu-
lation, will watch closely the effects of this intrusion
on the morale of a people already sensitive on ques-
tions of race. White American tourists in Havana
show consternation on seeing the "racial democracy"
of Cuba. Racial prejudice was always infinitesimal in
the Spanish colonies, especially in Puerto Rico, which
was more a military outpost than a plantation colony.
But changes have occurred under American rule and
influence, and American racial attitudes have begun to
exercise their usual disruptive influence.
The British Royal Commission of 1939 has called
for an organized effort to prevent the extension of race
prejudice. Exactly what that means is not clear. The
employment of Southerners and South Africans in the
Trinidad oilfields has resulted in a noticeable increase
in racial tension. Excessive emphasis on the racial
issue is as dangerous in the black man as it is in the
white. The Communist Party in Cuba have been
clamoring for a black belt and self-determination of
the Negro in the areas where he dominates. Those
areas, however, are essentially the areas of sugar and
of alien laborers. The Negro in Cuba, the mulatto
in the Dominican Republic, are being undercut by
cheap black labor from Haiti and Jamaica. Obviously,
therefore, one must be wary of too sweeping a racial
67







interpretation of Caribbean history. But there is dyna-
mite in the racial situation. Essentially the difference
between capital and labor in the Caribbean is a differ-
ence between black and white, and the significant
increase of racial consciousness which followed on the
Italo-Ethiopian war is a portent which will bear watch-
ing. It is a healthy sign, however, that attempts to
play off Indians against Negroes in the British colonies
have so far not succeeded.
There is great uneasiness among British and French
West Indians that closer ties with the United States
will involve the introduction of American racial atti-
tudes. God save the "local white" from a "grand-
mother clause" I But racial discrimination will fall
heaviest on the black masses. "Incidents" are increas-
ing and even the English press is getting restless. The
American authorities in the new bases have protested
against the system by which a white offender might be
arrested by a black policeman and fined by a black
magistrate. Hotels frequented by American tourists
have generally in the past refused to serve people of
color, and the American soldiers are today insisting
that Negroes should be excluded from public bars where
Americans are being served. It is reported that the
British Government has asked the United States
Government not to send Negroes to the new bases.
Recalling the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, the
explanation could hardly be, as the N.A.A.C.P. sug-
gests, that the example of qualified American Negroes
filling high positions will arouse too great ambitions
on the part of the underprivileged British Negro.
There are such qualified Negroes all over the British
West Indies. The Negro masses of the Caribbean
know nothing of the economics of Hitlerism. To their
simple minds Hitlerism means two things: brutal
tyranny and racial prejudice. If the American view
68








of race is to become part of the lease-lend program,
then for them it will be keeping out Beelzebub by
Beelzebub, or the alternatives of Tweedledum and
Tweedledee. As Shakespeare remarked, "there is
small choice twixtt rotten apples", and the intrusion
of new brands of race prejudice into the Caribbean will
provoke serious social and political repercussions.










CHAPTER VII


NATIVE EDUCATION

The author of a history of Jamaica in 1740 wrote
as follows: "Learning is here at the lowest ebb: there
is no public school in the whole island, neither do they
seem fond of the thing: several large donations have
been made for such uses, but have never taken effect.
The office of a teacher is looked upon as contemptible
and no gentleman keeps company with one of that
character; to read, write, and cast accounts is all the
education they desire, and even these are but scurvily
taught. A man of any parts or learning that would
employ himself in that business, would be despised and
starve. The gentlemen whose fortunes can allow it,
send their children to Great Britain, where they have
the advantage of a polite and generous education."
If this was the situation as far as whites were con-
cerned, the situation of the black slaves was worse.
Based on slavery like the ancient states of Greece,
Caribbean society did not reproduce the gifts of Greece
to the world. As Sir James Stephen, the abolitionist,
wrote of the British slave colonies in 1831: "there is no
civilized society on earth so entirely destitute of learned
leisure, of literary and scientific intercourse and even of
liberal recreations." There was one exception in the
Caribbean. The history of Cuba in the nineteenth
century is full of the names of famous scholars and
writers, who in some cases enjoyed a European reputa-
tion: Varela, Saco, Marti, to mention only a few. One
of them, Menendez, one of the outstanding educators
of his time, was a Negro. During the colonial regime
Antonio Medina was to the Negro in Cuba what Jos6







de la Luz y Caballero was to the white. But the educa-
tion of the blacks was not viewed with favor. Strangely
enough, the majority of schoolmasters in the thirty-nine
schools which existed in La Habana in 1793 were
Negroes. But when a free Negro woman asked per-
mission in 1827 to open a school for colored girls,
she was refused; and to the request of a Negro in 1865
for authorization to open a night school for adult
Negroes, who would be taught grammar, geography,
drawing and history, the Governor of the island asked
him "whether he did not know that such knowledge
was prohibited to Negroes." At the time of the aboli-
tion of slavery in Cuba in 1886, not only were Negro
children debarred from schools in the interior, but in
the capital, Havana, with a population of 400,000
Negroes, there were only four schools maintained by
the municipality for the education of Negro children.1
In Haiti, to the credit of King Christophe, it must be
said that he realized the value and necessity of educa-
tion, and with the aid of British abolitionists some few
schools were opened, but the vicissitudes of revolution
and the poverty of the country prevented any real
attempt to grapple with the education problem. As
early as 1770 equality of education was decreed in
Puerto Rico for whites and mulattoes, while one of
the most distinguished educators in the history of the
island, Rafael Cordero, was a Negro, after whom a
street in San Juan is named.
The development of education for the Negro in the
Caribbean was, and is, of slow growth. As in the
United States, missionaries were the pioneers. The
Mico Charity continued the good work in Jamaica,
and the Canadian Mission to the Indians, together with
the prominence of denominational education, still
emphasize today the part played by religious orders in
the educational system and secular lack of interest in
71







education. The percentage of illiteracy in the area is
still enormously high. The progress made in Cuba is
striking, and is due largely to the strong desire of the
Negroes themselves, in spite of discrimination and
opposition. In 1865 the percentage of illiteracy among
Negroes was 95; it was reduced to 72 in 1889, 54 in
1907, and 46 in 1917. The percentage of illiteracy in
Haiti is still over 80, in Trinidad 43, and in British
Guiana as high as 60. The excuse offered is the large
East Indian population in these two colonies, and the
objection of these Indians to education of their women.
The excuse is quite inadequate for the area as a whole,
where there are no Indian women. Another excuse
is offered in Puerto Rico, where illiteracy, 80 per cent
in 1899, was still 35 per cent in 1935. Quite gra-
tuitously, the Commissioner of Education, in reply to
a letter merely asking for reports of the Department
of Education, wrote blaming the density of population
in Puerto Rico: "In my opinion the density of our
population is the cause of many of our evils. There
are over 500 people to the square mile, and the means
to support them are very slender. With such a density,
the United States would have, to be exact, 1,513,-
394,500 inhabitants, without including Alaska and the
insular possessions. The above will explain why the
schools of the Island have not been able to enroll more
than 45 per cent of the children of school age. Educa-
tion is but a reflection of the pitiful conditions in which
our people must struggle and live. Efforts to educate
our adults must also suffer from lack of proper means."
The basic reason for this illiteracy is the poverty,
the excessive inequality of incomes, the political weak-
ness of the masses. But this is not the whole explana-
tion. It is the deliberate policy of planters and govern-
ments to keep the people ignorant and unlettered. In
the words of one planter: "give them some education
72







in the way of reading and writing, but no more. Even
then I would say educate only the bright ones; not
the whole mass. If you do educate the whole mass
of the agricultural population, you will be deliberately
ruining the country.... Give the bright ones a chance
to win as many scholarships as they can; give the others
three hours' education a day .but if you keep them
longer you will never get them to work in the fields.
If you want agricultural labourers and not dissatisfac-
tion, you must not keep them longer."2 Another planter
was asked whether he did not think it would be more
satisfactory that children under twelve"should be sent
to school rather than begin work as soon as they were
able, to which he replied that education "would be of
no use to them". Were they then to be without educa-
tion at all? "As long as this is an agricultural coun-
try", -was his reply, "of what use will education be to
them if they had it?"8
In these candid words we have planter mentality
over the area. Education means discontent, and plant-
ers must have their labor supply. Much of the lighter
work on plantations is done by children under twelve,
and planters want to make sure of their child labor.
In British Guiana an Education Ordinance exists
requiring children to attend school up to the age of
fourteen. The same ordinance prohibits children from
being employed during school hours if below the age
of twelve. Thus, while the Education Department
can prosecute the parent for the non-attendance of a
child between the ages of twelve and fourteen, it can.
not prosecute the employer for the employment, al-
though the employment might be the cause of absence
from school.4 A special Education Commission, sent
out to the colonies in 1931 from England, has even
justified child labor: "we appreciate the argument of
those who see in compulsion an instrument for abolish-







ing child labour on the estates. But while accepting the
desirability of such abolition we think it is possible
to overestimate its extent and its evils. It is for the
most part confined to the sugar and, at certain seasons,
cotton estates. The conditions are not comparable to
those of factory labour under European urban indus-
trial conditions, and we are not convinced that children
12 years old are necessarily worse off under these con-
ditions than they would be in the overcrowded badly
staffed schools which the introduction of compulsion
without heavy additional expenditures would perpet-
uate and extend."5
Against this background consider the inadequacy of
education in the Caribbean. In 1933 half a million
children in Cuba, or well over half of the population
of school age, were not enrolled in schools. Nearly
two-thirds of the enrolment in the elementary schools
were in the first two grades. Enrolment is highest in
the provinces of Havana and Matanzas, lowest in the
areas of highest population, Camaguey and Oriente,
the sugar areas of the island, where the Negroes pre-
dominate. In 1935 the province of Oriente could boast
of only one-sixth of the libraries in the island and less
than two per cent of the volumes. The expenditure
on education was $1.49 per capital in 1935, or $13.90
per child enrolled in the elementary schools-less than
one-third the sum spent in the poorest state in the
United States. Only five per cent of the adolescent
population in Cuba have an opportunity to continue
their education in a public school for more than six
years.6
In Puerto Rico only 44 per cent of the school popu-
lation is enrolled, and of this number half are enrolled
on half time only. Of the rural schools four-fifths have
facilities for grades one to three only. Slightly more
than one-quarter of the enrolments in 1937-1938 were
74








in grades four through eight. In 1919-1920 only two
per cent of the school children were enrolled in regular
high schools, in 1937-1938 less than five per cent.
The per capital expenditure per child in Puerto Rico
based on current expense and average daily attendance,
is $24.21, less than in the poorest states of the United
States; two-fifths of the island's budget is assigned to
education. Superficially this proportion is high; the
explanation is clearly that total revenues must be
increased. How? Tax the sugar corporations ade-
quately, to provide education for the children of sugar
laborers. Occupying the lowest rung of the economic
ladder, the Negro gets inevitably less education than
his white compatriot. The Negro enrolment for all
schools in Puerto Rico is nearly 17 per cent; for high
schools less than 20 per cent; for elementary rural
schools (the Negro is essentially an agricultural
laborer) 14 per cent; for what are called second unit
rural schools 16 percentt7 Remember that the Negroes
represent between one-third and one-half of the total
population.
In the British islands not more than three-fifths of
the population of school-going age is enrolled. Com-
pulsory education exists-on paper. The expenditure
per child is one-sixth of the sum spent in England.
In Trinidad, perhaps the most advanced colony educa-
tionally, less than one-tenth of the revenue is allotted
to education, and the average salary of elementary
school teachers is a paltry fifteen to twenty dollars a
month, about the wage of an unskilled worker on the
oil-fields if he is employed every day.
The education provided is furthermore woefully
unsuited to local conditions. Along liberal lines, little
attention is paid to vocational education, and the Carib-
bean has produced no Booker T. Washington. It is
really education for the sons of the middle classes, not
75








for the sons of agricultural laborers. One Haitian
naively justified the imitation of the French educational
system on the ground that it had produced such excel-
lent results in France. The education of Barbados is
severely classical at the secondary level, and Barbadian
classical scholars, white and colored, have attained well-
deserved fame in England.
Consider the subjects on which the Trinidad open
scholarship to England is awarded: English Political
History, a special period of English Political History,
European History, Greek History, English Colonial
History, English Economic History; Latin text-books,
translation, composition and Roman History; French
text-books, translation and composition; Spanish text-
books, translation and composition; two plays of
Shakespeare, a play of Chaucer, two papers on a special
period of English literature, one on specially assigned
books, the other general. English examinations, set
by English examiners in England, are the rule. In one
notorious instance an essay was assigned on "a day in
winter", to students to whom winter was only "hiemps"
or hiverr" or "invierno". In broad outline the picture
is true for all the British colonies, and their secondary
education is not free. Even on the elementary level
the education is inclined to be academic and literary.
Local history is ignored, the history of Europe takes
first place. As Cuba's great scholar, Jose Marti, wrote
in 1887: "The head of a giant is being placed on the
body of an ant. And every day. the head is being
increased and the body decreased."
The majority of schools in the islands are located in
the urban centers, few in the rural areas where they
are most needed. Take the case of Haiti. Maurice
Dartigue, then Director of Rural Education, now
Minister of Public Instruction, writes: "In addition to
the fact that 85 to 90 per cent of the population of








school age lives in rural communities, primary educa-
tion in the towns receives more money from the budget
of the Republic than rural education, though the former
embraces fewer pupils and far fewer schools, while
giving an education far less rich and varied." Only
10 per cent of the school-going population in the rural
areas is enrolled. Little attention is paid to girls.
One-third of the rural schools are for girls, and enrol-
ment of girls represents only one-quarter of the total.8
Rural education is as yet in its infancy in the British
islands, and the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Adminis-
tration is trying to supplement the deficiency by train-
ing specially selected laborers. But there is no point
to rural education, however, if under the present eco-
nomic system the Negro is doomed to remain a land-
less wage-earner.
In one respect the former Spanish colonies are, in the
field of education, superior to the British and French
islands. Cuba has a University dating back to the
early eighteenth century, and its importance in the
life of Cuba today is well attested by the high reputa-
tion of its Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, whilst
some of the greatest names in tropical medicine are
Cuban. The Dominican Republic too boasts of a
University; so does Puerto Rico, a credit to American
control. The University of Puerto Rico, with its agri-
cultural experiment station, is doing excellent research
on sociological and economic problems, while the
School of Tropical Medicine, under the supervision of
Columbia University, has been producing some of the
most valuable studies on agricultural regions and
workers in the Caribbean. Haiti possesses a School
of Medicine and a School of Law dating back to the
second half of the nineteenth century, and since 1920
a University. But consider closely the situation in
Cuba. The emphasis is essentially on law, medicine








and pedagogy. Of the total enrolment of nearly 7000,
Negroes represent a little over 8 per cent, Negro
women one-ninth of all women enrolled. In the school
of medicine, about 10 per cent are Negroes; in dental
surgery 15 per cent; pedagogy, 10 per cent; civil law,
6 per cent. On the other hand only 3 per cent of the
enrolment in political, social and economic sciences are
Negroes; of the sciences, chemical and natural, elec-
trical and agricultural engineers, chemical and agricul-
tural experts, only 3 per cent are Negroes." Still the
same slave mentality, the same concern with an inde-
pendent "profession". In fairness to them we must
ask, however, what good it would do a Negro in the
Caribbean to become an agricultural sugar engineer?
Imagine an American sugar corporation in Cuba or
Puerto Rico employing Negroes in such a capacity
It should be stated here that racial segregation in
the educational system in the Caribbean does not exist.
In the elementary schools in the British colonies, the
children are all Negro or colored; white children go
to private schools. On the secondary level all over the
area, whites, Negroes, mulattoes, Indians, Chinese sit
side by side, competing equally in the classroom and on
the playing fields. A pernicious innovation in recent
years in Trinidad is the offer of a scholarship, at the
instigation of a high educational administrator (white)
in Trinidad, by an English "public" school to boys of
pure European descent only. If three hundred Ameri-
cans find jobs as teachers of English in Puerto Rico,
and Manchester has been better able to hold its own
in British West Indian markets with its exports of
Bachelors of Arts than with its textiles, Negroes and
mulattoes are not excluded and draw the same pay
as whites. The present faculty of Queen's Royal Col-
lege, the government secondary school in Trinidad, is
about one-third colored, an indication of the role of
78








the native people in education. One of the professors
of pedagogy in the University of Havana is a woman
of color; the head of the Social Science Department in
the University of Puerto Rico is the daughter of Puerto
Rico's grand old man of color, and her husband is also
a member of the faculty.
What, in contrast, can the British and French islands
show in the field of higher education? Nothing but
island scholarships to England, Rhodes scholarships
for Jamaica, and Codrington College in Barbados,
affiliated to Durham University in England, where one
can study classics and theology. The Rhodes scholar-
ships emphasize social status. The Negro is thereby
automatically excluded, but the larger percentage of
winners of the island scholarships are Negro and
colored boys. As in Cuba, the majority of these
scholars study law and medicine in England, while
British West Indian students in the United States take
to medicine and dentistry. After a rule of, in some
cases, three centuries, there is no University in the
French or British West Indies. Future doctors go to
the School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in Lon-
don, there to be taught the control of malaria and
typhoid by men who may never have seen a case of
either, while the School of Tropical Medicine in Puerto
Rico lies next door, without any language difficulties
to overcome. What a field there is for a University
in the British West Indies, with a School of Tropical
Medicine, drawing sustenance from the very soil,
ministering directly to the needs of the people
Demands are being voiced today for such a Univer-
sity. Those demands are meeting with opposition
from individual islands, each one jealous of the other,
and the Royal Commission of 1939 never bothered
even to mention the subject. A University however
will be of no use if it attempts merely to reproduce the








curriculum of Oxford or London, and fails to take
account of the particular needs to be filled in the
islands.
So much for education. What then of the arts?
French Martinique can boast only of being the birth
place of Napoleon's consort, Josephine, and the eldest
Dumas, and so take some pride in the literary achieve-
ments of the great novelist. In the British West Indies
there is little imaginative literature published and
writers and artists of any talent generally go abroad.
Claude McKay, of American fame, is a Jamaican by
birth. The only major accomplishment in the field
of native culture in the British islands is the "calypso"
of Trinidad. The calypso is a popular song, spontane-
ously composed, with a refrain, sung at the annual
carnivals. These songs, some vulgar and banal in the
extreme, have become a vehicle for social philosophies,
for satirical quips on men and matters of local and
world importance. Advice to young women that it is
better to be a young man's slave than an old man's
darling, to young men to avoid old women and marry
ugly girls; the "sweetness" of black women; local
events such as a cricket match, a grand fire, a white
man caught by his wife caressing the black servant, the
island riots of 1937; visits of the Graf Zeppelin, royal
honeymooners, President Roosevelt; international
occurrences such as the abdication of Edward VIII, the
Munich settlement, the Italo-Ethiopian War-these are
the themes, always amusing, invariably clever, of these
local songs. In some of them the addition of a few
words in "patois", as a language unknown to the
whites, adds to the interest and often to the vulgarity.
Compare, on the other hand, the rich contributions
of the Negro in Cuba. Two of Cuba's greatest poets
in the slavery era were Placido, a free mulatto, and
Manzano, a Negro slave. By the end of the nineteenth








century Brindis de Salas, a famous Negro pianist, had
attained a European and American reputation, and
was known as "the Black Paganini" and "the king of
the octaves". Negroes have made such a contribution
to the art of Cuba, as much as the Indian in South
America, that Dr. Fernando Ortiz has said that "the
Indian in Cuba was the Negro." Today one of Cuba's
leading sculptors is the mulatto Ramos Blanco, a
former policeman, whose bust of the outstanding
colored Cuban general, Antonio Maceo, has recently
been acquired by Howard University. Many of Cuba's
public monuments have been sculptured by Negroes;
one of the most famous, the monument to the mother
of the Maceos, in the Mariana Grajales Park, is the
work of Ramos Blanco. Another excellent work of
this artist is his bust "Cuba", representing the three
blood strains of Cuba, white, Negro, and mulatto.
At the art school of San Alejandro, out of a faculty of
twenty-six, four are Negroes, one of them being Ramos
Blanco. An honor student of that school, Caridad
Ramirez Medina, is today curator of the works of art
in Cuba's Capitol. The two most distinguished poets
in Cuba today are Nicholas Guill6n, a mulatto, one of
whose collections, "West Indies Ltd", shows a Carib-
bean consciousness rare in the particularism of the
area; and Regino Pedroso, a mixture of Asiatic and
white. The well-known soprano, Zoila GAlvez, called
the "Marian Anderson of Cuba", is a mulatto. Two
years ago the mulatto painter, Alberto Pefia, familiarly
known as Pefiita, died, leaving a gap not only in the
artistic life of Cuba, but in that of Latin America. His
work was the work of a rebel, his themes the economic,
political and social life of Cuba. After Price Mars,
the eminent sociologist, one of Haiti's foremost men
of letters is Jacques Roumain. Afro-Antillean poetry
in Puerto Rico is represented by Luis Pales Matos.
81








What is the reason for the overwhelming superiority
of Cuba? A partial explanation is probably to be
found in the relative independence of Cuba, particularly
since 1898. That is not the whole answer, if we con-
sider that Cuba was a Spanish colony up to 1898. But
even under Spanish rule there was a distinct Cuban
nationality, in fact if not in law. If the Spanish
heritage has not entirely disappeared, at least political
emancipation made it possible for a national art, a
national literature to arise, drawing from the soil in
which it sprung. There is no distinct nationality in
the British or French islands, only a parasitic clinging
to the Old World and Old World ideas which have no
place in the New or in communities of different origin
and different economic foundation. As elsewhere in
the world, a native art, a native literature can arise
only when the dead hand of alien control is removed.
When that time comes, the Negro will, as elsewhere,
play his part in that rebirth.










CHAPTER VIII


THE POLITICAL PROBLEM

With the transportation of the Negro from Africa
to the Caribbean the germ of political revolt was
transplanted to the New World. Contrary to the be-
lief widely accepted among both whites and Negroes,
the Negro slave was not docile and devoted to his
master. The moment he was placed on the small tubs
which made the Middle Passage, that moment he be-
came a revolutionary, actual or potential. His first
thought on reaching the islands was to run away to
the woods. He became the "cimarr6n" of Cuba, the
"maroon" of Jamaica, the "bush Negro" of Guiana.
No bloodhounds, no posses could hunt him out and
the existence of the runaways had to be recognized by
the island governments, leaving a standing example to
the less fortunate slaves, who resorted to suicide, abor-
tions, poison, murder, anything to cheat the slave-
owner. White historians have never been able to
understand this. The planter might think the state of
slavery eternal, ordained by God, fortified by scrip-
tural precepts, but why should the slave think the
same? Slavery was a state of war, a constant struggle
for freedom on the part of the slave. Liberty or
death I We have a Patrick Henry in America, a Tous-
saint L'ouverture in Haiti. To the Negro, least of all
races in the world, was this a meaningless platitude.
A correct idea of the revolutionary role of the Negro
slave is necessary to an appreciation of the political
activity of the Negro freeman. As in the United
States, the Negro slave in the Caribbean fought for
his freedom. As early as 1503 there was a slave
83








rebellion in Cuba. The great slave revolt in French
Saint Domingue, the great slave leaders L'ouverture,
Dessalines, Christophe, are only one episode in the
chapter of Negro slave revolutions. The revolt of
Aponte in 1812, the conspiracy of 1844 in which the
poet Placido was framed and shot, made Cuban slave-
owners apprehensive of a Cuban Saint Domingue. In
1833 the slaveowner in the British colonies was "sit-
ting, dirty and begrimed, over a powder magazine,
from which he would not go away, and he was hourly
afraid that the slave would apply a torch to it." The
French decree of 1848 abolishing Negro slavery found
that institution already abolished in the French colonies
by independent action of the governors in the face of
the threatening attitude of the slaves. The Cuban
slaveowners, fighting the mother country for inde-
pendence, could not afford the military danger of sabo-
tage from the slaves. The slaves were freed on condi-
tion that they joined the revolutionary armies, and
the achievements of Antonio Maceo, the high rank
he held in the Cuban armies, testify to the blows struck
by the Negro in his own and the island's emancipation.
The abolition of Negro slavery left economic and
political power in the hands of the former slaveowners.
Unlike the United States, there was no Reconstruction.
The political activity of the Negroes after emancipa-
tion centered on the destruction of the power of the
white oligarchy. It was a two-sided struggle. On
the part of the middle class it was a struggle for a
share in political power, for extension of the franchise,
for jobs. On the part of the working class it was
basically an economic struggle, a struggle for land
ownership, for better wages, for decent living condi-
tions, for the right to organize in trade unions. Some-
times the two movements would coalesce. In 1865
a rebellion took place in Jamaica urging the extension








of land settlement and political power: out of a total
population of 440,000 only 1900 had the right to vote.
The slogan was raised: "Jamaica for the black man 1"
Coming two years after emancipation in the United
States, the whites were in panic. The rebellion was
suppressed with the bloodiest cruelty with the aid of
the Maroons. Under the infamous Governor Eyre,
over four hundred were shot, one thousand Negro
houses were burnt, children's brains were dashed out,
pregnant women ripped open. What a Royal Com-
mission described as "reckless and positively barbar-
ous" floggings were administered to thousands, some-
times two hundred lashes each, with a cat-o'-nine tails
in the strings of which piano wire was interwoven.
The white aristocracy, fearful of the growing power
of the colored middle class who were beginning to
qualify for the franchise, themselves begged the home
government to be relieved of their self-governing status
and to be reduced to the rank of a crown colony, that
is, subject to legislation by the British Parliament. The
Water Riots of 1903 in Trinidad, which saw a mass
revolt in Port-of-Spain with the working class tearing
up the paving stones, ended in the appointment of two
colored middle class men to positions in the bureau-
cracy. But on the whole the two movements, middle
class and working class have remained clearly distinct.
Up to 1935 the middle class occupied the center of the
stage; since 1935 the working class have forged ahead,
and today the colored middle class have to choose, it
would seem, between the white aristocracy on the one
hand and the resurgent black masses on the other.
Let us consider more closely the nature of these two
political movements. First, the middle class move-
ment.
Juan Gualberto G6mez was the greatest political
leader of color in the history of Cuba. Born on a sugar








plantation in Matanzas in 1854, he died in 1933, a
Senator of the Republic, one of Cuba's great men. He
was fourteen when C6spedes raised the standard of
rebellion against Spain and freed his slaves. G6mez,
from that day, devoted himself to his double task, the
freedom of Cuba and the redemption of the Negro.
Throughout his career he remained a Cuban first and
a Negro second. Founder of a newspaper "Frater-
nity", his whole life was a repetition of the theme that
the indispensable basis of Cuban nationhood was the
union of whites and Negroes. Cuba, he always in-
sisted, was not Haiti. In the French colony the non-
whites had outnumbered the whites 24:1, in the Span-
ish colony the whites outnumbered the non-whites 2:1.
The Cuban slaves could therefore harbor no designs
of vengeance. G6mez, harping on this theme, played
no mean role in the chain of conspiratorial events
which resulted in the independence of Cuba. He was
a close friend of Marti and other revolutionary lead-
ers. Jailed repeatedly for sedition and separatism, he
was elected a member of the revolutionary assembly
and representative in the Constituent Assembly, and
this great colored champion of the independence of
Cuba from Spain was one of the leaders of the "anti-
plattistas" or opponents of the Platt Amendment
imposed by the United States. It was G6mez who
was selected in 1901 to express the views of a special
parliamentary commission on the Platt Amendment.
Accepting the conditions that Cuba should sign no
treaty or contract no debts with foreign powers other
than the United States, he resolutely opposed the clause
giving the United States the right of intervention in
Cuban affairs. It would be to give up the key to
Cuba's house, it would make the Cuban statesmen the
docile instruments of a foreign and irresponsible power.
The demand for naval and coaling stations could not
86







be granted. The terms of the United States Govern-
ment were harsh, onerous and humiliating, a limita-
tion of Cuba's independence and sovereignty. Had the
United States fought and defeated Spain or Cuba ?1
This was not a Negro speaking, it was a Cuban.
It was the language of a Cuban patriot who had
studied in Paris and travelled in Mexico. It was the
language of a Cuban champion who would be given
the Grand Cross of Carlos Manuel de Cespedes for
his services to Cuba. It was the language of a man
who, in a Latin environment, was first a man and only
incidentally a man of color. Where Frederick Douglass
was the voice of the Negro, Gualberto G6mez was the
voice of the Cuban. In the United States there were
Negroes who were nationalists, in the Caribbean there
were nationalists who were Negroes.
What Juan Gualberto G6mez was to Cuba, Jose
Celso Barbosa was to Puerto Rico, an eminent colored
middle class leader, voicing the aspirations not of his
race but of his compatriots of all races in a period of
transition and adjustment. Born in 1857, Barbosa
died in 1921; like G6mez respected and honored by
all, irrespective of race or color. His grandfather had
received a Cross of Merit for his bravery in suppress-
ing a slave rising on a large plantation in Toa Baja,
and throughout his long career the grandson was to
prove himself a Puerto Ricai, and only incidentally a
colored Puerto Rican. Like G6mez an ardent sup-
porter of separatism from Spain, Barbosa differed
from the Cuban in his attitude to the new power in the
Caribbean, the United States. The two most famous
men in Puerto Rico in 1897 were Mufioz Rivera, white,
and Jos6 Barbosa, colored. The one founded the
Federal Party, the other the Republican Party. An
American, white or Negro, would be tempted to
assume that Barbosa was the champion of the Negro
87








minority and Rivera the champion of the white major-
ity. There was essentially no difference between the
two party leaders, except this; they both were opposed
to the perpetuation of Puerto Rico's colonial status,
they both wanted statehood (Puerto Rico's incorpo-
ration into the new mother country as the forty-ninth
state), but whereas Rivera favored complete independ-
ence if the demand for statehood was refused, Bar-
bosa wanted statehood, the whole of statehood, and
nothing but statehood. He was opposed to the crea-
tion of an independent republic on the Cuban pattern.
Nominated member of the island's Executive Council
five consecutive times by Presidents of different parties
in the United States, Barbosa spoke for Puerto Rico.
He opposed plantations of more than five hundred
acres, he favored the use of English in the schools as
the official language. There was nothing specifically
concerning the Negro in his political activity, except
an attempt to get scholarships for students of color
to the United States, where he himself had studied.
Honored by his alma mater,' Michigan, with an hon-
orary Master of Arts in 1903 and by the University
of Puerto Rico with an honorary Doctor of Laws in
1917, Barbosa was an excellent Puerto Rican, a
prominent and well-loved citizen, whose name has
been commemorated by one of the streets of San Juan.
Like G6mez he was a Negro by the accident of birth.2
What has been said of Cuba and Puerto Rico is
broadly true of the other areas. In Haiti the issue is
clear. The middle classes are the government, Euro-
pean in outlook, gradually becoming American. The
career of Ulisses Heureaux, one-time President of the
Dominican Republic, is an example of mulatto prestige
in that republic. Before the Vichy regime French
islands enjoyed a large measure of autonomy. They
were dominated by the middle class, and with the priv-







ilege of sending one senator and two deputies each
to the parliament in Paris, a Candace or a LUmery was
given an opportunity to hold forth on a larger stage
and in front of a larger audience. The British West
Indies, especially since 1918, saw an increasingly vocif-
erous demand on the part of the middle classes for
racial equality in the civil service, democratic institu-
tions, widening of the franchise, constitutional reform
and federation of the islands. Representative associa-
tions sprang up throughout the islands. As a result
of this agitation the Colonial Office sent Major Wood
(now Lord Halifax) to visit the colonies in 1921.
Major Wood opposed the idea of federation, recom-
mended the introduction of a minority of middle class
elected members into the Legislative Councils on a
restricted basis (as seen above), and gave the British
Government a warning which it is not inappropriate
to recall today: "The whole history of the African
population of the West Indies inevitably drives them
towards representative institutions fashioned after the
British model. .We shall be wise if we avoid the
mistake of endeavoring to withhold a concession ulti-
mately inevitable until it has been robbed by delay
of most of its usefulness and of all its grace."8
The concessions recommended in the Wood Report
failed to satisfy the rising consciousness of the colored
class. In addition the tendency in the Caribbean was
to put the clock back rather than forward. The elected
members, colored, of the Legislative Council in Brit-
ish Guiana had control of the purse. As far back as
1907 an absentee investor spoke as follows about this
situation: "I do not believe that in any colony of the
Empire the white element should be subject to the
coloured, whether it be black, brown, or yellow-Afri-
can, East Indian, or Mongolian."4 From that time
up to 1927 a vigorous campaign was waged against
89







this system as not conducive to sound financial policy
and as vesting power in the hands of a group perma-
nently divorced, under the Crown Colony system, from
responsibility. In 1928 Guiana was brought in line
with the other established colonies. The Governor
was given control of the purse, and the elected mem-
bers were swamped by a host of nominated members
introduced to secure an official majority.5 A local
Commission, appointed in 1934 to study the question
of the franchise, refused to recommend the lowering
of the income qualification and even inclined to raising
the standard in the hope that this would secure "a
purer electorate".6
It was in the midst of the dissatisfaction in the
islands that the British Government announced in 1932
a Commission to consider the possibility of closer union
between Trinidad and the Windward and Leeward
Islands. Immediately a West Indian Conference was
called in Dominica in November 1932 to elaborate a
Constitution based on federation and full elective con-
trol of the legislative assemblies. Enthusiasm was
great in the islands. The middle class associations had
no program specifically in the interest of the working
class, though the Trinidad and Grenada groups (signi-
ficantly called Workingmen's Associations) advocated
slum clearance and workmen's compensation. Yet this
liberal, narrowly middle class program attracted wide-
spread mass support. The Dominica Conference
foundered on the rock of the franchise. No agree-
ment could be reached on the question of adult suffrage,
and the compromise adopted, permitting each colony
to settle its own franchise qualifications, showed clearly
the unsympathetic attitude of the colored middle class
to the aspirations of the barefooted man. The Com-
mission itself opposed the idea of federation, endorsed
the system of nomination of some councillors, and was
90







emphatic in its opposition to "the grant of universal
adult suffrage until the present standard of education
in -the islands has greatly advanced."7 The Negro is
deliberately denied education, and then his illiteracy
is used as an argument against the grant of the fran-
chise. As if education precedes democracy, instead
of following it I But the middle class capitulation was
complete. A government job for one of the radical
leaders, a dinner appointment with the governor for
another, an invitation to a party at Buckingham Palace
for a third, and the radicals vanished into thin air.
White aristocracy or black masses-the intermediate
colored middle class had chosen. The stage was set
for the barefooted man.
The events of the years 1935-1938 mark a revolu-
tion in the history of the British Caribbean islands.
The initiative passed from the brown middle class to
the black working class. Rawle, Marryshow and Cipri-
ani (a white liberal), gave way to Butler and Busta-
mente, Payne and Grant. It is no longer the aspira-
tions of the middle class, but the demands of the
working class, that are being discussed. Industrial
legislation, slum clearance, social services, compensa-
tion for agricultural workers and domestic servants,
land settlement-these are the questions of the present
and the future. These issues started that train of
revolt which spread from island to island and
attracted world-wide attention to the problems of the
Caribbean Negro.
At various periods before 1935 there had been
labor unrest in the British West Indies and attempts
at the formation of Workingmen's Associations. It is
significant that one of the most important of these up-
risings took place in Trinidad in 1919 during the
international unrest which followed the World War.
There was a general strike of the dock workers in Port-
91








of-Spain, the capital. The workers took control of
the town, and the chief of police admitted later at an
inquiry that he could not trust his black policemen to
shoot on the black masses. During this period of
international crisis, and for a year or two after, a not
very unimportant part was played by the Garvey move-
ment in the United States. The relation between Gar-
vey's United Negro Improvement Association and the
British West Indies is of importance both for what
it did not achieve and for what it actually did, as well
as for its significance for recent political developments
in the islands.
Garvey and his wife were Jamaicans by birth. Ac-
tive, anxious to take political action, significantly they
did so not in Jamaica but in the United States, where
they felt that, in contrast to Jamaica, political activity
could be carried on. They both were people of great
energy and ability, and they used the upheaval in
world society after the war and the large-scale migra-
tion of Negroes from the South to the North as a basis
for a tremendous mass movement. Garvey recruited
many of his lieutenants from the West Indies, people
who, one may presume, would naturally have been
political leaders in the islands had they found sufficient
scope there. What is remarkable, however, is that
as the movement grew in the United States, it had
serious repercussions in the West Indies, and, in the
days when the movement was at its height, Garvey's
paper was widely sold in the islands. The government
of Trinidad banned it, which did not prevent its active
circulation. Groups of Garveyites were formed who
sent money and followed the history of the movement
closely. The islands were represented by delegations
at conventions of the U.N.I.A.
While there was not much to be seen in the islands
in the way of concrete organization, it is unquestion-
92








able that the Garvey Movement in the United States
exercised an extraordinary stimulating effect upon
Negro race consciousness among the poorer classes
of the British West Indies. For Garvey's appeal was
not so much to the Negro in general as to the man with
a black skin in particular. The influence he exercised
was almost exclusively confined to the masses, and the
West Indian middle classes were, almost without ex-
ception, viciously hostile. Had a movement of the
Garvey type existed in the United States during 1932
or 1933, during the depression, it would have had
incalculable effects upon the recent movements in the
West Indies, not only as a political stimulus but as a
factor in their concrete organization.
Consider the chronology of these fateful years
1935-1938. A sugar strike in St. Kitts, 1935; a revolt
against increase of customs duties in St. Vincent, 1935;
a coal strike in St. Lucia, 1935; labor disputes on the
sugar plantations of British Guiana, 1935; an oil
strike, which became a general strike, in Trinidad,
1937; a sympathetic strike in Barbados, 1937; revolt
on the sugar plantations in British Guiana, 1937; a
sugar strike in St. Lucia, 1937; sugar troubles in
Jamaica, 1937; dockers' strike in Jamaica, 1938. Every
governor called for warships, marines and aeroplanes.
The torch had been applied to the powder barrel.
Total casualties amounted to 29 dead, 115 wounded.
The "agitators" and "hooligans", as they were
called, were men of the people. Uriah Butler, the
leader in Trinidad, uneducated, with a queer political
concoction of God, Marx and the British Empire, yet
withal a man of great sincerity, was an ex-serviceman,
discriminated against in the first World War, exploited
on the Trinidad oilfields. The calypso "Murder at
Fyzabad" expressed public feeling in referring to him
as "the Great Butler", and public opinion in the island
93




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