0OL. 5. No. 2.
This issue of "Caribbean Quarterly" carries on the cover a reproduction
of two nsgro heads carved by David Miller. This is the name used by the
two Miller's, father and son.
Opposite page 108 there is a picture of them at work in their studio in
Kingston, Jamaica, standing beside one of their most striking carvings, the
head of a vigorous virago, named by David Miller Snr., "whop 'em bus' 'em".
This piece was bought recently by the Government of Jamaica and is on
exhibition in the Institute of Jamaica, Kingston. Another carving, negro head,
appears at back.
Reprinted from a copy in the collections of the
University of Florida Librairies
Reprinted by permission of
UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES, Kingston, Jamaica
A Division of
KRAUS-THOMSON ORGANIZATION LIMITED
Printed in Germany
VOL. 5. No. 2.
USE AND DISUSE OF LANGUAGES IN THE WEST INDIES
Douglas Taylor 67
JUAN GUALBERTO GOMEZ, A CUBAN PORTRAIT
Dalen Pando 78
M. G. Smith 85
WORDS FOR RENT
Derek Walcott 99
MERMAIDS AND FAIRYMAIDS OR WATER GODS AND
GODDESSES OF TOBAGO
H. B. Meikle 103
THE NEGRO WRITER AND HIS WORLD
George Lamming 109
BRITISH WEST INDIAN IMMIGRATION TO GREAT BRITAIN
John Figueroa 116
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A SELECTION OF CONTENTS FROM PAST ISSUES
Vol. III, No. 1
Language and Folklore
Creole-A Folk Language
A Rada Community in Trinidad
Andrew T. Carr
Vol. III, No. 2
Recent Developments in Race Relations in the United States...George E. Simpson and
J. Milton Yinger
The Mud Volcanoes K. W. Barr
Sir Charles Metcalfe D. G. Hall
The Rise of the Village Settlements of British Guiana Rawle Farley
A Note on Economic Policy in Tortola Simon Rottenberg
Vol. III, No. 3
Citizenship in an Emergent Nation
The Archives of Jamaica
Research and the Lay Scholar
The Apprenticeship Period in Jamaica 1834-1838
West Indian Reptiles
On Being a West Indian
Vol. IH, No. 4
Trinidad Town House
French and Creole Patois in Haiti
The Choice and Use of Words
Form and Style in a Bahamian Folktale
Coco and Mona
Vol. IV, No. 1
Africa in West Indian Poetry
The New Movement in Haiti
Island Garib Folk Tales
The Language Problem in the British Caribbean
Labor Relations in an Undeveloped Economy
Jamaica Prepares for Invasion, 1779
The First Chapter in Caribbean History
Frederick Douglass Letters from the Haitian Legation...
Vol. IV, No. 2
The Teaching of History in the Americas
Festivals of the Calendar in St. Lucia
Launching a Schooner in Carriacou
The Shadow and the Substance
Tobago Villagers in the Mirror of Dialect
Quater-Centenary of Richard Eden's Decades of the Newe
World or West India, Etc.'
R. K. Gardiner
Clinton V. Black
M. W. Barley
D. G. Hall
H. W. Springer
Sir Thomas Taylor
Daniel J. Crowley
J. A. Borome
E. P. Banks
R. B. Le Page
Robert Neil McLarfy
J. H. Parry
Daniel J. Crowley
H. B. Meikle
John A. Ramsaran
Price : 50 cents (B.W.I. or U.S.) or 2/1 U.K. per issue.
TRINIDAD CARNIVAL RESEARCH DOUBLE ISSUE
Vol. IV, Nos. 3 and 4
Carnival in Nineteenth Century Trinidad Andrew Pearse
The Traditional Masques of Carnival ... Daniel J. Crowley
The Changing Attitude of the Coloured Middle Class
Towards Carnival Barbara E. Powrie
Carnival in New Orleans Munro S. Edmonson
Mitlo Sampson on Calypso Legends of the Nineteenth
Century (Arranged and edited by
The Midnight Robbers Daniel J. Crowley
The Dragon Band or Devil Band Bruce Procope
Pierrot Grenade Andrew T. Carr
Price : (Double Issue) $1.00 (B.W.I. or U.S.) or 4/2 U.K.
A NOTE ON FEDERATION
IT was a West Indian who in 1787 took the lead in urging the thirteen
American colonies to unite. Without unity, he wrote, we should be driven
to the choice of "taking refuge in the arms of jealous, clashing tumultuous
commonwealths, the wretched nurseries of unceasing objects of universal pity
Thus stated Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist. On February 23, 1956,-
one hundred and seventy years later-the islands of the British West Indies
gave their consent to federal union, and the first federal parliament will
meet in April, 1958.
In the 18th century a revolution was necessary to secure American independ-
ence. The 20th century evolution of a British Caribbean Federation is the
peaceful result of what has been called the "creative abdication" of the
British Crown. Since 1946 the end of British control or dominance over
almost 600 million people has given self-government to such states as India,
Pakistan, Ceylon and the Sudan. Early in 1957 the Gold Coast took its place
in the free world as the independent nation of Ghana.
The Federation of the British Caribbean is a result of the determination
of the West Indian people to move forward to political independence, and
to unite for economic development. It is true that until dominion status is
reached a residue of ultimate power will be reserved to the Governor-General,
but nevertheless the Federal authorities will now be able to make regional
plans for economic development, establish co-ordinated administrative and
judicial systems, and provide an effective customs union. For the first time
in their diversified history, West Indians will speak with a common voice.
The call now is for swift decisive action to secure economic development,
and spread educational opportunity, so as to reconcile the twin demands for
self-government and freedom from want. History has taught us that a nation
can gain its independence without securing its liberty.
A young West Indian poet, looking across the Liguanea plains to the
Blue Mountains as the rising sun set them ablaze, responsive to the challenge
of these great and glorious days, wrote the words that meet our need:
"I saw my land in the morning,
And oh but she was fair,
The hills flamed upwards scorning
Death and failure here.
I saw my friends in the morning,
They called from an equal gate,
'Build fast while time is burning,
Forward before it's late.' "
Use and Disuse of Languages in the
Dominica, British West Indies
"The primitive condition is polyglottism; monolingualism is a
Antonio Tovar, in Word, Vol. 10 (1954), p. 346.
UIHL somevwhat paradoxical statement contained in the above quotation may
appear less so to those of us in the West Indies who are familiar with one of
the French Creole dialects, with English Creole (Sranan Tongo) or Portuguese
Creole (Saramaka Tongo) of Dutch Guiana, with Spanish Creole (Papiamento)
of Curacao, with Dutch Creole (which is or was until recently spoken in
St. Thomas), or with one of the quasi-African languages now employed only
for special purposes, such as Lucumi in Cuba and 'Congo' in the Port Morant
district of Jamaica. Except for the latter, all of these have evolved within the
past two hundred years from 'jargons' or 'trade languages', employed only as
a medium between European master and African slave, into fully fledged
languages, at least one of which has become the mother tongue of more than
three million West Indians, and is now being used in the schools of Haiti as a
means of extending literacy in that island; (v. Robert A. Hall Jr., Haitian
Creole; Memoir No. 74 of the American Anthropological Association and
Memoir No. 43 of the American Folklore Society, 1953). I shall have more to
say about these young West Indian languages; but first let us consider the
older ones that they have almost superseded.
Evidently Columbus was of the same opinion as Professor Tovar; for his
method of entering into communication with the natives of Hispaniola (now
divided into Haiti and Santo Domingo) was to capture and hold a number of
them on board his ships until they had mastered Spanish. From reports of the
comparative ease or difficulty later experienced by these impressed interpreters
in conversing with Indians from other parts, we gather that the vast majority
of the Bahamas' and Greater Antilles' inhabitants then spoke mutually intel-
ligible dialects of what has since been called the Taino language.
It is convenient to regard the words 'dialect' and 'language' as relative
terms; and to say that, just as every man is a son and may be at the same
time a brother or a father or both, so at least most forms of speech are
descended from an older, 'parent' language that may have other offspring,
each of which in its turn may become a parent. Regarded in relation to their
common parent, such linguistic offspring are dialects; regarded independently
they are 'sister' languages. So, Old Norse and Old English are dialects of
Common Germanic; the former having now split into Icelandic and the other
standard Scandinavian languages, while the latter is spoken today in one
standard and many sub-standard dialects, none of which has greater resem-
blance than another to the ancestral tongue. As Chaucer put it:
"Ye know eek, that in forme of speche is change
With-inne a thousand yeer, and words tho
That hadden prys, now wonder nyce and strange
Us thinketh hem; and yet they spake hem so,
And spedde as wel in love as men now do;
Eek for to winne love in sondry ages,
In sondry londes, sondry been usages."
Troilus and Criseyde, II: 4.
Fifty years after their 'Discovery' by Columbus, the Taino and their
language had been all but extirpated by the Spaniards, who, at that time, were
no more interested in 'barbarous tongues' than had been the ancient Greeks
and Hindus before them; so that the only extant record of this long extinct
language-some two hundred words and a few phrases-is barely sufficient to
classify it as belonging to the large and widespread family of languages known
as Arawakan. This 'family' contains (or contained) over eighty distinct
languages, spoken, today or in the past, by nations dispersed over an area
extending from latitude 23 S. to the tip of Florida (26 N.), and from longi-
tude 47 W. to Livingston in Guatemala (88 W.).
Another Antillean member of this family has had a somewhat better fate.
Toward the middle of the seventeenth century, Raymond Breton, a French
priest, spent many years learning, transcribing, and describing the language
of the island of Dominica, which, with but slight local variations, was then
common to a number of the Lesser Antilles. This language, although it lin-
gered on in Dominica and in St. Vincent until the second decade of the present
century, was already moribund there a hundred years ago; by which time all
adult Indians in these two islands also spoke French Creole (in Dominica) or
English (in St. Vincent). However, it had been transplanted in 1797 along
with some five thousand 'Black Carib' deportees from St. Vincent to the Gulf
of Honduras; and is now the everyday speech of some thirty thousand indi-
viduals, preponderantly Negro in race, living in towns and villages scattered
along the coast of British Honduras, Guatemala, and the Republic of Hon-
duras; (v. my monograph, The Black Carib of British Honduras, Viking Fund
Publications in Anthropology No. 17, New York, 1951).
This language is misleadingly called Island Carib; Cariban being the
name of another South American family of languages vying in size and extent
with Arawakan. The origin of the misnomer was a prehistoric invasion of the
Lesser Antilles by a band or bands of Cariban Kalina-speaking warriors from
the mainland; but the speech of these conquerors did not survive, and had
degenerated by Breton's time into a sort or jargon known as the 'men's speech'
whose purely lexical legacy includes their name for themselves, Kariphuna.
Somewhat similarly, the Normans imposed their name, but not for long their
language, upon a part of France; while the descendants of those among them
who crossed the Channel in 1066 had lost for the most part, only three cen-
turies after the conquest of England, both their name and their adopted
language (French); so that modem English, full of French words as it is,
remains essentially a Germanic dialect.
It is ironical that the only surviving Amerindian language of the Antilles
should have been preserved by the descendants of Africans who now live in
Central America; while the only surviving Antillean Amerindians, those of
Dominica, today speak a neo-Romance language with Niger-Congo (West-
African) type structure.
French Creole-or Patois (from late Latin patriensis 'of the fatherland')
as it is usually called in the English islands-is, as we have seen, one of a
number of Creole languages now spoken in the West Indies, having in com-
mon the unusual combination of a Romance or a Germanic vocabulary with a
structure similar to that of African languages of the Niger-Congo family. The
word 'creole' is applied, in its earlier and still most widely accepted sense, to
people, animals, plants, things and institutions of Old-World origin, but having
themselves come into being in the New World. Thus, all native-born West
Indians other than Amerindians, hens, sugar-cane and 'Patois' are creole;
while Amerindians, the manicou, native cotton, and Island Carib are not. Nor,
of course, are people, animals, plants and languages which themselves came
into being in the Old World to be considered as creole, even when they are
now established in the New. So that French (or any other) Creole may be said
to have been 'born' as a language when it first became the habitual mode
of communication in a community that had hitherto employed the language
'of the fatherland' For until then, what was to become a Creole language had
been no more than a 'pidgin' or 'business language' that was nobody's mother
tongue, but served as a reduced though efficient means of communication be-
tween speakers of European and African languages, and also, in all
probability, between speakers of different African languages.
It is surprising that such a rare occurrence as the birth of a language should
have gone unrecorded; but the metaphor of birth must not be pushed too far, for
the process so described must have been very gradual. Shifts from one language
to another, at all times and in all parts of the world, are preceded by a period
of bilingualism. There are families in parts of the Scottish Highlands today, in
which Gaelic is spoken by members of the older generation, both Gaelic and
English by those of middle age, and only English by the young. But at the same
time, and not many miles distant, there may be found other families in which
both old and young habitually speak Gaelic, and yet others in which both
habitually speak English. And the same is true of the use and disuse of
Amerindian, Old-World, and Creole languages in the West Indies; the only
remarkable feature about the emergence of the latter as full-fledged languages
being their origin in jargons; for here we are dealing, not with a shift from one
traditional language to another, but with a series of shifts from a number of
traditional languages to a new and common tongue.
French Creole itself is spoken in parts of Louisiana, in Haiti, the Lesser
Antilles, and French Guiana, (not to mention very similar languages spoken
on the other side of the world, in Mauritius and R6union); and is by no means
homogeneous within any one of these areas; while mutual intelligibility be-
tween them would almost certainly be no greater than that which subsists
between speakers of standard Spanish and standard Portuguese. These latter
languages are assumed to have gone through a period of common development
before diverging, and are therefore known as (Northern) Ibero-Romance
dialects; but we can make no such assumption for two such forms of French
Creole as, let us say, those of Haiti and of Dominica. The Creole of each of these
areas has evolved independently from the African's faulty reproduction of the
Frenchman's deliberately simplified and distorted version of his mother tongue.
So, perhaps, instead of est-ce que vous me comprenez? he said est-ce que vous
comprendre moi? which became, when reproduced by the African, es i kdpran
mwe? The 'model' differed somewhat, no doubt, according to the Frenchman's
own dialect of French; and the reproduction still more according to the
African's mother tongue; yet the very success of this makeshift form of speech
shows that some standardization, limited by the population's enforced
immobility and illiteracy, took place at an early date. As a leading American
linguist has written:
"In an area and era of broadening economic and social intercourse,
there tends to be more and more widespread use of fewer and fewer
languages. Speakers of more restricted languages tend to become
bilinguals and eventually, often after a number of centuries, the minor
languages are eliminated. Factors in language rivalry include: popula-
tion numbers, breadth of geographic spread, mobility of the population,
economic and political dominance and activity. Numbers are a highly
important factor, but may to some extent be offset by other factors.
In places and times (e.g. medieval Europe) of reduced intercommuni-
cation, linguistic communities suffer gradual fragmentation with local
dialects of a single original language developing into separate and
mutually unintelligible languages."
in International Journal of American Linguistics, 20 (1954): 344.
It stands to reason that these factors are rarely independent of one
another. In Hispaniola, Spanish domination led to the concentration and
immobilization of the Taino-speaking population, and this in turn to its
numerical reduction and final extinction. Brought together in the West Indies,
Africans of divers provenance gave up their several mother tongues in favour
of a common form of speech, Island Carib in St. Vincent (where they were
free), one of the Creole tongues elsewhere (where they were slaves). It is worth
noting in this connexion that Island Carib must be far harder to learn, for a
native speaker of a Niger-Congo language, than French, Dutch, English, or
Spanish; yet it appears to have been learnt and adopted with its complex
morphology, profuse suffixation, constant pronominal cross-reference, sex-
gender and all, without any interim period of pidginization. This can be
explained only as the result of greater opportunities for social intercourse
between the Africans and their Amerindian hosts than between the slaves and
their European masters. Extreme reduction in numbers, and local
concentration with resulting partial dependence on their Negro neighbours were
the causes that led the Dominican Indians to make the shift from Island Carib
to French Creole.
Comparatively few people in any part of the world take the trouble to
learn a second language unless and until it becomes more comfortable for them
to do so than not; but the reasons and rewards for second-language learning
differs. Members of a dominant linguistic minority who learn the language of
the dominated majority usually do so in order to widen the scope of their
social intercourse, or to learn what is being said about them; whereas members
of a dominated majority often must learn the tongue of their overlords, as a
'bread-language' before they can obtain decent employment and the benefits
of social services. Both considerations usually apply to a dominated minority;
and, in either case, the result is often a period of bilingualism such as must
have been widespread in Gaul after the Roman conquest, in England after the
Norman conquest, and in the Lesser Antilles after the Carib conquest, to take
only these three examples from among the many offered by history and
Sprachpolitik not yet having been invented, neither the Romans nor the
Normans deliberately tried to impose their language on the peoples they
conquered; but both brought with them a more advanced type of social
organization and a more intensive cultivation of the arts than had hitherto been
known in Gaul and in England; and both were greatly outnumbered in these
countries by the natives. And yet, but a very few centuries after the conquest,
the Gauls gave up their own for the victors' language, while the latter gave
way, in England, to that of the conquered. The early separation of the Duchy
of Normandy from the Kingdom of England, and the marriage of Henry I
to an English princess, may well have started the spread of that despised
'patois' known as English among the Anglo-Norman nobility; although it took
a Chaucer to re-establish it as a standard language.
The Carib conquest of the Lesser Antilles was, as we have said, pre-
historic; but according to a tradition current in Dominica during the seven-
teenth century, it had been accomplished by Galibi Indians from what are now
the Guianas, led by a chieftain who was "small in size, but big in courage;
who ate little and drank still less; and who exterminated all the former
islanders except the women." From this it would appear that the conquerors
own womenfolk had been left behind; and that subsequent generation of
'Island Caribs' first learnt their mothers' Arawakan tongue, and that 'of the
fatherland' only later, as a second though prestigious language. It is unlikely,
moreover, that these Cariban-speaking intruders brought with them a type
of culture more advanced-except for warfare and, perhaps, navigation-than
that which they displaced. Indeed, the seventeenth-century tradition to the
effect that, formerly in Dominica, 'they had had kings, and the word absiu was
the name of those who had borne them on their shoulders' rather points to the
reverse having been the case.
It is a curious fact that the speech of a dominant group, where it alone sur-
vives a period of rivalry, emerges all but uninfluenced by the former language
of the dominated; whereas the latter, even though victorious, is in most if not
all cases profoundly marked by the former language of the dominating group.
So, while it is hard to find traces of Gaulish influence in Old, Middle, or Modern
French, Middle and Modern English are packed with Norman French, and
Arawakan Island Carib-of the seventeenth century as of today-with Cariban
Kalina terms. It is not surprising that the introduction of foreign things,
institutions, and concepts should be followed by the adoption, from the same
source, of words to name them; it is more so that domination alone, as in the
case of the Danes in England, should cause a people to replace a part of its
basic vocabulary, as, for example, Old English hie, hefen, rind by Scandinavian
they, sky, skin. Monolingualism, it seems, if not a cultural development in
Tovar's sense, is at least a cultural luxury to be enjoyed only (though not
always) in peaceful times and places.
Educationalists, psychologists and others are in general agreement that
children should receive their first schooling and learn to read and write in their
mother tongue or home-language; any attempt to do otherwise, they tell us,
may be harmful to the future mental development of the children; (v. The Use
of Vernacular Languages in Education; Unesco Monographs of fundamental
education, Vol. 8, Paris, 1953; and African Languages and English in Educa-
tion; Unesco: Educational studies and documents, No. 2, Paris, 1953).
It has been shown, in the Philippines for example, that children educated for
two years only through the medium of their mother tongue did better, even in
English, during their third year's schooling than those others who had been
taught in English from the start. We may therefore expect similar results,
including a rapid decrease of illiteracy, from the Haitian experiment in
establishing Creole as a standard language. To what uses it may be put in
future will largely depend upon the development of its lexical and syntactic
resources by native poets and other creative writers; but it seems unlikely that
Haitian Creole will ever replace standard French as a medium of higher educa-
tion in the island. However, the example that Haiti has set in employing a
phonemic orthography to print elementary text-books and readers in 'the
vernacular' is certainly one that should be followed in those West Indian
colonies where a Creole or an Amerindian language is still the mother tongue
of any considerable proportion of the population.
In his Caracteres grammaticaux des langues creoles (2ieme Congres Inter-
national des Sciences Anthropologiques et Ethnologiques, 2ihme Session,
Comptes rendus, Copenhagen, 1938, 373ff.), the noted Danish linguist, Louis
Hjelmslev, has shown, contrary to popular opinion, Creole languages have
a theoretical optimum rather than a minimum, of grammar; and all linguists
have for long known that 'anything can be expressed in any language', (since
all languages add to their vocabularies as the need for new words arises).
Unfortunately, British social anthropologists, who write a great deal about
structure and function in society, ignore both when it comes to the languages
of the peoples that they study; although language, as the most highly structured
of all social phenomena, might well provide the key to many baffling social
One of the main objections to such a step, the increasingly high cost of
printing small editions, has now been largely overcome by the photo-offset
process, whose only disadvantage is an irregular right-hand margin. Another
difficulty is incurred by the not unnatural desire of every national government
to have the vernaculars that are spoken within its territory conform, in their
spelling, as closely as possible to that of the national language. So, the same
sound is written 'ch' by the English, 'tch' by the French, 'tsch' by the
Germans, and '9' by the Czechs; while the letter 'j' represents an affricate in
English (judge), a semivowel in German (jf), a voiced hushing sibilant in
French (juge), and a velar spirant similar to 'ch' of Scottish loch in Spanish
(jota). For this reason, and since such a language as Island Carib is spoken
both in British Honduras and in Spanish-speaking republics, and such a
language as French Creole of the Lesser Antillies in both English and French
islands, it would be desirable to agree upon a spelling which, while not doing
violence to structure of the language to be so written, compromised in so far
as possible with the spelling habits of sovereign nations involved. This could,
I believe, be achieved by means of patience and tact.
So, for example, Caribbean Creole (French Creole of the Lesser Antilles)
contains distinctive sounds (phonemes) approximating those written 'sh' (she),
'ch' (church), 'j' (judge), 'ng' (king) in English, and 'j' (juge) and 'gn' (peigne)
in French. For scientific purposes, each of these phonemes would be and is
written with a single letter or phonetic symbol; but to do so for the purposes of
elementary education in these islands would be both impractical and unneces-
sary. Since French lacks the sound of our 'ng' while English lacks that of
French 'gn' it would be only common sense to adopt both these digraphs for
Creole. For the first three sounds listed above, which in French are written 'ch'
(chiche), 'tch' (tchhque), 'dj' (Djibouti), this last French digraph-which,
though unusual in English, can lead to no confusion-should be adopted so
as to leave 'j' with the value that it has in French and that 'si' has in English
occasion. On the other hand, English 'ch' is preferable to French 'tch' because
it is simpler; while English 'sh' though unusual in French, can cause no con-
fusion. Thus practical considerations lead to a compromise in which French
values would be assigned to Creole 'j' 'dj' 'gn' and English values to Cteole
'sh', 'ch' 'ng' The same language has three kinds of vowels: close 'W' as in
French fee, open 'W' as in French fait, nasalized 'W' as in French faim, and
similarly in the case of 'o'; while there is a front 'a' as in French patte, a back
and longer 'A' as in French pdte, and a nasalized 'A' as in French pain. In order
to avoid diacritics as much as possible, open 'W' '6' and back 'A' could be
written in Creole by 'er' 'or' and 'ar' This device could cause no confusion,
since Creole, like standard British English, lacks the sound of 'r' in post-vocalic
position; while it would be justified etymologically, in most cases, as in the
following: Creole sharm 'charm', from French charme, versus Creole sham
'bedroom', from French chambre; Creole mor 'dead', from French mort, versus
Creole mo 'word', from French mot; Creole djer 'scarcely' from French guhre,
versus Creole dje 'gay', from French gai. On the other hand it would be im-
practical (for reasons which need not be discussed here) to indicate nasal vowels,
as in French, by a following 'n' or 'm'; and for this a diacritic (either the
circumflex accent, as in Haitian Creole, or the til, as in Portuguese) should be
employed. In this way the orthography could represent simply all differences
of the spoken language which distinguish one word from another, as, for
example, pe 'hush' (from Fr. paix), pe 'bread' (from Fr. pain), per 'fear'
(from Fr. peur) or 'priest' (from Fr. pare), pegn 'comb' (from Fr. peigne),
zepeng 'pin(s)' (from Fr. dpingle), sang 'girth-strap' (from Fr. sangle), sd
'blood' (from Fr. sang) or 'hundred' (from Fr. cent) or 'without' (from Fr.
sans)-which are also homophonous in French, san 'ashes' (from Fr. cendres),
sam 'seems' (from Fr. semble), sa 'that' (from Fr. fa).
I should like to write a book, some day, called and about what to me is
'the lure of language' Apes can be taught to use-if not to make-tools; birds
builds nests at least as ingenious as the shelters of Australian aborigines; and
ants and bees have societies that are, in many ways, more highly structured
and functional than our own. Yet only, always and everywhere mankind has
found the means of symbolizing that which is absent, past, or yet to come;
and without which even such a primitive manifestation of culture as the control
of fire could not have been achieved. But a language is more than a system of
signs. Certainly, sentences may be analysed into clauses, clauses into words, and
some words in perhaps most languages into meaningful prefixes, roots, and suf-
fixes; but in order to fulfil its purpose, language must ever be ready to form new
words or roots; and this is practicable only because all such signs in all languages
are built out of a small selection of acoustic features to which are allotted dis-
tinctive function but no meaning. Voicing and its absence have, in English,
a function that enables us to distinguish goal from coal, dole from toll, bole
from pole, and so forth; but the sounds we write 'g' and 'k' neither express
nor designate anything in themselves. On the other hand, English allots no
function to aspiration of the first 'k' in kick or in kill as opposed to its absence
in the last 'k' of the former or in that of skill. Yet the speaker of an Algonguian
language, for whom voicing or its absence is of no significance, employs the
feature of aspiration to distinguish one word from another.
'Anything can be expressed in any language'; but languages differ greatly
as to what they require or dispose their speakers to express. 'They put the sheep
in the fold' may refer to past or to habitual action, to one or to more than one
sheep; but because the English language requires every finite verb to have a
tense and every noun a number, the English speaking hearer or reader of this
sentence makes an immediate decision about these matters, based where pos-
sible, in such exceptional cases, upon the general situation, or on context. In
many languages, however, such 'informality' is the rule rather than the
exception; tense and number being expressed, if at all, by separate words like
yesterday, usually, tomorrow, or by a special 'tense particle' (such as English
itself employs to form the future), and by quantifiers like one, several, sixteen,
many. By and large, Island Carib is such a language; yet it requires the inclu-
sion (as English does not) of a 'quotative particle' in any statement not based
on personal observation, so that the Island Carib equivalent of the above
sentence might be retranslated literally somewhat as follows: 'put-they it-is-
said sheep fold-into' in which the hyphenated forms correspond to single words
of Island Carib. On the other hand, it is worth noticing that, in a French
rendering of the same sentence, we should have to decide on the masculine or
feminine gender of 'they' (ils or elles), express the masculinity of 'fold' (le pare,
or, if a permanent enclosure were meant, the femininity of la bergerie), while
not the acoustic shapes of the nouns themselves, would indicate that one was
plural and the other singular.
Nor are the categories that we call grammatical person, number and gender
the same for all languages. Besides the familiar person or persons speaking,
spoken to, and spoken of, some languages have a fourth person referring to the
more remote of two third persons, so that in 'her father and his brother',
'her father' would be marked as third person, and 'his brother' as fourth
person. 'We' of English has its exact equivalent in many other languages; but
some have two words, the one including and the other excluding the person or
persons addressed ('I and you' versus 'I and he, she, or they without you').
Besides singular and plural, many languages, including classical Greek,
Old English, modern Icelandic, Eskimo, and the Iroquois languages of North
America, have a dual number, while four grammatical numbers-singular, dual,
trials, and plural-are employed in Melanesian. To judge by those languages
for which we have a fairly long written record, the dual was at one time very
common; perhaps because the 'couple' or 'pair' was then the normal unit,
while the lone individual was thought to be singular in more than a grammatical
Outside of the Indo-European and Semitic families of languages, the
category of sex-gender is found only scatteringly; and although, used as we
are to such sequences as 'she said to him' and 'he said to her', we might find
it hard to get along without them, there are occasions when the lack of a
'common' third person singular pronoun is a nuisance: 'Once the candidate
has completed his or her dissertation, he or she must At all events,
Chinese, Turco-Tartar, Finno-Ugrian, Cariban, and-in contradistinction to
the parent tongue, French-French Creole languages get along very well with-
out gender; while in English, he, she and it constitute an anatomical rather than
a grammatical category. What might be considered as an improvement on our
own system in this respect is that current in the Iroquois languages of North
America, which recognize four genders: (1) neuter, including inanimate objects
and abstract notions, (2) feminine-zoic, employed in reference to any-but
particularly adult, active-human females and, in an indefinite or general
sense, to animals, (3) masculine, used of human males and specifically male
animals, and (4) indefinite human, employed in reference to an indefinite person
of either sex or to people in general, and particularly to young girls and old
women. In Arawakan Lokono (spoken by the coastal Arawak of Guiana), on
the other hand, there are only two genders: one reserved for the human male,
and another to which are consigned indiscriminately all inanimate objects and
abstract notions, plants, animals and women.
At the other extreme from these reasoned-if not reasonable-distinctions
of gender, are those belonging to the European languages with which we are
lmost familiar; German and lulssian arbitrarily assign every noun to one of
three genders (der Hund 'the dog' die Hand 'the hand', das Kind 'the child'),
while the Romance languages assign theirs to one of two (le verre 'the glass'
la tasse 'the cup'). Gender distinctions urch as these are purely grammatical.
But what shall we say of the two genders, masculine and feminine, of
(Arawakan) Island Carib? Here, all nouns denoting males and some nouns
denoting inanimate objects are masculine, all nouns denoting females and some
nouns denoting inanimate objects are feminine, while nouns which have non-
concrete referents-such as those meaning anger, dance, day, heat, song-are
treated as masculine by the women and as feminine by the men.
The verbal system of Caribbean Creole resembles that of English in that
it has, formally, only two tenses, past (marked by the particle te) and non-past
(unmarked), the future being a mood rather than a tense; it resembles that of
French in that no distinction is made between the progressive (I am eating,
I was eating) and the habitual (I eat, I used to eat); but it differs greatly from
both in regarding all verbs not 'activated' by the imperfective particle, ha, or
rendered hypothetical by the
mwe te malad mwe te mije mwe malad mw& mije
I was ill I had eaten I am ill I have eaten
mwe te ke malad mw& te ke maje mw& ke malad mwe ke mije
I should be ill I should eat I shall be ill I shall eat
I would (like to) eat I will eat
mwe te ka malad mwe te ka maje mwe ka malad mw& ka mije
I was getting ill I was eating I am getting ill I am eating
I used to get ill I used to eat I get ill I eat
modal particle, ke, as expressions of perfective states. That the future is a mood
rather than a tense appears from the following considerations: it can express
will or wish, it combines with the past-tense particle to form predications
equivalent to our should and would phrases, it cannot combine with the marker
of imperfective aspect, ka, to form a future imperfective, so that such a sentence
as I shall be eating when you arrive must be rendered by periphrasis, ler u rive,
u ke jwen mwe ka mdje 'when you arrive, you'll find me eating.'
Word order, which plays such an essential part in the structure of English,
is of purely stylistic importance in some languages. Thus, the words of Latin
pater amat filium '(the) father loves (the) son' and patrem amat filius '(the) son
loves (the) father' may be re-arranged in any order without change of meaning,
since the relations of 'subject' and 'object' are adequately defined by the 'cases
of the nouns.
Nor is definite or indefinite reference, indicated by our the or a, a part of
Latin any more than of Russian; while our all-important copulaa', as unknown
to the latter as to Creole languages, may on occasion be dispensed with by the
former: Russian brat durdk, French Creole fwer sot, both mean '(the) brother
(is a) fool'; similarly in English Creole (Sranan Tongo) te kau nyam, a mu gi
asi pasi 'when (the) cow (has) eaten, it must give way (to the) horse', and in
Latin beati pauperes spirit 'blessed (are the) poor in spirit.'
Finally, there is no one-to-one correspondence between the lexical meanings
of words belonging to different languages; French intdressant shares the utili-
tarian meanings of English interesting, but is not applied to things which excite
attention or curiosity only; French Creole thuve shares most meanings of French
trouver and English find, but is replaced by jwen, which also means 'meet' and
'join', when the finding is not accidental but the result of seeking. French and
French Creole both distinguish, as English does not, between savoir (Creole sav)
'know (facts)' and connaitre (Creole konet) 'know, (people, places, &c.)'; while
English distinguishes, as does neither French nor French Creole, between feel
and smell, both of which are sentir in French (sdti in Creole). French Creole
zarm 'fruit-tree(s)' is more restricted in meaning than French arbre 'tree' from
which it is taken, while French Creole bwa, like Danish trIe, means either 'tree'
or 'wood (material)' Biological kinship is an unchangeable fact in all societies,
which, however, assign it in very different ways; so Island Carib has one term,
nziguci, for 'my father' and 'my father's brother' and another, idu, for
'mother's brother' while English father applies to only one relationship, and
uncle to two. The stimulus we describe as colour is received alike by all normally
constituted individuals in all parts of the world, and there is no physical or
physiological reason why we should divide up the spectrum in one way rather
than in another; yet what we call green is divided, in Welsh, between gwyrdd
and glas, the latter term also being applied to 'blue' and to a particular 'shade
of grey', while llwyd denotes another 'shade of grey' as well as what we call
All of us are born into some social and linguistic community; and the first
few years of our lives are spent in learning to conform to the rules of behaviour
it observes, and to the rules of the language it speaks. Through this double
learning process, we gradually acquire an elaborate system of associations and
attitudes, of ways of perceiving, understanding, and responding to the world
around us; and it seems not unreasonable to suppose that the two codes
may, to some extent, influence one another through the intermediary of this
Weltanschauung. We must not fall into the vicious circle of saying that people
behave differently because they speak differently, and that they speak differently
because they behave differently; but it can probably be shown that, other things
being equal, it is easier to remember, recognize, or reproduce something-such
as a colour, shape, direction, distance, size or position-that has a name in one's
mother tongue than something that has none. And conversely, since the vocabu-
lary of a language is always richest in those parts which reflect the cultural focus
of its speakers, we may assume that here behaviour has affected speech; for it
is hardly to be supposed that a particular interest in (say) agriculture, politics,
or the family should result from the existence of a large set of terms pertaining
to one or the other. Whether or not the more purely grammatical aspects of a
language affect or are affected by the behaviour pattern seems more doubtful,
and much harder to demonstrate. But if a language does, in some respects,
reflect or determine a particular way of perceiving and knowing the world,
ourselves, and each other, who are we to say that our own brand of cognition
has proved itself to be so eminently superior as to justify the consignment of all
others to the rubbish heap?
Juan Gualberto Gomez, A Cuban Portrait
IN the tapestry of Cuba's history for the period from 1854 to 1933 there is to
be found a magnificent design in the life of Juan Gualberto G6mez, freeborn
Negro of a slave mother. He was born and raised in the slave quarters of a
sugar mill owned by a benevolent Cuban family who provided education for
all the children on their estate. By the time he was ten years old, the child
could read and write. His father, who was illiterate, appointed his son as his
personal reader of the current papers, especially those which reported Abraham
Lincoln's writings and speeches in defence of the rights of the coloured race.
From these the young boy gained a clear conviction of the honourable role
due the transplanted African in the economy which he was helping to develop
in the new world. Juan was later sent fifty miles away, to Havana, to attend
a school for coloured children, where he absorbed all that children of his race
were then taught. In 1869, when he was 15, he was apprenticed to a carriage-
maker in Paris. The following year the owners of his parents made a trip to
France and took the slave couple with them to see the son who, while learning
his trade, had been attending night school. The carriage-maker, a Mr. Binder,
told the proud parents that the youth was capable of serious study and should
be given the opportunity to become a scholar. Somehow, after this suggestion,
a day school education was made possible and continued until 1875, when
he was twenty-one years old. After his student days were over, he remained
in Paris, making a living as a newspaperman, translator, and correspondent.
When two Cuban patriots Francisco Vincente Aguilera and Manuel de Quesada
were in Paris as a fund-soliciting commission representing Cuban revolutionaries,
Juan served as their translator. These two men were members of a Cuban group
who since 1868 had united to oppose Spanish rule in Cuba. From this associa-
tion the young man gained his second clear conviction when he realized that
progress and prosperity would come to Cuba only when the Cubans learned
to guard their own welfare.
On the advice of a good friend, Juan Gualberto G6mez returned to
Cuba -in 1878, at the end of the Ten Years War, when Spain offered the
defeated Cubans a number of reforms, including the right to form political
parties, liberty of the press and of expression in political propaganda, and
self-government in municipalities. During a brief stay in Mexico City, just
before his return to Cuba, he had been accepted as a persuasive and ingratiating
novice in the circle of the illustrious Cuban reformist, Nicolas AzcArate. This
talented lawyer, who wanted Cuban self-government under the sovereignty
of Spain, realized that his young friend was grievously disappointed in the
defeat of Cuba after the decade-long war and for that reason did not want
to return to his native land. AzcArate spoke earnestly to the young Negro,
pointing out that at a time when Spain was promising reforms for the benefit
of all Cubans, his race was in need of a spokesman. Someone like G6mez,
capable of practising moderation and goodwill, through good fortune equipped
with an excellent education, a lucid pen, and convincing oratory, should
recognize it was his patriotic duty to serve his race and humanity. The young
listener accepted the challenge, and this decision to serve his race and his
country set the pattern of the role he played the rest of his life.
He first went along with moderate Cuban leaders, such as Azcrate, who
asked that Spain treat Cuba as a respected, a productive colony, worthy of
at least partial self-government. The articles he wrote for newspapers were
for the island's identification with the democratic movement then existing in
Spain, to the end that both the mother country and the colony enjoy the
principles of universal democracy. These principles were to include means
for the protection and the development of the coloured peoples of Cuba. But
by the beginning of the following year, in 1879, the small, stocky, twenty-
four year old Negro became convinced that Spain's hold on the island would
ever interfere with the native's right to liberty and equality. It was at this
time when he was overcome with frustration that he met a wiry, restless young
man, Jose Marti, who was just a year older than himself. This new friend, who
at sixteen had acquired the marks of prison chains and had been exiled because
of his political activities, was back in Cuba under the amnesty the liberal
Treaty of Zanj6n' extended to Cubans abroad. The two young men developed
an enduring friendship and each in his way served the cause of Cuban
independence for the following fifteen years.
Juan Gualberto G6mez, however, through the early days of 1879 continued
in the columns of his own newspaper to campaign for reform, pleading for
good government and fair distribution of the country's wealth among the
Crown, the peninsulares in Cuba and the native Cubans, in order to avoid
another civil war. He was thereby warning Spain while advocating patience
to his revolutionary friends. Late that summer war broke out in the province
of Oriente, the eastern end of the island, and Marti was jailed for his part in
the conspiracy. A suitcase of valuable and incriminating documents dealing
with Marti's revolutionary activities were delivered to G6mez for safekeeping.
He was able to guard these papers, but not many days later he too was
imprisoned. After nine months in a Havana prison, he was sent to Ceuta,
off the coast of Africa, where Spain incarcerated her political prisoners, giving
them the freedom of the town. During the period of his imprisonment, in
Havana as well as in Ceuta, he wrote constantly for his newspaper. Articles
appeared against the illegality of his detention, as well as against the treat-
ment of the slaves. Azcarate, his old mentor, obtained on behalf of the political
prisoner the intervention of Rafael Maria de Labra, a famous lawyer of
Madrid who owned an anti-slavery newspaper, El Abolicionista. Through
Labra's efforts G6mez was transferred to Madrid, as a parolee in exile, where
he contributed to his protector's newspaper interests, which were dedicated to
the eradication of slavery in all forms. Ten years in Spain writing for Spanish.
French and Cuban newspapers where he was permitted to plead for better
government and more equitable treatment for the Cubans, for freedom and
'On February 10, 1878, the Ten Years War ended in Cuba. In the Pact of Zanj6n
the Spaniards agreed to give the Cubans generous terms for their capitulation.
equal rights for the Negroes, established his reputation as a writer and cor-
respondent. Ile did not suggest revolutions against the mother country nor
uprisings among the Negroes, but a new way of life for both types of oppres-
sors: the shortsighted politician and the avaricious slave holder.
During the years he spent in Madrid he made many warm and enduring
friendships with prominent Spaniards who were sympathetic to the Cuban
cause. He attended and reported as a newspaper columnist every session of
Congress of Deputies; his clear analyses of the deliberations taking place there
were well received. When the Supreme Court of Spain rendered a judgment
to the effect that it was legal peacefully to defend political ideals, whether
Carlist or Republican, and that the crime was only in the use of violence
to overthrow established government, Juan Gualberto G6mez consulted with
learned Spanish friends on their interpretation of this pronouncement in rela-
tion to political writings in Cuba. He found that they too were of the opinion
that it applied to political writings in the colony.
Shortly thereafter, in 1890, he was permitted to return to his native land,
after he had refused a post in the Spanish foreign service. He said at the
time that such employment would conflict with his loyalty to Cuba, on the
one hand and with his conscience as a civil employee if he could not serve
Spain as she had a right to expect, on the other. On his return, he found his
country bogged in misery, for a tariff war between Spain and the United
States, with Cuba as the victim, was then in progress.
La Fraternidad, the newspaper he had published before and during the
early days of his imprisonment, Was reactivated and soon he was again
examining in its columns all phases of the economic and political ills which
were degrading the island. Those of his countrymen who wanted to be loyal
to Spain were being overcome with despair as they unsuccessfully struggled
with a platform for autonomous government which the Spanish courts burles-
qued at every opportunity; those of his countrymen who wanted to rebel
were expending energies jockeying for control and quarrelling among them-
selves. in this manner threatening to involve the country in another war which
would again exhaust the nation for lack of proper preparation. And the men
of his race were trampled and abused in every possible way (On all of these
issues he wrote.)
In one of the first issues of the new La Fraternidad he wrote on matters
racial in heartfelt words:
Certainly I do not want to attempt the impossible, but am convinced
that much can be accomplished now by not losing sight of our aims and
by being practical in our dedication to the possibilities of the present.
I know full well that in all human societies there have existed, do now
exist, and there will continue to be differences and distinctions. To-date
progress in the sciences, political, social and economic, has not pre-
vented the coexistence of the very rich with the very poor, the learned
with the ignorant, the virtuous with the dissolute. But these inequalities
have nothing to do %with those we have here, which we propose to combat.
My purpose in this matter is to work toward the end that in a more or
less brief passage of time \we shall learn to appreciate and value men for
their actions and not for the color of their skins. To this end it bec-mes
necessary that the aspirations of each race be permitted to develop under
the same principles. Let us educate the Negro in the same school in which
we educate the white mali. Let us raise the social levels of that class
which until now has been held down. Let there be greater consideration
for the descendant of the .\frican. Let us not use the force of our social
mores to hold back his progress, instead let that force help him as it
helps the rest of the citizenry Such aid extended to the colored man,
clothing him in dignity, will make him as important as the next in his
contribution to the nation's liberty; he will gain moral strength when he
knows he is appreciated; and then, on receiving encouragement in the
place of contempt, he easily will develop his natural faculties for the
improvement of the nation's culture and prosperity
The name of this newspaper, which I have long cherished, was
chosen by me eleven years ago for the very reason that it was a title that
clearly symbolized my convictions and aspirations on this subject. I seek
harmony. Should the day come-which will never be the case here-
where it became necessary for the colored race to war against the white,
whether through incitement or challenge, my people would have to find
another man to counsel or guide them. because I could not. I am an
advocate of the fraternalization of the races, and should fraternalization
fail, my honor, the respect I owe my past, and the sincerity of my pro-
fessed convictions would force me to retire from the public scene knowing
that I had failed.
But this I do know that without liberty and without equality there
can be no brotherhood. The serf never loved the tyrant, nor can the man
who is despised on the basis of an assumed inferiority have any regard
for the arrogant fellow-human who depreciates and humbles him. On this
I base my conviction that I serve my country in the very best manner
when I work for the alleviation of the burdens and the inequalities, and
when I fight for their banishment not through the lowering of standards
of the white man but by raising those of the Negro. In this fashion La
Fraternidad in this its new era will defend with spirit, as it did in the past,
every thing that concerns the future of the Cuban Negro. integral part
of this country; his tragedies and his aspirations, his complaints and his
necessities cannot be ignored by anyone who cherishes the ideals of our
Several months later he wrote an article entitled "Why We Are Sec-
essionists." This clear exposition of why the people of the new world could
not be governed by those of the old offended the Spanish authorities
Havana, and in due course he was accused of the crime of rebellion, and
jailed. While in jail he continued to write articles for his paper in defence
of himself, in denunciation of the Spanish officials' illegal incarceration of his
person. Other articles written in the cell were directed to the Cubans, calling
them to unite and warning them to keep their political ideals pure and their
moral principles healthy; earnings were extended to those of his compatriots
who sought the protection of the United States; these annexionalists he labelled
immoral vendors of the Cuban soul.
On March 12, 1891, six months after the secessionist article appeared,
he was tried by the colonial court in Havana, and found guilty; his penalty,
two years, ten months and eleven days in prison. He appealed to the Supreme
Court of Spain, and his defender was his former employer and friend, the aboli-
tionist Labra. While tile law took its slow course, G6mez remained in jail
because he could not raise bail when this security was required to obtain his
freedom. Friends and sympathizers in the Ybor City section of Tampa,
Florida, and in Havana held benefits and receptions to obtain funds. He was
finally freed on bond. On November 13, 1891, the Supreme Court in Madrid
set aside the judgment of the colonial court in Havana, and pronounced
that it was not treason to seek the independence of Cuba when armed only
with ideas expressed in the columns of a newspaper. It was a triumph for
G6mez-a triumph that made possible a tremendous advance in the fight for
Cuban independence; overt political propaganda was now possible. The then
governor of Cuba, Captain-General Camilo Polavieja, commenting on the
case later in his writings on the period of his governorship stated: "The day
that judgment was passed, we lost our sovereignty in Cuba." The patriotic
Negro's constant dedication to the cause of Cuba's freedom won this signi-
ficant and bloodless battle for the people of his native land.
He returned to this newspaper work and to underground conspiracy with
kindred spirits who worked in preparation for a revolution. After Marti created
the Cuban Revolutionary Party in New York, G6mez became the central
contact for the revolutionaries. The columns of his newspaper the next four
years remained dedicated to demanding improved welfare for his country and
his race. During this time La Sociedad Econ6mica de Amigos del Pais, a,
distinguished civic organization composed of outstanding Spaniards and
Cubans, invited Juan Gualberto G6mez to membership. This was a signal
honor for any man; it was an especially significant honor for a Negro, who
was called a "mulato" by the Cubans. Marti wrote in Patria, the organ of
the Cuban Revolutionary Party: our mulatto brother, the noble
Juan Gualberto G6mez He knows how to love and how to forgive
in a society where it is very necessary to exercise forgiveness. He has the
tenacity of a newspaperman, the energy of an organizer, and the far-reaching
vision of a statesman. But what especially pleased the Cuban leader in
exile was the homage extended through G6mez to the Negro race by the
The "mulato" continued his revolutionary organizing activities and
was Marti's correspondent in contact with the underground members through-
out the island. February 24, 1894, 'as the day set for the uprising of the
Cubans against the Spanish Crown. and G6mez made the arrangements for
the co-ordination of the island's revolt under Marti's instructions. The local
insurrections, which were to spark the war, went off on schedule throughout
the country except the one organized for Matanzas where the men who
were to join G6mez did not appear. When his fellow-rebels failed to keep
the rendezvous, the unwarlike newspaperman had to flee the alerted Spanish
army and hide in the countryside. A few days later he surrendered to the
Spanish authorities when given a promise of amnesty.
But he was not granted amnesty; instead he was jailed as a criminal
rather than as a political transgressor. Marti was killed in action while G6mez
was in his cell. Along with this heartbreaking news he received a pronounce-
ment (homage) from one of his most important fellow-revolutionaries,
the distinguished Julio Sanguily who wrote "Another Marti cannot be found
The only man who does possess qualifications to replace Marti's
is Juan Gualberto G6mez. Yes, you and only you. Valor, great intelligence,
learned, and well versed in the ways of the world. There is only one thing
in our society, today so corrupt, against you: your color
He was in Africa, still in jail serving the sentence imposed on him in
Havana for armed rebellion, when on December 18, 1896, he'received news
of the death of Antonio Maceo, a mulatto, in combat eleven days before. The
beloved Cuban military leader's death wrung a grief-stricken (despairing)
letter from the prisoner; he wrote to a friend: "Now the death of the
glorious soldier in whom we had such justified hopes, not only for the
founding of the Republic, but also- for the reconstruction and development
of the country on bases of unquestionable order, liberty and progress. Not
only was he valiant but he was exceptionally prudent as well. This amounts
to a personal loss for me. But we are in the midst of battle. We cannot allow
distractions. We cannot even shed tears for our dead. We will carry our mourn-
ing within us, in order that all may see that we do not despair of
Released from prison when Spain turned a conciliatory attitude toward
the fighting Cubans, he stayed in Paris for a while; after the United States'
entry into war with Spain, he moved to New York. When the Spanish-American
War ended, the Cuban Revolutionary Party appointed delegates to form an
Assembly of Representatives for the protection of the interests of the natives.
Juan Gualberto G6mez was called to be one of the appointees. He joined the
other delegates in Santa Cruz del Sur, seat of the assembly in Cuba while
the government of the island was under the command of United States General
John R. Brooke.
The Assembly remained in session for many months, and G6mez worked
very hard formulating petitions. Among these was a request to the United
States government for a loan, not a gift, to be guaranteed by an independent
republican Cuba and to be used for the rehabilitation of the island. The United
States and its representatives on the island more or less ignored the Assembly
and it finally dissolved.
G6mez was again running a newspaper when the United States Interven-
tion Government appointed him to the Board of Education of Havana. As
Cuba entered a new historical era, he renewed his dedication to the country's
welfare. It formerly needed revolutionaries-now it needed statesmen of honor,
his columns proclaimed. He severely criticized General Leonard Wood's political
practices, warning that they would leave the island in a state of confusion.
He demanded a Constitutional Convention which would regulate the Cuban-
United States relationship. His anger knew no bounds when the Platt
Amendment, which tied Cuba to the United States became law. Though a
zealous Cuban, he won the respect of the representatives of the United States
in Cuba, including William H. Taft and Robert Bacon, because of his
During the years that followed, he entered and retired several times from
politics. The cause for Women's Suffrage had in him a champion, and he
wrote: "What justification is there in not permitting our companion in life,
who has followed us in all our endeavours, even on the battlefield, to come
and share with us the obligations and responsibilities of good government
and good management of public affairs?"
In several of the Cuban governments that followed the organization of
Cuban affairs by the United States, G6mez was representative and later
senator. He continued to attack the Platt Amendment. He reiterated his
convictions that Cuba had to learn absolute self-government by herself, that
while she was governed she could not control her own destiny. It was neces-
sary, he said, that the Republic of Cuba be independent. Only those nations
who had been on their own attained self-sufficiency, improved their lot,
progressed. Hie did not live to see the hated measure of United States control
abrogated by Franklin Delano Roosevelt who in 1935 rescinded the Platt
Amendment as a step to making effective his Good Neighbour Policy in the
Latin American nations.
The average man and woman of Cuba, regardless of color were Juan
Gualberto G6mez's followers, and the politicians sought the benefits his good-
will would stack for their political success. They gained little for their efforts
for even when party leaders won his support, if the politics they practised
while in office did not ultimately accrue in sufficient measure to the people's
good, he roundly denounced them and their programs.
When 1929 President Machado sought his goodwill by naming the
old senator recipient of the Carlos Manuel de Cespedes Grand Cross, he
accepted the honor as coming from the Cuban people. He was 75 years old.
At the ceremony. Machado praised the old man in glowing words, saying
among other things that the patriot belonged only to the nation. To this man
who ruled Cuba with a pistol in (his) hand; to this man whom the old patriot
had fought with all the force of his valiant spirit, he replied in humble and
appreciative terms for the signal honor; then he added that he was not on that
day any different from what he had been the day before; that there was no
change in his principles, that Juan Gualberto G6mez with a grand cross was
no different from Juan Gualberto G6mez without the decoration.
It is not surprising that on the cover of the July 12, 1954 issue of the
Heraldo Cristiano, organ of the Presbyterian Church in Cuba, the one-
hundredth anniversary of his birth is commemorated with a line drawing of
his face under which appear the words "noted patriot" and "model citizen.
He died in 1933, having woven a rich brown design in the tapestry of Cuban
The Life and Work of Norman Paul
M. G. SMITH
PART 2-TAKING UP MANSHIP
MY two aunts used to work for Mr. Edward White at Hampstead Estate, and
my mother worked on the estate too; he saw me, and sometime when I was
about nine years, he asked my aunt to allow me to come and work for him.
She said she couldn't do that, she would have to go and see my mother. My
mother said she couldn't allow me, I am going to school, he would have to
compel her to send me to work. He told her if she don't send me to work with
him, he would not give her any more work on the estate, and she had to yield
to him to send me. That must have been about 1909 I started to work with him;
I worked sixteen years with him, but during that time off and on, I would leave
and go back, according to the different visions I been having. That was about
1912 I start to see visions, not knowing the meaning of those.
The first one I can remember is one night I saw a cloud on that side, I
heard a music was playing in the cloud, and when I looked in the cloud I saw
an entrance, and something coming down. As much as I could, I watched
carefully, I saw a picture of the Sacred Heart was coming down, and plenty
of people that was around started to run, but I didn't run, I called my sister
and I told her, "That is a spirit" and we started to pray. And I awoke after
that vision. That is the first one, when I was living at Hampstead. I left
Mr. White because during the time I was working, around 1912, I used to run
away at night to go to the Adventists' services. At that time the minister was
one called Rashford, a Jamaican, a dark man, very young. He had been at
Innswood about seven or eight years, and I decided to baptize in 1912,
I baptized in 1914, 4th August, but I decided in 1912. I got baptized on the
day of the outbreak of the world war.
When I first work for Mr. White, I worked outside, I used to clean up the
the galleries verandahss), water ihe plants and feed the ducks and work
messenger boy. Afterwards I had to clean the bedrooms. When I started he
used to pay me 5d. a day; he increased it after he take me from outside and
I was placed inside, to do butler and to clean up the house, he used to pay me
1. 10s. Od. a month. I started to work inside the house about 1911 to 1912,
so I did two years of work inside. When he pay me I would bring the money
to my mother, she never allow us to take our own money. She would ask me if I
wanted a shilling, I told her sometimes yes, sometimes I didn't want because
sometimes when th--" had guests I would get more money than my wages.
Sometimes I would keep that, sometimes I would give her a portion of it and
keep a portion. She was always better off with me than with the others, because
I was always luckier than the others, the white people liked me very much.
Sometimes they would call me home and they would put me at their table to
have meals with them, I was always lucky with these coloured people.
Once when I was between eleven and twelve they tried to put witchcraft
on me, but I was protected then. I did not know who tried it, but all that I did,
Mr. White was not pleased, and he would call my mother and tell her that I
wasn't doing my work, I was very careless and stupid; and a woman told my
mother there was somebody living by Mount Craven, to go there and see her,
maybe they did not want me to work in the place, and they trying to tie me.
When my mother went, that woman, by the name of Mistress Joseph, told her
don't worry her mind about anything about me, because I am well protected
by God, even though they try they would not be able to do me anything, I am
well protected. She did not do anything for me, and afterwards myself and
Mr. White, we get on well.
Hampstead is over a hundred acres, over a hundred and fifty labourers
he had, men and women, all living on the estate-houses scattered all over the
estate. They were free to hold their gardens and houses and everything on the
estate. The estate built the house and used to repair it for them, and when he
repaired any buildings on the estate, he leave the boards so that the people
could build a kitchen or lavatory or anything they needed, with them. If they
need boards he would give them from the store-room, too. Well, he was one
of the best gentlemen in this parish. I would not say in the parish, but in
Grenada; there wasn't another like him. But this came from his parents, his
father was a Scotchman and his mother was a Grenadian, an African. Then
the father died and the mother also, and then he was in charge.
And when the father died, there was a fellow at Grenville by the name of
Sidney Brown who was in charge of old Mr. White's business and the estate,
and I didn't know him at the time, but my aunt was cooking for White, and
she related me the story, that when old Mr. White died, Mr. Brown was in the
house sitting down saying to bring the debts, because he was for trying to
manage the estate. He collected the debts, the man he sent to collect them took
the books to him, and when he reach above the road, the labourers say he is
not sufficient to rule the estate, and no other man should rule the estate but
Mr. Ted, and the labourers drive that man away, they wanted to beat him-
they get tough in the boucan with the man whom Sidney Brown sent to take
charge of the estate. Mr. Ted White told them he would support them. From
that time the estate was left to him to manage, and he was very successful.
I don't know how old he was when his father died, he was quite young.
Every month they used to give a Sunday to every one of the servants as
a day off. So when I have a day off, I used to visit my friends. I had some
friends by the name of Pope. Then there was my brother, I can remember him
one night, he was writing a letter, I was looking at him and got something into
my mind that remain up till today. While he was writing this letter I never
knew anything about it and never knew what he said, but he kept on bawling
out at me, and he tell me to go and sit down. I am only looking at him writing
a letter, and he bawling at me. Afterwards I came to know there was something
called love, that is why he bawl at me. Apart from that he was very careful,
and he was generous towards my grandmother and ourselves.
We used to play cricket match, and dancing (but the music was clarinet,
not Big Drum). And kites and tops, and on Christmas Day they have this play,
they would dress and go about singing Christmas carols. And First of August*
they have picnics, my mother and all the old people, they walk about with the
drum and flag, they had the African flag, and those African people would hang
these things round their neck, they call them goulad. They have a bouquet of
flowers and they come to Mr. White. Sometimes he allow them to dance the
whole day in the pasture, sometimes he allow them to dance in the boucan.
They would beat that drum, and everybody bring a tray to give the offering
they had at the hill up there. They beat the cymbal and they dance quadrille
and all sorts of dances. At night they would go back and dance the Nation
Dance, he would give them the boucan and they would dance there.
He would kill a cattle and many hogs, and he would give every home a
barrel of flour and a bag of rice-every August and every Christmas, each home
gets a barrel of flour and a bag of rice. It was a big barrel, 196 pounds. And
he give them rum too. Sometimes he give them the music, sometimes he would
come himself. The old people there dance first, and afterwards he take the
Government band from St. George's and give the young people theirs too. This
is the Cropover, they all-times celebrate the Cropover First of August, because
at that time the crop is over, and October or November, the crop will start
again. Sometimes he hold it for two days, three days. He let them cook in the
coppers. Sometimes he come and he enjoy with them, sometimes he dance with
them-he was a real African. Wherever they have this Big Drum, he want them
to wait until he reach first, and he would give them anything. At that time he
I never interested in any games as played, but I like to watch cricket.
Some way, somehow, as if I had some purpose in spiritual affairs. I loved
singing very much and that was all I did, it was only hymns I used to sing.
When I joined the Seventh Day Adventists they liked me quite a lot,
because I had a powerful bass voice. Anywhere people go and I heard it have a
programme, concert, I like to go. Presently I don't think I could do very much
singing, because I speak quite a lot, and I think my voice is failing. I used to
practise with children and have concerts, it is something as the teaparty-
a concert. I would practise some children to sing songs, dialogues and speeches,
and I would challenge you that we should meet, and each of us have a
chairman, and the one that did best would get a prize. We would put up a prize
of twenty dollars each, and if your side is better than my side you get the whole
thing, and if my side is better we get the whole thing. Some other person might
put up a prize, sometimes.
*First of August-Emancipation Day.
We speak of Shakespeare, we speak of John Wesley, Bunyan and so on,
what great men they were, they would speak of Booker T. Washington and
how he became a man of high standard. We appeal to the crowd-"Ladies and
gentlemen, we are here to tell you so much of John Wesley, and if at all we
could culture ourselves, though small we are, we would feel like one of these"
and so on-something elevating. We would begin with speeches and go on to
songs, after a speech a song, after a song a dialogue, after a dialogue a recita-
tion. A dialogue is two parties, one from each side. It is something like a joke.
"The pig with a straight leg" We take that and we pick out different parts;
you will say something concerning the pig and I will say something I think it
better and so on, and the people would laugh and enjoy this. Then the one who
had the better brain would win.
I made one myself one time, a singing dialogue:
All the men still wear one coat,
And I myself have two,
During the week I wear one coat,
And on Sunday I wear my blue,
(Don't look at my long-tailed blue!)
I will sing you a song,
But not for long,
It's about my long-tailed blue.
When it got here, a little boy came from behind.
"Good evening, sir."
"Good evening, boy."
"My father sent me for the coat" (I haven't got two coats, I am showing
"What do you mean? Go off!"
Then the boy come back, he say, "My father sent me for the coat."
"What do you mean? I haven't got no coat."
"Ha, ha, ha! Boy's father needing a coat!"
And they would laugh and think it very nice.
I started very young, because when I was working I used to run away all
the time in the evening to practise, I was sleeping at Mr. White's, in the outer
room. He would not let me go out, but sometimes I slip away, sometimes I
would tell him I want to see my mother.
Mr. White, sometimes he used to rough me, but he spoke very well con-
cerning me to other gentlemen, and the labourers heard, he wouldn't want me
to know but they told me. I remember once one of the grooms told a lie and he
sent me away, but it happened in this way. He told Mr. White that I would go
and tell the people his business in the home, and Mr. White call me and he
drive me out off the place. But I told Mr. White to ask him who it is I tell;
he said "It is a fellow called John, and Popeson his brother" Well, luckily
Mr. White knew my brother and John, and he told me to wait outside in the
yard, and he called them. When they came they said "No, he never told us
anything, that man tell a lie" Mr. White had done a lot of things with me,
he don't allow the grooms to drive the horse; it was a pet of his. They don't like
that, so they make a plot to make him get rid of me, and when he found out,
he call me back and he allow me to live in the house. At that time I was about
seventeen to eighteen years. He gave me a bedroom inside the house, and he
took me to the stores and give me everything, and still pay me a salary. I was
getting at that time 2. 15s. Od. per month. I used to work in the house, an
aunt by my father called Ann-my father's sister, she was married-was the
maid; the cook was a woman by the name of Mistress Coster; the groom was
Fred; a man David; and there was another fellow by the name of Dark. A
woman by the name of Mary Transfer was the washer, she took the clothes
home and go and do washing home. They had another fellow by the name of
Lucky Hanson, under-groom, and I was the butler. Mr. White kept a lot of
horses-one was Nosegay, a brown and another by the name of Electra,
I remember. One night he went out, the groom went into the house to take a
bottle of whisky; the other groom reported that to me, I told Mr. White, and
I had to reach High Court. It went to Sessions, that is the High Court, on
15th February, 1913, when I was about seventeen years old. Friday was the
groom in charge then, and John was a groom under him; it was John who went
in the house to steal that whisky, and I was in charge. John had been there
a long time.
Mr. White used to go out a lot, and he used to have a lot of people to dine
with him, even the Governor. After supper, when they dance until two o'clock,
they stop and he allow the servants to dance until four, and he give them the
same supper and the same table, the whisky, the cocktails and everything for
the servants. Everyone have to dress, I used to dance-I am the butler dressed
in pure white; the groom in his black suit, his white shirt and his tie; the cook
in her blue dress and her apron, the servant her blue dress and her white apron,
her cap on her head-everyone in their uniform. Some of the field workers
would come, they call them and put all on the table and give them just the same
thing. Then whenever he had a dance he would call the people to come round
the gallery and watch the dance while it was going on-the labourers and
everybody, all dressed up. Some of the white people didn't like that, but he
said he did not agree, they are his people and they work to put money in his
pocket, and they must come just the same.
If there was a wedding on the estate, sometimes he would take them to the
church, or he would send them the carriage to go to the church. From the
church they would come to him, they would take wine and cake, then they
would go to their house, and he would give them all sorts of drinks. And if
there is a concert or so, he would give them the boucan and he would get one
or two of his friends and he would come and enjoy the concert just the same.
At Christmas, well, from midnight he would be up, and the band would come
with singing carols and the rum from Simone-they used to make rum there
and he would get a cask of rum and form it into another liquor called shrub:
you sweeten up plenty of rum with molasses, and put spice, clove and lime
juice, and that becomes a liquor, shrub, and he would give the people that to
The next thing, he love cricket match very much, he would give his
labourers bats, gloves, half-a-dozen balls, he would give then, hat as present,
and have the pasture every time well clean. He could not pl- y :nuch, he would
captain the team but he would not do much-he wasn't good at it but he loved
it, and as he was the master, well. He played Barbados here at his estate, he
played Trinidad, he played St. Lucia. Over and over. He play all the islands.
He was out for sport, and any time he would make a sport for the labourers.
And when there was a death, he would come to a wake. Whenever he have
a death he bury them, first-class, he give them all the equipment to bury and
he would come, and sometimes he would follow the funeral.
The people who owned estates round about didn't like all this, they feared
he mingled himself too much with the labourers-that is what they gaid. But
they used to go and see him, they liked him very much, they didn't ignore him;
but they did not like the way he moved with the workers.
Every morning at seven o'clock he would meet the labourers by the boucan,
the labourers would be there half-past six, and seven o'clock he would come
down and despatch everything with the drivers. He would tell the drivers what
work he wanted done, and each part of the estate have a particular name, such
as Mount Zion, Adam (because one Adam worked that part), next place called
Ashley, a fellow Ashley work that place; Maho, St. Pierre, any other part-
he would say "go to Maho and do weeding", and they would know exactly
where to start. The driver would give out the work, and each driver had his
particular gang, a regular set of people with him all the time.
The overseer go and he make up all the books for the estate, and he see
that the work was done. A shilling a day for men and ten pence for women;
if you didn't come to work you can stay two and three weeks, and he would
find out if you were sick; if you were sick he would support you home, he would
send the doctor, and anything you want he would send for you. If you weren't
sick and you ask for one or two days leave he would grant that, and he wouldn't
worry until you had come out again.
The watchman's job is to look over the estate to watch that there is no
thief, and if he bring in a thief, if he steal a coconut or pick some peas or bluggo,
Mr. White would charge them ten shillings or five shillings, sometimes he would
send them to lock-up-and before they reach he telephone the police at Sauteurs
and say "Let him go", sometimes before they reach, he take a carriage and go
clown. He would not punish them a lot. He would give you a bit of land to
work, if you didn't work it properly he would quarrel with you all the time
and say you were lazy, but he would not take it away. Oftentimes he give you
a cattle to mind, or sometimes a hog, he had a very good breed of hogs.
Weeding was women's work. And when picking cocoa, the men pick the
cocoa, and when they crack the cocoa they give it to the women. During that
time they also had a gang of ten picking up nutmeg. Sometimes they go in the
morning, they pick up a basket of nutmeg, they go back in the afternoon and
pick up two more. Sometimes they had 158 labourers working, I know that
because sometimes, when I was working with Cockburn the overseer, he make
up the pay-list in my presence at night; he would sit down and check up the
pay-list, and sometimes I would do it together with him. And when I was
working with Mr. White, when he goes to the Bank and draws money to pay
the labourers, sometimes at night I meet him at Sauteurs, he give me the bag,
when he come back at night he lie down reading his newspaper, he would tell
me how many hundred pounds he draw, I would check it up and put it on the
dresser, and he would come and check over.
They used to pick more than a thousand bags of cocoa-1,500 bags from
that one estate, nutmeg about 600 to 800 bags, mace 300 to 400 bags. Besides
that he had bought land in St. George's Parish, he had animals there, especially
cattle and horses and mules. They work sometimes picking cocoa up to four
o'clock, but when the cocoa was really ripe and he want to get through, some-
times they work up to six, seven, eight o'clock at night. He had many
masantos (flares), he had some looking after the masantos, the rest of them
would take off all the cocoa, and he would get rum and corn beef. They didn't
mind that, when they finish up at night it was a joke for them, he paid them
extra, too. They would do anything for him and they never minded. There
used to be plenty of cocoa to stamp out, and he would get men and women,
and while they stamping he would give them rum. He would get women and
put them to boil rice and make porridge and make bread for them. You stamp
the cocoa when it is dry.
For planting cocoa he gave them a garden for their own use and he hold
them to plant cocoa and they would get paid for it. They plant their bluggoes
and so on among the cocoa, and they never minded if he didn't pay them.
For instance, where my mother was living on the estate at Top Hill, my father
cultivated more than an acre in cocoa. They never worry about that, they did
it as a gratitude. But when Ronald White took possession he never showed
gratitude for that, he put my mother to pay a rent even although she wasn't
working, she was ill when he took charge. She was paying up to the time I took
her away two years ago, she used to pay 5/- a year, 10/- a year for the use
of the house-spot; she had to pay for the garden too, but I can't remember
how much. Afterwards, when she wasn't paying for the garden, he told them
to plant nutmeg and he would compensation them for that, but he never did
that, even although presently he took the garden from them, he don't pay;
at Hampstead they planted coconuts, cocoa, and he promise that when they
come to bear he would check them up and pay for them. Well, some of the
nutmegs start to bear from three years, four years, and he was taking them up,
but he would not pay for them. If you are planting nutmegs alone, you can
plant more than a hundred for an acre, but generally you mix other things too;
nutmeg, cocoa, bluggo, breadfruit; everything grows together and everything
bear. When you plant the nutmeg and cocoa you plant them under the bluggo;
if the bluggo trees are full the nutmeg will grow fast, because there is water in
the bluggo root that keep it fresh, and it grows faster. You mix the cocoa with
the bluggo, too. That is your garden, and you work it up and plant peas and
so on, and those and the bluggoes would all belong to you. When the cocoa and
nutmeg come to bear they belong to the estate, they agree to pay you so much
for them when they take them over.
There wasn't so much stealing on the estate, the people did not use to do
much of it, and even if they did, Mr. White never meet them. It was not
strangers who steal things, only the estate people; for instance, there was a
watchman who opened the boucan and stole five bags of cocoa, and that is a
watchman he had great confidence in. He was a black stout man, young, he
was married and he had many children with the wife. He lived on the estate.
He did that the first time and he get off; he was going to do it the second time,
because Mr. White never found him the first time, nobody told him. The second
time the watchman contact a friend, and the two of them was together, but the
friend went and told Mr. White, Mr. White went and got two policemen and
the night they went in the boucan, when he opened the door and went in, they
held him. At that time they put him in gaol, because it was too much. But
Mr. White didn't like policemen on the estate, the watchman acted as the
policeman. One of them always at work, night or day. The people never
quarrel much with one another, and as for stealing one another's provisions,
they didn't do that. They used to take the estate things sometimes. One time
Mr. White remain home and he saw a fellow climbing a coconut tree, by the
name of James. He take two people to go and hold that fellow, but when he
was reaching, the fellow saw him coming and he say "I see you coming, I bring
this water-nut for you" He laughed and he let him off. A policeman once was
walking, and he saw a woman was cutting a bluggo by the road, he tell the
police. Mr. White rang them up and he ask the magistrate to dismiss the case
and give the police a caution, they must never do this because that not their
business, the woman belong to the estate and she work with his mother as
caretaker of them-she was his nurse. He never met anybody and then bring
them up in Court or make them pay.
GIRL-FRIENDS AND OLD-TIME MARRIAGE
When I was about sixteen or seventeen, I was working as a boy at
Mr. White, there was a girl called Gracie, she was the sister of my friends up
at Sauteurs, and oftentimes we met in the evening-time, I meet her from
Sauteurs, coming back home from school. We were about the same age, she
was a little younger than I. Her father was a butcher named Pope. That was
the first girl I loved; I was not certain I wanted to marry her, but I loved her
and I wanted to form an engagement, that is, later on I would want to marry
her. I spoke to her, and she have consent.
When I wrote to engage her, my mother and father went and speak to
her mother and father, they were quite friendly, and before my mother knew
that I was going to engage her, her mother told my mother how much she loved
me, and she wanted me to married to her daughter. We met first at a gentleman
called George Phillips, he was the driver on the estate; his daughter had an
At lome one August holiday, and we met there. Another time at her aunt's,
the 24th May. She could have danced very well, I could have danced, and
that pleased me. I never tried to make love to her, that was not in my mind at
all. I moved with the old people, and hearing them talk about engagement,
what an engagement is, I meant to be loyal to that. To have a happy home.
Because the old people used to speak sometimes (I would sit down and listen
to them well) what an engagement is and what is a happy home. They say that
when you are married to a girl and she is innocent when you are going to your
home, how much the people would adore you and how they would visit you,
in what a respectable way, and the respect they would have for you and your
wife. That is when you marry a girl who is a virgin, and that is what I wanted
to do. So when I engage to Gracie I used to go and see her on Saturday,
Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and she used to be at the butcher's stall with
the father when I go to get meat for Mr. White, and we used to talk. When
I engaged to her I was already friends with her brothers, we used to meet going
to dance. Sometimes they would visit at our home, sometimes the brothers
would sleep at our home, at my mother, but I never went to sleep at theirs.
It was not so long after I engaged to her when I was dissatisfied; it was
after about one year and six months I got dissatisfied, because of training.
I visit the home once or twice, and the training I were dissatisfied of, home
training. That is, she did not speak to the mother well, and she did not live
with the brothers well, and I did not like that. I used to be very observant
when I approach a home, I look at the family, how they move with one another,
how they talk with one another, and I got dissatisfied. I never worried with her,
I told her aunt I was not satisfied and I would not worry with her any more,
and I asked her to speak to the mother. The mother called me and she speak
to me, she said she cares for me a lot, but if the daughter would not behave
herself in the right way she cannot compel me to love her, to do anything good
for her as to married to her. My mother, she always used to tell me, "If you
make up your mind to love somebody to marry to, you must visit their home
and always look at the person, how they move with their family, and if they
move with their family well you will have a happy home, and if they do not
move with their family well, you would not have a happy home, you would
have some trouble when you are married.
She was not obedient to the mother, she going to do certain things and the
mother tell her not to do it, and she would do it; and when the mother speak
to her, her answers would not be pleasant. That was a thing which I detest-
rudeness. Sometimes she want to go to a dance. She go to a dance and she would
not tell me anything, and when I ask her she would not give me a reasonable
answer. Sometimes on Sundays she would leave the mother home and visit
some friends, even though the mother told her not to do it. That was a
disobedient home. She didn't have any children, not before I broke up with
When I broke up with her, that did not upset her brothers-not at all,
they were satisfied; and her mother was still friendly with me. Both brothers
say they were satisfied with me, because she was rude in the home, she would
not take the mother's advice and she would not listen to them. Myself and the
brothers were always together.
Old-time marriage-to get married in Grenada, you have to go to the
minister to give your name to publish the banns; and I undertook to do that
for my brothers Popeson and Ralphie; and I help them in putting away the
home furniture and so on, whatsoever they need to put away in the home,
to prepare the house as the wife needs. Table, bed, chairs, wares, linen, pots
for cooking-the house itself, but sometimes the estate give them a house. If
the man was working it rested on the man to get up the house. He had to
provide the house. Sometimes if the estate did not give them, they have to
buy one from outside; anyone selling a house, they buy it and break it and
bring it on the estate. My brother bought one outside and put it on the estate
In Grenada, the man must put the first set of furniture in the house, and
when the wife come in, whatsoever is still needed, she get it after. She only
come in with her clothes, that is all she bring; even if she brings some bed-linen,
the husband supposed to put one set. His family such as the mother and father,
or other family, give presents to the husband to help him do this. When a man
is to be married they pass round and tell all the family that they are going to
get married at such a time; the mother pass around, and she go to all the family,
mother and father family; it is the mother's duty to do that, and the girl's
family will be told too. The wife's family give wares and so on to the girl-
glassware, sometimes plates, silver and so. Sometimes they give money, some-
times they give linen, sometimes a spare table, and waiters (trays) they give.
The mother and father help the man with the bed, they are supposed to, any
of their children going to get married, they supposed to help. Sometimes the
family don't agree, then the man and girl go and marry between themselves.
Suppose I wanted to get married, I would tell my mother and father, both
of them together; I want to get married to that girl. And they agree, yes, they
agree that I should marry to that girl, so they ask you what time you would like
to be married, and they start making things to help you to put away your place.
Then you will tell them well, you are going to write to the girl's family, and
you want them to go with you at the family to fix up the matter with them,
and agree between them for the marriage.
If they agree they say you can write, so you write to the girl's father and
ask them. And the father, after he get the letter, he will tell the mother, "Well,
look, this young man have written to me concerning our daughter in the home.
What do you say?" And she say, "Well, it leave to you, if you agree I agree
just the same" And they both decide, and they would send the answer to you,
that they want to see your parents to know whether they agree that you should
marry to the daughter. In your proposing letter, you would ask them for an
engagement for the daughter, for two years, or one and six months, that you
should marry her, and you would like to get a favourable answer from them.
If they agree they would answer a letter and send and tell you they agree, but
they want to see your parents to know whether your parents agree. And if the
girl's parents did not agree, my mother and father would tell me, so I won't
know what the answer is until they have spoken to my mother and father.
When you write for an engagement, you enclose an envelope with an
address. But you don't put a stamp on the letter, because if you enclose with
a stamp and they disagree after a time, or you disagree to marry to the girl,
you are liable for an action because when you put a stamp on it it shows that
it is a legal matter. There was a case like that in St. Patrick's about 1915, 1917,
a young man had engaged a girl in Gouyave to be married, and he married
to another girl instead, and he had to pay a sum of money for breach of
When your parents and the girl's parents agreed, you could visit the girl
any day, but you couldn't see her alone, and you couldn't stay the night with
her. They are doing it today, but in days gone, you cannot stay at night with
her, and there are certain times you could remain in the home to speak to her.
After nine and ten o'clock you cannot, in days gone, but today the people don't
regard that so much. In Carriacou, even now, you can only go there when they
call visiting days, it is Monday, Wednesday and Friday between four and six
o'clock; and in days gone in Grenada, you were not allowed to talk in private
way between yourself and the girl, because the mother sitting there, the father
sitting there, the girl sitting there, you talking in public to her, and you must
go home after nine o'clock. And you not to see her outside. And in days gone,
if you had not written for the girl you can't visit her; only the person who had
written for the girl could come into the home, and supposing you saw a young
man coming to your home in days gone by, you would ask what he is coming
for; and if he could not tell you, you ask him not to come again; or if he coming
for something, he must make it known.
Sunday is the favourite day for getting married, sometimes they marry in
the week too, but Sunday is the favourite day. In the old days they used to
have a saraca first at the woman's house-the Big Drum, a Nation Dance.
They give a sacrifice for that, on the Thursday night if the wedding is on
Saturday, Friday night if it is on Sunday. The girl's father would be in charge;
my grandmother used to cook for a sacrifice like that. The girl's father would
be in charge, he issues orders to the people, and anything that is concerning the
purpose is under his care to settle; himself, the mother, and the mother and the
father of the young man that is to be married, they would arrange the saraca
They sprinkle rum in their yard and they go about with an old hoe and
a spoon, they would beat that old hoe with the spoon right round the ring,
calling the spirits with them. They leave the ring open, they leave a road from
the East leading to the West and one from the North to the South. The purpose
of the road is to say the spirits would come in and dance first, the dead spirits,
the old people; they would call spirits both in the father's and mother's family,
and they beat three rounds before anybody could come in and dance. The girl's
father does not kill anything, but they would kill fowls, sometimes a sheep,
sometimes a goat. If they kill a pig they must not do that in the yard, they kill
that outside the yard.
All this time the girl would be inside, not locked up, but not being
permitted to be outside. Sometimes from the time of the saraca she would be
inside in a room by herself, sometimes with her girl friends. And sometimes
some people that is married already is instructing her what she must do, and
what she have to do and how she have to behave to take care of herself; and
she couldn't come out till the saraca was finished.
The nation they beat first on the drum for that Nation Dance, if her father
is Kromanti they would beat Kromanti first, because the father is strongest of
all; they look to the father more than the mother, because they hold the mother
bear the child, but the child is from the father. He give the mother the child.
The mother bear the baby for nine months, she brings forth the baby, but the
baby is from the father. The drum is from the father to the mother, they beat
the mother's nation next, because the father is the strongest.
Sometimes they have a dance at the man's home, a quadrille with bass
and tambourine, sometimes if the wedding is Sunday, they have that Wednes-
day and the saraca Friday. The man's family would come to the saraca,
because they both agreed to the marriage. When they had the saraca on the
Friday, the man would go and see the bride, but only to say "How do you do ?"
in the presence of one or two friends, say one or two words. This is in days gone,
not today. Today they are free to talk, to live as they like, but in days gone you
couldn't do that. If you see your wife on Friday you would not see her again,
not before she reaches church on Sunday. While they are enjoying eating and
drinking, you enjoying eating and drinking too, but you don't see the girl you
have to marry from Friday up till Sunday. And she can't go out all that time,
she have to stay inside her mother's house. All the family would come and greet
her, but the man can be abroad though the girl can't. It is certain restrictions
according to the rigidness that the people used to carry in days gone by, I
really don't know their reasons for that, but that is what they did if there is
going to be a marriage.
They have a saraca for the marriage of a woman in her womanship just
the same, but the difference between the marriage of a virgin and a woman in
her womanship, a woman would not be private, she could go anywhere during
the saraca, she can even dance if she likes; this was when a woman has already
had a child. She is not a virgin again, she spoil her virginity. A young girl
cannot take part in the dance, her parents will keep her like that if they are
sure that she is a virgin, she is in a respectable way. And even though she don't
have a child, the old people used to know if she was a virgin, according to how
they keep their children home they used to know. My grandmother used to
know, I don't know what sign they had. The day of the wedding you would
know when a virgin is being married, because they used to ride a horse, the
girl and everyone used to ride horse. The husband would go on his own horse,
whether the girl was a virgin or not, but you would know whether the girl was
a virgin because they would get a horseshoe and pin to the back of her dress,
she would take that into the church and back home, and whenever you see
that horseshoe you know that it is a virgin.
And when the wedding was coming back home, the old people, the family
on either side, they met her way out with this bass drum and cymbals and so
on, and they beat and they dance and taking her home The husband's family
and her family, they both would go together, but the husband's family would
pay tribute to the wife's family for delivering a fair daughter to the husband.
They meet them under an arch in the yard coming in at her mother's place, and
they receive her with a sum of money, it might be ten, fifteen dollars, a dress
and a ring and bracelets, earrings. The father and the mother of the man, they
would meet them just as they coming underneath the arch, they take the gift
on a waiter and present them with that and throw rice and flowers and so.
That would belong to the girl. The girl's mother would give the girl a present,
different things. But the fifteen dollars, the husband family would give to the
girl. They never gave her family anything, they would just give her about
fifteen dollars; and it was the husband's mother and father would get it, not
the husband, they would make up that gift and give to the girl in behalf of the
girl's mother for keeping her daughter. If she had already had a child it
wouldn't happen, and if the girl is a virgin and they don't do that, it is because
they don't respect her or they don't like her, and it wouldn't be a proper
marriage so much, people would look at it as something that was not considered.
That would mean that the family of the man did not want this girl, they would
be there only to please the man, but not that they satisfied.
When a marriage is to be considered, they trace the family. Sometimes
if your family drink plenty, or you are a gambler, or it have anything against
you and my daughter would like to marry to your son, they say, "I don't like
that, I don't want you to marry him, because the father is a drunkard, he is
a gambler, he is a thief, and what is in the father, that is in the son. I don't
want you to marry him" And if you like to marry him, they say, "I wash my
hands off you, if you like to marry him I will have nothing to do with you.
Because you would not get any good from that young man" But if you are
of age, if you are twenty-one, they can't stop it. Supposing two people were
first cousins, some people would stop that too; if you are second cousins they
don't object it.
You write to the mother and the father just the same for a woman who has
had a child already; and if a girl is living with the grandmother, then you write
to the grandmother because she is in her home, you have to consult the family
in the home. Then when you go to see the grandmother, she will say she does
not know, and you have to see the mother. And you must be very respectful
to her mother and her father, you show it in the way you approach their home,
the way you approach them, how you walk in the road, how you talk to people.
People must bear some good record concerning your behaviour, then the family
would please to accept you for their daughter or their son.
In days gone, sometimes men would write to engage girls, not to marry
them, but so they could visit them in the home. They couldn't stay in the
house, but they could visit the girl, they could go to church and come back on
Sunday. Without any business of marriage, they have to write and give them
an engagement ring; any young girl you see have an engagement ring on the
marriage finger, a young man have no right to speak to her. And when you
engaged her like that, you could visit the girl at her home, but you couldn't
stay the night with her. Presently they have that arrangement, that a man can
visit the girl and stay the night with her and go home next day, but not in the
old days, no. You either engage or don't engage in the olden days. I know of
a man engage a girl for eleven years and don't sleep in the home, have nothing
much to do with the home, on Sundays visit the home, sometimes on Wednes-
days, and after a certain time at night leave the home. One of my sisters engage
to a young man for thirteen years, and he never slept home.
But in the old days you would write one type of letter that you would
engage a girl to marry her, but you could engage without marrying her, too,
because if you did not put on the letter "marry at such and such a time" you
simply write for an engagement, you could break it up at any time, because
you never certify a date that you could marry. Her parents still have to call
your parents, and they would agree. And if you are dissatisfied, or you see
another girl you prefer before that one, some of the men just bring some wrong
observation, say "Well, your daughter is no good, I not do anything for her",
and they turn away.
Before I was married, I had a son born on the 8th July, 1921, at that time
I was about twenty-three years, and I had a daughter born somewhere about
the 14th August, 1923-different mothers. All this time I was an Adventist
but in and out, I never stayed because I went in and get out, went in and get
out, went in and get out again. During the time that I were an Adventist I was
beloved by plenty people, and it was just easy that I could fall with one of the
girls, because they used to follow me. And whenever I fell I would get a vision
in the night that I should not do so and so, I must go back. I get in trouble
with three of them, and had three children. Now when I saw that, and there was
a problem before me that I must serve God by all means, I put myself to get
married. That was the trouble. And the next thing, you would be always finding
I was attractive, and whether I thought of another or not, I would get messages
from a girl and I would come along and get in trouble, but it is not only that
I really get in trouble, I was really willing.
But I always used to keep myself in a respectable way, that I could be any
good, and I kept that up even though hard times had reached me one time,
so that I get to the least degree-but even at Trinidad digging dust for a living,
I never look down, I always look up. When I sit down to recall my experience,
it is a great one.
(To be continued)
Words for Rent
For my son, asleep tonight,
For all sons, all fatal, good
Flesh, corruptible brood, sown
In the cradles and laps
Of this ark of our world, alight
Through seas of immortal stars
Or orchards of yellow suns,
For fathers, guessing the maps
Of their time, whether wars,
Women, poverty or trust can
Harm their breakable wills,
For mothers in grief or Etruscan
Serenity who rise
And feed till a cry walks erect,
If I could fling the spread
Overall, as the white sail of the moon
Covers our half of the dead,
With two coins laid on our eyes,
A brass sun for the twilight
And another when morning rise,
I would keep cold, numberless man
Lonely and wandering in bed
From all the monsters of harm
That drink at the wells of his heart
Or cloven stalk through his head.
If these words could do any good
Be cone to his fears' raging calm,
Even break him his daily bread
And sift him a paradise
Of islands, white with sand
And peace of a sea not salt,
Then I would unwrap every shroud
That seals God's fatal child,
And praise the green ark, aloud
In words, O twice as wild
For the older I rage and mark
Wrinkles of rivers cast
In the valley of my palm,
I feel that the blundering ark
Of the world where good bails grief
Journeys towards the best
That a dove will break into calm,
Bring an Arrarat of rest.
Though God knows I have enough
Which like my father I earned
Of a fitful exhausted peace,
That my heart has risen and waned
For beauty bought at such price,
While ageing I hear tides race
As I stand, unholy erect,
In a cataract of good and bad love,
A hub of this turning place,
I would suffer more than enough
Through dry or torrential season
If my veins put out one leaf
To cure mankind of its reason.
But all I possess is words,
Some worn, some wildly spent
Some hoarded much too long
Till all feels obsolete
Under my wrinkling thumb.
They, poor, must search for the dues,
The rates of passion and wrong
Due to heaven, stretch wings and look
For my hilltop peace, with a laurel
Bough in each screaming beak.
Meek messengers I do not choose
But who, praise heaven, from birth
To this joy of my twenty-fifth year
Have swarmed to my hands, whose craws
I can give no crumbs,
But passion, confusion, despair,
And two hands that are all thumbs
In any other craft or trade,
Save to send them again in the air
And search where under the rent
And tattered tent of the sky
Man could find a mountain to die
When the waters of black despair
And his excrements abate,
Or a branch to settle his care.
I offer the world no more
Than my love, than I offer a child,
I cannot lie, for he sails
Doomed in a ribbed, cradled ship
Where the black flood rages wild
In the shell of his tongue-pink ear
And my sorrow of doubled love
When his eye fills with a tear
And he pouts a trembling lip
Though I know the world is no child
But a beast, and a murderous one,
Butcher of even its God,
My innocent, infant Herod,
Whom my seed doomed to the earth.
And yet may he find it good
To the last day of his birth.
These simple tools of my trade
As the sea shears its whorled stone
Carves shells in its lathe of foam
Were they source of my daily bread
Would make his blood as bitter as
The saltiest sea, whose home
Is the meadows of armadas of dead
Lovers, and all the tune in my head.
O I write not for him alone
Or the tossing when he stirs
Rocked in his dangerous ark
For boys in counties of firs
Who follow the high flung lark,
Or ankle the rattling seas,
Or hide in the withering grass
Which like a green sea will cover
The innocent flesh, and the peace
Of my own boyhood over,
Till my conversation is spent.
But never to absolve my guilt
My crude, ill-humoured deeds
Will these words ever pay the rent
Of my soul on earth on hire,
For my heart break gift or my spent
Ambition and desire
Nor have I scattered these seeds
In this verse that it may plant
Among the orchards of stars
Or in furrows of thoughtful brows
Some branch or glowing current
To lead the world-ark prows
Or cut my fame on a tomb, where
As guilty as I may lament
A Lucifer fallen from bright air,
May poverty wither my thumbs
If I ever abuse His gift
For money or fame or uplift;
For I know less than you, cold
Singers, sown under the mounds,
Than the dome of star-pierced minds
That could sway the earth like gold
On the hair of compassionate scales,
Divining frailty from good.
All that I have are the tales
That are streams in.the drying blood
And are fountains of hidden tongues
I would talk time out of the tomb
If my gift were blessed event,
I would reach out a finger and touch
The turning and plunging ark
Of grave, cradle and womb
If I knew all Heaven has meant,
But I am all of these earthly wrongs
My son under my humble roof,
I curse my own cloven hoof,
But wish error all that is good
And a life though badly spent.
And now I re-wind the songs
Which greater in grace have moved
Through snows and stars and fields
Of delight, and all the world has loved,
Poor songs that a father strums
But strung with divinest intent
To praise the fields I approved
Though all his fingers were thumbs
To pay for the peace that they give
When this page is yellowed and old
To pay for a grave, not so cold
As the heart of the world sometimes
A funnel of leaky rhymes
A flute that flaws on the tunes
Hire of a house and a tent
Of grass; hermetic, worn-out runes,
And words that pay time's rent.
Mermaids and Fairymaids or Water Gwhs and
Goddesses of Tobago
H. B. MEIKLE
IN his story The Abyss H. G. Wells tells of the encounter of a naval officer
with a race of beings living on the floor of the ocean. The story is one of the
dazzling creations of Mr. Wells. But surpassing fantasy in its strangeness is
fact. The "water people" of Tobago, mermaids and fairymaids, are real.
That is, they are, in the minds of people, beings having an actual existence
Mermaids according to local tradition are male in sex, Fairymaids female.
The former "live in the sea" the latter "in the rivers" But such descriptions
of the abodes of these beings require qualification. The truth is that the homes
of mermaids and fairymaids are caves beneath the surface of the earth which
must be reached by way of river and sea.
The majority of those who have encountered mermaids say that they are
fair in colour with long blonde hair. A workman (one versed in local lore) who
has maintained relationship with them for years insists, however, that all
races are represented in the world of mermaids. An extremely dangerous type
he says are those resembling Indians. They are sometimes to be seen sitting
in groups on logs near waterfalls.
The upper portion of the bodies of mermaids is human, the lower portion
like a fish's tail. Fairymaids might have one leg human and the other
terminating in a cloven hoof. Footprints, one human and the other cloven,
are frequently to be seen on the banks of the upper reaches of rivers.
Usually mermaids are at work in the sea in the day while fairymaids
occupy themselves in the rivers. Time and time again, in the evenings,
mermaids have been seen riding across the sea on horseback, with long plumes
on their heads, wearing coats with insignia which make them look like high
officials. They are then on their way to the homes of the fairymaids. But the
great meeting time of mermaids and fairymaids is at Christmas. Then
leaving the sea for weeks the mermaids spend time in the homes of fairymaids.
These beings of river and sea are spirits. "Fallen spirits" said an old man
as he described their activities in the spirit world. They partake of the nature
of gods and can bestow on mortals both good and evil. The fact that they
do evil does not deter people from entering into relationship with them. This
is not surprising for in local lore Satan is not wholly evil and people deal with
him hoping to receive good from his hands.
Mermaids and fairymaids can transform mediocrity into genius and
confer wealth and power. One might traffic with them in much the same way
as with other spirits. Usually however they demand a human sacrifice. They
lure the votary on, grant him small favours, and demand "a soul" late in
the day when to withdraw relationship with them is to incur displeasure. So,
with such knowledge men contrive to outwit the mermaids. They deal with
them, derive benefits, perform various rites at the appropriate moment and
break relationship with no evil consequence.
Sometimes it is the water people that seek relationship with mortals. Then
the cause is love. Some men are particularly attractive to fairymaids
especially men with smooth skins-"skin without sore marks"
The story is told of a young man in a nearby village who was beloved
by a fairymaid. She was intensely jealous of him, a fact which caused great
inconvenience since he dared talk to no woman in the village. He knew that
it was the intention of the fairymaid to lure him away to her subterranean
abode. Often he saw her in the vicinity of his home. So he grew a garden of
flowers. For mermaids and fairymaids are lovers of the beautiful. On each
visit the attention of the fairymaid was diverted by the beauty around hcr
so that she forgot about the young man.
A fairymaid in love with a man uses her power to "turn his head" That
is, she dements him. Or as it is commonly expressed "de fairymaid take he
shadow" The shadow is an essential part of a man. With that gone he is
no longer under the control of reason.
The shadow might be recovered by friends and relatives going to the
river addressing the water, and pleading for its restoration. The victim
should be present. If he is not too badly deranged he should himself petition
for his shadow. After the petition has been made, as the group leaves the
river, the victim must on no account look behind. In certain cases it is
possible to recover the shadow only with the help of a "workman"
In my village there is the story of a fairymaid "turning the head" of a
lad. He had gone to the river that day and had' returned home very restless.
He insisted on going back to the river. His mother tried to restrain him but
to no avail. Eventually he left home and disappeared for days. His mother
divined that he had been abducted by a fairymaid. So she went to the river
and addressed the water, imploring the fairymaid to restore her son. The
next day he returned home.
The machinations of spirits can be warded off by cursing. But an
exception occurs in the case of "water people" These fallen spirits, that
desire husbands and wives of the sons and daughters of men that are fair,
have great power. They must be petitioned respectfully and are capable of
answering appeals with magnanimity. Cursing provokes their wrath and they
wreak vengeance on the offender.
There is the story of another young man who went to the river and dis-
appeared for three days. At the end of that time he was accompanied home
by a fairymaid who remained hidden in the bushes to hear what his parents
would say. Abuse from them would probably have caused the fairymaid to
use her power to dement the young man for life. Fortunately his parents
realizing what had happened said nothing and the fairymaid departed
A certain man C-, recalls with pride the days when he was loved by a
fairymaid. At that time he used to go with the other young men to the river
to fish. And on each occasion he caught more and bigger fish than any of
his companions for he was favoured by this fairymaid. Had matters gone on
like this he would have been taken below the water, eventually, to live with
her. But fortunately C- has "a spiritual body travelling with him night and
day" That "spiritual body", the spirit of his grandmother, told his mother
in a dream that C- was no longer to go to the river to fish or he would be
taken captive by the fairymaid. C- took the warning and went to the river
no more. C- is of the opinion that fairymaids in the rivers desire mortals as
husbands because the mermaids are at home with them only at Christmas.
An interesting story concerns Dr. Tulluck who on his way home one
night was accosted by a mermaid who required him to go below the water
to attend to his wife, in this instance a mortal. The mermaid parted the
water and Dr. Tulluck entered the cave and attended. He was not paid for
his services while below the water. Mermaids never pay in this way. On his
return Dr. Tulluck once more mounted his horse but found his progress
impeded by large stones which ought not to have been in his path. On dis-
mounting and removing.them he discovered that they concealed money, his
payment from the mermaid. Thenceforward he was a rich man.
A similar story is told of Dr. Purser. In this instance the mermaid's wife
was in travail and needed help. The doctor was compelled to dismount his
horse and go below the water to attend. Passers-by saw Dr. Purser's horse
in an unusual place near the sea and wondered what had happened. Later
they learned the facts. For his services the mermaid conferred great skill
upon Dr. Purser and his skill as a medical man has never been surpassed.
E- S- of the village of Belle Garden willingly tells anyone the details of
an adventure when as a young woman she was loved by a mermaid. E- S-
is a woman of about sixty, active and intelligent and her story is clear. There
is no doubt that she is convinced of the truth of it.
Perhaps E- S- is convinced that after what happened she is immune
to machinations of mermaids. Or maybe she is of the opinion that mermaids
have no interest in an old woman. For she talks freely while there are those
who constantly look over their shoulders when referring to the water people,
fearing that they might be overheard and punished for their temerity.
E_ S- was a village beauty when she fell under the spell of a mermaid.
"The mermaid take me shadow," she said. One night when the other
members of her family were asleep she was compelled to leave her home.
After walking some distance she was met by a mermaid who took her to the
river. He parted water and she was taken below the earth where she remained
for three days. The mermaid told her that she was his wife. During her stay
in the under world she slept with him at night.
Her environment was not unlike our home on earth. There were trees,
streets, houses and innumerable merfolk. In the mornings she breakfasted
with the mermaid. The table was in the open under a fiddlewood tree and laid
with lovely plates and dishes. As they sat at the table a servant waited on
her and combed her hair.
E- S- did not partake of the meals that were placed before her. For
then she would never have returned to her mortal home. One morning as she
sat at the table with her "husband" another mermaid came up and assured
her that she was quite safe. He left and her abductor turned to her and said
that when a cat approached the table, as it would in a few moments, she
must strike and drive it away. "If I did strike it," said E- S-, "I wouldn't
have been here today."
The parents of E- S- at last realized that she had been abducted by a
mermaid. They went to the river and petitioned and E- S- duly returned
home. But she was a changed person, violent and striving to go back to the
river. So her parents had recourse to the services of a "workman" to remove
The "workman" questioned E- S-. He learnt that before her adventure
she had gone to the river to catch crayfish and had vainly pursued
an unusually large one. This crayfish he explained was the manifestation of
a mermaid that had taken her shadow.
To free E- S- the "workman" instructed her relatives and friends to
hold a wake, a "singing meeting" as it was popularly called. This was
followed by a reel dance (native dance to which spirits of ancestors are in-
vited) which was held on the bank of a river. There were sacrifices and offer-
ings of rum, rice and salt. E- S- was given the traditional bath which frees
victims from the influence of evil spirits. She was made to drink a considerable
quantity of blood of the sacrifices. Finally the spell was broken.
It is commonly believed that mermaids can at will assume the form of
cats. Hence many people treat strange cats with respect fearing that they may
be merfolk scouring the village in disguise. Harming them might bring in its
wake great evil.
No matter what supernatural power a man aquires striking a mermaid
is dangerous. Nor is it prudent to annoy them. They frequent solitary places
and are angry if disturbed in their retreat.
J- 0- used to pass by the Goldsborough River at a late hour every
night. This was annoying to a fairymaid who frequented the locality. So one
night the fairymaid attacked O-. But he was a man versed in "science"
had much knowledge of the spirit world, and the utilisation of unseen powers,
and he said "A wish a had me big stick in me han' Immediately the
stick was in his hand and he beat the fairymaid until it turned into a cat
and died. But he had not travelled far when he fell unconscious and began
to bleed through his nose. He made a temporary recovery but soon
Men enter into relationship with fairymaids for the purpose of acquiring
wealth. On the first encounter the fairymaid asks the man if he is hungry.
On being answered "yes" the fairymaid gives him "ten grains of rice, a pot,
and a bone" The votary is directed to boil the rice. He must do so and "de
pot will full up wid de rice more dan you can eat" The fairymaid then
instructs the votary to ill-treat a cat that will appear. But he must not do so.
Instead he must "pat de cat and feed it" Having given her instructions the
fairymaid departs to return later and inquire if the cat has been fed. On
being assured that it has been she will permit the votary to make love to her.
Before leaving she hands him a piece of brown paper. This will later turn
into money. But the votary cannot put it to constructive use. He cannot build
a house or buy livestock. "Is a spree money"
As matters develop the fairymaid appears to the votary carrying combs
in her hand. He is invited to choose one. If he chooses white he will attract
riches like loadstone, black he will be possessed by the devil, red he will be
destroyed by fire, yellow he will experience many troubles. So the knowing
ones choose white.
A votary can establish relationship with a fairymaid by offering at the
mouth of a river a sacrifice of two fowls, one of which must be white, and
pronouncing the word "Milolo" The white fowl must be thrown into the river
alive. After nine days the votary must return to the spot and again pronounce
"Milolo" Then the fairymaid will appear rising half-way out of the water.
She will talk to the votary and ask if he would like to accompany her. He
must express willingness to do so.
The fairymaid will then take him through the water to her home. There
a mermaid (male) will appear and eye the stranger threateningly. He must
have no fear and will be free to spend many days in his new environment.
The fairymaid will ask the votary many questions. It is essential that he
speaks the truth. Among other things she will enquire if he is married and
how many children he has. She will instruct him that apart from his wife "you
must keep no friend beside her" To discontinue dealing with a fairymaid
offerings of two pairs of shoes must be made. The first must be burnt on the
beach. The fairymaid will then rise out of the water and ask if she is to be
paid for past services. The answer must be "Nothing but this pair of shoes.
The second must then be thrown into the water.
An encounter with a fairymaid can sometimes be a somewhat fearful ex-
perience. C- recounts an occasion when he met a fairymaid. He was descend-
ing a hill that led to a river when he saw a white woman with long blonde hair
sitting on a rock and combing her hair. Some of her hair fell over her face.
Something in her appearance puzzled C- and he approached slowly. Then
he realized with a shock that the being before him was not human. He was
still a good way off but the fairymaid became aware of his presence. For those
spiritual beings can "smell like a dog"
C- was seized with fear and cried out. The fairymaid dived into the river
and after making a few strokes in the water was lost to view. C- fled to the
village, reported what he had seen, and was told that he had encountered a
C- declares that if he had more experience instead of allowing himself
to be overcome by fear he would have tried to capture the fairymaid.
This can be done by obtaining a strong stick and approaching the
fairymaid stealthily from behind. On reaching near it is necessary to grasp
some of the hair quickly, wrap it round the stick, and pull. On no account
must the hair be pulled with bare hands for it is wiry and will cut. If the
fairymaid is brought to subjection the captor demands favours from her,
particularly does he ask for wealth.
The practice of dealing with mermaids has its penalties. Dr. X-, the
story runs, earned the favour of a fairymaid. After many years in the island
he had grown wealthy and desired to go abroad. But this fairymaid to whom
he owed his wealth objected. Dr. X-, however, had his way and left. Soon
after he was beset by financial difficulties, took ill and died. Sometimes a fairy-
maid desires the soul of one of the votary's children. So important a sacrifice
must be made on the bank of a river near a waterfall. Sometimes the soul
of any human being will do. The votary might then offer that of a servant.
A man who had long dealt with fairymaids was compelled to make a human
sacrifice. So he chose a male servant for the purpose. After picknicking with
his friends on the bank of a river he sent the man to collect dishes which had
been left behind. The servant saw that the dishes were full of good food which
seemed untouched for "when a spirit eat from a dish you can't discern it"
He partook of the food and immediately became "tie board" That is another
way of saying that he had lost his shadow. He walked about the village in a
state of stupefaction for some days and died soon after.
In villages one sometimes hears stories of Europeans who have trafficked
with mermaids and fairymaids. Some of these were wealthy people. Others
have been unfortunate-have experienced in their families, insanity, broken
fortunes and sudden death. For such are the water people. These descendants
of the fish-like gods of Babylon and Ancient Greece disport themselves in the
waters of Tobago, and bestow benefits only upon those mortals who know the
secret art of dealing with them.
r .- -^~
.3." ~ : r
The Negro Writer and His World
A NEGRO writer is a writer who, through a process of social and historical
accidents, encounters himself, so to speak, in a category of men called Negro.
He carries this definition like a limb. It travels with him as a necessary guide
for the Other's regard. It has settled upon him with an almost natural finality,
until he has become it. He is a reluctant part of the conspiracy which identifies
him with that condition which the Other has created for them both. He does
not emerge as an existence which must be confronted as an unknown dimen-
sion; for he is not simply there. He is there in a certain way.* The eye which
catches and cages him has seen him as a man, but a man in spite of As
a result he encounters himself in a state of surprise and embarrassment. He is
a little ashamed, not in the crude sense of not wanting to be this or that, but
in the more resonant sense of shame, the shame that touches every consciousness
which feels that it has been seen.
The Negro is a man whom the Other regards as a negro; and the dichotomy,
the split, as it were, which may exist at the very centre of this consciousness,
shall have been created by that old and, it would seem, eternal conflict between
the naming of a thing and a knowledge of it. For it is one of the mischievous
powers of language, and particularly that aspect of language which relates to
names, that it enables us to rob things of their power to embarrass us. Language
in this respect, is intentional; and the intention is clearly part of the human
will to power. A name is an infinite source of control.
We attribute to any class of objects (stones, leaves, birds, insects) these
names, and we have immediately found a way of avoiding the mystery which
clothed these objects in their original state of silence and anonymity
A good example turns up in Hard Times. Dickens calls that chapter,
Murdering the Innocents, and although it is clearly a savage comment on the
crudeness of educational method at the time, it suggests much more. Let us,
for a brief moment, watch Dickens situate his character, Sissy Jupe.
"Girl number twenty, said Mr. Gradgrind, squarely pointing
with his square forefinger, "I don't know that girl. Who is that girl?"
"Sissy Jupe, sir," explained number twenty, blushing, standing up
"Sissy is not a name," said Mr. Gradgrind. "Don't call yourself
Sissy. Call yourself Cecilia.
"It's father as calls me Sissy, sir." returned the young girl. in a
trembling voice, and with another curtsy
"Then he has no business to do it." said Mr. Gradgrind. "Tell him
he mustn't. Cecilia Jupe. Le me see. What is your father?"
*A similar, though less harmful, example of such fixed pre-judgement is experienced
by a WEST INDIAN who risks a beard. Hie is immediately seen by the others as the
pompous ONE, the eccentric one, or the utterly insaner he becomes, in a double sense.
"IHe belongs to the horse-riding, if you please, sir."
Mr. Gradgrind frowned, and waved off the objectionable calling
with his hand.
"We don't want to know anything about that here. You mustn't
tell us about that here. Your father breaks horses, don't he?"
"If you please, sir, when they can get any to break, they do break
horses in the ring, sir."
"You musn't tell us about the ring here. Very well, then. Describe
your father as a horse-breaker. He doctors sick horses, I dare say?"
"Oh, yes, sir."
"Very well, then. He is a veterinary surgeon, a farrier and horse-
breaker. Give me your definition of a horse."
(Sissy Jupe thrown into the greatest alarm by this demand).
"Girl number twenty unable to define a horse! said Mr. Gradgrind,
for the general behalf of all the little pitchers. "Girl number twenty
possessed of no facts, in reference to one of the commonest of animals!
Some boy's definition of a horse. Bitzer, yours.
Of course Sissy knows all about horses, but it is, in the particular context,
an irrelevant knowledge. It is a knowledge which suggests participation, and
where there is real participation, there tends to be an absence of determinants,
definitions, directions. But let us hear from Bitzer who is an alternative to
"Bitzer," said Thomas Gradgrind. "Your definition of a horse.
"Quadruped, Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four
grinders, four eye-teeth, and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in the spring;
in marshy countries, sheds hoofs too. Hoofs hard, but requiring to be shod
with iron. Age known by marks in mouth. Thus (and much more)
"Now girl number twenty," said Mr. Gradgrind, "You know
what a horse is.
This is a sad knowledge, but it is appropriate; for having found our
references we can all, with the exception of Sissy Jupe, move forward.
Following such an example, we can see a kind of contradictory intention
at the very heart of words. They may equip us through their power of sym-
bolisation for an investigation into what is not known to us and they may
also be an unconscious mechanism for our fear of the unknown.
This situation confronts us today with large and much more frightening
manifestations. The word bougeois can call forth in the mind of the communist
such an obscene parade of deceits, disloyalties, cowardice and oppression,
that the latter is convinced that whale stands belo him is a monstrous enemy
whose immediate future must he liquidation; and similarly the word communist
is charged with such an enormous power of explosive, that the other feels an
immediate and almost unbearably direct experience of evil itself. It is the end
of the world for all God's children.
To speak of the situation of the Negro writer is therefore to speak of a
problem of Man, and more precisely, of a contemporary situation which sur-
rounds men with an urgency that is probably unprecedented. It is to speak of
the universal sense of separation and abandonment, frustration and loss, and
above all, of man's direct inner experience of something missing. Man, says
the French writer, Andre Malraux, is an animal which refuses to be what he
is. He is also, one may add, an animal condemned to a permanent awareness
of absence. The case of the Negro writer in the contemporary world of letters
provides us therefore with an isolated but very concrete example of what we
have come to call the human condition. It is a condition which is essentially
and, I believe, originally, tragic. The factors which constitute the tragedy
are the peculiar nature of the animal which refuses to be what he is, the sense
of a distance between the individual consciousness and a total reality as it
impinges upon that consciousness, the conviction, as a fact of experience,
In my book, The Emigrants, the African Azi (who, I suppose, is, in
Bitzer's terms of knowledge, a real Negro) has had a brilliant career as a
mathematician at Cambridge. He experiences a certain dislocation of facts, in
the historical sense, and meanings. He is stricken by a lack of references, and
as a result he is forced to consider the whole problem of significance. Here
is an extract from a letter to his tutor:
I think I begin to understand two things. One is the
accidental nature of social relations. This is what I think they call
History. All the role. which different classes play in any collectivity
might just have been reversed. Privilege is simply a relation which
defines one group in terms of another, and if you examine the matter,
you'll see, Andrews. that the dominated might very well have been
the dominant. If you like you can explain the relations in terms of
their historical development, but beneath the history, there's no reason
we can detect for these things being what they are.
The other is the insignificance of events. The same errors
are committed, the same consequences crush us. But nothing really
happens. We adjust to some abstraction as easily as we adjust to some
concrete occurrence. It does not matter what is involved, massacre or
mystery. If we need things to occur before we can change it seems
that what happens is wasted on us, or nothing ever really happens.
So I arrived at a point, a standstill. First of all I
must leave Cambridge for a while, and I realized that I was just drifting,
a bit of flotsam, if you like, but conscious of itself in that drift. I wanted
to choose something, but when I tried I realized that I didn't know
what to choose, If I acted on instinct, I couldn't call that choice because
choice ultimately implies a relation of transcendence. An ultimate value by
which I choose, and I had no experience of such a value. There was only
habit. Honesty, telling the truth rather than a lie. the instinct to survive,
this opposition to death, all these constituted habit, or rather habit dictated
these, and I couldn't admit that such was the true foundation of my
action, my choice. For a man there is something profoundly humili-
ating about such an admission. But felt there was freedom, that I was
even free to do away with this humiliation. Freedom! I don't mean,
Andrews, some exemption from a social force-nothing that shows my
relation to another in a group-I mean something a-logical, something
that seems always outside the reach of any demands a particular situation
might make of you, freedom as an experience of the self in a state of
unconditional awareness. I do not attain to this freedom. It is an
attribute of me
And there is always contained in such a statement of feeling a confession
of one clear desire. It is the desire for totality, a desire to deal effectively
with that gap, that distance which separates one man from another, and also
in the case of an acute reflective self-consciousness, separates a man from
himself. In the isolated case of the Negro it is the desire, not merely to rebel
against the consequences of a certain social classification, but also a funda-
mental need to redefine himself for the comprehension of the Other, and in
the hope that the stage shall have been set for some kind of meaningful
The Negro writer joins hands therefore not so much with a Negro audience
as with every other writer whose work is a form of self enquiry, a clarification
of his relations with other men, and a reportt on his own very highly subjective
conception of the possible meaning of man's life.
To speak of his situation is to speak of man's moral need to find a centre
as well as a circumference which embraces some reality whose meaning satisfies
his intellect and may prove pleasing to his senses. But a man's life assumes
meaning first in his relation with other men, and his experience, which is what
the writer is trying always to share with the reader, is made up not only of
the things which happen to him, in his encounter with others, but also of the
different meanings and values which he chooses to place on what has happened.
What happens to him depends to a great extent on the particular world he
happens to be living in. and the way he chooses to deal with his own experience
is determined by the kind of person he considers himself to be. In other words,
he is continually being shaped by the particular world which accommodates
him, or if you like, refuses to do so, and at the same time he is shaping,
through his own desires, needs and idiosyncrasies, a world of his own. And
since a writer's work is meant for public consideration and, through the wonder-
ful devices of printing, translation and distribution, is continually extending
to places and people with whom he may have no direct experience, another
world is being created about him.
What then we may ask, is really meant by the term world, in the particu-
lar context of these remarks? There are, I would suggest, three worlds to
which the writer bears in some way a responsibility, worlds which are distinct,
and yet very deeply related. There is first of all the world of the private and
hidden self, a world which turns quietly, sometimes turbulently, within one
man, and which might be only known by others after that man has spoken.
Each man who becomes aware of himself as a separate existence shares this
solitude, each man has had an experience, momentary or prolonged, of the
meaning of being alone. I do not mean loneliness or any similar illness of
certain self-important natures. I am speaking of the experience proceeding
from' the depths of one's being, of EXISTING.
It is a moment which marks silence. It is the moment when a man's
utterance cannot catch and convey the shape and shade of his feeling and
Language, it would seem, has actually surrendered just when his need
is greatest. It is then you require this weapon of words to enter that hidden
area of your consciousness, and bring back with it, so to speak, the kind
of picture which the other's eye cannot conceive. In ordinary circumstances
this effort is never carried through. A verdict of guilty may be directed against
people who have been betrayed not by their guilt, but by that appalling, and
impotent failure to communicate their innocence. And when there is no con-
demnation, the matter is easily forgotten. The ordinary person, is, time and
again, seized, by an experience, a meaning, perhaps, and quickly abandons
the attempt to grasp it completely because the exercise, from the start, seems
too much of a burden; and after all, he will say it doesn't really matter. Or
even if the desire to struggle is real, the urgencies of living make it difficult
to sustain his interest; because there is something to be done, something which
requires his immediate attention if life is to be liveable. Day-to-day living
keeps intruding on that private and solitary world of concerns. It may take the
form of the bad-tempered husband who makes trouble when he can't find
something more dramatic to occupy his energy. Or the rent is overdue. All
these things make for a great nuisance. They are what the Danish philosopher
Soren Kierkergard, calls "immediate neighbourhood", one's family, sometimes
one's enemies, and always, perhaps, one's friends.
But for the writer this private world is his one priceless possession, it is
precisely from this point that everything else will proceed, and in
these circumstances it cannot be sacrificed to the immediate neighbourhood;
because nothing can take its place. It is his capital. He may gain by it or
lose by it, but without it he cannot function. Why he should be possessed
in this way is a matter we do not understand, and which the psychologists
will for a long time, try to disentangle. We must accept it as a fact of his
experience. BCt it is this possession which is responsible for his relation to
words. He has failed until he has caught some part of that world and given
it form in language. Words are his anchor and his spear; he has got to keep
them in preparation and in order, and when they begin to wear under their
work, he must find new ones, for the work must go on. A writer does not only
use language, he helps to make language. To any decent man who is anxious
to feed his children and comfort his wife and be amiable to his neighbours,
this perpetual rage with words must seem a kind of lunacy, and that judge-
ment will not be far wrong; for the writer is, in fact, a kind of lunatic whose
insanity is only kept in control by his occasional triumph of expression. The
Castle of my Skin opens with a passage which may help to throw some
light on the mechanics of this private world as well as the process through
which certain currents of emotion move to touch and assimilate the world
of social relations.
"Rain, rain, rain my mother put her head through the window
to let the neighbour know that I was nine, and they flattered me with the
consolation that my birthday had brought showers of blessing. The morning
laden with cloud soon passed into noon, and the noon neutral and silent into the
sodden grimness of an evening that waded through water. That evening I kept
an eye on the crevices of our wasted roof where the colour of the shingles had
turned to mourning black, and waited for the weather to rehearse my wishes.
But the evening settled on the slush of the roads that dissolved in parts into
pools of clay, and I wept for the watery waste of my ninth important day.
Yet I was wrong, my mother protested; it was irreverent to disapprove the
will of the Lord or reject the consolation that my birthday had brought showers
"It was my ninth celebration of the gift of life, my ninth celebration of
the consistent lack of an occasion for celebration. From a window where the
spray had given the sill a little wet life I watched the water ride through the
lanes and aLlleys that multiplied behind the barracks that neighboured our
house. The white stalks of the lily lay flat under the hammering rain, then
coaxed their roots from the earth and drifted across the upturned clay, into
the canals and on to the deep black river where by agreement the folds con-
verged. The water rose higher and higher until the fern and flowers on our
verandah were flooded. It came through the creases of the door, and expanded
across the uncarpeted borders of the floor. My mother brought sacks that
absorbed it quickly, but overhead the crevices of the roof were weeping rain,
and surfacing the carpet and the epergne of flowers and fern were liquid,
glittering curves which the mourning black of the shingles had bequeathed. No
one seemed to notice how the noon had passed to evening, the evening to
night; nor to worry that the weather had played me false. Nothing mattered
but the showers of blessing and the eternal will of the water's source. And I
might have accepted the consolation if it weren't that the floods had chosen
to follow me in the celebration of all my years, evoking the image of those
legendary waters which had once arisen to set a curse on the course of man.
"As if in serious imitation of the waters that raced outside, our lives-
meaning our fears and their corresponding ideals-seemed to escape down an
imaginary drain that was our future. Our capacity for feeling had grown as
large as the flood, but the prayers of a simple village seemed as precariously
adequate as the houses hoisted on water. Of course, it was difficult to see what
was happening outside, but there were paddling splashes of boys' feet and the
choke of an engine stuck in mud.
This world, as I say, is private. It contains the range of his ambitions,
his deceits, his perplexity, his pride, his shame, his guilt, his honour and his
needs. All these qualities are there, hidden in the castle of his skin. And it
would do some students very much good, if it were beaten into their heads
from the start that the book which they are seriously reading is not some
specimen which was specially made to test their brains. No creative writer
has ever really known that he was going to become a source of such torment
for young people who have innocently chosen English as their discipline, and
many writers would have hated the idea of ever becoming a text. To confront
a book, as a serious student of literature, is to confront a man in his nakedness;
and the measure of our understanding is determined by the delicacy of feeling
and appreciation with which we have submitted to that private world which
he has tried to transform with language and meaning. But that private world
of the writer is modified, even made possible, by the world in which he moves
among other men. Much as he may wish that they were fewer of them around,
he cannot do without them; for it is through the presence of the others that
one's own presence is given meaning.
What then is the relation of a writer to a society in which, for reasons
which have nothing to do with his work, he is regarded as different? When
the differences carry consequences of injustice, his relation is not different
from that of any other who shares a similar misfortune. An identical suffering
holds them together in defence or attack with those who are a part of his
misfortune, and since this misfortune of difference enters his private world,
one expects his work as a writer to be, in part a witness to that misfortune.
Not because there is a moral law which demands he address himself to his
social world, but rather because there is a fundamental need to present his
private world in all its facets, and one of its vivid experiences will of necessity
be the impact which that social world, with all its reservations and distinctions,
has made on his consciousness. This is the sense in which it is true to say that
a writer has a real and primary responsibility to himself.
From the point of view of imaginative literature, this social classification
which manifests itself most violently through race, is a peculiar torment and
a peculiar challenge for the writer who suffers its disadvantage. About the
situation in America, I would say briefly, that the torment has been real, and
so overwhelmingly challenging that the meaning of the challenge has not
always been clearly seen, in all its largeness, by all Negro writers of distinction.
And the reason is simple. If you are continually and ruthlessly bombarded
by floods, you can easily forget how precious a gentle shower of rain can be.
And the floods, which may spring from rain, soon lose that identification with
rain in their common source of water. It seems after a while that there is no
real connection between water and water, the gentle shower and the opposing
flood; for the abundance of the one has severed it from its real link with the
Similarly, if through the character and the fate of his country, a writer's
senses have been consistently assaulted by the vast pressure of a single issue,
it is not difficult for him to lose sight, for a time, of the connection between
the disaster which threatens to reduce him and the wider context and condition
of which his disaster is but the clearest example. The Negro in the United
States symbolises an essential condition of Man, not merely in his urgent need
to correct a social injustice through powers of law, but also in his need to
embark upon a definition of himself as man in the world of men.
For the third of his worlds, the world to which he is condemned by the
fact of his spirit is the world of men. He shares in their community What
he cannot escape is the essential need to find meaning for his destiny, and
every utterance he makes in this direction is an utterance made on behalf
of all men. And his responsibility to that other world, his third world, will
be judged not only by the authenticity and power with which his own private
world is presented, but also by the honesty with which he interprets the world
of his social relations, his country, that is, for those who have no direct
experience of it, but are moved by the power of his speech, his judgement and
his good faith.
British West Indian Immigration to
You are sitting in a basement flat in London. It is damp, and dark, a cozy mist
is settling in, the wife is in the kitchen and the aroma arising from her efforts
is calling forth gastric juices as you settle down for the first time, now in the
evening, over your morning newspaper.
You, a West Indian, notice that the Australian Government is offering to
pay the passage of suitable immigrants to that country. From the advertise-
ment it appears that Australia needs healthy, skilled, energetic men to develop
it. Your wife, although English, would like to leave England. It's partly rest-
lessness after her years in war service ; it's partly because (bless her!) she
thinks you have to work too hard for what you get, and it's also because she
thinks--wrongly or rightly, who knows-that the old world is finished. She'd
rather cast her lot, and yours and that of the children, when they come, in the
new world. Perhaps you should really think about taking up the Australian
Government on its generous offer. But then you remember that despite the
English wife you have Negro blood in your veins. It would be no good they
have got to "keep their country white"; no Negroes, no Asiatics.
Well, the wife calls out and asks why you're so quiet. Has something
happened at the office? "No, no" you reply. Your mind wanders to Canada-
and to the story about your uncle's chauffeur. Your uncle-your father's brother
who married the quiet Belgian, and so, unlike your father, kept his family
white-your uncle in Jamaica had a fine chauffeur and general handy man
whose wife was a wonderful cook. When the Canadian cousins came back
to Jamaica for a visit after fifteen years they took to Brown, the chauffeur. As
soon as they got back to Canada they found Brown and his wife a splendid
job with a wealthy, middle-aged couple who had been hoping for years to have
a chauffeur and a cook. They agreed to give Brown and his wife a flat, to pay
well and to pay passages to Canada. As Brown and his wife have British Pass-
ports there should not be, you would have thought, much trouble to get them
into Canada. But no such luck! Everyone knows that if the couple in question
had been English, or Polish, that they would have had no trouble in getting
in to settle in Canada. But this couple is Negro.
What about the States, then? You think of the latest U.S. denouncement
of the Soviet, smile. The quota for Jamaica, your native land, is 100 per year
for a population of nearly 1Q million. The quota for Great Britain is so large
that it is hardly ever taken up, but, then, Great Britain is a "white country."
No wonder then, you think, that the West Indians are now flocking to
England. At least England will have them-unlike Canada, United States or
Australia. And when you have heard Canadians and Americans, in that Brave
New World fashion, salving their consciences by referring to incidents of race
discrimination reported from England you have always felt like replying-
"Well, at least our people get into England overcrowded though it is, and no
longer all powerful"
The trek to England has not taken anything like the proportions which
the Puerto Rican movement to New York has. The present population of the
United Kingdom is 50,000,000. West Indian immigrants to the United King-
dom numbered not more than 1,000 a year before 1951, then about 2,000 a year
in 1952 and 1953; 10,000 in 1954; 16,000 in 1955; and the estimate for 1956
is 20,000. But it is not to be thought that before 1951 there was no emigration
from the West Indies. Between 1820 and 1930, 496,696 are recorded as having
gone to the United States of America. Between 1881 and 1911 some 68,000
went to Panama to help build the canal.
From 1911 to 1921 the migrants went chiefly to Cuba, to Panama and to
the United States. In Cuba they worked mostly on the sugar estates.
The causes of the mass movement of British West Indians, mostly
Jamaicans, to England are complicated. One imagines that they are similar
to causes of the immigration of Puerto Ricans to the United States of America.
In each case there is a "Mother Country" on the one hand, and on the other
a comparatively poor and "overcrowded" country. For each of these groups
of immigrants there is no other readily available big country to which they
could go. The movement is caused by a mixture of necessity, adventure,
admiration for the mother country, a seeking after industrial skills and, once
it gets underway, a sort of mass mimesis.
One of the factors in the new and large movement to England is certainly
the McCarran Act which has reduced West Indian immigration to the States to
a mere trickle, but no less an authority than Dr. Clarence Senior has this to
say "Resentment against the United States is occasionally encountered in
Great Britain for placing the British West Indies under the quota system and
assigning them small quotas in the McCarran Act. While the Act is subject to
criticism for its racist provisions, in the opinion of the author, it would seem
that greater employment opportunities in Britain than in the United States is
probably the major factor in diverting from our economy to the British what
has been a migratory stream of some importance. The United States has
experienced three to four times the proportionate unemployment of Great
Britain since world War II".*
But the causes of the migration are certainly not only economic. George
Lamming, in The Emigrants, has explored extremely well the consciousness
of a group of West Indians on the way to England. They are looking for "a
better break", as one of them tries to explain it. But that "better break" does
not mean only more money; it means also going to the place where they
actually make the razor blades one has been using for years, where the "Read-
ing Book" used during the few years of schooling was printed, where the
great game of cricket comes from, where one can work in the day and study
at night for one's "papers" i.e. diplomas and certificates which will ensure
for one not only a good job but certain status an prestige when one returns
to the West Indies.
*Race Relations and Labour Supply in Great Britain, by Clarence Senior.
One of the more educated Jamaicans who had settled in England ex-
plained it this way to me: "After a while at home I realise that all I'm doing
is drinking rum and trus'ing things"-(buying on credit). "I buy a car whicn I
couldn't afford and I'm drinking rum and trus'ing all over the place. So I
pull out and come to England."
This man knew that there was something wrong with the way in which
he was living in Jamaica. England was to him the new world in which he
would seek a better life. When I spoke to him-it was at a cricket match in
which both of us were playing for a London West Indian eleven-he seemed
quite happy in England, he is even more so now that the influx of West Indians
has given him the opportunity of making a good and honest living by catering
to some of their needs.
The problems which arise out of this West Indian immigration are not
only problems associated with "colour"; and the problems which are of racial
origin are not quite the same as those which would arise in the United States.
There is no official, legal colour bar in any part of Britain; but there is preju-
dice. One survey states that one-third of the population is unprejudiced, one-
third mildly prejudiced, and one-third strongly so. This prejudice will, of
course, take British forms, which while no less deplorable, are not likely to be as
vigorous as United States forms. But while not vigorous they are likely to be
very puzzling to the immigrant who is completely ignorant of the English way
of life. Thus the immigrant will be very pleased to find himself welcomed as
an equal on the cricket field, or even idolised there; but he soon notices that
although he is a member of an English club and enjoys "fair play" there, he
is never or seldom invited to an English home. He does not know, of course,
that this might be an extension of the trite but true "the Englishman's home
is his castle"; or simply plain ordinary prejudice. Only if he is very forbearing
and sensitive will he notice that hardly any of the members of the club ever
visit each other's homes. Moreover the situation is much complicated by tradi-
tional xenophobia of the British, and still more complicated by the fact that
British men, on the whole, do not seem to compete so wen with outsiders for
the companionship of British women. There were in Britain in 1951 a "surplus"
of two million women; in June, 1955 the surplus was reduced to 1,663,000 by
the return of soldiers. This surplus, added to the warmth and general exuber-
ance of the West Indian, means that he is being quickly accepted by many of
the women. This acceptance, of course, annoys the local males who need not
have any racial prejudice at all in order to resent such successful competition
by the outsider. Dr. Senior considers this successful competition to be "a
constant and ubiquitous source of friction" But it was also, as he points out,
"one of the chief sources of conflict between the miners and the Italians"
Eventually one must recall, after the Italians had been trained to make pro-
ductive Britain's underworked mines, they were refused permission to work
by the Unions. Undoubtedly one of the factors was the British male's appre-
hensions about his own status with his own women folk. One need hardly add
that "woman trouble" was also a source of friction between the natives and
the United States troops.
In other words West Indian immigration to Baitain naturally raises all
the problems of culture conflict and group relationships aggravated on the one
hard by ignorance and prejudice along racial lines, but ameliorated on the
other by the "full employment" situation in England, by the willingness and
resolve of many groups and individuals to investigate the problems and to
meet difficulties before they arise. Church groups have been active in this
work, and the British Council of Churches has offered help to local ministers
of religion in its brochure Your Neighbour from the West Indies. Political
groups have taken an interest and the Fabian Society has edited and made
available in attractive form the Jamaican Government report (by Dr. Senior
and Mr. Manley) on West Indian migration to Britain.
Many people ask the question "will these migrants settle in Britain or will
they return to the West Indies"? This is a difficult one, but unless there is a
major regression in Britain I can't imagine that a really significant number
will return to the West Indies; there is one thing that would bring more back
to their home countries, and that is any major development in the West Indies
which would provide jobs, social opportunities and the feeling on the part of
the returning migrant that he could make a real contribution to the develop-
ment of the West Indies. There are now some 62,000 West Indians in Britain,
and until recently -only a few misfits, and people who went to Britain with
false expectations, have returned to the West Indies. At the beginning of
October, 1956, however, more than a thousand migrants left England for their
island homes. These people, it is reported by Mr. Frank Pilgrim of the British
Caribbean Welfare Service in Britain, were on the whole not in any way mal-
contents or misfits. Most of them had used their time in Britain to become
skilled workers and were returning home to certain employment or to set up
businesses of their own. As Mr. Pilgrim said:
"Before the stream of immigrants to Britain started many West
Indians went to the United States where they found it was easy to work
and study at the same time. Then they returned home.
"Now immigrants who have been in Britain for three or four years
and who have been skilled or semi-skilled are returning home knowing
they will have little trouble in finding jobs.
"Many of them, particularly those interested in mechanics have
obtained diplomas. Favourite subjects are Electrical and Radio
What people who do not know the Caribbean do not realise is that it
would be difficult for the migrant from Jamaica to find more difficult living
conditions almost anywhere in Northern Europe than he has been accustomed
to at home. Your middle and upper middle class matron sometimes is heard to
wonder how anyone could exchange the wonderful climate of Jamaica for the
traditionally dull, damp weather of England, but surely food, status, constant
employment, the ability to buy a home-all these things at the North pole are
better than insecurity, unemployment, and sometimes hunger, in the paradise
climate of Jamaica. The West Indian islands are to many United States
citizens glorious stretches of golden sands melting away in quite unbelievable
shades of cobalt and aqua marine water; and so they are-but Jamaica is more
likely to impress itself upon many of its inhabitants as a place where some
40,000 children of school age have no schools to attend and where unemploy-
ment is estimated to be about 20 per cent. of a population of 1i million.
So that unless Britain's full employment policy crashes, and unless the
British West Indies, now to be federated, develops phenomenally overnight,
Britain will be henceforth dotted with little groups of West Indians, grateful
to their new home for opportunities offered, like the Barbadians in New York,
but like them too, looking back with longing to the islands so lovely in such
fascinating seas, but often impoverished mothers unable to provide' for their
many sons and daughters.
Migration, it seems to me, is a good symbol of the human condition-
"naked me come into the world"
Perhaps it is only in North America that there is a real belief in the
proposition, not that all men are created equal, but that "happiness" and the
greatest number of possessions for the greatest number of people, make up
the summum bonum of existence. Those who are born and have lived elsewhere
know differently. They wake up one day to find that all they can do, in their
given circumstances, is to drink rum and borrow money. If they are really
fully awake they decide to make a move, to risk a voyage. If they are from
Northern Europe the United States of America will welcome them with open
arms, if they belong to the "Latin race" they'll get in, but not quite as easily,
but if they are "coloured"-'nuff said; and if they are Asiatic, well, well! So
if they are coloured and in the British Commonwealth, they look to "mother
country"; which frankly, has been in the past at times a stepmother.
Their new world is what has been to many the "old world" their frontiers
are not in the Western States, but in Brixton, in Paddington, in ancient towns
and cities many of which were old when Europeans looked to the golden lands
of their new world, to the El Dorados of North and South America.
So these West Indians leave the sunshine and the warmth and set out over
incomprehensible ocean miles (some taking with them fish to eat at the end
of the journey; some travelling in the flimsiest of garments), and they arrive in
an unknown country, to meet snubs and kindness, but they find employment
and make a go of it. And if they persevere and make real contact with the
natives they learn from them and teach them. They teach them and they
learn that we are all in the same boat, all human voyagers through what is
after all a valley of tears.
GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE, TRINIDAD, B.W.I.-1958