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1937 – a watershed


As Barbados celebrated the 75th anniversary of the 1937 rebellion today, historians are describing the event as a watershed moment in the social, economic and culture life of this country.

Historian and Principal of Queen’s College, Dr. David Browne, said it created a significant impact on the Barbadian society in that it brought about fundamental social change.

Browne used education as a point of reference as an example of that change. He said those who controlled the society of that period, the mercantile elite class, had prevented the poor working class from benefiting from education.

In fact, he reported that the mercantile class had said education was a waste of time and that little or no attention was placed on it when it came to the masses. The school principal said the setting up of the Moyne Commission, which was instigated by the rebellion, recommended a series of shocking revelations that resulted in wide ranging social change.

He suggested that the recommendations even shocked the colonial masters of Britain into placing more emphasis education. He noted, too, that the Barbados situation even influenced change in other Caribbean states, including Jamaica.

“That is why I get annoyed as a principal at the attitude of some people towards education,” Browne declared.

He recalled that there was a time in Barbados when the children of the masses could not set foot in a school. The educator remembered that up to 1923, there was a serious debate in Parliament about education and there were no plans to provide this service beyond the elementary level.

He credited Bishop Hart Coleridge for making the fundamentals of education available to the working class by building a small school along side every Anglican Church in the island.

Browne also identified the right of all Barbadians to vote, with the introduction of universal adult suffrage in 1950 as significant. The veteran educator said he was also upset that more people were not exercising their franchise to vote, in spite of the sacrifices made by those who died or were involved in the rebellion to attain it.

He pointed out also that the rebellion was sparked by the abject poverty and poor sanitation conditions in the island and the lack of a voice by the working class.

Browne was of the view that since those days, Barbados had made significant progress in term of its democracy, social and welfare conditions, the emergence of the trade union movement, the Bridgetown Port, the East Coast Road and its primary to university education.

Director of the Commission for Pan African Affairs, Dr. Deryck Murray.

, also agreed the 1937 rebellion brought about watershed change to society. He noted that the planter class, who controlled the society, had used weapons and other tactics to suppress the working class.

However, Murray explained that the impact of the uprising demonstrated to the ruling class it could no longer manage in that way.

He added that while this country had made significant strides in its political and social affairs, it had a long way to go in achieving greater racial harmony. He suggested, too, that Barbadians also had many miles to travel to really embrace their African side.

“The blacks in our society still have self reparations to do to appreciate we are African, just as important and beautiful and valuable as out of Europe,” he insisted.

Murray said he also felt that the masses still had not achieved control of the economy. As he put it, the minority white community still controlled the avenues of economic power. (EJ)

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