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History

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Question 1(a): Write a detailed account of the Burma Road Riot in Nassau, Bahamas.

In the 1940s, World War II was still happening. The Americans and British wanted to set up bases in West Indian islands, and this included New Providence, Bahamas. A riot came about by the labor dispute amongst the Bahamian workers. They were dissatisfied with the wages they were receiving and decided to address the government about it, but they only received placation from them. During this point, one of the intrepid workers had uttered the words, ‘’Ise a Man’’, for the whites addressed the black workers as ‘boy’. Because of this, the blacks eyes began to open, and this point in history led to the Burma Road Riot. So they rioted and acted amongst themselves. So during the time on June 1st and 2nd, 1942, the riot went on.
During the time of World War II, the Americans wanted to build their bases on the island of New Providence. This was known as ‘The Project’, and it would employ over 2,000 Bahamians. People from both New Providence and the outer islands, had flocked to Nassau to be employed on this project. They were looking forward to the high wages that were usually brought along with foreign projects. But their disappointment was evident because they were paid lower than expected. But not only that, the laborers were also angry because the Americans were biased with their pay. The Americans who worked along with them, and did the same jobs as them, were paid higher. The laborers were disgruntled by this. But a man by the name of Leonard Storr Green cried, ‘I’se a man’. The laborers felt his anger took it up with both the management of the projects and the government, but neither of them had tried to rectify the problem with wages. Soon the laborers pent-up anger had exploded into two days of rioting. This occurred on the 1st and 2nd of June in 1942.
On the morning of June 1st, the workers from Satellite Field and Main Field decided to march down to Bay Street with their clubs, machetes and sticks. They were accompanied by both women and children from the Over-the-hill neighborhoods. They gathered down to Public Square (Rawson Square) where they were addressed by Attorney General Eric Hallinan, who tried to pacify the workers, but this only led to them being more upset. Because the majority of the Bahamians were financially suffering, it was only best for them to voice their opinions and struggles to government officials, hoping for them to help better their situation. But the mere presence of Captain Edward Sears, a police superintendent, only made the crowd more anger, because he look as if he would do something to them. He and some others tried to persuade the workers to just go home. But a group of men grew tired of listening to what the Attorney General and the Superintendent had to say, so they dispersed through Bay Street, and began expunging the buildings of stores on Bay Street; which consists mainly of the white merchants. They vented by stealing from liquor stores, smashing vehicles, and destroying any and everything in their path. Soon they were forced off Bay Street by midday and returned back to their neighborhoods in Over-the-hill. In Grant’s Town, at the corner of Cotton Tree and Blue Hill Road, they fought against police officers and the Cameron Highlanders, which were Scottish soldiers, by throwing rocks at them. The police realized they could not control the crowd so they withdrew and read the Riot Act, and had set a curfew for the people, and left Grant’s Town. After this the crowd, mostly drunk and agitated, went to the Grant’s Town police station and set fire to the filling station, ambulance, and the fire truck. They had stolen from the post office, library and small neighborhood business, but it was said that the damage was not great, which is ironic if they were said to set fire to a government building and other assets.
On the morning of June 2nd, the rioters had attacked several businesses on Shirley Street. But Highlanders received a call and immediately. They were able to disperse the crown assembled without any altercations and this was the last act of the riot.
Some of the middle class blacks were very embarrassed by the acts of those of their fellow people. The Attorney General had also wanted to pacify the blacks. He didn’t want the Bahamians workers to destroy their international reputation, because he knew that the Americans were originally supposed to work on the bases, and they said that the Bahamian workers were doing well. He did not want to risk destroying that profile of the Bahamas. He not only was looking at the visual The Bahamas would receive, but also economically, because if the Bahamas had a bad image, tourist would be fearful to visit the country. Not only that, but the merchants were disgruntled and fearful of the blacks because they destroyed their shops, and looted their liquor stores.
It is stated that the Burma Road Riot was the turning point, in the beginning of blacks being involved in politics. This also brought about labor movements, and encouraged blacks to stand for what they wanted. This event was short lived but left a mark, though it only lasted for two days; but the effect it had later on in history had greatly influenced black people in politics. Nothing like this event was repeated again, and so this event is marked as significant because it led to the development of black people’s involvement in politics.

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