"I'se a Man:" The 1942 Riot as an Attack on Bay Street, Discrimination and Injustice in the Bahamas




Martin, Nona Patara

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My dissertation, "I'se a man: The 1942 Riot as an attack on Bay Street," explores a watershed event in the Bahamas’ social and political history. On June 1st, 1942 there was a riot on Bay Street in Nassau, Bahamas, that involved thousands of Bahamian blacks marching to Bay Street and ultimately destroying the main commercial district in the city. The 1942 riot, though an exciting story, was more than a colorful tale from an earlier time. It was arguably the first time that it became clear that Bahamian blacks would not stand for minority rule indefinitely. Consequently, it should occupy a significant place in the history of the Bahamas’ transition from a colony to an independent country. Yet, the significance of the riot has been downplayed and mischaracterized in the Bahamas’ historiography. Additionally, the historical analysis of the Nassau riot has described it as a momentary outburst by a group of disgruntled workers that had little long term effects. Moreover, the riot has been linked to the labor riots that occurred across the Caribbean in the 1930s. The 1942 riot, however, was the first sign of a political awakening in the country’s black community and set in motion a political snowball that resulted in majority rule and eventually independence for the country. Also, the riot was not caused by a mere disagreement over wages but was caused by a sense of economic injustice as well as political disenfranchisement and social exclusion. Finally, the 1942 riot in Nassau differs in important respects from the riots that occurred throughout the Caribbean in the 1930s.



Bahamas, 1942 Riot, West Indies, Bay Street