VOLUME 30 NO. 2
Copyright reserved and reproduction without permission strictly forbidden.
I Samuel Johnson's Jamaica Connections
18 C. L. R. James: "Cleaning up the Mess" in the 1966 Trinidad-Tobago Election
33 Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands: Autobiography as literary
genre and a window to character
48 A Jamaican Export to Nigeria! The Life of Amos Stanley Wynter Shackleford
60 Learie Constantine: The Writer
76 Middle Passage: The Long Water
;Ama Ita Osa
Notes on Contributors
Instructions to Authors
cover: Portrait of a Black Man attributed to Sir Joshua Reynolds is said to be that of Irancis
Photograph reproduced courtesy of Mcnil Foundation Inc.. Houston, Texas. Photographers:
y & Robertson, Houston.
UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES
The Hon. R. M. Nettleford, O.M., Professor of Extra-Mural Studies (Editor)
G. M. Richards, Pro Vice-Chancellor, St. Augustine, Trinidad
Roy Augier, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Mona, Jamaica
Keith Hunte, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Cave Hill, Barbados
Lloyd Coke, Department of Botany, Mona
Neville McMorris, Department of Physics, Mona
Janet Liu Terry, Associate Editor
All correspondence and contributions should be addressed to:
Department of Extra-Mural Studies.
University of the West Indies.
Mona. Kingston 7. Jamaica.
We invite readers to submit manuscripts or recommend subjects which they would
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Subscription orders may be forwarded to the Editor or the Resident Tutor at the
University Centre in any West Indian Territory served by this University.
This issue of Caribbean Quarterly carries accounts of aspects of the lives and achieve-
ments of five Caribbean personalities who have roused the interest of researchers and
writers because they had been ignored or faded from the limelight through neglect.
John Ingledew, himself literary man, reveals in Samuel Johnson's Jamaican Connec-
tions a keen eye of the historian describing the sojourn of an early migrant from Jamaica,
Francis Barber, who as manservant in the famous lexicographer's household had 'given
great satisfaction ..', but who was no Uncle Tom, since he ran away twice from the
Johnson home by the time he had reached his sixteenth birthday. 'Frank' as he was
known by his friends was obviously of an engaging personality for 'he mixed on friendly
terms with many of the most distinguished men of the time who flocked round the
doctor.' His marriage to Elizabeth Ball was not considered a treason of the blood by their
acquaintances. The marriage from all accounts was a happy and successful one. Francis
Barber's relationship with his employer and his friends was not one-dimensional and went
far beyond the confines of master-servant, slave-owner continuum.
"Pan-Africanist, pamphleteer, playwright, mentor to a Prime Minister, novelist,
cricket correspondent, Marxist theoretician and activist, historian . ." are some of the
roles that C.L.R. James performed in his fruitful and busy career. Consuelo Lopez only
looks at one, but significant, period of James' life, when he emerged to take on Cleaning
Up the Mess in the 1966 Trinidad-Tobago Elections, during which he was able to follow
his own previous directives. Dr Lopez writes: "Sobering experience taught him [James]
the need to expel troublesome members, to guard editorship and to keep a keen eye on
party finances". He started a political newspaper, because 'more than any other West
Indian, James knew the persuasive power of a political press'. Thus began We, the People,
which apart from propaganda, was a 'vehicle to educate the public on issues of political
and social significance'. Not only did James want to persuade his readers to support his
Marxist-Populist ideology, but he also wanted to promote a nat-ional community. He
envisioned the future of the West Indies as a federated state, a modern version of early
deal: the city states of ancient Greece. In fact, his philosophy in praxis. Notwithstanding
at James lost his deposit, he remains one of the most eloquent orators of his time and
s uniqueness persists: to be admired and emulated for, despite his Marxist orientation, he
n genuinely be called a 'free thinker'.
In high-minded circles pique cannot be allowed to inspire scholarship but a slight,
ever small, should not be allowed to pass in a just cause especially if it is to return an
.on to its rightful place. That task was undertaken by Christine Craig who in the Won-
erful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands... expresses a 'strong desire to vindi-
ate' the Creole woman who has encountered the 'bad press' from journal writers like
ady Nugent, and who has been 'reviled in the nineteenth century and in contemporary
theatre, much parodied in Jamaica, drawling away in a dreadful accent, showing her ignor-
ance and class prejudice in every sentence'. Christine Craig claims that Mary Seacole was
Jamaica's first published woman writer, a woman of confidence and action, she provides
for us an eye, recording outside events while unfolding facets of her own character in a
most readable and enjoyable book. As is well known, 'the yellow doctress' also nursed the
sick and dying in the Crimean War where she had gone 'on her own steam' because she
met with failure when "she tried to enlist as a nurse's aide". With touching naivete she
asks in her book, "Was it possible that American Prejudices against colour had some root
here? [Imperial and mother England] Did these ladies shrink from accepting my aid
because my blood flowed beneath somewhat darker skin than theirs?". Oilers eventually
was the healthiest response to racial discrimination: shrugged off, if it were slight and
fought off, when it mattered.
Joining the Mainstream has one pre-eminent danger -- of being engulfed by it so
much so that nothing is distinguishable. Yet, there are those who whilst joining the
mainstream remain to define it and they achieve the kind of prominence that seems to be
unavoidably theirs. This success was attained by one Jamaican to Nigeria, Amos Stanley
Wynter Shackleford, who in his life had regarded himself 'first and foremost as a Nigerian
..' Shackleford was a moderately successful baker, businessman, politician, an active
pan-Africanist and Garveyite, who had the foresight to advise American blacks to remain
in America and 'build large-scale industries to create jobs for themselves' because he said
'in Africa, we already have sufficient labour. What we need is direct outlets for our raw
materials' and had 'hoped there would be increased trade between blacks of the two con-
tinents'. Author Rino Okonkwo has done the Caribbean a service by bringing Shackleford
Learie Constantine the legendary West Indian cricketer is the final figure of interest
in this issue of Caribbean Quarterly. Frank Birbalsingh reflects on a less known facet of
Learie Constantine: The Writer. With seven books to his name he could have become
famous on his writing only. However, Birbalsingh writes: "Cricket was his vocation. It is
doubtful whether he would have achieved as much as lie did if he did not excel at cricket.
and if he did not have the opportunity to demonstrate his excellence". With C. L. R.
James' assistance and collaboration, Constantine wrote his first book Cricket and I. The
lucid commentary and dramatic reconstruction of incidents found in his first book
appear in later books which, presumably written without James' help, leads Birbalsingh
to conclude that Constantine was 'no mean writer himself.
Two Poems: Words by Edward Baugh and Middle Passage: The Long Water by Ama Ita
Osa complete the issue.
SAMUEL JOHNSON'S JAMAICAN CONNECTIONS
One of Jamaica's earliest emigrants, and one who deserves to be better known, is Francis
Barber, who became servant to that great and good man of the eighteenth century, Dr
Francis was born of slave parents, probably in the 1740s in the Parish of St Mary.
Possibly his father had belonged to William Barber or his descendants who owned a 450-
acre plantation in the same parish, taking his master's name, as was then common. By
1750, however, Francis was the property of Colonel Richard Bathurst, owner of the
4,000-acre Orange River Estate, one of the largest in Jamaica at any time, lying about five
miles south of Port Maria.2 It had descended to him from his grandfather, John Bathurst,
who acquired it in 1674. Richard was not a regular soldier: his title derived from the
Jamaica Militia.3 His marriage to Catherine Phillips on 22 June 1721 in St Andrew pro-
duced three children, the eldest of whom, another Richard, concerns us here. He was
baptized on 20 June 1722, also in St Andrew, and was later to be sent to Peterhouse, in
Cambridge, graduating as a Bachelor of Medicine in 1745. He moved to London to prac-
tise, becoming a physician at the Middlesex Hospital, then in its infancy, in September
1754,4 and forming a close friendship with Samuel Johnson during these years.
In 1750, according to Boswell,5 Colonel Bathurst left Jamaica for England, bringing
the young Francis with him. Apparently in poor health, he made his will at Lincoln on
24 April 1754,6 and died some time before 28 October, when his son applied for leave
from the Hospital to attend to his affairs in Jamaica.7 Although, according to his son, the
Colonel "left his affairs in total ruin", he bequeathed
to Francis Barber, a negroe whom I brought from
Jamaica aforesaid into England, his freedom and
twelve pounds in money.8
Boswell tells us that on arrival in England the Colonel had sent Francis to the
Reverend William Jackson's school at Barton in Yorkshire as a boarder.9 This schooling
was short-lived, since Francis was a member of Samuel Johnson's household in Gough
Square, off Fleet Street in London, a few weeks after the death of Samuel's wife, Tetty,
on 17 March 1752.
Uncertainty surrounds the date of Francis's birth. In July 1793, an anonymous
contributor to The Gentleman's Magazine, interviewing Francis in Lichfield, described
him, in seemingly contradictory terms, as "about 48" and "aged and infirm".10 Either
the writer was guessing his age (though "48" is an odd figure to pick on) or Francis him-
self was not sure. This would make 1745 his year of birth. Contradicting this we have the
evidence of a legal document, 'The Examination of Francis Barber', dated 4 October
1799, in which Francis made a deposition before a magistrate to protect himself against
possible deportation from the parish of Lichfield.11 After the printed phrase in this pro-
forma, "who saith that he is about the age of", the words "Fifty two Years" have been
inserted. This would advance his year of birth to 1747.
Both dates seem too late. It is unlikely that Bathurst, having brought an infant of
three or five years of age across the Atlantic, would at once pack him off to a boarding
school. Moreover, Francis was later to describe to Boswell Johnson's reaction to Tetty's
death with a circumstantiality and shrewdness of observation incredible in a child of five
or seven years:
From Mr Francis Barber I have had the following
authentic and artless account of the situation in
which he found himself recently after his wife's death:
'He was in great affliction. Mrs Williams was then
living in his house, which was in Gough-square. He
was busy with the Dictionary. Mr Shiels. and some
others of the gentlemen who had formerly written for
him, used to come about him. He had then little for
himself, but frequently sent money to Mr Shiels when
in distress. The friends who visited him at that time,
were chiefly Dr Bathurst, and Mr Diamond, an apo-
thecary in Cork-street. Burlington-gardens, with
whom he and Mrs Williams generally dined every
Sunday. There was talk of his going to Iceland with
him, which would probably have happened had he
lived. There were also Mr Cave, Dr Hawkesworth,
Mr Ryland, merchant on Tower Hill, Mrs Masters, the
poetess, who lived with Mr Cave, Mrs Carter, and
sometimes Mrs Macaulay, also Mrs Gardiner, wife of a
tallow-chandler on Snow-hill, not in the learned way.
but a worthy good woman: Mr (now Sir Joshua)
Reynolds: Mr Millar, Mr Dodsley. Mr Bouquet. Mr
Payne of Paternoster-row, booksellers: Mr Strahan.
the printer; The Earl of Orrery, Lord Southwell,
This has the ring of truth about it. I would hazard a date of birth around 1742,
making Francis about ten years old when he went to Johnson. That Francis was uncertain
or careless about dates, or that his arithmetic was shaky, or both, is borne out by the fact
that in the 'Examination' of 1799 he gave the ages of his children as 15. 13 and 10, when
they were 17. 15 and 12 respectively. Uncertainty about age is common in Jamaica even
in these days of public records and obligatory registration. and would certainly be so in a
slave society two hundred years ago.
There is doubt too about just how Francis happened to come into Johnson's service.
Apparently, after his short stay at Barton school, he went to live with Dr Bathurst.
Johnson tells us that Francis was "given me by a Friend whom 1 much respect", which
most commentators take to refer to Dr Bathurst and not his father. Of Johnson's admira-
tion for him there is no doubt:
My dear, dear Bathurst, whom I loved better than
ever I loved any human creature . Dear Bathurst
was a man to my very heart's content: he hated a fool
and he hated a rogue, and he hated a Whig. He was a
very good hater.
Bathurst wrote a number of papers for The Adventurer, published twice weekly between
November 1752 and March 1754. Though he was said to be a skilful doctor he told
Johnson that after ten years' practice he had never "opened his hand to more than a
guinea".14 In November 1754 he had obtained six months' leave of absence from the
Middlesex Hospital to go to Jamaica to sort out his father's financial affairs, and again.
after his father's death, he resigned from his post at the Hospital on 2 November 1756
and sailed for Jamaica, arriving at Barbados on 13 January 1757 and writing at once to
Johnson, and reaching Jamaica in March, "this execrable region" as he called it in a letter
to Johnson dated 18 March.15 Bathurst hated slavery, and was pleased that his father's
penury meant that he "was not under the temptation of having slaves".16 That word
'temptation' tells us a good deal about Richard Bathurst. He later became physician to
the British military expedition to Cuba, and died of fever at Havana in October 1762,
deeply mourned by Johnson, who hardly ever spoke of him without tears in his eyes,
according to Arthur Murphy.17 There can be little doubt that Johnson's own detestation
of slavery owed something to Bathurst's first-hand accounts of it. and that Bathurst must
also have been the source of many other informed allusions to Jamaica that surface in
Francis, of course, was still Colonel Bathurst's slave after he joined Johnson's house-
hold until freed by his master's death. Familiarly known to Johnson and his intimates as
'Frank', he served Johnson from 1752 until the latter's death in 1784, with two brief
interludes. The first of these was in 1756, when, "upon some difference with his master,
he went and served an apothecary in Cheapside, but still visited Johnson-occasionally".18
Nothing more is known of this incident, except that Francis soon returned to Johnson,
but it attests an independence of spirit, shown again in his second abscondment on 7
July 1758, when, as Johnson puts it, "being disgusted in the house he ran away to
It is mistaken. I think, to conclude that Johnson himself was the source of the
trouble in these two cases.20 The fact that after the first flitting Frank went on visiting
Johnson, and soon returned home, seems to argue against a quarrel or personal antipathy.
Certainly, Johnson, with his large, ungainly frame, his loping walk, his pockmarked and
scrofulous face, his nervous tics, violent bodily contortions and loud hectoring manner,
could be an alarming prospect, even to his friends, let alone a small boy thrust uncere-
moniously into an alien setting, but after four years Francis must have been used to him,
and known him for the most generous and affectionate man that he was. Frank's refer-
ence to Johnson's treatment of Shiels, quoted above, would bear this out. The clue lies,
I feel, in the phrase of the meticulously honest and precise Johnson. "being disgusted in
the house". A truly charitable man, Johnson had filled his house with society's waifs and
strays, who repaid him by vilifying each other and making his life at home a minor hell
from which he often longed to escape, as he told Boswell. "Discord", he said, putting it
mildly, "keeps her residence in this habitation."21 Some of this malice was directed at
Frank, an obvious target, and was no doubt exacerbated by Johnson's obvious partiality
towards him. Mrs Thrale, who played a major role in Johnson's life, and probably knew
him better than anyone else, tells us that in domestic disputes Johnson always took Frank's
part, which would hardly have endeared him to them. This unengaging bunch doubtless
expected Frank to fetch and carry for them, and his two escapes need not surprise us.
Since some of these inhabitants were alive when Boswell was penning his Life, his un-
willingness to go into details behind Frank's departure is understandable. The fact that
Frank served Johnson for the last twenty-four years of the Doctor's life, and all the
details we have of the relationship, indicate a compatibility of temperament.
Frank ran away to join the Navy on 7 July 1758. With the certainty born of total
ignorance, Johnson assumed that everyone must hate the sea, an element he had never set
eyes on, as he did:
No man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough
to get himself into a jail; for being in a ship is being in
a jail, with the chance of being drowned.22
Projecting this anti-nautical prejudice upon Francis, who certainly did not share it,
Johnson wrongly concluded that he had been press-ganged into service, and sought the
help of the novelist, Tobias Smollett, an ex-Navy man (and one with strong Jamaican
connections himself).23 Smollett obliged, with a clever letter to the notorious but influ-
ential John Wilkes, dated 16 March 1759:
I am again your petitioner, in behalf of the great
CHAM of literature, Samuel Johnson. His black
servant, whose name is Francis Barber, has been
pressed on board the Stag Frigate, Captain Angel,
and our lexicographer is in great distress. He says the
boy is a sickly lad, of a delicate frame, and particu-
larly subject to a malady in his throat, which renders
him very unfit for his Majesty's service. You know
what manner of animosity the said Johnson has
against you; and I daresay you desire no other oppor-
tunity of resenting it than that of laying him under an
obligation. He was humble enough to desire my assist-
ance on this occasion, though he and I were never
cater cousins; and I gave him to understand that I
would make application to my friend Mr Wilkes,
who, perhaps, by his interest with Dr Hay and Mr
Elliott, might be able to procure the discharge of his
lacquey. It would be superfluous to say more on the
subject, which I leave to your own consideration; but
I cannot let slip this opportunity of declaring that I
am, with the most inviolable esteem and attachment,
Your affectionate, obliged, humble servant,
That Johnson was willing to seek the help of Smollett, an agnostic, a radical and a Scot
(any one of which attributes was enough to ruffle his feathers) and that of the rakish
demagogue and Whig, Wilkes, whom he deplored, speaks eloquently of the depth of his
distress at Frank's flight. Wilkes, however, was a kindly man (whom Johnson later met
and liked) and doubtless had a better motive than that of laying Johnson under an obliga-
tion to him,and wrote at once to Dr George Hay, a Lord Commissioner at the Admiralty,
who ordered Frank's discharge. For some reason it had not been effected seven months
later and Johnson wrote directly to Hay on the matter on 9 November:
I should not have easily prevailed upon myself to
trouble a Person in your high station with a request,
had I not observed that Men have commonly benevo-
lence in proportion to their capacities, and that the
most extensive minds are most open to solicitation.
I had a Negro Boy named Francis Barber, given me
by a Friend whom I much respect, and treated by me
for some years with great tenderness. Being disgusted
in the house he ran away to Sea, and was in the
Summer on board the Ship stationed at Yarmouth to
protect the fishery.
It (would) be a great pleasure and some conve-
nience to me, if the Lords of the Admiralty would be
pleased to discharge him, which as he is no seaman,
may be done with little injury to the King's service.
You were pleased, Sir, to order his discharge in the
Spring at the request of Mr Wilkes, but I left London
about that time and received no advantage from your
favour. I therefore presume to entreat you that you
will repeat your order, and inform me how to co-
operate with it so that it may (be) made effectual.
I shall take the liberty of waiting at the Admiralty
next Tuesday for your Answer. I hope my request is
not such as it is necessary to refuse, and what it is not
necessary to refuse, I doubt not but that your human-
ity will dispose you to grant, even to one that can
make no higher pretensions to your favour than, Sir,
Your most obedient and most humble servant,
We can credit the "great tenderness" of Johnson's treatment.
Boswell narrates that Francis "was discharged as he has told me, without any wish
of his own", three days before the death of George II on 20 October 1760. He returned
to London where he found "his old master in Chambers in the Inner Temple".26 We may
also trust Johnson's statement that Francis was delicate in build and health. He had
escaped the toughening regimen of the Jamaican field slave, and was clearly susceptible to
the unaccustomed rigours of the English climate. In 1782 Johnson solicitously records
that "Frank is not well",27 and our 1793 journalist notes that "Frank was of low stature,
marked with the smallpox and has lost his teeth".28 Francis himself, in a letter to Bishop
Thomas Percy dated 16 December 1788, speaks of the "infirmities I have incessantly
laboured under, together with those attendant on age", when he was in his forties.29
Sir Joshua Reynolds, the foremost English artist of his day, notes in his engagement
book that 'Frank' was sitting for his portrait at noon on Thursday, 10 April 1767.0
Reynolds was one of Johnson's closest friends, and continued to write to Frank after
Johnson's death, as did Bishop Percy of Dromore, Boswell and other eminent men.
Francis mixed on friendly terms with many of the most distinguished men of the time
who flocked round the Doctor. It is interesting to note that he kept closely in touch with
his fellow-blacks in London. The Reverend Baptist Turner tells how, on entering Johnson's
ante-room one day, he found Francis in the centre of a group of negroes.31 Frank, it is
clear, was no lonely Londoner.
Boswell records that Johnson's
sincere regard for Francis Barber, his faithful negro
servant, made him so desirous of his further improve-
ment, that he now placed him at a school at Bishop
Stortford, in Hertfordshire. This humane attention
does Johnson's heart much honour.32
This was Bishop Stortford Grammar School (whose most famous alumnus is probably
Cecil Rhodes). Francis boarded with the family of the headmaster, the Reverend Joseph
Clapp, and continued to do so after Clapp's death in November 1767. for another four
years. The following letter, dated 7 December 1770, one of many Johnson wrote to
Frank at the school, reveals his fatherly affection:
I am at last sat down to write to you, and should
very much blame myself for having neglected you so
long, if I did not impute that and many other failings
to want of health. I hope not to be so long silent
again. I am very well satisfied with your progress, if
you can really perform the exercises which you are
set: and I hope Mr Ellis does not suffer you to
impose on him, or on yourself.
Make my compliments to Mr Ellis. and to Mrs
Clapp, and Mr Smith.
Let me know what English books you read for
your entertainment. You can never be wise unless
you love reading.
Do not imagine that I shall forget or forsake you;
for if, when I examine you. I find that you have not
lost your time, you shall want no encouragement
The reference to English books as entertainment reading suggests that Frank was receiving
the customary grounding in Latin. He apparently completed his schooling in June 1771,
when he joined Johnson on a trip to Lichfield, and in July, Lucy Porter, Johnson's step-
daughter. comments that Frank is "much improved".34 According to Hawkins (who,
characteristically, disapproved) the education of Frank, now in his late twenties, cost
Johnson 300, then a very large sum and one he could ill afford.35 It is clear evidence
that the relationship was much more than that of master and man.
Frank was obviously an engaging personality. All references to him except those of
the curmudgeonly and dishonest Hawkins and his acidulous daughter, Laetitia. and one
or two revelations of jealousy by Anna Williams and perhaps by Mrs Thrale. are warm
and friendly. He was clearly attractive to women. Mrs Thrale recounts that Johnson
told us however in the course of some chat, how his
negroe Francis had been eminent for his success
among the girls. Seeing us all laugh, "I must have you
know, ladies (said he) that Frank has carried the
empire of Cupid further than most men. When I was
in Lincolnshire so many years ago, he attended me
thither: and when we returned home together, I
found that a female haymaker had followed him to
London for love".36
Whether or not this is apocryphal as some think.37 what is certain is that Frank married
an English girl, Elizabeth Ball, on 28 January 1773 in the Church of St Dunstan's in the
West, the parish in which Johnson's home lay. Elizabeth had been born in the same parish,
and christened on 22 May 1755 in St Andrew's Church.38 She was seventeen, and accord-
ing to Mrs Thrale, "eminently pretty", Francis around thirty. Johnson took her also into
his employment. They accompanied him to Streatham Park, the Thrales's house, in
September 1776, and Johnson, writing from there to Robert Levet, remarked, "Francis
and his Wife have both given great satisfaction by their behaviour".39 They then returned
to Bolt Court. while Johnson went holidaying to Brighton with the Thrales. He writes
from there to Levet on 21 October, asking him to "remember me kindly to Francis and
From various sources it is possible to reconstruct the tenor of Francis's life. He per-
formed all the routine duties of a valet, overseeing Johnson's clothing, buying his pro-
visions, reminding him of appointments, answering the door to callers and announcing
their arrival to his master, or protecting him from unwelcome visitors, nursing him in sick-
ness even to the extent of bloodletting, reading to him when his sight was too bad to let
him do so himself, waiting at table, making coffee, fetching parcels from the post office,
and booking coach seats for Johnson's annual summer pilgrimages to such places as
Oxford. Lichfield, Ashbourne or Lincolnshire, on which he accompanied and looked after
his master. A number of tasks which Johnson thought might have been demeaning for
Francis he would not let him do, such as buckling his shoes, or buying food for his cat,
According to Mrs Thrale, Francis was absurdly jealous over Betsy. She cites how to
a birthday party and dance for her daughter Hester
Francis and his white wile were invited of course. She
was eminently pretty. and he was jealous as my maids
told me. On the first day of these amusements (1 know
not what year) Frank took offence at some attentions
paid his Desdemona. and walked away next morning
to London in wrath. His master and I driving the
same road an hour after, overtook him. "What is the
matter, child" (says Dr Johnson) "that you leave
Streatham today? Art sick? He is jealous (whispered
I). "Are you jealous of your wife, you stupid block-
head (cries out his master in another tone)?" The
fellow hesitated: and To be sure Sir, I don't quite
approve. Sir, was the stammering reply. "Why, what
do they do to her, man? do the footmen kiss her?"
No Sir. no! Kiss my wife Sir! I hope not Sir. "Why.
what do they do to her. my lad?" Why nothing. Sir,
I'm sure Sir. "Why then go back directly and dance
you dog. do: and let's hear no more of such empty
Mrs Thrale shrewishly adds
I believe however that Francis was scarcely as much
the object of Mr Johnson's personal kindness, as the
representative of Dr Bathurst. for whose sake he
would have loved any body or any thing. When he
spoke of negroes. he always appeared to think of
them of a race naturally inferior, and made- few
exceptions in favour of his own.
Johnson undoubtedly valued Francis as the gift of his beloved Bathurst. but he clearly
loved Francis for his own sake. The anecdote reveals a unique blend of affectionate
paternalism ("child". "my lad"). (Francis in many ways filling the gap of Johnson's
childlessness), exasperation ("blockhead"), and friendly and amused abuse ("you dog").
Ironically, one detects a strain of jealousy in Mrs Thrale's possessive attitude to Johnson.
If she is reporting Johnson's view of negroes and not her own (for she is occasionally
unreliable in this way), such an attitude would not be surprising, given the fact that his
experience of them was (like his knowledge of matters nautical) severely limited, and
inevitably confined to those severely deprived in terms of social status, fortune and
education. Indeed, a more enlightened view would be most unlikely at that time from any
Englishman, let alone one of such formidable intellectual powers as Johnson. If this truly
was Johnson's belief it in no way inhibited his humanity. Boswell records how Johnson,
who had always been zealous against slavery in every form (a viewpoint Boswell did not
share) was once "in company with some very grave men at Oxford" and startled them
with his toast, "Here's to the next insurrection of the negroes in the West Indies", behind
which one seems to hear Richard Bathurst's voice.43 In his pamphlet. Taxation No
Tyranny, Johnson ironically asks, "How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty
among the drivers of negroes?", referring to the American planters.44 He described
Jamaica as "a place of great wealth and dreadful wickedness, a den of tyrants and a
dungeon of slaves".45 It is possible that Francis. who possessed a reliable memory as
Boswell affirms, supplied some of Johnson's information about things Jamaican, although
so young when he left the island. Childhood memories can be strong and clear.
In 1776, at Boswell's request, Johnson provided him with an argument in favour of
Joseph Knight, a Jamaican slave who had been brought to Scotland by his master, and
was there claiming his liberty in the Court of Session:
It must be agreed that in most ages many countries
have had a part of their inhabitants in a state of
slavery: yet it may be doubled whether slavery
can ever be supposed the natural condition of man.
It is impossible not to conceive that men in their
original state were equal; and very difficult to imagine
how one would be subjected to another but by
violent compulsion. An individual may, indeed.
forfeit his liberty by a crime: but he cannot by that
crime forfeit the liberty of his children. What is true
of a criminal seems true likewise of a captive. A man
may accept life from a conquering enemy on condi-
tion of perpetual servitude: but it is very doubtful
whether he can entail that servitude on his descend-
ants: for no man can stipulate without commission
for another. The condition which he himself accepts.
his son or grandson perhaps would have rejected. If
we should admit, what perhaps may with more reason
be denied, that there are certain relations between
man and man which may make slavery necessary and
just, yet it never can be proved that he who is now
suing for his freedom ever stood in any of those rela-
tions. He is certainly subject by no law, but that of
violence, to his present master: who pretends no
claim to his obedience, but that he bought him from
a merchant of slaves, whose right to sell him never
was examined. It is said that, according to the consti-
tutions of Jamaica, he was legally enslaved; these
constitutions are merely positive: and apparently
injurious to the rights of mankind, because whoever
is exposed to sale is condemned to slavery without
appeal: by whatever fraud or violence he might have
been originally brought into the merchant's power.
In our time Princes have been sold. by wretches to
whose care they were entrusted, that they might have
an European education; but when once they were
brought to a market in the plantations, little would
avail either their dignity or their wrongs. The laws of
Jamaica afford a Negro no redress. His colour is con
sidered as a sufficient testimony against him. It is to
be lamented that moral rights should ever give way to
political convenience. But if temptations of justice
are sometimes too strong for human virtue, let us at
least retain a virtue where there is no temptation to
quit it. In the present case there is apparent right on
one side. and no convenience on the other. Inhabit-
ants of this island can neither gain riches nor power
by taking away the liberty of any part of the human
species. The sum of the argument is this:- No man is
by nature the property of another: The defendant is,
therefore. by nature free: The rights of nature must
be some way forfeited before they can be justly taken
away: That the defendant has by any act forfeited
the rights of nature we require to be proved: and if
no proof of such forfeiture can be given, we doubt
not but the justice of the court will declare him
Johnson's passionate conviction that justice and morality must be the basis of the social
contract and constitutional law lies behind the urbane rationality and masterly understate-
ment of this indictment of slavery. It has never been bettered and indicates what a great
lawyer was lost to literature. On 21 September Johnson writes to Boswell. "I wish parti-
cularly well to the negro",47 and on 22 July 1777. "1 long to know how the negro's
cause will be decided".48 Happily the Court took his view, and the case was decided, as
he put it. "on the side of liberty". As Boswell records. "a great majority of the Lords of
Session decided for the negro".49 We can be pretty sure that Francis was voicing similar
sentiments to his African friends in Johnson's ante-room.
Other Jamaican issues exercised Johnson. In November 1779 he is speculating on
the possibility of a French attack on the island.50 In July 1780 he writes. unavailingly, to
the Bishop of London on behalf of a young clergyman. Percival Stockdale. who wished to
be released to serve in Jamaica.51
After eight years of marriage. Francis's first surviving child, Elizabeth Ann. was
born and christened on 28 November 1781 at St Andrew's Church. Holborn. as her
mother had been before her. and named, apparently, after her mother, Elizabeth, and her
maternal grandmother, Anne Ball. Four other children followed: Samuel, born in
Johnson's house. Bolt Court. on 29 December 1783. and baptized at St Dunstan's in the
West. where his parents had been married, and obviously named alter Francis's master:
Anne, presumably named after her grandmother. baptized at St Chad's. Lichfield. on
7 November 1786: James John. born on 16 August 1787. and baptized on 18 September
at St Leonard's, Shoreditch. and named, surely, after James Boswell, Frank's constant
friend and supporter, who was writing to him in June 1787. a couple of months before
the child's birth, sending his compliments to Betsy. and receiving a reply dated 9 July
from Frank, whose heart. he said, was "full of joy and gratitude": and finally William
Alexander, christened at St Matthew's. Bethnal Green, on 19 April 1790. and named.
I fancy, after the Honourable William Windham, into whose care the dying Johnson
committed Francis, to be his protector and friend.52 The last three children, then, were
born after Johnson's death, but we can be sure that with his great love of children he
cherished Elizabeth and Samuel like grand-children. He had taken in Francis and his
whole family to live with him after Anna Williams's death in September 1783.s3
In June 1783 Johnson suffered a stroke which temporarily deprived him of speech.
He managed to scribble a note instructing Francis to fetch a doctor. As Johnson later
described the scene, Francis came in talking "and could not immediately comprehend
why he should read what I put into his hands". Johnson's recovery no doubt owed a good
deal to Frank's devoted nursing. In July there was a heatwave, and Johnson writes to
Hester Thrale that the thermometer was "I am told within four degrees of the greatest
heat in Jamaica", another likely echo of Richard Bathurst.54
Though nearing his end, the seventy-five-year-old Johnson was able to make one
last trip to his beloved Oxford in June 1784, and a trip to Islington with Francis on 25
November. In severe illnesses Francis had often helped to bleed his master, but in Decem-
ber the Doctor was so weak that Francis tried to prevent him from cutting himself to
relieve his chronic dropsy. Boswell tells us that
having no near relations, it had been for some time
Johnson's intention to make a liberal provision for his
faithful servant, Mr Francis Barber, whom he looked
upon as particularly under his protection, and whom
he had all along treated truly as an humble friend.ss
Hawkins relentlessly pressed Johnson to make his will, which he finally did on 8 Decem-
His next consideration was, a provision for Frank,
concerning the amount whereof 1 found he had been
consulting Dr Brocklesby, to whom he had put this
question "What would be a proper annuity to
bequeath to a favourite servant?" The doctor
answered, that the circumstances of the master were
the truest measure, and that, in the case of a noble-
man, 50 a year was deemed an adequate reward for
many years' faithful service. --- "Then, shall I", said
Johnson, "be nobilissimus; for I mean to leave Frank
70 a year, and I desire you to tell him so".56
'Nobilissimus he was. Apart from a few small legacies, Johnson left all his money and
books, plate, furniture and other possessions to Frank. Of the money, which Hawkins
calculated as around 1500, capital of 750 was given to Bennet Langton with instruc-
tions to pay Frank the interest of 70 in quarterly instalments. The rest was given in
trust to Reynolds, Hawkins and Dr William Scott for Francis. Needless to say, Hawkins
deplored this "ill-directed benevolence" and "ostentatious bounty and favour to
Johnson was equally concerned about Frank's spiritual welfare. Throughout their
life together he had prayed with and instructed Francis. On Good Friday 1775 he records
in his Diary. "I gave Francis some directions for preparations to communicate." On Easter
Sunday 1779, he notes. "I have for some nights called Francis to prayers and last night
discoursed with him on the Sacrament".58 John Hoole records that Johnson invited him
to stay the night of 20 November 1784
and join in prayer with him, adding that he always
went to prayer every night with his man Francis59
a practice not extended to other members of the household. Frank was one of those who
received Communion with Johnson when he last took it on 5 December. Johnson's con-
cern for him is seen in his request to Windham
that I would allow his servant Francis to look up to
me as his friend, adviser and protector in all difficul-
ties which his own weakness and imprudence, or the
force or fraud of others, might bring him into. He
said that he had left what he considered an ample
provision, viz. 70 per annum; but that even that sum
might not place him above the want of a protector.
and to me therefore he recommended him, as to one
who had the will, and power, and activity to protect
him. Having obtained my assent to this, he proposed
that Frank should be called in. and desiring me to
take him by the hand in token of the promise.
repeated before him the recommendation he had
just made of him, and the promise I had given to
attend to it.60
Clearly a solemn moment for all concerned. Boswell's brother David
the Doctor. from the time that he was certain his
death was near, appeared to be perfectly resigned.
was seldom or never fretful or out of temper, and
often said to his faithful servant, who gave me this
account. "Attend. Francis. to the salvation of your
soul, which is the object of the greatest importance:"
he also explained to him passages in the scripture and
seemed to have pleasure in talking upon religious sub-
Francis was present when his master died on 13 December. 62 and attended his funeral a
week later at Westminster Abbey.
It would be gratifying to be able to record that Francis lived happily and securely
for the rest of his days. but that was not to be. Johnson's friends Boswell. Reynolds,
Langton. Dr Burney and Bishop Percy were unfailingly helpful. and only Hawkins
obstructive, but Frank was soon deep in money troubles. Despite his later admission of
"imprudence",63 commentators have perhaps too readily concluded that he was extra-
vagant and feckless, and should have been able to manage on his 70 and more a year.64
A sympathetic look at Frank's circumstances may give us pause. however. In 1786 he
moved to Lichfield as his master had advised, and thus had to set up home from scratch.
His rent. 12 a year, took a large bite out of his income. In 1788 he is writing to Bishop
Percy for 50 which the latter owed him, to meet medical and other bills, "some of
which (were) larger than I ever expected". Betsy, he writes, had recovered from a severe
illness "with great difficulty", and his daughter Elizabeth was "continually subject to"
an unnamed indisposition, while he suffered "incessantly" from various infirmities.65
Apart from this continuous drain on his resources, his family grew from two children to
five by 1790, although two died in infancy. James in June 1790 at the age of two. and
William in October of the same year at five months. Betsy had gone back to her native
London for these confinements, and this and their subsequent funerals must have been
costly. It is possible, of course, that Francis, unaccustomed to so much money and to
dealing with complicated financial arrangements, was a poor manager. If we are to believe
John Smith, who wrote a biography of Frank's son, Samuel. "his parents were improvi-
dent, strove to make a figure in the world, lived above their means and dissipated their
property" 66 But Smith, who never knew them, was writing twenty-eight years after
Frank's death, and presumably got his information from Samuel. who was only three
when Frank was seeking Percy's help, and only seventeen when his father died, and so may
have known little of his father's monetary affairs. Smith is factually unreliable in many
other respects. He does tell us, though, that Samuel "was put to a boarding school in
Lichfield and had a liberal education" and that his parents ran a school (this was at Burnt-
wood a village a few miles from Lichfield to which they had moved sometime between
1793 and 1797). Thus, improvidence, if any, was not simply idle self-indulgence, but
embraced an admirable wish to give their son a decent start in life. Whatever the truth,
Frank's capital was gradually eaten away, and he had to sell off many of Johnson's
possessions: the watch, silver shoe buckles. inkstand. books, including his Bible, silver and
The anonymous correspondent earlier quoted described Francis in his later years as
clean and neat. but his cloaths the worse for wear, a
green coal: his late master's cloaths all but worn out.
He spends his time in fishing, cultivating a few pota-
toes, and a little reading . He was the companion of
Johnson: for as a master, he required very small atten-
tion. Mr Barber appears modest and humble, but to
have associated with company superior to his rank in
This shrewdly puts its finger on the paradoxical nature and the uniqueness of the fascinat-
ing relationship between these two very real and engaging people. It was a bond of affec-
tion and loyalty, closer to that of father and son than that of master and man. Despite
Frank's hardships, it is a picture not without its compensations.
Dr Richard Wright. who attended Frank in his final illness, in which he underwent
a painful and unsuccessful operation. was paid in kind with Johnson's copy of the 1620
edition of Juvenal's Satires. Frank died in Stafford Infirmary and was buried on 28
January 1801. His daughter Elizabeth died the following year, and poor Betsy, "sensible
and well-informed".68 who had now buried a husband and three children, moved back
from Burntwood to Stow Street in Lichfield, and with Ann's help, continued her school.
Hardship forced her to sell most of the remaining Johnson relics, including the manu-
script of his Annals, which Frank had plucked from the fire. part of a tea service,
Johnson's pocket book (which Mrs Piozzi bought from her), and the miniature portrait of
Johnson at the age of twenty-seven, which he gave her shortly before his death, a clear
token of his affection for her. She had kept it faithfully for over twenty years until "her
necessities and not her will", as she explained, forced her to part with it. Betsy outlived
Francis by fifteen years, dying on 8 April 1816. Their direct descendants still live in
1. Primary sources for Francis Barber are Boswell's Life of Johnson, ed. G. B. Hill (Oxford, 1934);
Sir John Hawkins, The Life of Samuel Johnson (1787); Letters of Samuel Johnson, ed. R. W.
Chapman, (Oxford, 1952); Fanny Burney, Diary and Letters of Madame D'Arblay (1842);
Hester Piozzi (formerly Mrs Thrale), Anecdotes of the Late Samuel Johnson (1786); Thraliana,
ed. K. C. Balderston (Oxford, 1942); Johnson's Diaries, Prayers and Annals, ed. E. L. McAdam
and D. and M. Hyde (Yale, 1958). Much of this material was assembled in A. L. Reade's in-
valuable 'Francis Barber, the Doctor's Negro Servant', Johnsonian Gleanings, Part II (350
privately-printed copies, 1912), which I have been able to update and correct from research in
the Jamaican archives and elsewhere.
2. There is no evidence for Christopher Hibbert's statement, The Personal History of Samuel
Johnson (London, 1971), p. 88, that Francis was bought as a slave by Colonel Batlurst. H. W.
Debrunner, Presence and Prestige: Africans in Europe (Basle, 1979), p. 118 says "he was
probably baptized in Jamaica", reversing A. L. Reade's assertion "it is probable that the cere-
mony ... was performed in England" (op. cit. p. 7). There is no evidence either way.
3. Jamaican Archives. John Wain, in his radio play, 'Frank' (1983) makes Bathurst a regular
officer in the British army who buys Francis from a plantation owner.
4. Minutes of the Special General Court, Middlesex Hospital, p. 276.
5. Life, i. 239, n.1.
6. Reade, op. cit. p. 3.
7. Minutes of the Board of Governors, Middlesex Hospital, p. 17.
8. Reade, op. cit. p. 3.
9. Life, i. 239, n. 1.
10. Vol. LXIII, Part II, No. 1, p. 619.
11. Discovered by P. Laithwaite and reproduced by A. L. Reade in TLS, 12 April 1934. He remarks
that if this "fifty-two" is correct, then Francis became Johnson's "manservant at the age of
three" an error for "five". More recent commentators have compounded the confusion over
Francis's age. Hibbert, op. cit. p. 88, says he entered Johnson's service in 1752 when he was
ten, but offers no evidence, Debrunner, op. cit., p. 118, gives c. 1735 as his date of birth, again
without evidence. John Wain, Samuel Johnson (London, 1974), p. 168, writes, "when the
Colonel died, his son evidently asked Johnson to take the seven-year old Frank as his servant.
There was no question of handing him on like a piece of property, since Colonel Bathurst's will
bequeathed Frank his freedom". Frank, however, was employed by Johnson two years before
the Colonel made his will. Margaret Lane, Samuel Johnson and his World (London, 1975) p.
123, follows Wain in holding that Francis was handed over by Dr Bathurst after his father's
12. Life, i. 241-2.
13. Ibid, i. 190, n. 2
14. Hawkins, Life, p. 235
15. Thomas Harwood, The History and Antiquities of the Church and City of Lichfield (1806),
16. Life, iv. 28
17. Ibid., i. 190, n. 2, i. 242.
18. Ibid., i. 239,n. 1.W.J. Bate, Samuel Johnson (London, 1978) p. 326 asserts that the apothecary
was a Mr Farren, but cites no evidence for this.
19. Letters, i. 124.
20. E.g. Debrunner, op. cit., p. 118: "Francis Barber had his difficulties with the temper of the
21. Letters, ii. 322; Life, iii. 368, 462. "Williams hates everybody; Levet hates Desmoulins, and
does not love Williams; Desmoulins hates them both; Poll loves none of them" (Letters, ii. 308).
"He nursed whole nests of people in his house, where the lame, the blind, the sick and the sor-
rowful found a sure retreat from all the evils whence his little income could secure them"
(Piozzi, Anecdotes, p. 85).
22. Life, i. 348.
23. Smollett sailed as second mate on HMS Chichester, arriving at Port Royal on 10 January 1741,
and again in February 1742, and lived in Jamaica for two years, marrying Anne, daughter of a
wealthy St Thomas planter, Charles Lascelles, who owned property in Harbour Street, East
Queen's Street, Duke Street, Water Lane and John's Lane, Kingston.
24. Life, i. 348.
25. Letters, i. 124.
26. Life, i. 349.
27. Ibid, iv. 142.
28. The Gentleman's Magazine, Vol. LXIII, Part II, No. 1, p. 619.
29. Reade, op. cit., p. 69.
30. Royal Academy Library.
31. Reade, op. cit., p. 15. This occurred at No. 1, Inner Temple Lane.
32. Life, ii. 62.
33. Ibid., ii. 115.
34. Letters, i. 258.
35. Hawkins, Life, p. 328.
36. Piozzi, Anecdotes, p. 216.
37. Hill, op. cit., i. 477 is sceptical since their only trip to Lincoln was in the winter. Balderston
takes 'Lincolnshire' to be an error for 'Hertfordshire', which they often visited in summer (op.
cit., i. 175).
38. See my 'Some New Light on Francis Barber, Samuel Johnson's Servant', NQ, Vol. 31, No. 1.,
March, 1984, pp. 8-9.
39. Letters, ii. 150.
40. Ibid., ii. 151.
41. Ibid., iii.168; Annals, p. 90, 280, 284, 322,326, 331,334.
42. Piozzi, Anecdotes, p. 216.
43. Life, iii. 200.
44. Ibid, iii. 201.
45. Ibid., ii. 476.
46. Ibid., iii. 202.
47. Letters, ii. 156.
48. Ibid., ii. 185.
49. Life, iii. 213.
50. Letters, ii. 323.
51. Ibid.. ii. 379.
52. See my note in NQ. op. cit.
53. Letters, ii. 331.
54. Ibid., iii. 53.
55. Life, iv. 401.
56. Hawkins, Life, p. 581.
57. Ibid, p. 596.
58. Johnsonian Miscellanies, ed. G. B. Hill (Oxford. 1897), pp. 71, 90. See also pp. 98, 103, 104.
59. Ibid, p. 146.
60. Diary of the Rt. Hon. William Windham, ed. Mrs Henry Baring (1866). p. 28.
62. Debrunncr's statement, op. cit. p. 118, that Joinson's last words. "God bless you, my dear"
were addressed to Francis, is incorrect. This was said to Miss Morris.
63. The Gentleman's Magazine, op. cit.. p. 620.
64. Hawkins, Life, p. 597: Laetitia Hawkins, Memoirs (1824), i. 153 4: Reade. op. cit., pp. 61, 72.
Debrunner, op. cit., p. 118, says, without evidence. "he was fond of display".
65. Reade, op. cit., pp. 69-70.
66. 'Memoir of Samuel Barber',Primitive Methodist Magazine (1829), x. 81 f.
67. The Gentleman's Magazine, op. cit., p. 620.
68. Letter from T.S.W. to The European Magazine (1810), Part 2, p. 275.
C. L. R. JAMES: "CLEANING UP THE MESS"
IN THE 1966 TRINIDAD-TOBAGO ELECTION
Pan Africanist. pamphleteer, playwright, mentor to
a Prime Minister, novelist, cricket correspondent.
Marxist theoretician and activist, historian and author
of The Black Jacobins, C. L. R. James used all avail-
able means of persuasion to encourage proletarian
movements. Born and raised in colonial Trinidad, he
launched his activist and literary career in London in
1932. As a lecturer of the Trotskyite Fourth Inter-
national, he moved to the United States in 1938. In
1939 he travelled to Mexico to discuss plans for an
independent black movement with Leon Trotsky. For
fifteen years, he led a small group of American
intellectuals, the Johnson-Forrest Tendency. In 1958.
he served as Secretary to the West Indian Federation:
and in 1965 he formed the Workers and Farmers
Party (WFP) to oppose Trinidad's ruling People's
National Movement. This essay focuses on James's
leadership in the WFP and his efforts to create a
"To establish his own identity, Caliban, after
three centuries, must himself pioneer into
regions Caesar never knew. "
C. L. R. James.
Beyond a Boundary
After several discouraging years of partisan leadership in the Trotskyite Camp,
C. L. R. James concluded that political parties lacking in strong mass support were
doomed inevitably to failure. However, when a call came from Trinidad in 1965 to help
organize a party to defeat his old pupil, Prime Minister Eric Williams, James took out his
partisan "equipment" from old drawers in order to meet a new challenge. The people of
Trinidad and Tobago, he believed, were tired of corruption and neo-colonial politics.
What they wanted was a new party organized among and by the grass roots.
Because he could no more stomach bandstand politics than tolerate sectarian cen-
sorship, James assumed the backstage role of party impresario. He had seen more than
enough of scheming in smoke-filled rooms as a member of Trotskyite circles: as a party
strategist, he worked at keeping a clean house for expressing political views. "Cleaning up
the mess", in fact, was something James performed with janitorial dexterity. Yet it was a
skill that had not come easily. From his home in London, for instance, he was unable to
remove the debris that Raya Dunayevaskaya had piled up within the Johnson-Forrest
Tendency. And after trying to patch up holes in Trinidad's nationalist movement, he had
been forced to put away his People's National Movement label in 1962 and return to
England. Three years later when James travelled to his native land as an "official" cricket
correspondent he was faced with house arrest but public outcry led to his release and
reinforced his plans to organize a new political force. He had realized that the job of
eradicating waste and corruption demanded ideological muscle, stout conviction, and
occasional ruthlessness. Sobering experience taught him the need to expel troublesome
members, to guard editorships, and to keep a keen eye on party finances.
He followed his own previous directives by beginning a political newspaper. In
Facing Reality, he had extolled "the success of the Marxist group" as centred around "its
independent editorial committees [whose] task is to recognize and record".' When the
Workers and Farmers Party was still in its embryonic stage, We, the People went into
More than any other West Indian. James knew the persuasive power of a political
press. His newspaper was more than a propaganda organ attempting to introduce his
party and announce its events: it was a vehicle to educate the public on issues of political
and social significance. Not only did James want to persuade his readers to support his
Marxist-Populist ideology, but he also wanted to promote a "national community". He
envisioned the future of the West Indies as a federated state, a modern version of his early
ideal the city states of ancient Greece. We, the People carried his vision of the West
Indies as a democratic nation wherein the arts flourished. To promote his vision, he pub-
lished poetry, essays, speeches, and short stories written by some of the most talented
writers of the West Indies. A four-page paper costing five cents. We. the People also
carried articles written by James on literature, labour, sports, government, "women's
concerns", and politics. Even though it tried to reach a wide public audience. James's
newspaper was, nonetheless, intensely personal. In it. one finds James's attitudes on a
wide range of social and political issues. Its language, visual images, and content express
the personality of a man strongly 'opposed to perpetuating capitalism and the colonialst
system. But, most important of all, the paper revealed James's belief in himself as a rank-
ing player in the political big league, a winner, like Lenin and Trotsky. of political
In its first issue. James drew a short biographical sketch to let readers know where
he stood on political issues. He began with essentials: the place and date of his birth, his
travels to Great Britain and to the United States, and his position as Secretary of the
Federal Labour Party. Writing in the third person, he explained that upon returning home
in 1965, he "decided to stay and help clean up the mess", adding, "he does not and will,
under no circumstances. get the hell out of here".3 Appealing strongly to his celebrity
status, James listed West Indian politicians with whom he had worked and played. He
added to this colorful array of dignitaries his friendships with acclaimed writers and
I have known all the writers: George Lamming,
Wilson Harris, Vidia Naipaul, Derek Walcott. Earl
Lovelace, etc. I have known all the cricketeers: old
'Cons' Andre Cipriani, George John, the three W's.
Ramadhin and Valentine, Sobers, etc.4
He wanted his readers to be fully aware that he was a man of experience and of much
talent. He stressed his authority and social status by stating. "I have known the writers
and the politicians there." And, certainly, he did know many an English writer and politi-
cal figure. His contacts with the West Indian community in exile were also extensive.
"Name anybody who did anything or who aspired to do anything." George Rawick said
of James's high position among London's West Indian circles. "anyone interested in the
West Indies came to see Nello."5 In addition, James encouraged readers to pay heed, if
not quiet tribute. to his talent for seizing and performing tasks which foresight led him to
accomplish. "No West Indian has ever written an autobiography." he wrote: "I will do
it only under one condition . that I publish it week by week in fifteen or twenty thou-
sand copies TO BI: GIVEN AWAY FREE."6 And he did publish an autobiography of
sorts in serialized form in We, the People.
While James's paper molded perceptions of a national culture, essays on world
affairs, especially on the Rhodesian crisis, brought readers closer to a broad. Marxist view
of a changing world. But, for the most part, We. the People unmasked the corruption of
the neo-colonial system and condemned Williams's anti-labour policies. Just a few months
before James's arrival. Williams reacted to the threat of growing strikes with an Industrial
Stabilization Act. James attempted to rally union sympathizers to his party by consistent-
ly attacking anti-labour measures.
On 25 June 1965. Ihe opening pages demonstrated support of Stephen Majaraj, an
opposition leader of the Democratic Labour Party. A headline crying out, "Samson and
the Philistines!", blended biblical allusion with political metaphor. "And Samson found a
new jawbone of an Ass . and slew a thousand men therein," James wrote, "not a thou-
sand, Stephen, only Six. Four gone."7 The headlines referred to Majaraj's attempt to
expel four senators from his party who had voted for the Industrial Stabilization Act. In a
powerful cartoon image of a towering Samson. Majaraj cleaned out "the bookshelves" of
"Trinidad and Tobago Politics" while two middle-class politicians peered in from a door-
way, saying, "It looks like he's cleaning out the mess," and "We'd better get out of it
quick." Trenchantly. James directed readers to join a Majaraj's struggle against colonial-
ism, intrigue, and corruption in government. Majaraj would soon be expelled from the
DLP for his actions: and partly as a result of this expulsion, he and James formed the
Workers and Farmers Party.
In the same way that lie had backed Kwame Nkrumiah. James publicly supported
Majaraj; for, like Nkrumah, Majaraj demonstrated the ability to represent coalitions.
James encouraged leaders who appeared to exert charismatic qualities and to express
themselves in the language most people understood. He was aware, too, of the influence
an audience had on a speaker. The crowd "spurs the athlete, the entertainer, the orator".
he wrote, "to excel himself by the applause and excitement of his audience".8 While he
pushed Majaraj into a front-place position in the public eye. however. James maintained
a "backstage" role as political strategist. He kept himself near enough to the spotlight,
nevertheless, to gain public attention: along with two other colleagues. he campaigned
for a senate seat.
In the second issue of We, the People, James's Public Action Committee presented
"a programme for discussion".9 Like most political programmes, it promised miracles. A
planned economy, full employment, public works projects, and reform of the Central
Bank were the programme's main points. What is important is not that his movement, a
coalition representing the interests of sugar and oil field workers, published its program-
me early in an election campaign, but that it presented a programme to initiate a party.
"You don't unite by choosing a leader," James wrote; "you unite by choosing a pro-
gramme."10 Thus, he put into effect what he considered to be a democratic means of
mass organization. "Democracy itself is today subordinated as far as possible to the exe-
cutive organization," he had written to American followers in 1963. "What is most strik-
ing is that the public, the mass of people, seem to recognize that instinctively, and lean
more and more towards supporting a particular individual leader as head or the decisive
factor of a political organization, of a government, and at the same time. mind you,
recognizing that these are absolutely unable to control, or to have any control over these
tremendous issues, some of which are a matter of life and death."" For James, leader-
ship continued to be an enigma. On the one hand. disdain for mass dependency on leaders
helped sharpen his belief in spontaneity and in the democratic powers of the people. On
the other hand, he realized that people have an inherent need for authorities able to
generate confidence and a sense of purpose. James's political decision to form the WFP
under Majaraj's leadership not only baffled James's more stalwart supporters, but it also
brought criticism from radicals who embraced his previous rejection of the party
vanguard. To this day, it remains a subject of controversy in the Marxist camp.
Nevertheless, by 9 July 1965. We. the People called for the formation of a party
organized by and for the grass roots. Now eight pages in length, it encouraged political
participation by appeals to the reader's sense of national pride. As in his early Pan-African
speeches. James addressed the creative capability of West Indians who stood at a cross-
roads between African and European civilizations. Its population, he claimed, had risen to
success in all spheres of achievement except in the realm of politics: that, still, was in the
making. "Look at any of the morning papers in England, in the United States of America,
or on the continent of Europe." James wrote, "you will see West Indians winning distinc-
tion in every field of endeavour . but the national brilliance deserts us when we have
to manage our political affairs."'2 In speaking before the electorate, he vigorously
carried home this theme.
"The Making of the Caribbean People" was James's most stirring appeal to West
Indian pride. Tied to his idea that "a new life" could only emerge with the acceptance of
a new party dedicated to a "national task" of independence, he instilled belief in the skill
and versatility of the people. West Indians, led by a revolutionary drive for freedom, a
force either long overlooked or blatantly disregarded by colonial politicians, he claimed,
"have learned far more than other people in similar situations have learned". To each
individual in the crowd, he spoke of the historical struggle to overcome indignity with
firm commitment to equality. "The difficulties we have met with, that stood in our way,
were difficulties of a breadth and weight which would have crushed a people of less power
and less understanding of the fact that we had to do all we could to get somewhere,"
he said. "In the history of the West Indies," he continued, "there is one dominant fact
and that is the desire, sometimes expressed, sometimes unexpressed, but always there,
the desire for liberty, the ridding oneself of the particular burden which is the special
inheritance of the black skin."'3
The emotionally charged speech ignored many of the issues of the election cam-
paign, one that debated agricultural programmes, education, "independence" and foreign
investments, and "subversive activity". James chose to focus on the "army of slaves" -
specialists who ran plantations, on the San Domingo revolution, and on the "descendants
of Toussaint's army": the West Indian "barefoot man", able to "hold his own with any
sort of people anywhere". And while comparing the rebelling wage slaves of today with
their defiant ancestors, James pointed a long disparaging finger at modern "house slaves,"
whom he scornfully called "the old gang" of politicians.14
James was equally concerned with gaining results. Knowing the pitfalls of dema-
goguery and of promoting change without mass support, he wrote that "whenever a
speaker or writer makes a serious political or social analysis, he or she must ALWAYS end
by saying what to do".15 Failing to indicate action leaves people "more apathetic than
before." he insisted: "you leave them with the belief that you. the speaker and your
friends know a lot of things, the audience must have to listen, and you and your friends
will fix it." He said that although this is "bad everywhere", it is "murderous in the West
Indies, where for so many centuries we have been trained in just listening to orders from
above". To radicals quick to inspire revolt, his words related caution. Before his assassi-
nation, Walter Rodney had heard and ignored them; had he listened and waited until he
had strong mass support, Guyana's social order might have been radically altered.
The first step in organizing for the 1966 election was to appoint an official organizer
within each constituency. "Pay half the salary of an organizer," James advised his public.
"while the political centre pays the other half." The organizer, he contended, "will in
time collect three or four times what he costs". Moreover, a meeting place and time had
to be established. "If your chairman does not stick to time." he wrote, "remove him and
put in somebody else." He told them to appoint a secretary and a treasurer and to buy
typewriters and plates for printing copies of documents. Because parties need to educate
aind to instruct people in decision-making, the third step in mobilization was to sell the
party paper "in tens of thousands". James insisted that true independence rested within
the people's ability to expand their knowledge of the world in which they live. "There is
nothing that you wish to teach them which they cannot learn," he wrote, "we, therefore,
propose to teach them how actually to practise democracy." Just as the paper instructed
readers in national affairs, weekly lectures on a variety of subjects would turn meetings
into forums for political growth.16 Furthermore. James believed that his own political
training provided a basis from which others could learn. He urged his public to read
Party Politics in the West Indies, parts of which were serialized in the paper for careful
study and analysis.
While charting the development of a political party. James used the press to educate
readers in literature, fashion, and sports. Trinidadian novels by Earl Lovelace and Michael
Anthony appeared in serialized form. Essays on West Indian literature and parts of James's
literary publications attested the intellectual resources of the nation. While the WFP
awarded the "C. L. R. James Trophy" to successful athletic teams. We. the People
sponsored literary contests for juvenile writers. Embedded within critical essays, sports
analysis, and controversial political dialogue, moreover. James added short essays whose
contents were deeply personal. "Without Malice." a weekly essay. began with a descrip-
tion of James's young son. C. L. R. James. Junior. "He is six feet three inches tall and is
just sixteen years old," he wrote: "he has my father's chest, shoulders, forearms and
hands." At least six feet two inches tall. James, Senior, continued in a jovial vein: "He
wants to come and see me so that he may see me having to look up at him." His humour
shifted to a gloomier tone as he stated, "this is no place for any son of mine."17 In the
following issue. James clarified his fears. Eric Williams had made a campaign issue of
"subversive groups" and had targeted the WFP for violent assault. Quite rightly. James
feared that if his son were to step "out of line" in any way, he would be arrested.
The Nation, edited by the PNM's Irwin Merritt. kept the issue of subversion before
the electorate, fingering the WFP weekly. In speech after speech. Williams assailed the
WFP leadership with cries of "Castroism" and "Communism." On 14 September 1965.
speaking in San Fernando. Williams demonstrated his ability to assault opponents with
the fear tactics of the militant Right:
Go out and finish up with the Marxist ideology which
goes to Havana, Cuba. and dares to sit down and take
part in subversive resolutions against the lawful
government of Trinidad and Tobago. To hell with
San Fernando put PNM in power. not Castro ... and
Castro has no business setting up any revolutionary
organisation in order to interfere with and disrupt the
normal development of Trinidad and Tobago.18
Throughout the campaign year. James was closely watched by Williams's security forces:
wherever he went. he was followed. Intimidation took the vile form of slander as the
PNM accused him and other WFP candidates of fostering "communist insurgency". To
combat his accusants. James publicly refuted their claims. Over and over again, in We, the
People, the Political Committee asked:
Who are the Communists in Trinidad and Tobago?
Who Plotted? They Plotted What? We have enough of
this plastering of the whole population with false
accusations. We shall print this continuously until
this political scandal comes to an end.
But James's efforts to overcome the "communist" label were inadequate. A height-
ened political "scenario" with James as a Satanic Marxist threatening the stability of the
nation gained credibility as Williams's security forces tailed him closely, creating the illu-
sion of actual threat. Williams's access to the public, moreover, enabled him to popularize
the notion that James's political activity constituted a personal vendetta. For James. this
was a difficult rumour to dispel. Publicly. he rebuked statements that personal feuding
was at the root of his opposition to Williams's regime. On 16 July, for example. James used
the paper to express his distress: "Why, in the name of Heaven, should I have a personal
feud with Dr Williams?" he asked. "What has he got that I want?"
In remaining above petty personal attacks. James demonstrated the Victorian
"school code" that is also the code of cricket: gentlemanliness. fair play. teamwork. He
met Williams's "rumour" with declarations of his own achievements in politics, literature,
and history. After listing the "widely received" books he had written, he added that he
also had "three books in hand". And to his native land. he had returned "to help all I can.
at great personal sacrifice". Of his temperament, he wrote: "I am never 'lewd', I never
feud . give me a break, please." If there were anyone with whom he had a feud, he
wrote, it was with Trotsky!19
In James's Beyond a Boundary, published in 1963. West Indian cricket illustrated
how people of many lands "came to maturity within a system that was the result of
centuries of development in another land."20 Wanting his paper to express the "national
community" for which he so much yearned. We, the People hammered home the theme
of a "motley crew" mastering the instruments of popular government. Because East
Indians and blacks had been stimulated by economic and political conditions to racialism,
James pointed out to the large black population that East Indians were an integral part of
Trinidadian society. He knew that the intense friction between the two had to be dispel-
led before sugar workers (many of whom were East Indian and who could identify with a
leader such as Majaraj) and oilfield workers (largely black who followed the popular
organizer, George Weekes) could unite in a solid front. He succeeded in persuading many
of Dr Rudranath Capildeo's DLP, originally formed to represent the labour interests of
East Indians, to back the Majaraj-Weekes alliance. They became part of the Workers and
Farmers Party, organized "officially" on 8 August 1965 at the Couva Community
James's party was deeply aware of the rift between the apparent needs of country
and city groups. Just as American populists had tried to bridge the gap between the two
groups. James tried to unite farmers with industrial workers by convincing farm labourers
that they need not fear mechanization. With education and a sense of national purpose,
he insisted, farmers would learn to adjust to a changing world, one that depended on
Agriculture, the victim of ignorance, neglect, and poor public policy, remained
stagnant in the newly independent nation. To encourage growth in this fundamentally
important enterprise, James suggested that lands be broken up into 250-acre lots to be
distributed to farmers for the production of sugar. He believed that Puerto Rico's Munoz
Marin had helped to create a new social category in his country by similar land reforms
and that the Puerto Rican "model" held promise for Trinidadians. Small farming, he
argued, would not only encourage local businesses but it would also break the domination
of the sugar plantations on the life and manners of the West Indian people. He hoped that
it would create national industries. Judging from the Puerto Rican experience, however,
James's land reform programme appears naive; for a great many of Puerto Rico's small
farmers sold their lands to move into Ihe metropolitan centres of the island and mainland.
Like Trinidad. Puerto Rico depends on the multinational corporations for employment
and imported goods.
James saw that dependency on foreign capital promoted a nation that would be
"independent in name only". The only viable route to self-determination, he insisted, was
the formation of a national community. "Faced with a national community," he wrote,
"the foreign power gives way. It is only when they find house-slaves that the blood
flows." For Independence Day. he drafted a "Declaration of Independence" asserting
belief in the creative achievements of the people of Trinidad and Tobago. In florid prose,
he alluded to a previous struggle against the crippling chains of dependency:
Following in the spirit of the great Declaration of
Independence made by the people of the United
States in 1776. we now propose to add another story
to the ever-growing structure of freedom and demo-
cracy which constitutes the guiding landmarks in the
history of progressive mankind.21
Like a playwright populating an historical stage. James portrayed his audience as
defiant actors quick to adapt to new scenes and to challenge inept directors. As people of
action, these inhabitants of the diaspora, descendants from the continents of Europe,
Africa and Asia, matured in their use of the language, theory, and practice of English
literature, Common Law.and cricket. Adding to the wealth of the population, he claimed,
were the capacities of West Indians and of numerically smaller groups of Chinese and
Syrians. Conceived in pride, the Declaration made it clear that "we do not claim our full
freedom in payment for injustices suffered in the past ... we refuse to burden ... our-
selves with constant recriminations, complaints, and still worse, begging unceasingly for
gifts and loans".22 To be truly independent, a people fought off all forms of colonial
domination. "Be it known." James wrote emphatically, "that all who stand in the way of
our fullest freedom we shall consider enemies, whether at home or abroad, to be fought
to the last ounce of our energy." In the militant words of a crusader defending a sacred
cause, James urged his people to fight gallantly for their freedom.
James wrote in the "tongue in cheek" idiom of the people. Challenging the multi-
national corporations of Texaco, Tate and Lyle, and the Royal Bank of Canada to
underline their democracy" by advertising in his newspaper, he brought guffaws from
readers accustomed to the pungent mockery of West Indian wit. Splicing his humorous
words into ribbons of tingling resolution, James taunted his critics. "We don't expect
champagne and cigars," he quipped, "but we expect a lively interest and tangible co-
operation." Grinning from his pages were playful words addressed to serious considera-
tions. He acknowledged that well-trained industrial workers would be created only if the
nation established cooperative enterprises with the multinationals. Sardonically, he pre-
dicted that an interchange of products vand economic development would follow "far
exceeding the cement, the fertilizer, the toilet paper (voices: Brassierres!) brassieres, and
Although James encouraged co-operative efforts with corporate powers, he reas-
sured his working-class constituency that organized labour would provide the socialist
orientation of the new government. Like many populists of the American past. however.
James ignored the means of incorporating the proletariat into the governmental structure:
he chose to emphasize its "benefits": less price "fixing", shorter working hours, holidays
with pay, and the improvement of housing conditions. Only his ',rhetoric" held radical
promise. "In order to defend the national interests against the imperialists and to further
them," he wrote, "trade unions will unite the national interests around the working
class."24 James would later claim that what he envisioned was a trade union movement
similar to that of Solidarity of Poland. Arguing that socialism had its firmest roots in the
trade union movement of Trinidad and Tobago, he encouraged the Weekes-Majaraj leader-
ship. But he failed, ultimately, to propose a government of workers' councils, a concept
he advanced in Facing Reality. The reasons for his "moderate" position were two-fold
and were rooted in a pragmatic analysis of modern West Indian society.
Recently freed from colonial domination, the West Indian people had still to sever
the psychological bonds of dependency. Limited in their experience of "independent"
government, they needed time to develop a national character. In addition, James was
aware that newly independent nations were ill-equipped to challenge the economic might
of the huge conglomerates and their associated banking institutions. Thus, to those who
demanded nationalization of the oil industry, he delivered solid blows of public dis-
approval, dispelling illusions of "creolization" with epigrams of "insanity". Liberal
stalwarts of quick "solutions" cringed when he wrote. "Trinidad has two and one half
percent of world production. To talk nationalisation is to start a fight you are sure to
lose: you, thereby, advertise your immaturity."25 Nationalization, he contended, was not
a "panacea": what had to be done, he claimed, was to "clean up the mess" in production
and "run it better".26 On 26 October 1964 James had told the parable of Mossadegh to
the West Indian Students Association in Edinburgh to stress his point:
Mossadegh had a lot of people in Iran following him.
And he said, 'we have twenty-five percent of the oil
economy of the world and we are going to nationalize
it.' So, he nationalized it. Then, the oil companies of
the world told him, 'well, boy, we could manage
without you. You can drink it and you can bathe in
it, but we are not buying any from you.' Poor
Mossadegh is in jail now. I hope they treat him well,
the old man: But he had twenty-five percent of the
You mean to say, somebody in Trinidad which
has two and a half percent of the world oil company
is going to set out to nationalize the oil? That is crazy
nonsense. You cannot play these games in politics.
People will lose confidence in you, not only those
who are outside, but the people themselves.
What are you going to nationalize? Are you
going to nationalise bauxite? What for? They will just
not bother with you. Besides, the moment you say
you are going to nationalize in Trinidad or British
Guiana, the man in Jamaica will say, 'we aren't going
to nationalize at all. Come here for nothing.' And vice
versa. If you say you're going to nationalise in Jam-
aica, British Guiana will say, 'boy, we haven't got that
in mind at all.' That is the way they carry on.27
While James used the paper and the platform to promote his party, it wasn't until
1 October 1965 that he announced that it was "ready for the election". As party impre-
sario, he instructed followers in the party's initial programme. A fortified press, increasing
the number of publications, would help disseminate their plans among a large portion of
the electorate. Organizing headquarters, holding a convention, and promoting an educa-
tional policy, therefore, depended on the strength of promotional tactics.
Five weeks later, on 6 November WFP delegates gathered at the Palms Club, the
recreational and cultural centre of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union, for their first con-
vention. It was a time of enthusiasm, bold leadership, and fierce agitation. Speaking
before delegates, James expressed certainty that "if we succeed in what we are attempting
to do, it will spread from Trinidad and Tobago like wildfire'.28 Zealous words sparked
memories of Uriah Butler's trade union agitation in 1937 and 1938 that helped shatter
the foundations of colonial rule. James proclaimed that not only would Caribbean neigh-
bours heed the importance of their electoral victory but that newly independent nations
would also feel its tremors:
I am quite certain that all the under-developed coun-
tries, particularly the countries in Africa. will be
watching us and what we are attempting to do and
will be able to take courage and to take a pattern of
the use that can be made of Parliamentary Democracy
in the achievement of revolutionary ends.20
In many ways. it was a typical convention address, filled with bright promises and the
vision of a new age. It was given during an era of widespread social change in the Carib-
bean, a time when many West Indians looked to Cuba as an example of a successful pro-
letarian state. Although James's reaffirmation of a commitment to Western democratic
institutions may have annoyed many radical Marxists, he assured a broad electorate that
his party had the potential to promote a stable environment at home and among nations.
He knew, in addition, that visions of another "Cuba" would have played into the hands
of Williams's anti-communist crusade.
After the convention, We, the People continued to publicize the WFP campaign by
announcing the times and places of speaking engagements. In October it "covered" not
only successful campaigns in Tobago but also a disappointing campaign in one strategic
area of the country. Whereas in Tobago hundreds of people at Scarborough, Delaford.
and Mount Saint George heard James describe the programmes and policies of the party,
in Shanty Town, among the very people he championed, he failed to attract adherents, a
fact gleefully reported in Trinidad's Daily Mirror.30
"Where the sun set on starvation and rose on potholed roads, thrones for stray dogs
that you could play banjo on their rib bones",31 the poor had been won over by a degrad-
ing system of patronage practised by the PNM. When James entered Shanty Town's
crowded streets, he was met by placards and besieged by interruptions. It must have
wounded the tireless nationalist who had written: "anyone who has participated in an
electoral campaign or observed closely key figures in it will have noted how a speaker,
eyes red with sleeplessness and sagging with fatigue, will rapidly recover all his power at
an uproarious welcome from an expectant crowd."32 James claimed to have encountered
only mild opposition in the impoverished community. "We started open air with five
people," he wrote; "the number went to twenty-five; it ended with over fifty." Acknow-
ledging that there were "interruptions and some debating ... there were placards", he
continued, "far from being heckled away, over a dozen people came to shake hands and
show goodwill when I said I had to leave."33
It was in teaching situations that James always held the awe of listeners. In October
and November 1965, he delivered six stunning lectures at the Couva Community Centre.
At weekly meetings he taught a sugar workers' study group about the political founda-
tions of Western civilization. Over the years. James had led Marxist study groups; now, in
his native Trinidad. his lecture and series recalled earlier attempts to enrich the minds of
working-class people in a setting outside the university. In the early days of independence,
Prime Minister Eric Williams, who had been educated in history at Oxford. addressed
huge crowds from an open platform on the square before the governmental palace. With
James often at his side, he instructed the crowd in their national history. Although the
days of "the University of Woodford Square" had ended, James encouraged "popular"
education by publishing his lectures in We, the People. He began his lecture series with a
discussion of "the Greek City State with notes on Heraclitus. Plato, and Aristotle". As he
had in Beyond a Boundary, he compared West Indian society with the early democratic
city-state. On 18 October, he lectured on "the City of the Middle Ages", drawing on the
ideas of St Francis, Dante, and St Thomas Aquinas. On 25 October, James spoke on the
"Birth of the Modern World", focussing on the contributions of Descartes, Cromwell and
Shakespeare. Rousseau. Jefferson, and the Haitian revolution were not neglected; they
provided an intellectual framework for his lecture on "the Birth of the National State and
the Concept of Democracy". Kant. Hegel. Ricardo. Marxism. and the Third International
were subjects fuelling their interest in the modern world. On 15 November, James gave his
final lecture of the series. "The Contemporary Crisis. the Welfare State, the One Party
State. Existentialism, and West Indian Writers" were subjects of wide range crammed
into the short span of a single address. "Come and listen to a Marxist analysis of society,"
James called out to his readers; "all those with the first volume of Capital by Marx -
bring it along."34
During the Christmas holidays. James set off lor England where the Workers and
Farmers Party found support among West Indian and African intellectuals. Writing from
London to Dalip Gopeesingh. Assistant General Secretary to the WFP. James said that
"everyone . has expressed great satisfaction with the Workers and Farmers Party". He
continued. "People have every confidence that the programme and policy is what is
needed in the West Indies." At a meeting of West Indian immigrants and at "African
House", he told the "full story" of the party. Several articles for the British press were
written: and before representatives of Africa. India, the West Indies. and Pakistan, James
spoke on Rhodesia.3s A mammoth rally of Afro-Asia-Caribbean Solidarity, organized by
the Council of African Organization (COA) at Conway Hall. Holborn, gave him the
opportunity to gain international support. It also advanced his stature as a leader of the
Pan-African movement, a cause he had celebrated for more than thirty years.
By early January 1966 James was back in his native Trinidad, running the party's
campaign from his home at 22 Ariapita Avenue. Woodbrook. Port-of-Spain. Repeatedly.
he reinforced the idea that the PNM was stooge of foreign investors. Williams counter-
attacked with stories of WFP "subversion". The election, as Williams later admitted, was
"a hard one" 36 Heavy campaigning by the DLP (popular among East Indians) and the
WFP prompted the PNM to hold numerous meetings. Between 1 May and 9 September
1966. Williams organized 55 public meetings: by the end of November, the number had
risen to 184. Williams's appeals to black racial pride antagonized a large portion of the
East Indian community. On election day, 7 November 1966. Williams realized that to
command a victory, the registration period would have to be extended. The "minor
faults" of voting machines enabled them to "win" the election. The defeated Liberals and
the WFP failed to win a single seat: all the WFP candidates. including James. lost their
deposits.37 With 68 of the total 100 seats, the PNM once again retained its power.
At the time of Eric Williams's death in 1981. the country had yet to come to grips
with massive unemployment, spiralling consumer prices, unequal distribution of wealth, a
failing agricultural system. inadequate educational programmes, exploitation by the multi-
national corporations, and, consequently, rising social unrest. Calypsonians still sing. with
irony and detachment, songs like those of the Mighty Sparrow:
The island as you see
Because the present government ...
Oh. Lord. man, they ignorant ...
Causing their own embarrassment.38
Even though James failed to gain a foothold in the electoral politics of the country.
throughout the years he has gained prominence as a native son, one who. like the figure
in Picasso's "Guernica", holds up against the violence of the age a beacon signalling the
path to enlightenment.
Two months after his eighty-second birthday (1982), dressed in a dark coat and
white hat, James received the Labour Star, the Oilfield Workers Trade Union's highest
award, at their forty-third annual conference at the Palms Club in his home town of San
Fernando. As his cousin. Darcus Howe. a leader of London's West Indian community, led
James to the front of the hall, hundreds of union delegates rose to applaud their defiant
warrior. Easing his frail limbs into a chair, James watched his audience settle down to hear
his speech on "the Seizure of Power". Microphones were arranged about him; and he
began to outline his speech "so that you will not be taken by surprise, and you will not
have undue expectations". He spoke of the OWTU. the world in general, the political
method. Ghana's recent "development", and of himself.39
Of himself, James said that the British Broadcasting Corporation had recently asked
him to give six half-hour talks on anything he wished for their new Fifth Channel. He had
given talks of that kind in the past. he added, in France. Italy, and Africa: but the one
place he would never be asked to broadcast was in Trinidad and Tobago. "And that isn't
my fault," he said, as he looked over the enthusiastic crowd, "it's theirs." He referred not
only to government officials who sought to weaken his popularity but also to the great
mass of the population. The "national community" that he had fostered during the
1966 campaign had not emerged over the years; the nation, "independent in name only",
lacked a "national purpose". Only too sadly, James knew that, without a true sense of
community, West Indian artists and intellectuals were faced with looking elsewhere for
encouragement and support. Although Trinidad would always be his homeland and
England his place of exile, it was in the metropolitan centre that he found stimulus for
creative work. Nevertheless, his dream of true independence never diminished over time.
"When the time comes for you to seize the power." he reminded his audience, "you
won't need anyone to tell you. You will take it." Hands flaring, his voice calm and assur-
ing, he continued, "It has been lying about the streets of Trinidad for some time." To
this he added that it "had been there" in 1937 and in 1970; in 1978, he had counselled
them "that if it were lying about in the streets again in 1981, you must be ready to take
His eloquent speech provoked enthusiastic applause and a long, standing ovation.
Outside the union hall an unresponsive government waited, dreading the voices of work-
ers who had "come from the nigger yard of yesterday/leaping from the oppressor's hate/
and the scorn" of themselves.40 For the many who carefully listened to James's message
of hope, a freedom cry remained:
From the nigger yard of yesterday I come with my
burden. To the world of to-morrow I turn with my
Eventually, James will feel the grip of mortality; but his kinsmen will remember his chal-
lenge: "the alternative that now lies before us, for you, the people, to take over the des-
tiny, your own destiny, and shape the society along the lines that you desire, making
possible what has been denied you all these years" will, in the not too distant future,
become a reality.42
1. Facing Reality (Detroit: Bewick Editions, reprint, 1974), p. 112.
2. The first edition of Volume I appeared as The People on Friday, 25 June. Apparently, all articles
were written by James; John D. Humphrey supplied the political cartoons.
3. 25 June 1965, p. 2
5. An interview with the author on 10 November 1982.
6. 25 June 1965, p. 2.
7. Ibid., p. 1.
8. Beyond a Boundary (London: Hutchinson and Company, Ltd., 1963), p. 180.
9. "Unity Discussion Programme," 2 July 1965, p. 6.
11. Open letter to Martin Glaberman, 20 January 1963. The Martin and Jessie Glaberman Collec-
tion, Walter Ruther Library of Labor History and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University,
12. Editorial, "The Party", 9 July 1965, p. 1.
13. This speech, given during the campaign, was later delivered with minor revision, at a conference
of West Indians in Montreal, Canada in 1966. Edited by Frank John, it appeared in mimeo-
graphed form on 4 October 1968.
15. "Some Plain Words", the concluding part of a pamphlet, "West Indians of East Indian Descent",
in We, the People, 6 August 1965, p. 1.
16. "Organizing for the Election", 6 August 1965, p. 5.
17. 9 July 1965, p. 2.
18. Eric Williams, Inward Hunger: The Education of a Prime Minister (London: Andre Deutsch
Ltd., 1969), p. 335.
19. "Tough on C. L. R.", 16 July 1965, p. 2.
20. Beyond a Boundary, p. 50.
21. "Organizing the Party", 20 August 1965. p. 5.
22. "Draft Declaration of Independence", 27 August 1965, p. 2.
24. 3 September 1965, p. 7.
25. "A National Purpose for the People of Trinidad and Tobago", 27 August 1965, p. 5.
27. "A National Purpose for the Caribbean People".
28. Speech of C. L. R. James on the Constitution of the WFP", 11 November 1965.
30. Majaraj, Chairman of the WFP, George Bowrin, Editor of the OWTU's paper, The Vanguard,
and James addressed nearly one hundred people at Scarborough, Old Jetty, four hundred at
Delaford, and an uncounted constituency at Mt St George. Majaraj introduced them as speakers,
Bowrin "went into details about the successive blows the PNM was giving to the democratic
rights of labour, the civil service, the police, the denominations, etc." and James followed with
"an uncompromising statement of the programme and policies of the party." We, the People,
22 October 1965, p. 3.
31. Earl Lovelace, The Dragon Can't Dance (Washington, D.C.: Three Continents Press, 1979), p. 9.
32. Beyond a Boundary, p. 181.
33. "Look on this Picture", 22 October 1965, p. 7.
34. Ibid., p. 3.
35. "News from C. L. R.", 17 December 1965, p. 2.
36. Inward Hunger, p. 336.
38. C. L. R. James, "The Mighty Sparrow" in The Future in the Present (London: Allison and
Busby, 1977), p. 193.
39. Anthonm Milne. "C. L. R. James on Nuclear War: We Live in the Shadow of the Gates of
Hell". Express (Trinidad). 9 November 1982, p. 2.
40. Martin Carter, "I Come troml the Nigger Yard" in Poems of Succession (London: New Beacon
Books. 1977). p. 40.
42. "C. L. R. James on Nuclear War".
Latin American Literature and Arts
Individual Subscription $12.00 Institutions $20.00
Published two times a year. Back issues available.
A publication of the Center for Inter-American Relations
680 Park Avenue, New York, New York 10021
WONDERFUL ADVENTURES OF MRS SEACOLE IN MANY LANDS
Autobiography as literary genre and a window to character
Autobiography is the literature that most immediate-
ly and deeply engages our interest and holds it and
that in the end seems to mean the most to us be-
cause it brings an increased awareness, through an
understanding of another life in another time and
place, of the nature of our own selves and our share
in the human condition.
James Olney: Metaphors of Self
The ladies told me strange stories of the influence of
the black and yellow women, and Mrs Bullock called
Mrs C. is a perfect Creole, says little, and drawls out
that little and has no! an idea beyond her Penn!2
Mrs S. is a fat, good humoured Creole woman saying
dis, dat and toder; her mother a vulgar old Scotch
(On an observation that the air was cooler than usual,
the Creole lady replied:)
Yes, ma-am, him rail-ly too fraish!4
Such were Lady Nugent's observations on the nature of Creole women in Jamaica
in the early nineteenth century. Boring conversationalists, most with an inadequate grasp
of English and some, along with black women, were a threat to morality. In Jane Eyre
Rochester's mad wife is a Creole and he speaks of her thus:
I never loved, I never esteemed, I did not even know
her. I was not sure of the existence of one virtue in
her nature ... I found her nature totally alien to
mine; her tastes obnoxious to me; her cast of mind
common, low, narrow and singularly incapable of
being led to anything higher, expanded to anything
larger . .Bertha Mason the true daughter of an
infamous mother. dragged me through all the
hideous and degrading agonies which must attend a
man bound to a wife at once intemperate and un-
The reference to Bertha's mother suggests that the wickedness of character is in-
herited and this, coupled with a sub-normal brain, defines the nature of Creole women.
Jean Rhys wrote Wide Sargasso Sea out of, one feels sure, a strong desire to vindi-
cate that particular Creole woman and all the other Creoles who, like Rhys herself, were
born 'on the other side'. Perhaps my interest in Mary Seacole is a similar wish to counter
the 'bad press' Lady Nugent gave to Jamaican women. While the Journal has little to
recommend it in terms of literary style it has had three reprints and is generally held to be
an interesting and useful reference to people, places and attitudes of the early nineteenth
century. In contrast, Mary Seacole's book was printed only once. There are two copies of
it at the National Library and I have not seen another copy in any other Jamaican Library.6
Who is a Creole woman? Reviled in the nineteenth century and in contemporary
theatre, much parodied in Jamaica. drawling away in a dreadful accent and showing her
ignorance and class prejudice in every sentence. Lady Nugent and Jean Rhys were pro-
bably using the term to mean local-born whites. Charlotte Bronte's character is 'dark' and
we are to imagine that such evil could not come from someone entirely white. Mary
Seacole uses it to mean 'mixed blood', that is a European parent and a black or 'mixed
blood' parent. It has never been a widely used term in Jamaica, as it is in the French West
Indian islands, hence the difficulty in defining exactly its meaning. The only useful defini-
tion that holds for both Lady Nugent and Mary Seacole is that it refers to local-born, free
people of fair to perhaps light brown complexion. Mary Seacole was referred to as the
'yellow doctress' but she refers to herself as light brown. Her autobiography provides a
valuable insight into the values and mores of a Creole woman. A woman, visibly neither
black nor white, who could, therefore, to some extent, experience both worlds.
Mary Seacole was also Jamaica's first published woman writer: a woman of confi-
dence and action, she provides for us an eye, recording outside events while unfolding
facets of her own character in a most readable and enjoyable book. This latter, double
effect of autobiography opens up some interesting questions on the nature of history and
the place of the individual within the process of history. Mary Seacole was in the Crimea
for some of the heaviest engagements of that war. Her presence there in no way affected
its start or its end. She was in fact, and was very aware of it, a very minor player on the
war stage. But the process of history is as much a composite of the experiences of the
minor players as it is of the decision-makers who figure so predominantly in traditional
history books. History, as the name implies, has mainly been the story of the doings of
high status men, recorded by men. So. to have the views of a female player, in an other-
wise all male epic. is particularly valuable. Her view is also interesting as coming from a
woman who was attracted to the ethos of a foreign culture while remaining strongly
rooted in a sense of her own sell. The nature of this sell, as shown through her writing, is
the main subject of this paper.
In which Mrs Seacole reveals her own character through her style of relating incident
I was born in the town of Kingston. in the island of
Jamaica, some time in the present century. As a
female, and a widow, I may be well excused the
precise date of this important event. But I do not
mind confessing that the century and myself were
both young together, and that we have grown side by
side into age and consequence. p. 2
With confidence, an engaging openness of style and a gentle touch of humour. Mary
Seacole opens her story. Her father was Scottish, her mother Creole 'and was like very
many of the Creole women, an admirable doctress'. (p. 2) By the second page she has
established her racial background and her pride in it. Her mother ran a hotel-curn-nursing
home. so Mary grew up helping her mother to look after the invalided officers and their
wives from Up Park Camp. She was so interested in nursing that she used to practise on
her dolls and later on her pets. While still a young girl she went to London, she doesn't
say why, came back to Jamaica and returned there with West Indian pickles and preserves.
That a young girl in the early nineteenth century should start her own mini export-
marketing business is intriguing in the light of Lady Nugent's observations, only a few
years earlier, that the women knew of very little outside their own Penn. On her return
journey fire broke out on ship and:
Although considerably alarmed. 1 did not lose my
senses, but during the time when the contest between
fire and water was doubtful. I entered into an amic-
able arrangement with the ships cook, whereby. in
consideration of two pounds -which 1 was not how-
ever to pay until the crises arrived he agreed to lash
me on to a large hen coop. p. 5
Mercifully they were all rescued by a passing ship and she did not have to sail home on a
hen coop! The incident illustrates her ingenuity and her love of travel for in spite of it she
continued with her buying and selling with trips to New Providence. Hayti and Cuba:
. until I couldn't find courage to say 'no' to a certain
arrangement timidly proposed by Mr Seacole. but
married him, and took him down to Black River,
where we established a store. p. 5
Mr Seacole was 'sickly' and died not very long after they were married. Even allowing for
a quite natural reticence in unveiling the details of her married life, it is remarkable how
little she does tell us of her life at this time. She is married on page 5 and widowed by
page 6, motherless too, so she was quite alone 'to battle with this world as best [she]
might'. She grieved for them both but in her manner of expressing her grief she notes the
difference of emotional expression that exists between Creoles and presumably Euro-
peans. She effectively concurs with a cliche' only to turn it against those who use it in a
I do not think that we hot-blooded Creoles sorrow
less for showing it so impetuously, but I do think that
the sharp edge of our grief wears down sooner than
theirs who preserve an outward demeanour of calm-
ness. and nurse their woe secretly in their hearts.
Mary Seacole was comfortable with her subsequent single state and it perhaps helps
to explain her strong sense of self. She had neither husband, children nor parents to tell
her how she should live her life and so she got on confidently with the business of being
how she defined herself. Of her appearance she tells us: 'I was always a hearty, strong
woman plain spoken people might say stout. .' (p. 7) Yet she did not lack for suitors
and although she was 'rich one day, poor the next' apparently re-marriage did not tempt
her either for love or security,
And here I may take the opportunity of explaining
that it was from a confidence in my own powers, and
not at all from necessity, that I remained an unpro-
tected female. Indeed, I do not mind confessing to
my reader, in a friendly confidential way, that one of
the hardest struggles of my life in Kingston was to
resist the pressing candidates for the late Mr Seacole's
shoes. p. 8
The humorous hyperbole with which it ends does not mask that all important self-confi-
dence with which the passage begins. This soft-tempered feminism was an intrinsic part
of Mary Seacole's character. She devoted her life to caring for the sick, usually men, and
as her book reveals, she had many warm and special relationships. Most often she was in
the role of 'aunty' or 'mother' but there were other relationships in which her feelings
were not perhaps entirely maternal. She clearly had no antipathy towards men but she
chose early to manage her life for herself.
In 1850 there was a cholera outbreak in Jamaica and while gaining experience in
nursing this savage disease, she watched the doctors closely to learn as much as she could.
She then set off to visit her brother in Colon which she described as a 'lawless zone', 'a
luckless, dreary spot'. She got there to discover that fever, ague and dropsy 'were having
it all their own way at Navy Bay'. Her brother Edward's 'Independent Hotel' turned out
to be a 'sleazy, depressing place', with not even a bed available for her or her black maid
Mac and a little girl who were her travelling companions. Not in the least bit fazed she
took an oilskin off the table, pinned it around the table legs and retired for the night.
It was a novel bed, and required some slight strength
of the imagination to fancy it a four-poster. p. 23
Her autobiography contains other such quick-witted responses to the business of survival
and always told lightly, without a touch of complaining self-pity such as well might be
expected from a sister who has travelled so far to find her brother's hospitality woefully
This first half of her book is taken up with her adventures in Navy Bay and Cruces.
She nursed the local people through a cholera outbreak, she opened a hotel there, closed
it and returned to Jamaica, came back some time later to go prospecting for gold and, in
short, lived a most varied life in that difficult place. Three aspects of her stay there are
worth special attention: her increasing skills as doctresss', her attitude towards Americans
and the insight this affords us of her own racial self-image, and her attitude towards the
I have long suspected that our general neglect of this fascinating woman lies in the
fact that she is primarily remembered, if she is at all, for her nursing stint in the Crimea.
Yet she worked through a cholera outbreak in Jamaica and again in Panama. She had, it
is true. a decided penchant for English soldiers. Part of this fascination was probably the
result of her colonial upbringing. part was the example set by her mother, part was a
romantic attachment to a certain young surgeon but a very important part was scientific.
She had a sort of personal animosity towards cholera and yellow fever and she made
every effort to improve her knowledge of these diseases. Since the avenues for formal
medical learning were closed to her she had to augment her knowledge in whatever way
she could. An incident in Cruces will serve to illustrate this. After a particularly horrible
night in a muleteers' Kraal, where cholera claimed several victims, she determined to
increase her knowledge of the way in which the disease worked. Whereupon she bribed a
man to carry off for her the body of a year-old victim. She found a secluded spot by a
river and there performed a post mortem. This highly unethical incident did however give
her valuable insight into the nature of the disease and certainly the people there came to
rely on and value 'the little yellow woman from Jamaica with the cholera medicine'.
Later, when she offered her services in the Crimea it was with the confidence that she
knew about these diseases and had developed good medicines for all sorts of tropical ail-
ments. Testimonials as to their efficacy are included in the second half of the book.
That she disliked dirt, poverty and ignorance is early established. Her attitude
towards the Indians. who seemed to have occupied the lowest stratum of that mixed
society. is a fine amalgam of amused superiority towards their life-style and a belief that
they had a right to decide their own way without the bullying interference of Americans.
In one passage she has to embark on a perilous boat trip and she described the crew.
The master of the boat. the padrone. was a fine tall
negro. his crew were four common enough specimens
of humanity. with a marked disregard for the preju-
dices of society with respect to clothing. Perhaps.
however, the thick coating of dirt which covered
them kept them warmer than more civilized clothing.
besides being indisputably more economical. pp.
In her reaction to the Indians one could easily infer that, whatever the parlous situation
existing in Jamaica. Jamaicans never had such low self-esteem that they would exist in
such dirt and go about with so little clothing. In general. she found the Indians treach-
erous, passionate and indolent and greatly in need of civilizing, but she was quite clear
that American pretensions in that regard were simply self-serving. While writing the book,
she had news that the Government of the USA had succeeded in finding 'a reasonable
excuse for exercising a protectorate over. or in other words annexing, the Isthmus of
Panama'. (p. 71) This perceptive piece of irony brings us to the question of her attitude
In which Mrs Seacole deals with Pride and Prejudice
I have a few shades of deeper brown upon my skin
which shows me related and I am proud of the
relationship to those poor mortals whom you once
held enslaved, and whose bodies America still owns.
And having this bond, and knowing what slavery is,
having seen with my eyes and heard with my ears
proof positive enough of its horrors let others
affect to doubt them if they will is it surprising
that 1 should be impatient of the airs of superiority
which many Americans have endeavoured to assume
over me? Mind, I am not speaking of all. 1 have met
with some delightful exceptions, p. 14
One suspects that that last line was a sop thrown to her editor for she only once, very
briefly, referred to an American merchant friend. Since the book is mainly addressed to
British readers we have to assume that the diatribe against slavery and those who affect
to doubt its horrors includes them. Mary Seacole grew up seeing English people in her
mother's home, she married an Englishman and until she tried to enlist for the Crimea it
seems that she did not suspect them of any prejudice towards herself. This is that 'both
worlds' of the Creole. She could be comfortable in a white world but she knew herself to
be part of a black world and she identified herself with its suffering through slavery.
While Jamaicans were still only conditionally free it was a highly valued freedom and it
would seem that, on the surface at least, 'free people of colour' were treated with civility
by the British.
Her experience with Americans was to be otherwise. For 'Americans' one has to
read 'white Americans', for she never seemed to have included black people under the
stain of that title! Mary Seacole does not simply record her encounters with them, she
draws several 'portraits' of individual Americans so that she arrives at a composite picture
of them and what their presence meant in that part of the world. At that time, they were
streaming to California in the big 'gold rush' and Colon was something of a stop-over
point on their journey. These travellers were a rough, lawless lot whose main diversions
seem to have been fighting and gambling.
A Dr Casey -- everybody familiar with the Americans
knows their fondness for titles owned the most
favoured table in Cruces: and this although he was
known to be a rough and unscrupulous villian. (He
had been hunted out of San Francisco) . and at
that time ... a man too bad for that city must have
been a prodigy of crime ... p. 40
What makes this passage so damning is. the way in which she inserts (asserts) the general
with the particular so that the reader is bound to come to the conclusion that Dr Casey,
in particular, is a bad man but what can one expect when he comes from such a generally
bad country! If we were left in any doubt she goes on to refer to 'these free and indepen-
dent filibusters, who would fain whop all creation abroad as they do their slaves at home'.
(p. 41) Neatly, she uses their own language, 'whop' against them. At the same time she
was well aware that Cruces relied heavily on American tourism. Since this was to become
a contemporary Jamaican problem her view is specially interesting. The combination of
disapproval and understanding is carefully balanced and the construction of this passage
is particularly fine.
Daylight would find the faro-tables, with their piles
of silver and little heaps of gold-dust still surrounded
by haggard gamblers; daybreak would gleam sickly
upon the tawdry finery of the poor Spanish singers
and dancers, whose weary nights' work would enable
them to live upon the travellers' bounty for the next
week or so ... and while their transitory sun shone I
will do them the justice to say they gathered in their
hay busily. p. 22
Mary Seacole detested white Americans and admired tremendously those escaped slaves
who had gone to the New Granada Republic and done well in every area of the society.
In the priest-hood, in the army, in all municipal
offices, the self-liberated negroes were invariably
found in the foremost rank. p. 51
That term 'self-liberated' shows how clearly she understood the position of the American
Negro and how carefully she chooses language which will improve her readers' conscious-
ness' of the situation.
American women were as bad as the men and the following story serves to illustrate
this while highlighting the role of the self-liberated negro. A young American woman,
whose character she says 'can best be described as vicious', fell ill. Her companions went
on with their journey leaving her with 'a young negro slave woman'. This woman beat the
negro slave so badly that the citizens intervened and took them to court. The alcalde,
'himself a man of colour', told the black woman that, by their laws, she was free to leave
her mistress. The whole courthouse broke out in cheers. 'Then with demoniac refinement
of cruelty, she bethought herself of the girl's baby at New Orleans still in her power and
threatened most horrible torture to the child if its mother dared to accept the alcalde's
offer.' (pp. 52-53) The people felt she would not damage her own 'property' but immedi-
ately raised a subscription to buy the child. Mary Seacole didn't know the outcome of
the story as the young woman was taken into the interior for her own safety.
Mary Seacole detested white Americans, men as well as women, for their cruelty,
racial prejudice, low morals and for the economic dependence that their presence fos-
tered. She also saw the dangers of their imperialist designs and tells us that the people of
Granada feared their bullying habits and dreaded their schemes for annexation. She gave
the following example. The American Railway Company took possession of Navy Bay
and renamed it Aspinwall, after their chairman.
The native authorities refused to recognize their
right to name any portion of the Republic and per-
tinaciously returned all letters directed to Aspinwall
with 'no such place known' marked upon them in the
very spot for which they were intended. p. 51
Further, the courts wouldn't handle cases 'residing in that unrecognized place'. Navy Bay
came to be called Colon so, in that battle at least, the Americans lost. The modern politi-
cians who talk about American imperialism as if they have just uncovered it and are thus
able to reveal all to those of us quite ignorant of it, might be embarrassed to know that
a Creole woman said it all in the middle of the nineteenth century! And said it so well,
not by empty declamations but by carefully reporting experiences, that the Americans
are revealed in a realistic and credible manner.
Mary Seacole had had enough of Panama and had given up hope of persuading her
brother to leave. Various hotel-keepers entertained her and made much of tiie services she
had rendered them during the cholera epidemic. Her brother. likewise, invited her to
dinner and it happened to be American Independence Day so the Americans were much
in evidence and wished also to toast the good lady. The following passage, with its echoes
of Dickens's style, needs no comment!
At this point
The spokesman was a thin, sallow looking American
with a pompous and yet rapid delivery, and a habit of
turning over his words with his quid before delivering
them, and clearing his mouth after each sentence.
perhaps to make room for the next. I shall beg the
reader to consider that the blanks express the time
expended on this operation. He dashed into his work
at once, rolling up and getting rid of his sentences as
he went on:
So, I say. God bless the best yaller woman he ever
made -, for Jamaica, gentlemen -, from the Isle of
Springs. Well, gentlemen. I expect there are only two
things we're vexed for -. and the first is. that she
ain't one of us -, a citizen of the great United
States and the other thing is, gentlemen that
Providence made her a yaller woman. I calculated.
gentlemen, you're all as vexed as I am that she's not
wholly white but I du reckon on your rejoicing
with me that she's so many shades removed from
being entirely black -, and I guess, if we could bleach
her by any means we would -, and thus make her
acceptable in any company as she deserves to be -
Gentlemen, I give you Aunty Seacole.
her brother had to beg her to restrain herself during her
for drinking her health:
But I must say that I don't altogether appreciate your
friend's kind wishes with respect to my complexion.
If it had been as dark as any nigger's, I should have
been just as happy and as useful, and as much respec-
ted by those whose respect I value: and as to his offer
of bleaching me, 1 should, even if it were practicable.
decline it without any thanks. As to the society
which this might gain me admission into, all I can say
is, that. judging from the specimens I have met with
here and elsewhere, I don't think I shall lose much by
being excluded from it. So. gentlemen, 1 drink to you
and the general reformation of American manners.
pp. 47, 48
In which Mrs. Seacole experiences war
In 1853 Mary returned to Jamaica where yellow fever was raging.
the yellow fever never made a more determined effort
to exterminate the English in Jamaica than it did in
that dreadful year. So violent was the epidemic, that
some of my people fell victims to its fury. a thing
rarely heard of before. pp. 59. 60
She witnessed many English deaths 'in vain contest with a climate that refused to adopt
them. Indeed, the mother country pays a dear price for the possession of her colonies'.
(p. 60) In spite of her clear-sightedness as regards American expansionist designs she
seems not to have questioned English colonialism. In this regard she sees the one as radiat-
ing out of their domestic system of greed and prejudice, the other she sees as coming
from a system which is basically 'civilizing'. As her autobiography shows how strong her
own maternal instincts were, one can imagine that the term 'mother country' was deeply
internalized. However, as we have already seen, the 'mother' culture was not uncritically
assimilated but accepted only so far as it did not run counter to her own Creole sense of
During the epidemic Mary felt deeply for a young surgeon who died in her arms.
I used to call him "my son my dear child", and
weep over him in a very weak and silly manner per-
His mother later wrote to her and sent her a small gold brooch with a lock of his hair in
it, and she treasured this keepsake always. The mother's gesture suggests that the attach-
ment must have been in some way reciprocated as he must have written to his mother
about her. Although throughout the book one sees Mary Seacole as very warm and caring,
it is rare that one gets even such a tantalizingly brief glimpse of her soft and sentimental
side. Yet her reticence is part of her womanly charm, for while one doubts that her
feelings towards him were wholly maternal, what she chooses to tell is told simply and
intensely and leaves the impression of the quality of her love without telling us the exact
nature of it. This incident also helps to explain her drive to get to the Crimea. She felt
acutely the loneliness and homesickness of the young surgeon and she admired the brave
way in which he faced his death. When she heard that soldiers from the regiments sta-
tioned in Jamaica had been sent there she determined to go and give her services as a
Before she went to London she made one more trip to Colon to wind up her
affairs there. She got side-tracked into prospecting for gold and she met Mr Day, a
distant connection of her late husband with whom she was later to go into partnership.
By the autumn of 1865 Mary Seacole was in London trying to enlist in the war
So I made long and unwearied application at the War
Office, in blissful ignorance of the labour and time I
was throwing away.
She tried to enlist as a nurse's aid with as little success and at last she had to face the
nature of the problem.
Was it possible that American Prejudices against
colour had some root here? Did these ladies shrink
from accepting my aid because my blood flowed
beneath a somewhat darker skin than theirs? p. 79
She decided then to go on her own steam and she met again with Mr Day who was bound
for Balaclava on shipping business. They planned to open a store and she also laid in medi-
cines so that she might be able to do some nursing. Travelling out on the 'Hollander', she
met none other than the brother of her young surgeon who had died and wherever the
ship docked she met with old friends. In the market in Gibraltar she heard 'Why bless
my soul old fellow, if this is not our good old Mother Seacole.' In Malta another old
friend gave her a letter of introduction to Florence Nightingale:
then hard at work, evoking order out of confusion
and bravely resisting the despotism of death, at the
hospital of Scutari. p. 85
Her attitude in making the visit was not one of awe towards a woman who was already
quite a heroine in England, but one of purely professional interest as between equals. It
was an attitude not quite reciprocated by the English nurses, but needless to say our
heroine was not in the least daunted and shrugged it off with the observation that she
had never found women as quick to understand her as men.
The ship was in Constantinople for six days so she did not hesitate to explore, some-
times by boat.
The caicques . might be made more safe and com-
modious for stout ladies, even if the process inter-
fered a little with their ornament. Time and trouble
combined have left me with a well filled out, portly
frame the envy of many an angular Yankee female
and, more than once, it was in no slight danger of
becoming too intimately acquainted with the temp-
erature of the Bosphorus. pp. 85, 86
Mary Seacole's adventurous spirit leads her confidently into new situations and, through-
out it all, she maintains a humorous and unsentimental view of herself. Her self-image
is so strong that she wears her Jamaican fashions proudly and, tongue in cheek, well
aware that her colour is also the point of interest, assumes that the curiosity she evokes is
based totally on admiration.
I accepted it all as a compliment to a stout female
tourist, neatly dressed in a red or yellow dress, a plain
shawl of some other colour and a simple straw wide-
awake with bright red streamers. I flatter myself that
I woke up sundry sleepyeyed turks, who seemed to
think that the great object of life was to avoid show-
ing surprise at anything; while the Turkish women
gathered around me, and jabbered about me, in the
most flattering manner. p. 86
She arrived eventually in Balaclava with 'its population villains of every nation'.
With great difficulty she established her 'British Hotel' at Spring Hill where thieves, both
'biped and quadruped', made life both dangerous and difficult. Her hotel was very popular
but she made the time to take her homemade delicacies and her medicines to sick soldiers.
She took herself to the battlefield and gave whatever comfort and assistance she could. Of
one such scene she wrote:
It was a fearful scene, but why repeat this remark.
All death is trying to witness . .but on the battle-
field. where the poor body is torn and rent in hideous
ways and the scared spirit struggles to loose itself from
the still strong frame that holds it tightly to the last.
death is fearful indeed, p. 165
In that fearful struggle she saw that often all she could offer was the presence of a woman,
the touch of a woman's hand. In this she had no false sense of her own importance but
was prepared to act as a substitute for all the mothers far away in England. There is in
that compassionate, asexual giving of herself, something very moving. And in that meet-
ing of the lone brown woman, thousands of miles from her home, with white men in the
extremity of pain and loneliness, there is something fine that transcends cultures and
races and more shallow concepts of male/female need. For indeed she did not minister
only to British soldiers, many a Frenchman and Russian felt her hand changing a bandage
or offering a drink of water.
Her story there was not all so serious. The social life around her hotel was varied.
Once she helped some soldiers dress up for theatricals. At other times her guests were of
high status such as 'a prince of the Imperial family of France'. On one occasion he com-
mented on her coolness towards a group of Americans. Quite forgetting his own connec-
tion with America'[he was a Rochefoucauld] she explained her prejudice against Ameri-
cans. He listened for a while then interrupted "Tenez! Madame Seacole, I too am
American a little.' 'What a pity (she comments) I was not born a countess'. I am sure I
should have made a capital courtier. Witness my impromptu answer:- "I should never
have guessed it, Prince." and he seemed amused.'
After the sacking of Sebastopol the war ended suddenly. Mrs Seacole and Mr Day
had to sell their quantity of stock and the hotel itself at great loss. She returned to
England poor and in ill health but firmly established in the affectionate regard of many.
Punch magazine published a poem in her honour and some of her Crimean friends, now
back in England in influential positions, formed a committee to help her. She closes her
book with the names of this committee but not before she affirms that hers is still a
happy life as she would meet with old friends in all sorts of unexpected places.
Inez Sibley in an article in The Gleaner Sunday Magazine of 1 December 1963 says
that she died in Jamaica in 1881. That is the date usually given as her death but she is
buried in North West London in St Mary's Catholic cemetery. Another letter to The
Gleaner of 5 February 1938, reprinted from The Sunday Times (London) of 16 January
1938, from A. C. Whitehorne (major) of Bournemouth. throws light on her later years.
She addresses everyone of whatever rank as 'my son'.
Thirty years after the Crimea she was described as "a
little yellow woman, dressed in several bright colours
and wearing a dozen medals!" She was then making a
good living as a "rubber" (the forerunner of the
masseuse). She had used her skill on the Princess of
Wales when the latter was suffering from lameness.
Form and Style
The book is 200 pages, has a linear, chronological development over 19 chapters
and a short Conclusion. There is a short preface by W. H. Russell who was The Times
correspondent in the Crimea. in which he refers to her as a 'plain. truth-speaking woman!'
It is, of course, written in the first person for an imagined English readership.
In style there is something of Jane Austen, particularly in her opening sentence and
in her report of her decision to be married. She has a gift for understatement which
suggests a large and complex situation briefly. In referring to the guests at her hotel in
Colon, many of whom were from the Southern states of America, she says 'with very
few exceptions, those who were not bad were very disagreeable'. (p. 50) Of the men,
she leaves what is unsaid as even more threatening than what is said:
The great majority of the travellers were rough, rude
men, of dirty, quarrelsome habits: the others were
more civilized and more dangerous.
Her sense of humour is ironic and satirical, as in this example where she ends up parodying
a house agent's advertisement.
It was a mere tumble-down hut, with wattled sides
and a rotten thatched roof containing two rooms, one
small enough to serve as a bedroom. For this charm-
ing residence very openly situated, and well venti-
lated twenty pounds a month was considered a fair
and by no means exorbitant rent.
Mary Seacole always conveys a positive self-image. She likes and approves of herself
and engages the reader, as has already been shown, by direct appeal. In the following
example, she uses a sort of euphemistic hyperbole to invite the reader to be amused with
her at her own discomfort. In Scutari, the hospital was so full the only bed to be had was
that of a washerwoman. She opens the passage with some general felicities on washer-
women so that we are sure that what ensues does not reflect on the washerwoman herself.
She got to bed and found that:
unbidden and most unwelcome companions took the
washerwoman's place, and persisted not only in divid-
ing my bed, but my plump person also. Upon my
word, I believe the fleas are the only industrious
creatures in all Turkey. Some of their relatives would
seem to have migrated into Russia, for I found them
in the Crimea equally prosperous and ubiquitous. In
the morning a breakfast is sent to my mangled
remains, p. 91
She can create humour by the judicious choice of simile. At Spring Hill her neigh-
bour was a Turkish officer of high rank whom she simply called the Pacha. He became a
frequent and appreciative visitor.
Like a Scotch Presbyterian on the Continent for a
holiday, he threw aside all the prejudices of his edu-
cation, and drank bottled beer, sherry and champagne
with an appreciation of their qualities that no thirsty
souled Christian could have expressed more gratefully.
More succinctly she will rely on one carefully chosen adjective to explode an otherwise
innocuous sentence. The Pacha again, here he is sitting in her storeroom trying to learn
English [he] 'would try hard to sow a few English sentences in his treacherous memory!'
Mary Seacole had a talent for drawing small, vivid portraits of people by combining
highly connotative language suggesting character from details of appearance. In this way
they and her attitude to them are swiftly given.
Came one day. Lola Montes. in the full zenith of her
evil fame, bound for California with a strange suite. A
good-looking, bold woman, with fine, bad eyes and a
determined bearing, dressed ostentatiously in perfect
male attire . black hat, French unmentionables,
and natty, polished boots with spurs. p. 40
Carefully balanced throughout the book is the author as a recording eye and the
author as a reflective individual. As can be expected, these moments of reflection are
marked by a change in style and this style varies with the subject of her reflection. In
writing of the natural barriers there were in joining the Atlantic and Pacific, she observed,
It was reserved for the men of our age to accomplish
what so many had died in attempting, and iron and
steam, twin giants subdued to man's will, have put a
girdle over rocks and rivers, so that travellers can glide
as smoothly, if not as inexpensively. over the once
terrible Isthmus of Darien as they can from London
to Brighton. p. 11
The personification of iron and steam linked with man's will gives a strong, masculine
image which is balanced immediately with the feminine image of'a girdle over rocks and
rivers'. The grandeur of the opening is brought down to earth by the reference to
Brighton, associated for most readers with jolly, day trips. This homely association serves
to highlight the achievement of man conquering nature and reducing the dangers of what
was previously a terrible journey.
In the following passage she draws a picture of both her emotional and physical
situation in London after days of trying to be accepted as a recruit. Nature seems to
mirror and amplify her feelings.
Tears streamed down my foolish cheeks, as I stood in
the fast thinning streets, tears of grief that any should
doubt my motives that Heaven should deny me the
opportunity that I sought. Then I stood still, and
looking upward through and through the dark clouds
that shadowed London, prayed aloud for help. p. 80
How well she expresses what so many, many Jamaicans, years later, passing through
London would feel at one time or another. Exactly those feelings of being beaten by
Heaven, London and the English system. For such a short book, the variety of her literary
expression is extraordinary. Yet the persona remains constant so that style in this book is
never showy or obstrusive. Arriving in Navy Bay, Mary Seacole seems to be anticipating
Conrad's Heart of Darkness.
As we arrived, a steady down pour of rain was falling
from an inky sky: the white men who met us on the
wharf appeared ghostly and wraith like, and the very
negroes seemed pale and wan. p. 11
Her arrival in Balaclava is totally different.
We slowly wind through a narrow channel and emerge
into a small land-locked basin, so filled with shipping
that their masts bend in the breeze like a wintry
As will be noted above, she sometimes switched into the present tense to give a feeling of
immediacy and so heighten the reader's involvement.
Mary Seacole was equally adept at using dialogue. The following exchange is remark-
able for its terseness, accuracy in language differences and the way in which it conveys
the character of the speakers. The situation is briefly this: she took passage for Kingston
from Colon on an American steamer, which an American friend had suggested she not use.
She boarded with her little entourage and seated herself in the saloon.
Before I had been long there, two ladies came to me
and in their cool, straightforward manner, questioned
Where air you going?
And how air you going?
Don t be impertinent yaller woman. By what convey-
ance air you going?
By this steamer of course. I've paid for my passage.
The women backed off temporarily but others joined them and the whole scene became
so vicious that Mary got her money back and took her little entourage off to wait for a
British ship. The episode ended with the neat statement "My American friends were
vastly annoyed, but not much surprised."
Mary Seacole's The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands was pub-
lished in 1857. It seemed to have evoked in Jamaica not the slightest flicker of interest.
In between reprints of Lady Nugent's Journal the Institute did not see fit to issue even
one reprint of this first Jamaican book which ought to occupy a place of honour in our
literature. The University of the West Indies has a women's hall of residence named after
her, but no copies of her book. Scholars in West Indian literature have never heard of her
as other than a nurse.
Mary Seacole's book is immensely well written, very readable and gives us. so far as
I know, the only record of the life and character of a Jamaican woman in the nineteenth
century. Quite apart from the fact that she was a woman of action and courage, she was
also an extremely well-rounded, well-integrated personality. With so many contemporary
West Indian novelists writing of the sick. split West Indian psyche, such a work should
have a unique and valued place in our literature.
1. Lady Nugent's Journal ed. Frank Cundall published for the Institute of Jamaica by the West
India Committee London 1939 edition 3rd. reprint. p. 18.
2. Ibid, p. 27.
3. Ibid, p. 102.
4. Ibid, p. 132.
5. Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre edited with an introduction by Margaret Smith. Oxford University
Press, London 1973. pp. 309-310
6. The book has since been re-published by the Falling Wall Press. Bristol, February 1984.
Bronte. Charlotte. Jane Eyre, Oxford University Press, 1973.
Lady Nugent's Journal ed. Frank Cundall. Published for the Ilstitute of Jamaica by the
West India Committee. London. 1939 edition, 3rd. reprint.,
Olney, James Metaphors of Self: The Meaning of Autobiography. Princeton University
Rhys, Jean Wide Sargasso Sea, Penguin Books. England 1968.
Seacole. Mary The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands. ed. W.I.S.
James Blackwood, London, 1857 and Falling Wall Press, Bristol, February, 1984.
A JAMAICAN EXPORT TO NIGERIA!
THE LIFE OF AMOS STANLEY WYNTER SHACKLEFORD
Many American blacks dreamed of leaving the Americas, but only a few finally made
the journey to the 'Motherland'. Of those who did go to Africa, an even smaller number
settled there and assimilated into African society. Jamaican-born Amos Stanley Wynter
Shackleford (1887-1954) deserves recognition as one who sought his fortune in Africa
Shackleford has not received any previous study by historians. His life was signifi-
cant in the degree to which he integrated into Nigerian life. He alone among the West
Indih o of Lagos was actively involved in Nigerian politics.' He was president of the
Lagos branch of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and African
Communities League (ACL) in 1920. Soon afterwards, he became a founder and vice-
president of the Nigerian National Democratic Party, the first major Nigerian political
party. Shackleford had a close and long-term friendship with the father of Nigerian
nationalism, Herbert Macaulay (1864--1946). Macaulay helped Shackleford to gain entry
into the social world of the educated elite and also introduced himto the traditional
leaders of Lagos. At his death, a young Nigerian paid Shackleford a great compliment
when he wrote 'Mr Shackleford regarded himself first and foremost as a Nigerian'. .
West Indians settled in Lagos from the middle of the nineteenth century. One
observer estimated sixty-eight West Indians in Lagos in 1872.3 By 1921, the number
had risen to 194.4 After 1913, the majority of West Indians came to Nigeria to work
on the Nigerian railroad. Of his West Indian predecessors, three in particular might
have served as influences and inspiration to Shackleford. One of the earliest West Indian
emigrants to Lagos was the Jamaican-born Robert Campbell (1829-1884).s Campbell
participated in the Niger Valley Exploration Party with Martin Delany in 1859. He later
returned to Nigeria in 1862 with his wife and four children. Campbell made an important
contribution to the intellectual life of Lagos. He was editor of Ihe Anglo-African, one of
thle first Nigerian newspapers. He was also president of the Lagos Young Men's Mutual
Improvement Association. When he died, the Baptist minister, Mojola Agbebi (1860-
1917), wrote a poem to his memory.
Can Afric' rise if with the fatal rod
Her priceless sons, ye lay beneath the sod?
If ere meridian they attain
Her pride, her glory, ye sure must stain?6
Another pioneer among Ihe West Indians was Reverend Edward Richard Ricketts
( 1908). Ricketts. also Jamaican, came to Nigeria in 1895 with his wife and seven
children. Ricketts, a Baptist missionary, was working at the Congo Training Institute in
Colwyn Bay, Wales, when he met Mojola Agbebi, mentioned above. Ricketts returned to
Nigeria with Agbebi to establish an industrial school along the lines of the Congo Training
Institute in Yorubaland. Another Jamaican. T. E. S. Scholes, also came to Nigeria to
organize a similar school in New Calabar in the Niger delta. Ricketts and his family set
to work at Agbowa. Western Nigeria, building a school, church and model plantation to
grow cash crops such as cotton, cocoa, and coffee. The venture had not much time to
develop when Ricketts died in 1908.7 The children and grandchildren of Ricketts have
remained in Nigeria to the present day. One of his great grandchildren noted that all the
Ricketts men were polygamous, and thus the family grew to become quite extensive.8
Shackleford married one of Ricketts' daughters, Catherine Zetilda Ricketts, in 1921 or
Probably the most direct influence on Shackleford was John Ambleston
(1856-1928). Ambleston was born in Antigua and travelled to Sierra Leone, the Gold
Coast. now Ghana. and finally to Lagos in 1898. With his wife and two daughters,
Ambleston settled on Campbell Street on Lagos Island. In the judgement of one of his
grandchildren, now living in Lagos, it was by living in the heart of Lagos that the
Ambleston family was able to integrate into Nigerian society.9 When Shackleford arrived
in Lagos in 1913. Ambleston was one of the oldest West Indians in Lagos, 10 and the
older man must have guided him. Ambleston worked as a mechanic in the Public Works
Department before establishing his own business in 1918. Ambleston's success as a
builder earned him a citation in The Red Book of West Africa. 11 Ambleston was to
serve as treasurer of the Lagos branch of the UNIA and ACL.
Thus, Shackleford could look to the examples of at least three West Indians who
had settled in Lagos and successfully assimilated into the society. The majority of West
Indians who came to Nigeria as employees of the Nigerian Railway did not integrate
themselves into Nigerian life. They lived apart from the Africans in railway quarters in
Yaba. Most of them returned to the West Indies when their tour was over.12 For those
West Indians who sought entrance into African society, it would not have been very
The West Indians presumably found ready acceptance among the Saro and Amaro
in Lagos. The Saro were liberated slaves taken by the British Navy to Sierra Leone in the
early nineteenth century.13 After receiving western education and Christianization from
the missionaries, they returned to Nigeria. With their knowledge of English. the Saro
became middlemen between the colonial government and the indigenes. They took
leading places as lawyers, doctors, clergymen, and merchants in Lagos, Abeokuta, and
other cities. The Saro, who have been called 'black Englishmen', would have felt quite
at home with the westernized blacks from the Americas. They wore western style dress,
had English-sounding names, and enjoyed cricket.14 The Amaro were the Brazilians
of Nigerian ancestry who returned to Nigeria in the 1880s. They worked mainly as
artisans, but werejudged valuable and necessary centres for diffusion of enlightenment and
James Johnson (1836--1917), himself a Saro. and Bishop of the Anglican church
in Nigeria, eloquently compared the Creoles to the American blacks. His speech could
just as easily have been applied to the Saro and the West Indians. His speech was made to
welcome the American blacks of the Chief Sam Movement to Freetown, Sierra Leone in
We greet you as brethren because both you and we
have been victims of the Great Oceanic Slave
Trade . We have together been exiles from our
Aboriginal Homeland, although we are still on
African soil . We are fellow Christians, both work-
ing to build our Aboriginal Homeland, religiously,
morally, socially and otherwise.16
With increasing discrimination against African professionals at the end of the
nineteenth century in West African coastal cities, the Saro, the Creoles, and other
members of the educated elite began to question their ready acceptance of European
values and life-style. Some of them joined in the cultural nationalist movement, in a
rejection of European names and dress and the adoption of African names, dress, and
life-style." There was a literary renaissance as the elite studied traditional African
society and wrote books about African art, literature, religion and culture.18
Even after the cultural nationalist movement, the Saro were still seen as foreigners
in Lagos society. According to the census, Saro, Amaro. and West Indians were all
classified as "native foreigners". A "native foreigner" was "any person (not being a native
of Nigeria) whose parents were members of a tribe or tribes indigenous to Nigeria and the
descendants of such persons; and includes any person one of whose parents was a
member of such tribe".19 It is still a matter of historical debate about the proper
nationality of the Saro.20 Many of the Saro remained members of the Sierra Leone
Association. Even after changing their names, they maintained a western outlook and
way of life.
Michael Echeruo, a Nigerian intellectual, noted that the Saro never really identified
with the indigenous African mind. Of the cultural nationalist movement Echeruo wrote,
"There was a striving towards an African patriotism based not so much on a particular
Lagos identity but on a cosmopolitan black ethos."21 The major source of intellectual
stimulation for the educated elite was black America.22
Thus, the West Indians who came to Lagos in the early twentieth century did not
adopt African dress or speak African languages. They retained their membership in the
West Indian Association. Such behaviour did not exclude them from the society of the
educated elite in Lagos. The cosmopolitan backgrounds of the westernized Africans
facilitated the entrance of American blacks into their society. These "native foreigners"
were still the leaders of the society until well into the third decade of the twentieth
century. 23 It was as a member of the class of westernized elite that Shackleford rose in
Early Life and Beginnings
Amos Shackleford arrived in Lagos on 12 December 1913. He was twenty-six
years old and filled with high hopes for a bright future in Nigeria. Shackleford came
from a humble background. He was born in Buff Bay, Jamaica on 1 January 1887, the
son of a saddle-maker.24 After attending elementary school and some private school-
ing.25 Shackleford joined the Jamaican railway in 1903. at the age of sixteen. From a
starting salary of 15 shillings a week, Shackleford worked his way up to 45 shillings a
week in 1912, working as a station agent at various locations in Jamaica.26
In 1912, Governor-General of Nigeria Sir Frederick Lugard wrote to the Governors
of Jamaica and other West Indian countries, requesting qualified staff to work on the
Nigerian railway.27 Faced with the difficulties of attracting and training Nigerian
workers,28 the colonial government turned to the West Indians. who were preferred to
European workers who demanded higher salaries and leave benefits.
Amos Shackleford was one of two candidates from Jamaica, selected as competent
to manage a fairly large station.29 He came alone from Jamaica in 1913. What motivated
Shackleford to seek employment in Nigeria? In his letter of application. Shackleford
expressed his ambitions for personal advancement in Nigeria.
I may not be right in desiring to leave Jamaica and
this railway which has first given me bread, but I feel
confident that I will be able to hold my own with the
above company (Nigerian Railway) perhaps as well as
I do here and thus pave a way for my future success...
I am well aware of attendant dangers. inconveniences
and hard work and pray sincerely that my efforts be
In a letter to the colonial authorities, there was understandably no reference to Pan-
African commitments which influenced him to seek employment in Nigeria. It seems
likely that Shackleford was strongly motivated to a long-term stay in Africa. Judging
from the letter, he intended to make his career in Nigeria. His language rang with sincere
conviction of the momentous step he was ready to take. The other applicant. Vernon
Arnold, in contrast, merely stated that he sought to work on the Nigerian railway because
the salary was much better than what he was earning in Jamaica.31
For Shackleford. salary could not have been sufficient inducement to come to
Nigeria. After three years in the Nigerian railway. Shackleford was earning 138 per
annum.32 only twenty-one pounds per annum above his salary in Jamaica. Shackleford's
short stay with the Nigerian railway further supports the view that he was ambitious and
anxious to settle in Nigeria from the beginning.
There seems little doubt that Shackleford was never the average railroad worker
from the West Indies who remained in the railway quarters and stayed apart from
Nigerian society. Shackleford liked to recount to Nigerians "his childhood ambition to
return to West Africa. to become one of the people of his ancestral home country and
take part in her 'revolution' to reassert Negro independence and dignity".33
After one year in Nigeria. Shackleford was already becoming involved in the life of
the community. In a letter to the editor of the Lagos Standard, Shackleford replied to an
article entitled 'West Indians in Nigeria', which accused the West Indians of overlordshipp'
towards Nigerians. Shackleford denied the truth of the article.34 At the expiration of his
contract. Shackleford returned to Jamaica in April 1917. He must have already made
arrangements for his return. On 25 January 1918. he assumed a position as headclerk for
S. Thomas and Company. a Nigerian-owned commercial firm in Lagos.
For his orientation into the business world. Shackleford could not have a chosen a
better company. The owner of the company. Peter J. C. Thomas. a Saro. received the
highest praise from The Red Book of West Africa as an "object lesson of the capabilities
of the African to successfully compete with the European."35 Shackleford received his
apprenticeship in accountancy and observed first-hand the difficulties facing African
firms against stiff European competitors.
Trade conditions were at a low point in November 1921, when Shackleford left
S. Thomas and Company to strike out on his own. "Trade is at present so stagnated out
here," Shackleford wrote to John E. Bruce in New York. "that all the native firms and
middlemen are gone to the wall." "The economic condition facing the native here at
present is absolutely fierce.''36 Economic historian Anthony Hopkins confirmed that the
depression began in West Africa in 1920 and the trend towards amalgamation among
European firms squeezed the African businessmen to subordinate positions.37
Pioneer of Industry
Given his appreciation of the economic situation, Shackleford must have deter-
mined to avoid the import-export business. He wisely chose to embark on local manu-
facturing in the bread industry. He succeeded in revolutionizing the Nigerian bread in-
dustry and establishing it on modern lines.38 To non-English-speaking Logasians,
"Shackleford" became the word for bread.39 Shackleford earned the title. "The Bread
Several stories have come down as to why Shackleford chose to go into bread
manufacture. One account was that he woke up one morning wanting to have some good
bread.41 Another version was that he got the idea from Letitia Ricketts, wife of Edward
Ricketts, who was well known for her bread baking.42 It also seems likely that Shackleford
had assessed the economic conditions in Lagos and judged the potential of the bread
Was it purely a coincidence that Akinbami Agbebi, son of the deceased Mojola
Agbebi, suggested starting a bread business in his letter to John E. Bruce, the American
journalist and Pan-Africanist in May 1920? In his letter, Agbebi surveyed the market for
bread in Lagos. There were sixty-one petty bakeries in Lagos, mostly small establishments.
serving the 73,000 inhabitants of Lagos. Agbebi envisaged a modern up-to-date bakery
to produce 20,000 loaves a day. He asked Bruce to send catalogues of bread-baking
machines and suggested that Bruce float the company in America.43
It seems probable that Shackleford knew Agbebi. As discussed above, Agbebi's
father, Mojola Agbebi, brought the Ricketts family to Nigeria. Since Shackleford was well-
acquainted with the Ricketts, his future-in-laws, he should have known the young Agbebi.
There is no evidence that the two men collaborated on the bread business, but it is possi-
ble that they discussed the possibilities. In any case, it was Shackleford who eventually
went on to establish a modern mechanized bakery in Lagos.
Peter Kilby in his study of the Nigerian bread industry noted the vital innovatory
function of foreigners in the early stages of the industry. In possessing knowledge not
available to Nigerians. they introduced a new product and adapted it to local conditions.
It was the Brazilians, the Amaro, who first introduced bread into Nigeria. It was the West
Indians who expanded and improved it.44
Although Shackleford was not a baker, he is credited with effecting two major
innovations upon which the baking industry in Nigeria rests.45 He imported a machine,
the dough brake, which accelerated the fermentation process to produce "well risen,
smooth, even textured bread,"46 His baker was another Jamaican, John Martin. who was
brought from Sierra Leone to run the bakery. Martin began to use hops for a rising agent,
as yeast was not easily available. This was an improvement on palm wine, which was
commonly used in Nigeria. Shackleford's second contribution was the introduction of the
vendor distribution system. Previously bread was only sold from the factory. Vendors,
who were paid commission by the company, opened the way to large scale production.47
From business accounts of the Shackleford bakery which are available for the early
1930s, one gains some appreciation of Shackleford's achievement. Although the 1930s
were a time of world-wide depression, when bread sales were low due to low purchasing'
power of the consumers, the bakery made over 1,000 per month in sales.46 The penny
loaf was a popular item and thus the factory may have produced somewhere between
7,000 to 8.000 loaves a day. Even during the depression, company profits ranged from
160 to 200 per month.
Shackleford continued to expand and innovate. In 1933, for example, he bought
more machines to improve efficiency, including the "dough divider, the hander-up
machine, and a mixer". He purchased vans to distribute bread to out-lying areas.47
Shackleford bread was sold in Abeokuta, Ibadan. and other towns. In 1938, Shackleford
bought a new oven for 2,000, reportedly the most modern in West Africa.48
Although the Shackleford bakery was the major business, Shackleford formed the
Inland Transport and Supply Company in 1922 with four shareholders. The company's
other ventures included the establishment of the first mechanized petrol station in Lagos
in 1934 and the sale of rum imported from Jamaica.49 When Shackleford sold the bakery
in 1950 to Mbonu Ojike (1904 1956) the great Nigerian nationalist, for his African
Development Company. shares were worth 3.000.50
In 1934. Shackleford expanded his baking operations into Ghana. The United
Africa Company invited him to run the Kingsway Electric Bakery in Accra. Shackleford
reached an agreement with the company that he would lease their premises for 35 a year.
On his part, he agreed to buy all his supplies from UAC.5s With the help of his eldest son,
Lloyd Shackleford who was trained as a baker in Jamaica, Shackleford expanded to
establish bakeries in Takoradi and Kumasi. Shackleford travelled frequently between
Lagos and Ghana and then in 1950 he sold his business in Nigeria and decided to retire in
Ghana. The bakeries continued there for some years after his death.
Shackleford also held twenty-two shares in the Ikosi Launching Industries Ltd.,
which was actually run by Joshua Ricketts. the youngest son of Edward Ricketts. The
Ikosi company ran a successful ferry service along the lagoon in Western Nigeria of the
Epe district. Ikosi was a town near Agbowa, the original site of the Ricketts mission. Per-
haps in continuation of the original school founded by his father, Ricketts, through the
Ikosi company, established the Ikosi Central Industrial School in 1946. The school was an
expensive venture which consumed all the company profits and caused its downfall.52
Whereas Shackleford's bakery has received some mention from historians, his politi-
cal career has not been given adequate recognition. Historians of Garveyism have failed to
note Shackleford's contribution to the Nigerian Garvey movement.53 From all available
evidence, it appears that Shackleford was founder and president of the Lagos branch of
the UNIA and ACL.54
What were Shackleford's aims in starting a Garvey organization in Lagos? Given
Shackleford's Pan-African sentiments, which probably motivated his move to Nigeria in
the first place, it would not be unusual for him to embrace a world-wide movement for
racial solidarity and co-operation. Surely the fact that Marcus Garvey was a fellow Jamai-
can further increased his interest in furthering the movement in Nigeria. A report by the
French consulate in Lagos noted that the Garvey movement in Lagos was composed
almost exclusively of West Indians, while native Nigerians showed little interest.55
The Lagos branch of the UNIA and ACL was "non-political." Its aims were for
projects of self-help such as the "establishment of technical and industrial institutes for
boys and girls and the organization of local and commercial economic enterprises on
co-operative lines."56 Economic ventures must surely have been very important to
Shackleford at that time. In 1920 when the branch was formed, Shackleford was still a
clerk in S. Thomas and company. He reminded John E. Bruce that all his work for the
UNIA was voluntary and that he would appreciate any financial help.57
There is no evidence that Shackleford or the Lagos branch embraced Garvey's
political programme for freeing Africa from colonial rule. Anti-colonial statements were
seditious and treasonous and, for the most part, premature in Nigeria in 1920. The Lagos
branch carefully proclaimed its loyalty to the Crown and to the government of Nigeria.
Whether or not Shackleford secretly applauded Garvey's anti-colonial statements cannot
be determined. He later joined the movement for independence in the 1940s, but was
never a revolutionary.
The very name, Marcus Garvey, struck fear into the hearts of colonial governments
everywhere. In Nigeria, the colonial officials refused to accept that a Garvey group could
be non-political and denied the Lagos branch a band permit in 1921. After strenuous
efforts and legal help, the group was granted the permit. The colonial authorities further
thwarted the Lagos Garveyites by banning The Negro World, the Garvey newspaper pub-
lished in New York. The Anglican Church in.Nigeria denied the Lagos branch the use of
the church classrooms for holding their weekly meetings. 58 The group eventually lost its
support as Garvey was arrested and some of the followers became disillusioned.
Shackleford maintained his interest in Pan Africanism. In 1935, he and his second
wife. Gwendolyn James Shackleford, whom he had married in 1932, became leaders of
the Lagos protest of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia.59 Gwendolyn Shackleford, in parti-
cular, organized a petition from the Lagos women to transmit to the League of Nations.
Shackleford was also closely involved with Duse Mohammed Ali, the Egyptian journalist
and Pan Africanist who settled in Lagos in the 1)30s.60
Although he believed in co-ope':tinn between blacks of the Americas and Africa,
Shackleford did not advocate the ini,,;,!!;! of Anmericm blacks to Africa. On a visit to
Harlem in 1939, Shackleford advised the Americans to stay in America and build large
scale industries to create jobs for themselves. "In Africa, we already have sufficient labour.
What we need is direct outlets for our raw materials." He hoped that there would be
increased trade between blacks of the two continents.61 Mrs Shackleford also spoke and
warned the Americans that her husband's success in Africa was achieved only after great
difficulty. Shackleford also gave his full support and financial help to ventures to raise
money for Nigerians to study in America.62
Involvement in Nigerian Politics
What was most remarkable about Shackleford was his active participation in
Nigerian politics. He was founder and vice-president of the Nigerian National Democratic
Party (NNDP). The party was formed by Herbert Macaulay, Thomas Horatio Jackson
(1879-1936), editor of the Lagos Weekly Record, and other "native foreigners" in the
wake of the Clifford Constitution which granted Lagosians the right to elect three repre-
sentatives to the Legislative Council. Shackleford later ran for a seat on the Lagos Town
Council from Ebute Metta, and served from 1929 to 1938.
The Nigerian National Democratic Party was unchallenged in Lagos politics from
1923 until 1938. As a member of the inner circle which ruled the party and one of
Macaulay's close friends, Shackleford won his elections without difficulty. The Lagos
Town Council was characterized in that period as a "care and maintenance institution,
closely controlled by the central government." Its functions included provisions for
public health, control of the sale of liquor, market maintenance, vehicle licensing, super-
vision of motor traffic, and regulation of public halls. All political questions were outside
Given the rather mundane functions of the Lagos Town Council. it is not surprising
that Shackleford made no startling or major contributions during his term of office. When
he was running for re-election in 1938, the opposition party, the Nigerian Youth Move-
ment (NYM) which made the first real challenge to the NNDP hegemony in Lagos politics,
criticized Shackleford for his frequent absences from Council meetings.64 In 1931
Shackleford travelled to Jamaica and returned almost one year later in 1932. In 1934 he
began his bakeries in Ghana which necessitated frequent absences from Lagos. Finally in
1937, he travelled again to Jamaica. Thus, he was away when the election took place.
Another issue in the 1938 campaign was the presence of foreign candidates in the
NNDP. In addition to Shackleford. C.C. Adeniyi Jones. the NNDP representative on the
Legislative Council was a Sierra Leonian. The NYM raised the issue in the campaign, and
the NNDP party was soundly defeated. It is questionable whether the foreign nationality
of some of the candidates was the real reason for the defeat of the NNDP. The Nigerian
Daily Times judged the defeat to be as a result of "lethargy and complacency" of the
incumbents.65 They had held undisputed sway in Lagos politicr for so long that they
did not seriously campaign in the election. The young and vigoIouL Nigerian Youth Move-
ment took the election without much difficulty.
After the 1938 election, the NNDP ceased to be a great force in Lagos politics.
Yorubas and Igbos now became an important voice in the i ; f!initv and the "native
foreigners" lost their pre-eminent positions.66 After the I'; election ihicr were no
more candidates for office whose nationality would be controversial.67 The NNDP con-
tinued its existence. In 1944, it joined in the formation of the National Council for
Nigeria and the Cameroons, the NCNC. Herbert Macaulay became the first president of
the NCNC, though the office was mainly honorary.
When Macaulay died in 1946, Shackleford was elected president of the NNDP, a
post he held until his death. Shackleford joined the NCNC in the fight for freedom. He is
remembered for his generosity in NCNC fund-raising campaigns.68
Shackleford's friendship and political association with Herbert Macaulay assuredly
opened many avenues to him in Lagos life. Macaulay affectionately referred to Shackleford
as the "genial and energetic Councillor", "the titular mayor of Ebute Metta" and "the
Bread King", in the columns of Macaulay's newspaper, The Lagos Daily News.69 When
Shackleford returned to Lagos after a holiday in Jamaica in 1932. he and Macaulay
visited the Eleko, the traditional ruler of Lagos, with Macaulay as interpreter.70 In an
undated letter in the Macaulay papers, Gwendolyn Shackleford thanked Macaulay for a
gift. "Men like you make us Negroes feel this world is fit to live in," she wrote. "Carry
Shackleford joined in many social activities in Lagos. He was an organist and active
member of Christ Church in Lagos. He played cricket and was a member of the Nigerian
Cricket Association, to whom he donated a silver cup. One young admirer remembered
that the Shackleford home was a meeting-place for young men debating new ideas. "The
comfort of that home was put at the disposal of youth socials."72
Shackleford left Lagos in 1950 because of ill-health. He and his wife journeyed
first to Jamaica for a holiday. On their way back to West Africa through London,
Shackleford suffered a stroke and was hospitalized. He returned to Accra in May 1954
and died 31 December 1954. At his request, his body was brought to Lagos to be buried.
The funeral was held at Christ Church and was attended by Nigerians from all social
classes. Governor MacPherson laid a wreath as did the nationalist Mbonu Ojike.73 At the
wake held afterwards by the Bread Vendors Association, Prince Adenyinka Oyekan, the
present Oba of Lagos was present, as well as leaders of the NCNC.74 The Lagos news-
papers paid him tribute as a "great man" whose "name was closely linked with the politi-
cal and economic progress of Nigeria".75
Shackleford never learned to speak Yoruba. He continued to wear western-style
dress. His children were educated in Jamaica and are now scattered in Europe and
America. Yet Shackleford regarded himself as a Nigerian. He was fully integrated into
Lagos economic, political and social life, particularly among the westernized elite. He was
a prominent citizen and earned himself a citation in the Who's Who of Jamaica76 as well
as Who's Who of Nigeria.77 He should be remembered today as a pioneer industrialist and
nationalist who fulfilled his youthful ambition to participate in the development of
I. Lagos, Nigeria, Personal Interview with Mr. Sydney Moss, son of Jamaican-born printer, Noel
Moss and Miss Ricketts, 11 July 1981
2. Olu Akinfosile, Letter, Daily Times (Lagos), 4 February 1955, p. 4.
3. Rev J. Buckley Wood, "On the Inhabitants of Lagos. Their Character, Pursuits and Language,"
The Church Missionary Intelligencer, November 1881, p. 690, as quoted in R.J.M. Blackett,
"Return to the Motherland: Robert Campbell, A Jamaican in Early Colonial Lagos," Journal of
the Historical Society of Nigeria, VIII, 1 (December, 1975), 136.
4. P. A. Talbot, Peoples of Southern Nigeria, IV (London: Oxford University Press, 1926), p. 152.
5. For a detailed study of Robert Campbell, see R.J.M. Blackett, Op. Cit.
6. D. B. Vincent (Mojola Agbebi) "A Dirge to the Memories of Professor R. Campbell and N. T.
King MD" Eagle and Lagos Critio, 28 June 1884
7. E. A. Ayandele,Missionary Impact on Modern Nigeria, 1842-1914 (London; Longmans, 1966),
8. Lagos, Nigeria, Personal Interview with Sydney Moss.
9. Lagos, Nigeria, Personal Interview with Mrs. Karinga, grand-daughter of John Ambleston,
12 July 1981.
10. African Messenger, 16 November 1922, p.e.
11. Allister Macmillan, ed. The Red Book of West Africa, (1922 reprinted, London: Frank Cass,
1968), p. 114.
12. Lagos, Nigeria, Personal Interview with Mrs. Karinga.
13. For more about the Saro, see Jean Herskovits Kopytoff, A Preface to Modern Nigeria: The
"Sierra Leonians" in Yoruba, 1830-1890 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1965).
14. Michael J. C. Echeruo, Victorian Lagos (London: Macmillan, 1977) passim.
15. Address of Governor Maloney, Governor of Lagos Colony in Government of Lagos Gazette,
11 July 1887.
16. "The Afro-Americans at Victoria Park," Sierra Leone Weekly News, 23 January 1915, p. 6.
17. For more on cultural nationalism, see R. L. Okonkwo, "Cultural Nationalism in the Colonial
Period," in Readings in African Humanities, ed. by O. Kalu (Enugu: Fourth Dimension Pub.,
18. J. F. Ade Ajayi, "Nineteenth Century Origins of Nigerian Nationalism," Journal of the Histori-
cal Society of Nigeria 2 (December 1969) 196-210.
19. P. A. Talbot, Op. cit., p. 19.
20. E. A. Ayandele, "How Truly Nigerian is our Nigerian History?" African Notes (Bulletin of the
Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan) 5, 2 (January 1969) 19-33.
21. Michael Echeruo, Op. cit., p. 109.
22. Ibid., p. 113.
23. Kristin Nann, "A Social History of the New African Elite in Lagos Colony, 1880-1930,"
Unpublished Ph. D., Dissertation Stanford University, 1977, p. 51.
24. Lagos, Nigeria, Personal interview with Cecil O. A. Wynter Shackleford, son to A. S. Wynter
Shackleford, 11 July 1981.
25. Who's Who in Jamaica, 1941-6.
26. Enclosure, Jamaica Despatch, 15 January 1913, Co 583/3 3770, Original Correspondence
Nigeria, Microfilm, 180 (5).
27. Governor-General of Nigeria to Secretary of State for the Colonies, 18 July 1923, Co 583/4
24779, Original Correspondance Nigeria, Microfilm 181 (5).
28. For background on Nigerian railway, see Wale Oyemakinde, "Railway Construction and Opera-
tion in Nigeria, 1895-1911, Labour Problems and Socio-Economic Impact," Journal of the
Historical Society of Nigeria, VII, 2 (June 1974), 303-324.
29. Governor of Jamaica to Governor of Nigeria, 15 January 1913, Co 583/3 3770, op. cit.
30. A. S. W. Shacklelord to Traffic Superintendent. Kingston, 10 November 1912, in Jamaica
31. Vernon Arnold to Traffic Superintendent, Ibid.
32. "Importation of West Indians for Railway Service," File No. 2216/1914, Nigerian National
Archives, Ibadan. Nigeria.
33. Olu Akinfosile, Letter, Op. cit.
34. A. S. W. Shackleford. Letter, Lagos Standard. 17 February 1915.
35. A. Macmillan, ex. The Red Book of West Africa. p. 95
36. "Right O" to John E. Bruce, 1 November 1920, MS 188, John E. Bruce Papers, Schomburg
Center for Research in Black Culture, New York. Cecil O. A. Wynter Shackleford has identified
the handwriting of the letter to be that of A. S. W. Shackleford. Other references in the letter
confirm Shackleford as the author.
37. A. G. Hopkins, "Economic Aspects of Political Movements in Nigeria and in the Gold Coast,
1918-1939," Journal of African History, VII, i (1966), 135.
38. Peter Kilby, African Enterprise: The Nigerian Bread Industry (Stanford: Hoover Institution
Studies, 1965), p. 7
40. Lagos Daily News, 23 April 1930, p. 1.
41. "The Bakery Industry in Nigeria," Nigeria Trade Journal 9, 4 (October) December, 1961), 154.
42. Cecil O. A. Wynter Shackleford to the author, March 1981.
43. Akinbami Agbebi to John E. Bruce, 18 May 1920, MS 267, John E. Bruce Papers, Schomburg
Center for Research in Black Culture, New York.
44. Peter Kilby, op. cit., p. 105
45. Ibid., p. 7.
48. "Statement of Receipts and Expenditures for the Month of January, 1934," Inland Transport
and Supply Company," A. S. W. Shackleford Papers, Lagos, Nigeria.
49. Minutes of Shareholders Meeting 8 December 1933, Inland Transport and Supply Co., Ltd.,
Shackleford Papers, Lagos, Nigeria.
50. Letter, Nigerian Daily Times, 10 June 1938, p. 10.
51. C. 0. A. Wynter Shackleford, Letter to the author, March 1981.
52. Ikosi Central Industrial School, Financial Statement, 1946-1950. Shackleford Papers, Lagos,
53. For example, G. O. Olusanya, "The Lagos Branch of the UNIA," Journal of Business and Social
Studies (Lagos) 2 (March 1969) 133-145; J. A. Langley; "Garveyism and African Nationalism,"
Race 11 (October 1969), 157-173: Tony Martin, Race First: The Ideological and Organiza-
tional Struggles of Marcus Garvey and the UNIA (Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1976).
54. For a detailed study of the Lagos branch of the UNIA and Shackleford's role, see R. L.
Okonkwo, "The Garvey Movement in Nigeria, "The Calabar Historical Journal 2 1 (June 1978),
98-113; R. L. Okonkwo, "The Garvey Movement in British West Africa," Journal of African
History 21 (1980), 105-117.
55. Agence Consulaire de France to M. Ie Gouverneur de Dahomey, 21 January 1921, 21 G 126
(103), National Archives of Senegal, Dakar.
56. Advertisement, Lagos Weekly Record, 25 September 1920.
57. "Right O" to John E. Bruce, 1 November 1920, MS 188, John E. Bruce Papers.
58. African Messenger (Lagos) 15 September 1921, p. 4.
59. S. K. B. Asante, Pan African Protest: West Africa and The Italo-Ethiopia Crisis 1934-41
(London: Longman, 1977), pp. 126-7.
61. "Mr A. S. Shackleford is on A Visit to America," West African Pilot (Lagos) 28 July 1939, p. 1.
62. Olu Akinfosile, Letter, op. cit.
63. Pauline H. Baker. Urbanization and Political Change, The Politics of Lagos 1917-1967 (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1974), p. 167.
64. Letter, Nigerian Daily Times, 6 June 1938, p. 8.
65. "In Retrospect," Editorial, Nigerian Daily Times, 17 June 1938, p. 6.
66. Pauline Baker, op. cit.. p. 49
67. Tekena Tamuno. Nigeria and Elective Representation, 1923-1947 (London: Heinemann,
1966), p. 77.
68. Lagos, Nigeria. Personal Communication from K. O. Mbadiwe, Nigerian politician, March 1981.
69. Lagos Daily News, 30 May 1931. p.e.
70. Lagos Daily News, 1 April 1932, p.1.
71. Gwendolyn Shackleford to Herbert Macaulay, undated letter, Herbert Macaulay Papers, Box 91
File 4 Manuscript Division, University Library, University of Ibadan.
72. Olu Akinfosile, Letter, op. cit..
73. "Late Shackletord Extolled as a Good Christian and Leader," West African Pilot, 5 January
1955. p. 1.
74. West African Pilot. 24 January 1955, p. 3.
75. "Death of Mr. Shackleford", Editorial, West African Pilot, 5 January 1955, p. 2.
76. Who's Who in Jamaica 1941-1946.
77. Adeoye Diniga, Nigerian Who's Who for 1934 (Lagos, 1934)
The author wishes to thank Cecil O. A. Wynter Shackleford for his full co-operation in the
research for this paper and Mr. Basil I. Esomchi for typing the manuscript. The University of Nigeria
Senate Research Grant provided financial support for the work.
This paper was presented at the conference of the Association for the Study of Afro-American
Life and History held in Philadelphia, 29 October 1981.
LEARIE CONSTANTINE: THE WRITER
Learie Constantine was born on 23 September 1902 in Diego Martin. Trinidad. He was
knighted in Britain in 1962, and awarded a life peerage in 1969. When he died in London
in July 1971, he bore the impressive if curiously mixed title -Baron Constantine of
Maraval in Trinidad and of Nelson in the County Palatine of Lancaster. A full State
Funeral was held for him in Trinidad, and later a memorial service in Westminster
Abbey.1 These would be remarkable honours for anyone; for a black West Indian like
Constantine, whose homeland was a British colony during most of his life, they are not
less than extraordinary: they indicate that if he was not the most eminent, he was cer-
tainly one of the best known West Indians of his day.
Constantine's achievements have been recognized in many spheres including cricket,
politics, broadcasting and race relations. His achievement as a writer has never been
recognized. Yet, between 1933 and 1966, Constantine wrote seven books, the titles of
which speak for themselves Cricket and I (1933), Cricket in the Sun (1946), Cricket
Crackers (1949), Cricketers' Cricket (1949), Cricketers Carnival (1950). Colour Bar
(1954), The Changing Face of Cricket (1966).2 These titles proclaim Constantine's
abiding interest in cricket. Cricket was his vocation. It is doubtful whether he would
have achieved as much as he did, if he did not excel at cricket, and if he did not have the
opportunity to demonstrate his excellence.
He first visited England in 1923 and then again in 1928 as a member of the West
Indian cricket team. He then began his long career as a professional cricketer and an un-
broken twenty-five-year residence in England.3 Nor is this long absence Irom his home-
land either unusual or unpatriotic. Then, as now, it was generally difficult to make a
living out of playing cricket in the West Indies. In going to England Constantine was
following a familiar route to the "Mother Country" taken by everyone in the colonies in
pursuit of skills, professions and the fulfilment of potential or talent. In his case the
potential or talent was for cricket, and everything proceeded out of its fulfilment: not
only fame as a cricketer, politician, broadcaster, and redoubtable campaigner for im-
proved race relations, but also his role as a writer.
Constantine's first book, Cricket and I, describes the author's experience on the field
of sport as most books by sportsmen-writers do; it also provides commentaries on actual
cricket matches, and includes authoritative observations on the administration and tech-
nique of the game, as well as accurate, descriptive details of West Indian history and geo-
graphy. The opening chapters give information about the author's life, his family, friends
and the more important formative influences on his cricket in Trinidad; the middle
chapters deal with his career overseas in League and Test cricket; and the final section
comments lucidly and acutely on the theory and practice of cricket. This first book
is notable for its balanced opinions, controlled style, for what it tells us about Constantine
himself, about cricket in general, and about the game as it was played in the 1930s.
Cricket and I is also notable for being written with "valuable assistance" from
C.L.R. James. Constantine thanks James in his "Author's Foreword" and refers to him as
"my collaborator" several times in the book. But it is difficult to determine exactly how
much of the book's literary quality is due to James's "assistance" or "collaboration".
Either Constantine was an uncommonly quick learner, or he was no mean writer himself;
for much of the lucid commentary and dramatic reconstruction of incidents found in this
first book appears in later books which were written presumably without James's help.
In his own Beyond a Boundary James states that Constantine encouraged him to go to
England and offered to help him when he got there:
I accepted the offer, and we agreed to meet in England the following spring. The
plans were as rapid in the making as in the telling. At the time he had, I think,
dined at my house once. I doubt if his wife and mine had yet met.4
West Indians nowadays may wonder with a mixture of nostalgia and pride at the ensuing
association between the self-educated professional cricketer and the Marxist intellectual
in the alien atmosphere of Northern England in the 1930s. James's account of this asso-
ciation in Beyond a Boundary is authoritative and convincing. It tells a story of fervent
hope in the short-term goal of self-government for the West Indies, and dogged faith in
the long-term goals of freedom for black men and brotherhood among all men.
Constantine's books are a direct product of this hope and faith. Cricket is their chief
subject, and their fundamental theme is fair play in sport as well as in human relations.
The basic technique is journalistic, employing autobiographical incidents which are
illuminated by analysis and commentary. This technique appears in all Constantine's
books, though it may be seen to best advantage in Cricket in the Sun. The tone of this
second book is sharper than in the first: its observations and recollections seem more
personal and idiosyncratic, truer to the personality of the writer.
To some extent, the increased personal flavour of Cricket in the Sun may be due to
the author's more personal control of the writing without help from a "collaborator".
More profoundly, it is due to a genuine taste for plain speaking, directness and candour.
In sport as in life, Constantine liked to reach as close to the truth as possible. He reveals
a keen enthusiasm for uninhibited gestures, and a relish for combative attitudes, spurred
on, it seems, by an insatiable lust for truth. In explaining how he came to write Cricket
in the Sunr Constantine quotes from a correspondent's claim that most cricket books
tended to omit "so many personal things that every cricket fan earnestly wants to know".
Cricket in the Sun was inspired by a conscious motive to supply this deficiency by fear-
lessly revealing those intimate secrets of the game that most cricket writers would be
either too busy or shy to reveal. It is this spirit of candour that instils directness into
Constantine's opinions and produces a sharp. pungent flavour in his writing.
Race In Cricket
Cricket in the Sun contains incisive and openly critical observations on a wide range
of topics, from colour discrimination to the alleged fickleness of the West Indian tempera-
ment, social injustices in India, and many more "personal things" which would interest
both the cricket fan and the general reader. The observations on colour discrimination
In Australia, where I expected it, I found no colour bar whatever in cricket. In
India, it is rigid, but then white opinion in India is always half a century behind
the rest of the world. In Britain there is very little on the cricket field itself--
practically none in first class cricket, though it is known that I have suffered.
with many others, at the hands of hotels, not always run by pure blooded
Britishers, because I happen to be merely a citizen of tile British Empire instead
of a foreigner. And it is true to say that in English hotel life in general, a German,
or any other habitual enemy of this country, is much more sure of common
courtesy than any coloured Empire citizen, though he may be a V C or a public
benefactor, or anything else.5
The tone is plain-speaking but not acerbic, sharp though not unbalanced, and critical
without being hostile. The aim, as in the all Constantine's books, is to reveal "hard but
truthful things", and the impression that" we get of the motives behind thle aim is of
absolute fairness, honesty, and a passionate desire to keep the record straight.
It takes courage some thirty years before the D'Oliveira affair,6 to denounce the
devious pusillanimity of the English cricketing Establishment in collaborating with white
South Africans to keep a non-white player (Dulcepshinji) from going to South Africa as
a member of the English cricket team. Cricket in the Sun also refers to "the terrific
storm in the MCC when Ranji first played for England". Nor are Constantine's well-
known grievances against the West Indian cricket Establishment more muted. He
mentions, for instance, "the atmosphere of servitude" which dictated that the West
Indian captain should always be white even thou gh a majority of the team were non-
white. And he cites the example of Rolf Grant being picked as captain of the West
Indian team in England in 1939 "on the ground that a white leader was better than any
Courageous honesty and forthrightness go a far way to making Cricket in the Sun
the best of all the author's books. His other books may be as forthright, but they are
either too generalized, lacking the wholly convincing West Indian flavour of Cricket in the
Sun; or they are theoretical books dealing principally with administrative and coaching
aspects of cricket. Cricket Crackers and Cricketers' Carnival, for example, are entertain-
ing volumes of cricket reminiscenl3s written with as much skill as the author's other
books; but they do not convey with the same conviction as Cricket in the Sunthe authen-
tic, visceral responses of a black West Indian to the word of fifty years ago. Cricket in
the Sun underlines the interest which Constantine's writing holds for us today, in pro-
viding a reliable record, of the deepest preoccupations and typical concerns of West
Indians fifty or more years ago.
When writing in Cricket in the Sun about the tour of the West Indian cricket team to
Australia in 1931, Constantine discusses one of the perennial problems of West Indian
We went on to Australia. but already some of us had noticed with dismay one of
those perennial flaws in West Indian touring sides. Our captain was G.C. Grant,
the Cambridge Blue, who had come straight from England to the West Indies in
time to sail with us, but had seen none of us in action. I had spent the summer
with Nelson, others of our team had been hastily gathered up from various places
and were more or less unfamiliar with one another's play; and we were going to
challenge the most solidly welded and hardest-tested team in the world on their
own grounds in a continent strange to us! The fact is that most West Indies tour-
ing sides are like we were that year just a ragbag-full of individually good bats-
men and bowlers but not a team at all.7
On the face of it, this problem has now been solved, at any rate, since Frank Worrell
became, in 1960, the first black man to be appointed captain of the West Indies cricket
team for an entire series. Whether the potential of a unified team reflecting a coherent
West Indian nationality has also been realized is a different matter. Constantine does
not explicitly discuss this potential, but it is not likely that it escaped his notice when his
"abiding ambition", in James's words, was "to use his reputation and the financial
competence it gave him as a means of advancing the cause of the West Indian people".
Constantine's analysis of the problem of West Indian team spirit is as straight and un-
ambiguous as his proposed solution:
To be brown skinned, that is to say, to have any trace of white blood in one,
always gives a man an advantage in the West Indies, not only in cricket but in
business. To put it plainly, if two men went for a job or were being considered
for a Test team, and one was black and the other only brown skinned, superior
ability in the black man would not get him the job or place no, not once in a
The fact is, West Indian captains, and as far as possible West Indian players,
have always been selected from the same coterie. This coterie, fifty years ago,
included all the good cricketers we had. Today, of course, the majority of good
cricketers are outside it.
The time has come when I have become nationalist enough to plead openly,
knowing what will be said to me, that all this nonsense should come to an end.
Until players and captains are considered on their merits by a justice blind to the
colour of their skins, the West Indies will never take a place in Test Match cricket
commensurate with the skill of individual West Indian exponents ....
I venture to make a prophecy. It is that before I die I shall see a West Indian
team, chosen on its merits alone, captained by a black player, win a rubber
How satisfying it must have been for him to see his prophecy fulfilled, several times over,
during the last decade of his life! At the same time, there is a somewhat sour taste to
Constantine's advocacy of a black captain. James argues in Beyond a Boundary for the
view that the West Indian captain should not be black necessarily, but simply the best
man for the job, picked presumably on objective criteria such as leadership, tactical skill
and playing ability. Constantine's counter argument would no doubt be that in a terri-
tory whose population was more than ninety per cent black, it was inevitable that the best
man for the captaincy of the national cricket team would be black. It is possible to
sympathise with Constantine's view while detecting an acrid flavour of defensiveness
which, we shall see later, sours some of his best writing.
Constantine's treatment of the issue of West Indian team selection and captaincy
reinforces the historical value of his writing. This issue may be regarded as dead nowa-
days, when all West Indian captains since Frank Worrell have been non-white. The issue
of colour discrimination in West Indian cricket and society has also lost some of the
impact that it had in Constantine's time. So too have other issues which Constantine
discusses at length, for example, the controversy over bodyline bowling which raged in
the 1930s. The liveliness of this controversy has long weakened, although the continuing
practice of habitually short-pitched fast bowling still worries cricket administrators. Even
if Constantine's treatment of such issues lacks immediacy for us today, it records the
genuine emotional impact and depicts the total atmosphere surrounding important
episodes in the history of cricket.
Relevance and Style
This, however, does not mean that Constantine's books should be relegated to
sterile shelves of dead history. His reconstruction of the drama of actual matches is often
exceedingly vivid, even of matches played more than forty years ago, and whose results
have long been consigned to the lifeless pages of record books. His description of the
second Test Match between England and West Indies at Queen's Park Oval, Trinidad, in
1934 is a good example: England were set 325 to win in three and a half hours on the
final day and they had lost a few wickets cheaply before one of their chief hopes Walter
Hammond came in:
Walter Hammond. remembering his solitary run in the first innings, exchanged
a few words with his batting colleague, and settled down to dig himself in. When
he does that, bowlers' hearts may break; but it was my day and I was bowling. I
worked over him with the loving care that a mother gives to her child. I tempted
him with balls that looked as innocent as Eve when she offered the apple to
Adam. batting as Humanity's First Man in. I put down bait balls that really
looked as if everything I had in me was in them. Hammond had scored 9;he was
obviously not trying to make runs. The policy of the English batsmen had been
clear right from the start, and it was that they were not to make runs but to draw
the game at all costs. None the less, Wally Hammond is too fine a batsman not to
have a knock at anything that looks like a loose ball; and when the trap was baited
and the animal was nibbling well, I sprung the trap with an off break that did not
look like an off break. Hammond came out to it, lost his nerve, tried to block,
and heard his wicket spin to bits behind him.
And when I knew that the Lord had delivered him into our hands, and the
crowd yelled till the sky trembled, and the palms ten miles away shook their
feathery fronds as the echoes told them that a Test Match was in the winning?
The excitement is irresistible and, to readers with a feeling for cricket, totally absorbing.
The dramatic confrontation of two teams and two individuals locked together in earnest
contest of body, mind and spirit is successfully reconstructed. And when the smell of
victory touches the author's nostrils, who can deny him hyperbole, the exultation of the
Bible, and the ecstasy of Caribbean lyricism! The drama is heightened in the final
moments of the match when Constantine is taken off by his captain because one of the
English batsmen complains that he is bowling bodyline. Victory is nevertheless assured,
and duly won by the West Indies, by a margin of 217 runs.
The general reader, unfamiliar with cricket, may find little appeal in such writing;
for there is no doubt that Constantine writes for the aficionado, the devoted follower of
cricket. But Hemingway's Death in the Afternoon proves that it is possible to write
about sport and appeal to the general reader. Not that Constantine's cricket books are
equal in literary achievement to Hemingway's book. Death in the Afternoon is a work of
philosophical interest which Constantine does not even attempt to achieve. All the same,
a good literary claim can be made for the pure delight and enthusiasm which Constantine
captures in his writing about cricket. Here is his response at the end of the series between
England and the West Indies 1934-35 when West Indies won a rubber for the first time:
And then to bed, to live it all over and over again in dreams, never to escape
from the shattering roar of the crowd, continuous and splendid, to see the wickets
fall, feel the catches burr in the palm, watch George Headley passing his double
century, and know through it all that, this time, there was no uncertainty about
weather or result, and that though in sleep we were playing it all again, it must go
on now to the inevitable result a win, a win, a win. 10
The pure, unalloyed pleasure of such a response, regardless of what the writer is respond-
ing to, should hold some appeal for any but the most lethargic or unsympathetic reader.
Moreover, anyone with a general awareness of colonial history may see in Constan-
tine's writing the importance of sport as an avenue of achievement to colonized people. It
is no coincidence that both James and Constantine started out as cricketers or, at any rate,
as cricket enthusiasts. The percentage of cricketers among West Indians of eminence is
also significant: not only Constantine, but Sir Frank Worrell and Sir Garfield Sobers
among others. To read Constantine, therefore, is like seeing an old picture of George
Headley standing in line waiting to shake the hand of King George VI: it is to observe the
making of West Indian history.
Cricket Crackers and Cricketers' Carnival deal with the author's experiences in
roughly the same period between 1923 and 1949. They contain much lively writing, un-
inhibited judgments and varied suggestions on all aspects of cricket, including the relative
merits of players, teams, techniques and styles of play. The aim as usual is raciness and
vigour rather than sobriety and calmness, and it is wholly realized in Cricket Crackers and
Cricketers' Carnival which illustrate Constantine's literary technique perfectly, even if
they are less successful in literary achievement than Cricket in the Sun. These two books
consist of informally arranged sketches and anecdotes, and retail amusing or dramatic
incidents of cricketers or people notable for some achievement, special talent, or eccen-
tricity associated with cricket. Constantine ranges freely between personalities and issues
in county as well as in Test cricket and between players and teams from all parts of the
world. Altogether he demonstrates as complete a knowledge of the game as one could
wish for, encompassing its growth, history and development in England and its social
and political implications in English-speaking countries abroad.
The loosely arranged mixture of anecdotes and informal commentaries is a format
which allows Constantine to indulge his enthusiasm for special players and incidents as
well as to relieve his dissatisfactions. Cricketers' Carnival which attempts a more formal
structure is the least successful of the author's books. It consists of twenty-one chapters,
each of which describes progressive stages in an imaginary match between an Old Players
Eleven and a Contemporaries Eleven, with both sides picked from international cricketers.
The Old Players team consists mainly of English and Australian players who flourished
during the so-called Golden Age of cricket which lasted roughly between 1890 and 1910.
The Contemporaries Eleven comprises players from the 1930s. In his usual manner, the
author intersperses his account of the match with autobiographical recollections; or one
may choose to regard these recollections as being interspersed with accounts of different
stages of the match. In either event, the reader's attention is divided between the pro-
gress of the match itself and the author's recollections. When the match eventually ends
in a tie, it is a synthetic conclusion to a synthetic book which lacks the vigour and
general, free-wheeling naturalness of most of the author's other works.
Naturalness and vigour are essential features of Constantine's writing as they are of
his cricket and day-to-day life. The vigorous aggression of his cricket has been acclaimed
all over the world, and he himself makes the connection between his reputation in cricket
and style of writing:
I fear my writing is like my batting. If feel suddenly that the right place for the
ball of controversy is the pavilion roof, away it goes . and then someone
reminds me that I have stepped off on the wrong foot. It will abate my admira-
tion of neat footwork for nobody; yet I have always so much enjoyed hitting out
for the fun of the game that I sometimes doubt, now, whether the practice will
ever cease. And if I am bowled at even bodyline I shall make no complaints.
I shall just hit out again! To me, hard hitting and fast bowling have always been
the champagne of cricket, and though shandy is a more practical drink when there
is much work to be done, I would not now refuse something more heady.
Constantine entirely justifies Stendhal's dictum about style being the man himself. The
frankly anecdotal structure and boldly opinionated judgments in his writing match the
plucky aggressiveness of his cricket which usually came in short bursts rather than long
innings, both in baiting and bowling. It is a curious fact that Constantine never played a
long innings in nearly twelve years of Test cricket. His highest Test score is ninety, and
his bowling more understandably for a fast bowler came in short spells. His abilities
were best suited to the one-innings. one-day match the fast score, and the short spell of
lethal fast bowling. He was the League cricketer "par excellence" and was recognized as
such in his own time. Hence the quick changing, episodic movement of his writing, its
air of unforced spontaneity, and unlikely mixture of casual abandon and enduring comba-
tiveness were in character.
To acknowledge these characteristics of his cricket and writing is to reach the heart
of the matter and the controversial centre of Constantine's West Indian being. Can these
characteristics be identified as representative of the region and people from which he
came? There is no doubt about the answer to this question in the following comments
by a man who may be regarded as one of the best writers ever to take cricket for his
It is good to read a book on cricket by Constantine; he gives us a fresh point of
view, and it is the view of a country which is young enough yet to play its games
and not merely work at them. Constantine is a representative man: he is West
Indian cricket, just as W.G. Grace was English cricket. When we see Constantine
bat or bowl or field, we know he is not an English player, not an Australian
player, not a South African player. We know that his cuts and drives, his whirling
fast balls, his leapings and clutchings and darlings we know they are the conse-
quence of impulses born in the blood, a blood heated by the sun and influenced
by an environment and a way of life much more natural than ours: impulses not
common to the psychology of the over-civilised places of the earth. His cricket is
In the same preface, Cardus describes Constantine's movements as "almost primitive in
their pouncing voracity and unconscious beauty", and he acknowledges Constantine's
"contribution to the style and technique of cricket". Cardus also agrees that Cricket and
I "is like the man himself'.
In 1933 Cardus's preface would have been uncritically accepted as complimentary
remarks by an admirer of Constantine and a distinguished commentator on cricket. To-
day, his preface will be suspected of admiring condescension and the distanced sympathy
that liberal pateralists of Victorian vintage used to show to "lesser breeds without the
law". But if Cardus is guilty of condescension and paternalism in regarding Constantine's
cricket as representative, he is not alone. West Indian cricket has traditionally been noted
for special qualities of flair and reckless aggression. These qualities are not "racial" in the
sense of being genetic. If that is what Cardus meant, he would be guilty of condescen-
sion, paternalism or racism. But the fact that he contrasts English and Australian cricket,
when English and Australian people are of the same genetic stock, proves that by "racial"
he means regional or national. In this sense Grace embodies subdued, calculating English
qualities, Trumper a more adventurous but equally calculating Australian style, and
Constantine a swashbuckling gusto bred in the Caribbean sun.
These are the more positive aspects of West Indian cricket. Cardus may also have
mentioned the uncertainty and fickleness that accompany West Indian flair and gusto.
Traditionally, West Indian cricketers have been famous for individual performances of
great merit, and just as often infamous for poor self control and failure to resist concerted
pressure, especially when such control and resistance would benefit the collective per-
formance of the team. Edward Brathwaite's poem "Rites" bears this out:
But is always the trouble wid we:
too afraid an' too frighten.
Is all very well when it rosy an' sweet.
but lel murder start an bruggalungdung
you caln fine a man to hole up de side.13
There have always been exceptions to the rule, for instance. George Headley before
World War II. and post-war batsmen like Clyde Walcott and O.G. Smith whose premature
death in a car accident robbed West Indian cricket of probably its brightest post-war
star with the exception of Gary Sobers. Starry-eyed nationalists may disagree, but the
West Indian side is notorious for wilting unexpectedly under the heat of competition, and
flourishing under conditions made favourable by chance factors such as the luck of the
toss, good weather, or a weakened opposition. Their triumph in England in 1950 and
destruction by England in 1957 are typical. So also are their enormous successes against
India in the 1950s. but when India produced batsmen like Gavaskar and Sardesai by the
1970s, and bowlers like Chandrasekhar and Bedi, the tables were completely turned.14
Spontaneity and Cerebration
Fickleness and a cavalier approach to cricket are serious disorders bred in noisome
colonial conditions of slavery and racism. They are not cured by ihe simple antidote of a
black West Indian captain, as Constantine suggests, any more than black leadership and
independence have improved the lot of the West Indian people since 1960.15 There is no
doubt that the collective performance of West Indian cricket teams has improved since
the advent of black captains, but fickle and unexpected performance are still a disappoint-
ment to many supporters of West Indian cricket. The team that Sobers led between
1965 and 1972 dominated the world of cricket by its sheer talent and virtuosity. Yet
there was no corresponding domination in concrete results: and more often than not the
West Indies owed victory to the extraordinary playing (not leadership) abilities of the
It must be conceded that all teams have their fat and lean years. The aim here is to
indicate the intensity of colonial damage in encouraging a cavalier approach which,
while it sometimes promotes excellence, more often produces sudden reversals of reason-
able expectations from the collective effort of West Indian cricketers. Constantine shows
some awareness of this when he mentions the West Indian penchant for demonstrative
flourishes, voluble emotionalism, and general excitability. He points out, however, that
English players are liable to similar "displays of temperament". He is apparently stung by
remarks of a "famous cricket writer" who describes West Indians in a particular match
shaking hands, smiling and showing their white teeth when they take a wicket, or indulg-
ing in "gestures of intensest dismay" when a catch is dropped.
Constantine's quick retaliation to this hint of the West Indian cricketer as a talented
but somewhat brainless simpleton is crucial to his writing. Retaliation induced defensive-
ness lead him to exaggerate the mental effort, control and cogitation that West Indians
put into their circket. Is it really necessary to argue that George Headley, or anyone
else, could not have made two separate centuries in a single Test against England
without considerable thought and immense concentration? Similarly, Headley's 270
also against England: it would be physically impossible to compile a score of that size
without strenuous mental effort and complete psychological control. In his heart,
Constantine probably felt that these innings were the exceptions that proved the rule
about West Indian instinctiveness. lack of due premeditation and staying power. If this is
so, it explains the defensiveness which emerges as the most serious weakness of his writing.
In the Fifth Test of the West Indian tour of Australia in 1930-31, Constantine tells
how he got several Australian batsmen (including Bradman) out by an elaborate series
of cleverly thought-out strategies. In the particular innings about which he writes, he
took six wickets for 45 runs and the account of his performance is self-admiring. When
he again describes his role in the 1935 Test Match between West Indies and England at
Sabina Park, Jamaica. his self-congratulation seems like plain boasting, as distinct from
pure, grateful delight in success that we have seen elsewhere:
At eleven o'clock sharp I bowled the first ball of the day to Iddon. He played
it carefully forward, and did the same with the next. He thought he had done the
same to the next, but I do not put down three all the same, and the third was just
that little bit faster, and smacked through on to his pad and got him l.b.w., and
everybody except "Parson" himself and, perhaps, his partners, was very happy
Presently, Moodie was bowling to Hendren. 1 have had many duels withPatsy
[Hendren] and know his ways. I crept very close suppose about five feet
from the bat for I knew what he would do; and he did it. He tried to flick the
ball to the off, I sprawled down full length and grabbed it off the edge of the bat
and that was that. 16
The perception, anticipation and general knowingness are excessive, and the author's
account of the match is unconvincing, in sharp contrast to earlier examples where his
descriptions are genuinely exciting.
Excessive knowingness is again present in Constantine's description of the Oval
Test Match between England and West Indies in 1939. Hardstaff and Nichols were
trying to stabilise the middle of the English innings:
Tea interval refreshes us after a hard day in the field, and we start on them
again. Hardstaff calls for a run, rather a short run, gets it. and smiles. I note his
smile secretly; it means that he thinks that he can do the same again, perhaps
because some of us are a little tired of running about. I meditate. Presently I am
bowling to Hardstaff, and toss him up just the very ball for a short run, if the ball
is patted to silly mid-off position, where no one is close enough to reach it.
Hardstaff pats it there and begins to run, but his smile slips off as he sees I have
followed right up the pitch, gathered the ball with a big sweep of the hand .. and
thrown down Nichols' wicket while he is still two yards out. In cricket as in poker,
you should never smile. 17
Repeated lapses of immodesty and even gloating, as at the end of the last quotation, are
untypical of Constantine's best writing. In the examplesjust given, they seem prompted
by a desire to prove to the English audience for whom he is writing, that West Indians,
far from being brainless creatures of instinct, are capable of sophisticated cerebral activity
in cricket. It goes without saying that if Constantine was truly convinced of West Indian
cerebration in cricket, he would have been unlikely to stress it to the extent that it some-
times damages the conviction of his writing and detracts from its dramatic power.
In the early sections of Cricket and I and Cricket in the Sun,Constantine makes out
both his uncle Victor Pascall and his father L.N. Constantine to be paragons of foresight,
planning, and virtue in cricket. The result again is damaged credibility. When we discover
a similar flaw in James's cricket writing we are led to wonder if its source cannot be
traced back to the association of the two men in England in the 1930s. James stresses the
fact that so much planning and training went into Constantine's cricket as to completely
dispel the idea of spontaneity and instinctiveness in his play. And when he discusses
Constantine's leg glance made from outside the off stump he attributes it to brains rather
than to instinctive improvisation:
Constantine's leg glance from outside the off stump to long leg was a classical
stroke. It was not due to his marvellous West Indian eyes and marvellous West
Indian wrists. It was due, if you must have it, to his marvellous West Indian
brains. He saw that the best league bowlers were always out to pin him down, and
the conditions, including the marvellous league crowds, compelled him to work
out new and safe ways of countering them. 18
It is difficult to imagine how such a stroke could be described as "safe" or "classical".
If the cricket writers who observed him are to be believed, Ranji, who played the leg
glance to classical perfection, never played it from outside the off stump.
What James seems to be doing is to justify a stroke of plucky improvisation, the prac-
tice of all great players, as a premeditated act. James appears to be reacting to English
descriptions of this stroke as due to Constantine's marvellous West Indian eyesight and
wrist work; and the effect of his reaction is to distort the exact truth about Constantine's
cricket, namely, that it employed plucky improvisation and natural gifts of instinct,
physical quickness and suppleness whenever the situation demanded it. The combination
of natural, physical abilities with an equally natural, mental alertness and sharp intelli-
gence provides a more exact description of Constantine's cricket than either English
accounts of his marvellous physical endowment, or James's claim of mental acuteness.
Similarly, Constantine's claim of acute perception and elaborate strategic planning, either
in his own play or in the performance of other West Indian players is, at best, a half-truth.
Cricket and Colour
There is no wish to belabour Constantine for defensiveness on racial issues: in the
1930s, when white racist attitudes prevailed in the various European centres of Empire,
black men living in these European centres experienced a degree of racial discrimination
which aroused a retaliatory but natural instinct for asserting their humanity. The negri-
tude movement of Senghor and Cesaire was generated in Paris by the same feelings of
black self-assertiveness that inspired Constantine and James. Inevitably, Senghor and
Cesaire, as well as Constantine and James overstated their case, as black Americans were
later to do when they asserted the beauty of blackness. Overstating the case for the
victims of racial discrimination was an effective psychological and political tactic in
helping to reach the practical goal of relieving racial discrimination. At the same time, it
distorted the real balance between instinct and reason which operates in all human beings,
in all cultures, in varying degrees. It is now common-place to state that black is neither
more nor less beautiful than white, and that no human group can claim a monopoly of
either instinct or reason. What needs to be understood is the broad human situation
which generates defensiveness in victims of racial discrimination and consequent exaggera-
tion of the racial attributes in which they are presumed to be deficient.
At this stage, it is clear that cricket and colour form Constantine's most important
preoccupations. There is no surprise in the title of the only book he wrote on a subject
other than cricket Colour Bar. In his own words, this book attempts to give "the
Negro's view of the black and white problem". The book contains an assortment of facts
about racial discrimination in historical as well as in modern times. It provides examples
of racial injustice from various parts of the world and particularly from parts within the
British Empire. Among other issues, the author cites the housing problems of blacks in
Chicago, the career of George Washington Carver, racially mixed marriages, the expulsion
of the Kabaka of Buganda, the suspension of the British Guiana Constitution in 1953, the
Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya, and his own experience as a Welfare Officer dealing with
West Indian workers who came to Britain during World War II to replace men who had
been called up for service.
On the whole, Colour Bar reveals humane and high-minded motives which are only
slightly touched by the defensiveness that occasionally mars Constantine's cricket writing.
His stress on black achievements invariably tends to be balanced by a global view n which
the author sees blacks and whites struggling together "to avoid world tragedy", one in
which everybody would lose". The book bears the following epigraph:
While I was writing this book, a white man and a coloured man together climbed
the highest peak in the world. There are no heights to which we cannot rise ..
The Preface gives a lengthy quotation from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
which was proclaimed in the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948. This
quotation underlines the author's deliberate attempt to achieve balance and objectivity in
Colour Bar while also giving a record of intense racial discrimination suffered by black
people in all parts of the world. As he says:
This is not a question of working "for the blacks" or "against the whites". It is
a decision to work for or against the whole happiness of humanity. "Peace is
one and indivisible," said a Russian statesman some years ago. It is one and in-
divisible as between East and West, rich and poor, black and white. And any
state that is not Peace is harmful not only for "Us" or "Them" but for every
human soul. You cannot put walls round the poor or the rich, the black or the
white, or even the East or the West. Humanity exists under one law of integra-
tion. We may fear it or hate it but what we cannot do is escape it.9
The concerned, compassionate tone of the writing is confirmed by another quotation
with which the author ends the book the one from St Paul about Faith. Hope and
Although it obviously contains Christian influences. Colour Bar should not be
regarded as an apologia for Christianity or the Church. Constantine admits that racial
discrimination within the Church prevented him from continuing formal worship as a
Roman Catholic. Yet it appears that he did not lose faith in the essential principles of
Christian teaching. It is this faith which saves him from becoming embittered by his own
experience of racial victimisation, and which alerts him to the great danger that a violent
response to victimisation might produce. Thus Colour Bar reveals a sense of indignation
that is tempered, and an instinct for combat that is controlled. The mood that finally
emerges is one of sober, tough-minded and principled protest.
But Colour Bar is not superior in literary value to Constantine's best cricket writing.
The drama, vividness and sharp opinions of his cricket books rise above occasional defen-
siveness, while the humane vision and balanced view of Colour Bar do not fully compen-
sate for its technique of lively, popular journalism. This technique is more successful in
the cricket books because it is informed by a thorough knowledge of their subject, rein-
forced by the author's long, personal experience of cricket and cricketers at every level
and in every land. Colour Bar. on the contrary, assembles interesting statistics, quota-
tions and opinions which appear to some extent, second hand, reported rather than
asserted with the authority and conviction of sound research and scholarship. In the end,
the technique simply does not match the sheer gravity of the subject of race, with its
historical, sociological, anthropological, even military implications.
Colour Bar consists of sweeping generalisations and comparisons between the
achievements of blacks and whites presented in the style of a sporting scorecard. Num-
bers of black doctors, professionals, businessmen, sportsmen, poets, musicians, artists etc.
are matched with similar numbers of whites in each field. Presented in this manner, the
statistics lack total seriousness. The theoretical opposition of non-white nations such as
China, India, Pakistan and Japan in armed struggle against Europe and America also lacks
seriousness, even if such a struggle did seem more feasible in Constantine's time. The
sanity of the author's general world view, his undoubted compassion for the victims of
racial and colonial oppression, and his suppression of retaliatory feelings toward the
oppressors do not altogether succeed in lending total credibility to a military alliance
between nations as divided as India and Pakistan, China and Japan. Yet the value of
Colour Bar may be more accurately measured if it is compared with the books of the.
Guyanese E.R. Braithwaite who also writes about race and colour discrimination. Braith-
waite is less successful than Constantine in suppressing retaliatory feelings towards whites
and in presenting a fair. balanced portrait of race relations. Nor does Braithwaite
marshall as wide a range of facts and figures from as varied sources. Most important,
Colour Bar is more deeply aware of the danger of racial holocaust than Braithwaite's
books. The real value of Colour Bar is not its insight into problems of race and colour
as much as its tolerance and compassionate concern for all people.
Tolerance and compassion are dangerous virtues in someone actively campaigning
against oppression: oppressors tend to regard him as an ungrateful trouble-maker, and the
oppressed suspect him of hypocrisy. Uncle Tomism and siding with the oppressor. James
refers to people who wondered why Constantine. who was so well received in England,
should show "what seems to be such an obsession with racial prejudice", and Constantine
encountered much opposition when he returned to Trinidad in 1956 after his long stay
in England. He went back to England admittedly, as High Commissioner for Trinidad
and Tobago, in 1961, but he resigned the post in 1964 and stayed in England. Tolerance
and compassion notwithstanding. long residence in England had introduced a degree of
Eurocentricity into Constantine's thinking and writing. This can be seen in many
instances in Colour Bar where lie adopts something like a liberal imperialistic stance in
taking a gradualist approach to colonial problems:
There is no easy solution, no set of handy rules to set ringing the bells of
concord between coloured and white. The American Negro, for instance, is
culturally further forward than the African tribesman, the Indian than the
Polynesian and responsibility is only earned by cultural and moral progress.
The thing for which I want to plead for which I would gladly give my life
is opportunity for people to make that progress, to earn that responsibility.
I know it cannot all be done at once, but I want to see it begun.20
There is some affinity here with the social Darwinist, linear v\ew of cultural evolution
which is not exactly what one expects from a seasoned campaigner for racial equality
and fighter for colonial freedom.
Constantine is one of manl\ n... vhiite men who. tl m [L" :lmn residence in ncetro-
politan, white countries during the days of Empii. I il will, icn i people and
regional problems in their homelands. The fight against racial discrimination in Europe,
while it coincided with the fight for colonial freedom abroad, did not coincide with it
exactly. Racial discrimination in Europe could be relieved by legislative measures in
housing and employment, whereas colonialism involving more endemic problems such
as poverty, economic exploitation and cultural mixing was less amenable to solution.
Moreover, experience in Europe encouraged theoretical solutions such as federal political
structures which were applied in several places without success Malaysia, Central Africa
and the West Indies. These Federations failed for the same reason that Constantine's
political efforts in Trinidad during 1956-61 were less than satisfactory: although sympa-
thetically conceived and theoretically sound, they failed to take sufficient account of
psychological and social differences in the populations for which they were intended.
This is a continuing dilemma of Third World people forced by necessity to gain expertise
abroad, when their very absence alienates them from the domestic problems that their
expertise is meant to solve. That Constantine was one of the first victims of this dilemma
only confirms his status as a true pioneer, without whose contribution the fight against
racial discrimination and colonialism in the West Indies could not have advanced to the
stage that it has.21
Considerable as this contribution is, however, it does not match the excellence of
Constantine in cricket. His obituary in The Times noted that "he was the finest all round
fieldsman the game of cricket has ever known". This proves that the man was first a
cricketer and then a writer, politician, or whatever else. It is fitting to turn to one of his
books on cricket technique for a summary of his career in cricket, writing, politics and
So I leave you, not only with an exhortation, but with a prayer. "Play the
game", be sincere, fear not, be of good courage; be patient to learn and tireless
to improve; and carry the spirit of your cricket into your life. I ask for you all
the champagne sparkle in living that my cricket gave to me. and a steady passing
of your difficulties into the sunlight of a happier time than the forty-odd years
very odd years! of wars and inequalities and sorrows through which the
world and I have lived since my cricketing began under the palm trees of Trini-
dad when it seemed to me that everything was young.
Stick to it, in cricket and in life: God bless you; and when you have played
your innings out and returned, as we must do. to the Pavilion to meet the
Skipper of us all at last, may you and I be welcomed with those words that
always warm one's heart: "Well played, sir!" 22
There are not many who have played the game of cricket, or of life, half as well as
Learie Constantine. He passed the final Bar exam to complete his legal studies in England
at the age of fifty-two, after numerous attempts. Such tenacity is as rare and as honour-
able as the versatility shown by Constantine's numerous activities, and the integrity which
enabled him to fight all his life against racial discrimination. His cricket books may not
compare in literary value with such classics of sports writing as Death in the Afternoon
and Isaak Walton's Compleat Angler; but his books are only one part of a total achieve-
ment which confirms Constantine's status as one of the most distinguished West Indians
of his time.
1. 1 or full biographical details, see Gerald Howat. Learie Constantine. (London, 1975).
2. All of Constantine's books are published in London. One. The Changing Face of Cricket con-
tains contributions by another well known cricket writer. Denzil Batchelor.
3. Although his residence in England was unbroken until 1956, Constantine visited Trinidad several
4. C.L.R. James, Beyond a Boundary, (London, 1963), p. 119.
5. Ibid., p. 88.
6. Basil D'Oliveira a South African born "coloured" cricketer, who played regularly for England,
was omitted from the English team picked to tour South Africa in 1968. Because of public pro-
test, he was later included in the team, whereupon the South African Prime Minister stated that
D'Oliveira would not be acceptable in his country. The tour was cancelled. There is some
evidence that the original decision to omit D'Oliveira was made to satisfy South African apart-
7. Cricket in the Sun, Learie Constantine, p. 41.
8. Ibid., pp. 64-65.
9. Ibid., p. 72.
10. Ibid., p. 80.
11. Cricket Crackers, p. 179.
12. Neville Cardus, "Preface", Cricket and I.
13. Braithwaite. The Arrivants, (London, 1973), p. 198.
14. Many reasons may be advanced for the West Indian failure in England in 1957 e.g. Goddard's
captaincy, Weekes's illness etc. The defeat by India may also be partly attributed to Sober's
captaincy. These contributory factors merely confirm the point being made that internal
disorders within the team produced failure.
15. Needless to say, this is not a reactionary plea for the return of colonial rule. Black captaincy
and political leadership are, of course, essential in the West Indies. They are, however, first steps
toward a solution ofWest Indian problems, not solutions in themselves.
16. Cricket in the Sun, pp. 78-79.
17. Ibid., p. 106.
18. Beyond a Boundary, p. 134.
19. ColourBarp. 192.
20. Ibid., p. 191.
21. While he was in England Constantine supported efforts for Indian home rule. Yet from 1956-61,
he took part without apparent protest, in a government that had some reputation for racism to-
ward Trinidad Indians. This is another example of sound, general attitudes which are formed in
the metropolis being confounded by local realities in peripheral Third World Countries.
22. Cricketer's Cricket pp. 268-69.
MIDDLE PASSAGE: THE LONG WATER
Oh God, Maker,
You whose lances are frail
as the pelting
of rain, as the shaft
of new morning.
hear me from this place.
In the doom of this death
in the whiteness
behind my eyes
that must not see
in the paleness
inside my soul
that is empty
in the limpness
of my tongue
that will not rise
in the greyness
of my flesh
that crawls back
as the snake loses
its own splitting skin,
in this dimness
where death refuses
me the door
of his silence
revive the ember
of my spirit ...
scour this barrel of dung
rising and falling
with the rancid breath
of this long water
and know that in this grave
death within death
in this grim tomb
of rotting women
green with the afterbirth
of the dead-born
a small thing stirs.
What stirs? My love
on that cool morning
poles his canoe
into the river shadows
finds his stride
his oar and skill
the gift of ancestors
discovering from side
to side the river's
depths, then shooting
splendidly for thunderous
Oh my love
sit your boat tight
hold that firm course
through these fast waters
where no chart discovers
where the boulders lie
where whirlpools spring
surprises where the urgent
noise of many streams
from endless forests
empty their strange power...
For many hours
the waters lapped
his canoe drifting
in that pool
below the rapids.
It is that morning
growing in me now
this pod of poison
curses this gourd
So I will plant you
child of rapids
where the winds
do not blow clouds
of pus, where oceans
hide no bones;
we'll wade this wicked
water, my small fish
though our limbs
are warmed in excrement
and only the wet
of my body anoints
the slim path
you will swim
to this world.
AMA ITA OSE
My mother loved words. Not necessarily
in sentences or speeches. Just words.
She read the dictionary like a bedside book.
She taught me words while I watched her
at the crossword puzzle, her relief
from drudgery. And now this
delectable, mouth-filling word
I cannot teach her: Metastases
"Multiple metastases." The word
glows a guilty secret through the
large brown envelope lying on the
back seat with the x-rays and the
radiologist's report. She sits
rigid with pain, too proud to ask
if there is any word of relief.
In the silence between us
you can hear the metastases multiply.
Central American English, John Holm (ed), Julius Groos Verlag Heidelberg, 1983, pp.
With the exception of Jamaican Creole, the English-lexicon Creoles of the Western Carib-
bean have been poorly documented. The English-lexicon Creoles of the Eastern Caribbean
and mainland South America, i.e. Guyana and Surinam, have been, by comparison, much
better described. This work is an attempt by Holm and the various other contributors to
this volume to redress this balance in relation, at least, to what they call the Central
American varieties. The area which this volume attempts to cover stretches from Belize
in the north, through the Bay Islands off the coast of Honduras, to the Miskit Coast on
the Caribbean side of Nicaragua, and further south to Limon in Costa Rica and to Panama.
In addition, the contributions deal with the islands of Providencia and San Andres,
currently belonging to Colombia, but being claimed by Nicaragua. The Cayman Islands
are also included because of their long history of association with language developments
on the Central American mainland.
This work opens with a general historical overview of what is referred to as 'Central
American English', along with some linguistic analysis of these language varieties, by
John Holm. In each of the succeeding chapters, we are presented with a sociolinguistic
history of the particular language variety, and transcriptions of tape recordings made
involving the use of the language in informal situations. The volume is intended to be
accompanied by tapes, though, unfortunately, for purposes of this review, I have not had
access to them. The transcriptions are produced in a modified version of the Cassidy-Le
Page writing system, originally developed for Jamaican Creole. The modified system was
proposed by Cassidy in 1978 as a means of providing all English-lexicon Caribbean Creoles
with the possibility of being represented by a common phonemic orthography. The texts
are usually accompanied by notes commenting on particular linguistic characteristics of
the speech of the informants. At the end of each chapter, there is an annotated biblio-
graphy on'the language variety dealt with.
This book was published as part of a series entitled 'Varieties of English Around
the World'. This fact, further emphasised by the title of the work, Central American
English, has led to a certain degree of looseness in the application of the term 'English' to
the language varieties covered in the various chapters. According to Holm (p. 15), there is,
on the one hand, the English spoken by white Caymanians and their kin on the Bay
Islands of Honduras. The Creole influence in these varieties, in his view, is confined to
what he calls 'areal contact phenomena' involving word-borrowing and phonological shifts.
He argues that when one compares the system of verbal inflections in these language vari-
eties with the pre-verbal tense and aspect markers which characterise Central American
English-lexicon Creoles, the former appears not to be a Creole but a regional variety of
English influenced by contact with creolised English, as is the case of white non-standard
speech in the southern United States. On the other hand, the term 'English' is used to cover
basilectal and near-basilectal varieties of Creole such as those of Belize and the Nicaraguan
Miskito Coast. Linguistically, however, the major area of English influence on English-
lexicon Creole is at the level of the vocabulary. Holm (pp. 15-18) himself recognizes the
fundamental differences between English and English-lexicon Creole, particularly at the
level of the syntactic system, and attributes much of this to the influence of African
languages. It is, therefore, unforgivable to write as he does about 'English-speaking Central
Americans' (p. 7) to include speakers of English-lexicon Creole. Other contributors to the
book are also guilty of this error.
In relation to the Holm's grouping of the white Caymanian speech with that of
their kin on the Bay Islands, the actual speech of these two areas as represented in Chap.
3 by Warrantz on the Bay Islands, and in Chap. 6 by Washabaugh covering the Cayman
Islands, brings this classification into question. No white Bay Island informants are used in
the samples provided, but the speech of both a 'brown' middle-class woman and that of
some black, lower-class informants suggest that what is spoken on the Bay Islands, even
by non-whites, is more closely akin to non-standard varieties of, for example, British
English, than to Creole. One interesting peculiarity is the substitution of /v/ for what in
English is pronounced /w/ as in /ven/ for /wen/ 'when', a feature shared by a great many
Western Caribbean English-related language varieties. On the other hand, the speech of a
white couple from the Caymans involves the frequent use of forms which are at least
mesolectal, i.e. intermediate between Creole and English. One informant, an 80-year-old
white man, in fact, produced the sentence /... a no wahn go bak/ 'I don't want to go
back' (p. 177). There can certainly be no argument about the Creole character of this
example. Assuming that the informants provided for the Bay Islands and the Cayman
Islands are representative of their communities, we are faced with the evidence that the
speech of Caymanians, including whites, is more Creole-like than that of Bay Islanders,
even the non-white ones. At what point does a non-standard dialect of English, such as
Holm would like to describe Caymanian, become a Creole under the influence of 'areal
contact phenomena'? Ironically, it is in the Bay Islands, with its absence of Creole-type
speech, rather than in the Cayman Islands, that the population of blacks out-numbers
that of whites. In the Bay Islands, blacks make up 42 per cent of the population, mixed
16 per cent,and whites 27 per cent. In the case of the Caymans, blacks are 20 per cent,
with mixed and white 40 per cent each (p. 75, p. 175). What these two sets of islands do
share in common is an extra-ordinarily high percentage of whites to blacks when compared
with other countries in the Caribbean which have experienced the British colonial
Because of a lack of familiarity with Caribbean Creole languages generally, the
contributors to this volume often attribute to outside language interference, features
which are common to many Caribbean English-lexicon Creole languages, and which may
be considered quite characteristic of these language varieties. Holm is particularly guilty
of this. He attributes Central American /fo wat/ 'why' to influence from Spanish 'por
que'. He similarly attributes the sentence /im now to swim/ 'he knows to swim', to the
Spanish 'sabe nadar'. He actually glosses this sentences as 'he knows how to swim', but,
in my variety of Standard English, Guyanese Standard English, the 'how' is unnecessary,
no doubt due to Creole influence. In the same vein, he argues that the use of (bred/
'bread' as a count noun, as in /tu bred/ 'two loaves', is due to influence from Spanish
where the equivalent 'pan' is a count noun. In the case of Rama Cay Creole, an English-
lexicon Creole spoken on the Nicaraguan Caribbean coast, he posits German influence for
certain forms. These include /bay/ 'at someone's house', /rayt af/. 'to copy (in writing)',
and /kech yuself op/ 'recover (from an illness)'. English-lexicon Creole speakers up and
down the Caribbean would recognize all the above forms. They certainly do exist in my
variety of Creole, Guyanese Creole, and no one has yet attempted to adduce either strong
Spanish or German influence as a source of Guyanese Creole language structures.
One of the strong points of this book is the data which are presented as part of each
chapter. Whatever quarrels one may have with some of the analyses and comments by the
various authors, the language data produced by speakers of these Central American
language varieties are there and able to speak for themselves. The data raise numerous
issues for students of Caribbean English-lexicon Creole languages. One of these is the use
of pre-verbal habitual aspect markers such as /stodi/ and /doz/ in Panamanian, Miskito
Coast, Providence and San Andres Creoles. The use of/doz/ as a habitual marker has tra-
ditionally been associated with Barbados and those areas of the Eastern Caribbean which
have come under Barbadian influence. This may be used to explain the use of this marker
in Panamanian Creole since, even though the largest number of immigrants from the
English-lexicon Creole-speaking Caribbean came from Jamaica, there were significant
numbers of Barbadians and others from the Eastern Caribbean. Barbadian and other
Eastern Caribbean influence cannot, however, be used to explain the occurrence of/doz/
in Miskito Coast Creole where the major external language influences have come from
Jamaica. The existence of the habitual marker /stodi/ in Providence and San Andres
Creoles, a marker apparently specific to Central American and probably related to English
'steady', further complicates the picture. The pattern which emerges is one which involves
many of the Western Caribbean language varieties marking habitual aspect by means of
either the Eastern Caribbean /doz/, or the more local form /stodi/. And, alongside this,
Jamaican, the most important and influential Western Caribbean Creole, is reported to
employ no overt marking for habitual aspect, employing, instead, the unmarked form of
The Cayman Island data. in addition to displaying clear Creole features as pre-
viously discussed, have a particular feature which, while not attributable to influence
from English, does not, to the best of my knowledge, exist in any of the other English-
lexicon Creoles of the Caribbean. A Caymanian informant in the data produced the
sentence /Jameyka en no pleys gow/ 'Jamaica is no place to go'. From the perspective of
most comparable language varieties, the /fi/ or /tu/ would have been required between
/pleys/ and /gow/. Along similar lines, the form /yuuz/ rather than /yuwz tu/ is employed
as the past habitual aspect marker in a sentence such as /Oh de yuwz biyt dem op .../
'Oh, they used to beat them up'. Perhaps, based on the data presented, one might surmise
that the use of what are traditionally referred to as prepositions might be more restricted
in Caymanian than in other Creole varieties. This is certainly what is suggested by the
example /Somtaym de put am hospital/ 'Sometimes they put them in hospital'. The data
provided for Caymanian are likely to stimulate the curiosity of the interested reader in
many other areas, notably the personal pronoun system which is used in this language
Rama Cay Creole, the English-lexicon Creole spoken by the American Indians of the
Rama group who live along the Miskito Coast of Nicaragua, is treated as a a separate
language variety from Miskito Coast Creole. The latter language variety is spoken by
what Holm (p. 98) refers to as the 'Afro-European' Creole population of the coast.
who are much larger in number than the Rama. According to Holm, the Rama are a
remnant of a Chibchan-speaking group who have almost entirely given up their indigenous
American Indian language in favour of an English-lexicon Creole based on Miskito Coast
Creole. The fact that Rama Cay Creole has co-existed for a considerable period of time
alongside Rama, a Chibchan language, would lead one to expect some degree of Rama
language influence in the Creole language. Even though Assadi, who deals with Rama Cay
creole in this volume, has little specific to say about the influence which the Rama lan-
guage has had on the Creole, the data certainly suggest some quite specific areas of in-
fluence. One area of influence seems to involve the role which the subject plays in the
sentence. In the Rama Cay Creole data, sentences such as / I gahn leyt/ 'She went late'
alternate with others such as /Gahn rait naw/ 'She has gone right now'. In affirmative
sentences such as these, the overt representation of the subject seems to be optional.
Absence of an expressed subject, as in the second of the two examples, is a regular occur-
rence in even the small body of data provided, occurring, as well, in the speech of both
informants. This optionality in the overt representation of the subject does not appear in
any of the data provided for the other Central American varieties treated in this volume.
Neither is such optionality a feature of any of the other Caribbean English-lexicon Creoles
which have been described. One is therefore left with the possibility that this feature is a
result of substratum influence from Rama. One other possible area of substratum influ-
ence involves word order in Rama Cay Creole. This language seems to allow optionally for
an Object-Subject-Verb sequence, in addition to the Subject-Verb-Object sequence used
in Rama Cay Creole. This latter sequence is the only one normally employed in simple
affirmative sentences in other Caribbean English-lexicon Creoles. The evidence for an
Object-Subject-Verb sequence is not, however, entirely conclusive, as may be seen from
the examples /Tu litl kowknot ay mi get fram a/ 'I got two little coconuts from her', and
/Layk azma i get?/ 'Does he have something like asthma?'. There may perhaps be alternat-
ive explanations for these two examples, but they do seem to point in the direction of an
alternative word order and, therefore, to further Rama substratum influence. The data
provided certainly provides the basis for speculation and for further investigation.
The general overview of Central American English-influenced language varieties
provided by this volume allows one to divide them into two groups. Firstly, there are
those language varieties originating from varying degrees of Afro-European contact within
the Central American territories themselves. These varieties would include Belizean Creole,
Miskito Coast Creole, the Creole languages of Providence Island and San Andres. and the
speech forms associated with the Bay Islands and the Cayman Islands. These varieties
contrast with those whose existence in Central America is due to large scale immigration
into Central America from British Colonial possessions in the Caribbean during the late
19th and early 20th centuries. Jamaica was the major source of this West Indian labour
which moved to Central America to build railroads, to dig the Panama Canal, and to work
on the banana plantations of the United Fruit Company. This immigration gave rise to
Panamanian Creole and to Limon Creole spoken in Costa Rica. Interestingly enough, in
spite of the obvious historical differences surrounding the development and introduction
of these varieties into Central America, the language data provided in this volume seem
to indicate that much is shared in common.
According to Holm (p. 97), the British organised their settlements on the Miskito
Coast into a protectorate with a superintendent appointed from Jamaica. This state of
affairs lasted from 1740 until 1787. In 1787, a Spanish military victory forced Britain to
evacuate all her settlers from the coast, mainly to Belize. However, a significant number
of Creoles stayed behind. '. . their descendants continued speaking MCC (Miskito Coast
Creole) for the next two centuries although they had almost no contact with speakers of
uncreolized English' (p. 97). With this kind of socio-historical background, one would
imagine that Miskito Coast Creole would show fewer signs of decreolisation in the direc-
tion of English than would the Creole languages of countries like Jamaica. Guyana. etc.,
where there has been continued contact with English as the dominant language right until
the present. In fact, one would expect, based on this kind of background, that Miskito
Coast Creole would have a lot in common with Sranan, the English-lexicon Creole of
Surinam, which had had a similar withdrawal of English as the dominant language in
almost identical circumstances in the late 17th century. However, rather than showing
evidence of conservative 'pure' Creole features of the sort associated with Sranan, the
Miskito Coast Creole data seem far more similar to the supposedly decreolised varieties
such as Jamaican and Guyanese. At the phonological level, there is no restriction on
words being able to end with consonants. e.g. /rayt/ 'right'. /wok/ 'work', etc. In the area
of the morpho-syntax, Miskito Coast Creole appears a lot more decreolised. in fact, than
the more conservative varieties of Jamaican and Guyanese Creole which continue to be
spoken. Thus, /a/ rather than /mi/ as the first person singular subject pronoun. There is,
in the case of the third person singular pronouns, a gender distinction between /im/ or /i/
'he', and /shi/ 'she'. In relation to marking verbs as being continuative, there is variation
between the more Creole form, de + Verb, as in /Di gal no de briyd/ 'the girl is not preg-
nant', and Verb + -in, as in /shi no brydin/ 'she is not pregnant'.
In the case of the immigrant Creole varieties such as Panamanian and Limonese.
a similar kind of variation, indicative of a great deal of English influence, is displayed.
This is in spite of the fact that these language varieties are derived largely from late 19th
century rural Jamaican Creole. It may be that some of this decreolisation may be explain-
ed by pointing out that American English was the dominant language used in the enclaves
in which West Indian labourers worked during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in
Central America. But, coupled with the level of variation and decreolisation in not only
Miskito Coast Creole, but also in San Andres and Providence Island Creoles, one needs
to consider whether variation and decreolisation have only started to affect Caribbean
English-lexicon Creoles such as Jamaican, in the 20th century. It may be, as Alleyne
(1980) argues, that such variation and decreolisation have been with these languages from
their inception. The fact that English largely disappeared from these Creole-speaking
communities. as far back as two centuries ago in some cases, would suggest that decreol-
isation and variation in these language varieties are not the result of any contemporary
influence from English. Since the Central American varieties no longer in contact with
English show patterns of variation and decreolisation similar to those existing in varieties
such as Jamaican and Guyanese which have continued contact with English. one con-
clusion is suggested. The variation in the latter language varieties may have little to do
with their continued co-existence with English. Rather, this variation may have become
well-entrenched in these languages well before the beginning of the 20th century, with
contemporary variation only representing a continuation of a system of variation which
had been long established.
From the above discussion, it is clear that this collection of contributions of Central
American English-influenced language varieties is extremely interesting and thought-
provoking for persons interested in Caribbean language. In spite of its flaws, which the
reader needs to be wary of, it serves to widen our vision and knowledge of English-
influenced language varieties spoken in the Caribbean, and raises numerous exciting ques-
tions for us.
Alleyne, M., Comparative Afro-American, Karoma Publishers, Ann Arbor., 1980.
When They'll Neither 7 nor 11 (Try Recycling for Reading) A. J. M. Rhodd, Reading
Remediation Teachers' Guidebook, A. J. M. Rhodd, Jamaica, pp 212, 1983.
The aims of the book as stated have been achieved. The focal point is the creative use of
JUNK (discarded materials) to teach reading, a skill that is highly complex and little
understood, to "disabled readers". The methodology hinges largely on the premise that
these readers are good at motoric activities. Consequently, with appropriate training and
motivation, the 'disabled readers' can produce relevant teaching aids from domestic and
industrial waste to improve their reading competence. In this way they will benefit from
both the process and the product.
The writer provides adequate references to support major points. Different skills
to be mastered in the quest, for example, phonemic variables, are stated as well as acti-
vities for enhancing each. The utilization of concrete experiences is stressed as is the
primacy of record keeping. The integrated approach suggested points to the fact that
reading is parasitic in nature.
There is a display of sensitivity towards the peculiar reading problems of the child
whose first language is the Jamaican Creole. Illustrations from the writer's experiences
with local children are noteworthy and absorbing.
No concerted effort is made to categorize the sets of pupils who fall within the
ambit of 'disabled readers', and this should be taken into account by users of the text.
The book is a guide, and in it are evidences that reading is at the same time a cog-
nitive, linguistic, pragmatic, cultural and emotional response to print. It is plausible that
the task of the 'disabled reader' will be less onerous if the book is utilized by teachers.
NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS
Ama Ita Osa
is Senior Lecturer in the Department of English, University
of the West Indies, Mona.
is member of the English Faculty at the Inter-American
University of Puerto Rico.
is faculty member in the Division of General Studies. Uni-
versity of Nigeria, Enugu, Anambra State, Nigeria.
author of Quadrille for Tigers is the Project Coordinator
of the family planning unit in the Department of Obstet-
rics and Gynaecology at the University of the West Indies.
is author and critic and also a member of the Department
of English, Faculty of Arts. York University, Downsview,
is lecturer in the Department of Linguistics, University of
the West Indies, Mona.
is lecturer in the Department of Educational Studies,
Faculty of Education, University of the West Indies, Mona.
is a journalist and writer who has worked in Jamaica and
the Eastern Caribbean. She is especially interested in writ-
ing factual and fictional material for Caribbean children.
is Professor in the Department of English, UWI, Mona. An
authority on Walcott, he has also written numerous books
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SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC STUDIES
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IN THE COMMONWEALTH
M. G. SMITH
with a Foreword by
Department of Extra-Mural Studies
University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica
JS20.00 (Jamaica Only) TTS12.00 pp BS10.00 pp
UK4.50 pp US$6.00 pp
SAGE RACE RELATIONS ABSTRACTS
Published on behalf of the Institute of Race Relations, London
Editor Louis Kushnick University of Manchester
Sage Race Relations Abstracts provides a unique source of current
information in the field of race relations.
The editors regularly scan the major European, American and Latin American
journals as well as books, newspapers and community grass-roots literature to
locate items of interest. Material is abstracted on a wide range of race relations
issues including discrimination, education, employment, health, politics, law
Each abstract gives the reader sufficient information to evaluate the material and
locate the original source. Approximately 1000 abstracts are published each year
- expertly indexed and cross-referenced for easy use. A cumulative subject
index is included in the final issue of each volume.
Most issues of the journal are prefaced by an authoritative bibliographic essay -
American Blacks and the Left, Theoretical Perspectives on Ethnicity and
Nationalism, and Black Women in Britain are recent examples. Additionally,
many issues contain an Extended Views section, dealing with specific themes
and matters of current interest and debate.
SAGE Race Relations Abstracts is published quarterly in February. May,
August and November
1 year 2 years
Institutional 60.00 E118.00
Individual E34.00 67.00
Single copies E16.00
SAGE Publications 0 28 Banner Street
SLondon EClY 8QE Telephone: (01) 253-1516
PUBLICATIONS AVAILABLE FROM
THE DEPARTMENT OF EXTRA-MURAL STUDIES
University of the West Indies
P. O. Box 42, Kingston 7, Jamaica
G. P. Chapman: A New Development in the Agronomy of Pimento ....
M. G. Smith, Roy Augier, R. M. Nettleford: Report on the
Rastafari Movement in Kingston, Jamaica ................
R. M Nettleford: Trade Union and Industrial Relations Terms.......
R. M. Nettleford: Caribbean Cultural Identity. The Case
of Jamaica............................... ......
Joseph Ragbansee: Civil Service Associations in the
Commonwealth Caribbean ..........................
Howard Fergus: History of Alliouagana: A short history
of Montserrat ................. ....... .........
:William H. Bramble: His Life and Times ..........
Earl G. Long: The Serpent's Tale, Reptiles and Amphibians
of St. Lucia ...................................
Robert Lee: Vocation and other Poems. .....................
Reinhard W. Sander: An Index to Bim.......................
G. Cumper & S Daley: Family Law in the Commonwealth
D. G. Hall, H. Paget, R. Farley: Apprenticeship & Emancipation .....
Ann Ashworth, J. C. Waterlow: Nutrition in Jamaica .............
S. G. Kirkaldy: Industrial Relations & Labour Law in Jamaica.......
B Steele: Tim Tim Tales from Grenada ......................
Cameron G. 0. King: Aibel in Pain .........................
John R Rickford. A Festival of Guyanese Words. ................
CARIBBEAN AFFAIRS, NEW SERIES:
Agricultural Research in Jamaica (Five papers from Seminar
in 1965) ........................ ............
From the Radio Education Unit:
RADIO BROADCAST SCRIPTS ..........................
Catalogue 1977 of Recorded Programmes ................... .