Understand Our History

EDITOR, The Tribune.

When black Americans raised their placards and started marching in the thousands to inform their country and the world that “black lives do matter,” my thoughts slipped back many moons ago to recall a popular childhood saying – “monkey see, monkey do!” I wondered how my Bahamian brothers, who had settled the race issue many years ago and had taken over the government of our country, would find an excuse to get into the act.

Time passed, and I waited. And then I heard that there was a small movement that wanted to erase our history by pulling statues down — statues that marked milestones in our historic growth from a colonial, slave past to where we are today – our own black leaders governing a mixed-race, independent nation! There is no longer any need to convince anyone that black lives are beautiful. All we have to do is show them that not only are we “beautiful”, but that we are fully capable of governing a nation made up of Bahamians from all backgrounds and walks of life.

However, instead of concentrating on the future, there are some, ignorant of their history, who seek the limelight by grabbing the headlines. Instead they end up making themselves look foolish in the eyes of those who know their ancestry. The latest is the threat to pull down the statute of Queen Victoria — “Auntie Vickie”, the one person who was much loved by black Bahamians. Today’s generation know nothing of this, but my generation were very aware of the awe and love that not only black, but all Bahamians had for “Auntie Vickie”. Once you crossed under Gregory Arch into Grants Town, you were among “Auntie” Vickie’s people.

I became particularly aware of this during the Duke of Windsor’s governorship of the Bahamas. The Duke while here could do no wrong in the eyes of black Bahamians — after all he was Auntie Vickie’s grandson! But now today, there are some black Bahamians, ignorant of their history, who would pull her statue down? What blasphemy!

Do they not know that it was Queen Victoria, who had signed the declaration to abolish slavery on her ascension to the throne of England in 1837?

Do they not know that on the 24th of May every year, Bahamian children sang a little song that announced – “May 24th is the Queen’s birthday, if you don’t give us a holiday we’ll all run away!” Every year as school children we celebrated the Queen’s birthday.

And as a little Queen’s College student I recall one year when our class with our little Union Jacks was taken to Fort Charlotte to sing our songs, wave our flags and sing happy birthday to our dear Queen “Vickie.” And, yes, May 24th was an official public holiday — it was dear Queen Vickie’s birthday!

The statue of Queen Victoria was erected in the public square on her birthday in 1905, where it sits today. And yet with all of our treasured history, there is so much ignorance in our midst that instead of trying to educate themselves there are those intent on destroying a past of which we should all be proud — particularly when we measure how far we have come.

Yes, she was a revered figure in the Bahamas where 85 percent of the population was made up of descendants of the African slaves that she had freed.

It would do well for today’s Bahamians to understand their history and try to make a worthwhile contribution to the stable growth of their country - instead of wasting their time letting their peers know how ignorant many of them are!



July 21, 2002


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