Burma Road Riot 1942

2302 words 10 pages
The Burma Road Riot
"The 1942 riot in Nassau was a short-lived spontaneous outburst by a group of disgruntled labourers, and occurred against a background of narrow socio-economic and political policies." Quoted from "The 1942 riot in Nassau: A demand for Change?" by Gail Saunders.
"The construction project promised a relative bonanza for the local unemployed, a chance to sell their labor for something like the rates they knew were normal on the mainland ... Unknown to them, however, the Bahamas government had agreed to peg local wages for unskilled labor at the rates established in 1936." Quoted from Islanders in the Stream: A History of the Bahamian People (From the Ending of Slavery to the Twenty-First Century) by Michael Craton and
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Women could not vote, but property owners - many of whom were white - certainly could. As another London newspaper account quoted in Sir Clifford's book (A Bahamian Life Story) put it:
"The American-tourist dominated Bahamian islands represent the most Gilbertian picture in the empire...The trouble is the absence of any genuine democracy...As a consequence, the majority of members are elected by the business community, which uses its political power for its own commercial ends."

Causes of the Strike
Black Bahamians had been operating taxis since the 1930s, picking up cruise passengers from Prince George Wharf and air passengers from Oakes Field. As tourism began to grow in the 1950s and new hotels came on stream, a conflict developed over how this business would be shared between the white-owned tour companies and the independent taxi drivers who had their own union.

The opening of Nassau's international airport in November 1957 was a significant event - but it was accompanied by an even more significant display of greed and political stupidity. A group of major hotels proposed to sign an exclusive agreement with a new taxi company set up by Bobby Symonette, the son of government leader Roland Symonette.
The 200 taxi drivers were understandably outraged. So on November 2 and 3 they blocked the airport with their cars, forcing airlines to cancel flights.

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