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Time Line 1834-1977

1834. August 1. Slavery, technically over since 1807 in Britain but in fact continued there until 1833, was formally abolished in Bermuda and the rest of the British Empire, with the enactment of the Emancipation of Slavery Act amid great rejoicing from the black population. It was abolished years earlier in the United Kingdom but many overseas landowners and slave owners were so slow and hugely reluctant in complying with the Act that this British legislation from London applying to all Britain's colonies and dominions was deemed to be both necessary and enforceable by law. In Bermuda, many Bermudian slave owners freed their slaves immediately without the interposition of the stipulated years of apprenticeship. Bermudian slave-owners who followed the law received compensation from the British government in London, often via the good offices of Nathaniel T Butterfield who had set up such transaction services in London and between B. C. T Gray London and N. T Butterfield in Bermuda. All former slaves and "freed black" men and women, finally emancipated, were given most rights and privileges enjoyed by the other inhabitants of the colony. All Bermuda slave registers had been mandated by the British Government in London and were required from that date on to be stored appropriately in British Government-approved places and referred to when necessary. But the new-found freedoms did then not apply to voting. An Act to fix the qualifications for jurors, voters, and the electors and candidates for certain offices and positions of trust was introduced. The voting qualification was raised from a property value of £40 to £100, and to run as a member of the House, from £200 to £400. The population was given as 8,818 - 4259 white and 4559 black. There were fewer people in Bermuda than a year earlier. Slaves working at the Dockyard who expressed the wish to do so, were promptly rehired on a freeman's wages.

 

1835. February 11. Slave ship the brigantine Enterprise, traveling from Jamestown and Alexandria, VA to Charleston, SC, got blown off course by a hurricane and landed at Bermuda for provisions after 21 days at sea. Only when local customs officials inspected the particularly smelly ship did they discover that she was a slave-ship, with a cargo of 78 enslaved people chained in appalling unsanitary and inhumane conditions, including children not yet six years old. The ship's master was Elliot Smith. He carried with him a manifest that made no mention of slaves but instead listed the ship's cargo as tobacco, bricks and feed. But 78 slaves were discovered on board, some men but mostly women, children and babies. Captain Smith was informed by customs officials that because Emancipation had occurred a year earlier, the ship's cargo was illegal under Bermuda law and the slaves were entitled to their freedom. All foreign nations having been warned by British authorities that any slavers found in Bermuda waters would be subject to arrest and seizure. Their cargoes were liable to forfeiture. The local authorities promptly ordered the captain to discharge his human cargo ashore and a gunboat was summoned from HM Dockyard to back up the order. Enterprise crew members were put under a Royal Navy armed guard. The slaves would be granted their freedom, with absolutely no compensation payable to ships' owners and cargo investors. When Smith tried to flee in defiance, the island's Friendly Societies, in particular the Young Men's Friendly Lodge, intervened. They were organizations that provided support to and looked after the welfare of the black community in the period after Emancipation. They appealed to the court and obtained a writ of habeas corpus from the Chief Justice to have the slaves freed. They were brought ashore and taken to court. It was then discovered that many of them had been kidnapped by raiders from plantation houses in the free state of Washington-Maryland. The court asked them if they wanted to remain as slaves or stay in Bermuda as free men and women and children. As reported by The Royal Gazette newspaper, the slaves landed at Barr’s Bay Park in Pembroke near Hamilton and were welcomed by an immense crowd. They appeared before the Chief Justice in a courtroom overcrowded by concerned locals, to declare whether they wanted to continue to Charleston to be sold, or to take up residence in Bermuda. Bermuda became the new home to all but one women and her five children of the freed slaves of the Enterprise. Their descendants live in Bermuda today. Shelter for them was provided by the Worshipful William M. Cox in one of his storerooms in Hamilton, while the Friendly Society helped them to integrate into the Bermuda community. A spontaneous collection was arranged by the watching Bermudians, doled out to each proportionately, to assist them in their first taste of freedom.

1836. The Lane School, on East Broadway, near Hamilton, was built as the first educational facility for black children after emancipation. The hopes, dreams, prayers and aspirations of generations of slaves for over 200 years went into the building of its walls. Once built, it continued to offer not only an education for ex-slaves, but also spiritual guidance in its role as a chapel at weekends, a place of socialization and community, and a meeting place for the Young Men's Friendly Society (famous for their role in saving the slaves on the brigantine Enterprise). It was a place where black Bermudians could finally have the freedom to meet, talk, socialize and discuss their future, to make a better life for themselves, in conjunction with  the friendly societies in sharing, educating, supporting and offering comfort to the black community. The role of the latter was extraordinary. Most importantly they provided socio-economic direction to the black community. Until then, Bermuda's history was written only by whites and naturally reflected their interests, concerns and philosophy. Historically black society and achievements were considered irrelevant and of no importance. Very little attention was paid to their lives and experiences, nor the many contributions made by enslaved and free blacks.

1837. In Bermuda's first post-Abolition of Slavery General Election, James Athill, a successful ship builder from St. George's, born in Antigua in 1788 and who came to Bermuda when he was about 19 years old, cast his vote and was also elected a Church Warden of St. Peter's Church. 

1848. Somers Pride of India Lodge was formed under a Pride of India tree in St. George’s. It was established after a group of Bermudian black men were inspired by a Peter Ogden who established the Grand United Order of Oddfellows in America (GUO of in 1843, in New York. With his own slavery background and grit as a self-educated man, Odgen did not take lightly the rebuff he got when he sought to join an Oddfellows lodge in New York, which proved to be a “white only” lodge. His hope and expectation in seeking to join was to receive some of the benefits such lodges promised men of character seeking to protect themselves and families in times of sickness and adversity. when the Peter Odgen story reached Bermuda, it so fired the imagination of a group of black men they decided to go to the USA and became members of the New York lodge there. Upon their return home they made known their highly favored impressions about Oddfellowship which resulted in the first of that Order established in Bermuda. 

1852. Alexandrina Lodge No. 1026 was established at Alexandrina Hall in Court Street, Hamilton, as a lodge built by black Bermudians following the 1834 emancipation from slavery.

1852. Albert Lodge No 1027 was established in Somerset, as a lodge built by black Bermudians following the 1834 emancipation from slavery.

1861. April. US Civil War began. It lasted until 1865.  As a result of the long-standing controversy over slavery, war broke out when Confederate forces attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina, shortly after U.S. President Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated. The nationalists of the Union proclaimed loyalty to the U.S. Constitution. They faced secessionists of the Confederate States, who advocated for states' rights to expand slavery. Among the 34 U.S. states earlier in February 1861, seven Southern slave states individually declared their secession from the U.S. to form the Confederate States of America, or the South. The Confederacy grew to include eleven slave states. The Confederacy was never diplomatically recognized by the United States government, nor was it recognized by any foreign country (although the United Kingdom and France granted it belligerent status). The states that remained loyal to the U.S. (including the border states where slavery was legal) were known as the Union or the North. With President Lincoln's immediate proclamation of a Union naval blockade from Texas to North Carolina (later extended to Virginia and South Carolina, Bermuda assumed a whole new international significance. The fact that Queen Victoria herself in London and the British Government had declared their neutrality meant little to all mercantile white Bermudians who controlled the local economy. Their Bermuda, about 600 miles due west from the coast of North Carolina, was almost completely Southern or Confederate in sympathy from a combination of a shared history, blood, commerce and trade. Support of the Southern cause appealed to almost all their sensibilities, not the least of which was profit. Within weeks of the start of the war Bermudian merchant families were raking in the profits and Bermuda became hugely prosperous as Confederate blockade runners began supplying the South with food and munitions and Britain, again via Bermuda, received bales of Southern cotton and more.  St. George's in particular incurred the most prosperous time ever in its history. Bermudian traders were convinced there would be a resounding Confederate victory and invested hugely in developing St. George's accordingly. 

1862. June 19. Abraham Lincoln signs a law prohibiting slavery in the territories of the United States.

 

1862. September 27. The Confederate Congress passes the Second Conscription Act that allows for the drafting of men between the ages of thirty-five and forty-five for service. The First Regiment Louisiana Native Guards or “Chasseurs d’Afrique” musters in New Orleans.  The unit is largely composed of “free men of color.”  Some of these recruits have previously served with a Confederate militia unit and their captain is a manumitted slave who had held a lieutenancy in that command named Andre Cailloux. 

 

1863. January 1. President Lincoln, aware of the public's growing support of abolition, issued the Emancipation Proclamation declaring that all slaves in areas still in rebellion were, in the eyes of the federal government, free.

 

1869. Autumn. Three far-sighted black Christian men, dissatisfied with what they deemed the then existing racial situation in Bermuda, set the wheels in motion that brought African Methodism to Bermuda, with the creed of its founder Richard Allen being God Our Father, Christ our Redeemer and Man our Brother. Generations of Bermudians quick caught the spirit of Allen. They were Benjamin Burchall of St. George’s, William B. Jennings of Devonshire and Charles Roach Ratteray of Somerset. It was 35 years after Bermuda blacks had been emancipated from centuries of slavery. At Emancipation in 1834 they had absolutely no infrastructure of their own: no shops, no churches, no schools. They were landless and voteless, possessing only their indomitable spirits and strong faith in God. They needed their own African Methodist Evangelical (AME) church where they could feel racially at home. They began the process of asking for Bermudian versions of AME churches, long established  in the USA, to become established here. 

1870. February. Representative Benjamin F. Whittemore resigned his northeastern South Carolina seat, having been charged with selling appointments to U.S. military academies. The Republican Party nominated Joseph Rainey, formerly of Bermuda, to replace Whittemore for the remainder of the term and for a full term in the 42nd Congress (1871-1873). Rainey won the full term by a substantial majority over his Democrat opponent and was sworn in on December 12,1870, the first African American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. Other African Americans had been elected to Congress before Rainey, but many white congressmen had refused to recognize their legitimacy. Rainey immediately demanded treatment equal to that of his peers when he took his congressional seat .A very proper man who never forgot his time in Bermuda, Rainey expected decorum and civility from whites. Rainey's work on the Committee on Freedmen's Affairs-created in 1865 to handle all legislation concerning newly freed slaves-earned him great recognition. He also generally opposed legislation that restricted Asian immigrants entering the United States. Public discrimination was rampant at the time, and a black Congressman was certainly not immune. Rainey insisted he be treated equally in public accommodations and exposed segregation he witnessed in Richmond, Virginia, even filing a lawsuit when he was forced off a streetcar because he was black. He eventually withdrew the suit, but it preceded the landmark Plessy v. Ferguson case by more than 20 years. From the beginning of his time in office, Rainey steadfastly defended both Southern blacks' civil rights and amnesty for former white rebels. 

 

1872. August 8.  Bermudians first celebrated their emancipation from slavery in a new way - by making a point of including the British game of cricket in their celebrations. Hitherto it had been played officially by Britons in the British Army and Royal Navy then based in Bermuda, and unofficially among local teams not white in complexion. The unique match was to commemorate the annual August "Emancipation" Carnival-like celebrations after Britain enacted in Bermuda and the rest of the-then British Empire its formal, official and final Abolition of Slavery Act on August 1, 1834. Was this inclusion of British cricket into their celebrations a belated acknowledgement to Britain which had ended slavery after the strenuous efforts of the British politician William Wilberforce had finally been successful after many years of trying? Or was it simply because Bermudians wanted to make cricket as much of a Bermudian sport as a British one? We may never know for sure. What is known is that this cricket match was the very first of its kind in Bermuda between a cricket "eleven" (the number of men in a cricket team) representing Alexandrina Lodge No. 1026 of Hamilton and a similar "eleven" from the Victoria and Albert Lodge No. 1027 of Somerset. It may also have been the first time in the cricketing world that non-white teams are recorded as having competed in what was, until then, a mostly-white if not wholly white British sport. If so, Bermuda is certainly due some long-belated cricketing and socio-economic credit. Both Masonic Lodges there and then had played a leading role in getting former slaves recognized as real men despite their darker complexions and in getting them jobs, self-worth and respect for them as individual contributors to the human race in their own distinctive ways, not as people to be looked down on racially. All black members of both teams were Masons, members of the Grand United Order of Oddfellows. The event took place at the Naval Cricket Ground in Somerset and was won by 43 runs by the Somerset side. Both sides played in fraternal friendly sporting rivalry, not in the win-at-any-cost way many cricket matches overseas are played today. 

1908. Bermuda had an opera house in the city of Hamilton. It the brainchild of William Augustus “Syke” Smith, who was a black master builder. It was one of the most beautiful buildings in Hamilton. During the time of racial segregation, it was a venue for live performances by black and white drama societies. (In 1978 it was destroyed in a fire). 

 

1909.  Ernest Trimingham, a black Bermudian actor/writer resident in the United Kingdom, became the first black performer to appear regularly in British cinema and theatre. His play “Lily of Bermuda”, produced in Manchester, was the first black-themed musical-comedy ever staged in Britain. (Mr. Trimingham lived long enough to cross paths with a young Earl Cameron when that aspiring Bermudian actor first began treading the boards in London’s West End theatre district at the outset of his distinguished career in the early 1940s).

 

1910. January. The friendly cross-country race that orioginally began in June 1909 from the Princess Hotel in Hamilton to Somerset, between Bermudian soldiers and those in the British Army then based in Bermuda, by then renamed the Marathon Derby, became an official annual event. It was hosted by the Somerset Athletic Club, a newly formed black community organization. British soldiers issued another challenge, which was accepted, with the locals stating they wanted it run from Somerset to Hamilton. Private Jordan, of the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry then stationed in Bermuda, was the first to cross the line, followed by Bermudian local and Somerset favorite John C. Bean. The race became a May 24th fixture around 1928.

 

1916. May 28. 206 Members of the Bermuda Militia Artillery recruited from Bermuda's black community and four officers commanded by Major Tom Dill (later Bermuda’s Attorney General and father of founder of the law firm that has his name) left Bermuda in convoy for Britain, arriving there on June 9, disembarking at Devonport. Orders were waiting to proceed immediately to France, where they landed June 24, going directly to the warfront. They were all under fire a few days later when involved in the attack on the Somme on July 1. They passed ammunition to batteries at the front from the dumps “so perilously under shell fire they were compelled to work in constant danger which they did efficiently, evincing exemplary courage and tenacity that won them praise from the beginning.” Soldiers from this unit were involved in many of the major battles of the war from the time of their arrival, including the Somme, Vimy Ridge, Messines Ridge and Passchendaele. The Bermudians acquitted themselves so well the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Andrew Bonar Law, in a letter from Downing Street, wrote Governor Sir George M. Bullock in 1916 requesting more troops.

 

1917. August 8. Bermudian actor Earl Cameron was born in Pembroke.  He later had a career spanning appearances in over 60 films and TV programmes and recently also celebrated  the 40th Anniversary of his appearance in the cult TV programme “The Prisoner”. When a youngster, he joined the British Merchant Navy, and sailed mostly between New York and South America. When war broke out he found himself stranded in London, arriving on 29th October 1939. As he himself put it in an interview for The Royal Gazette Newspaper “I arrived in London on 29 October, 1939. I got involved with a young lady and you know the rest. The ship left without me, and the girl walked out too.” His first acting role came in 1942 when he got a part in a West End production of Chu Chin Chow. He was good enough to act in a number of plays in London, including The Petrified Forest. He understudied with Amanda Ira Aldridge, an opera singer, singer, teacher and composer, daughter of the famed black American actor Ira Aldridge. His breakthrough acting role was in The Pool of London, a 1951 film set in postwar London involving racial prejudice, romance, and a diamond robbery. He then appeared in the 1955 film Simba, a drama about the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya in which Cameron played the role of Peter Karanja, a doctor trying to reconcile his admiration for Western civilization with his Kikuyu heritage. From the 1950s he had major parts in many films including: The Heart Within (1957) in which he played Victor Conway in a crime movie yet again set in the London docklands; Sapphire (1959) in which played Dr Robbins, the brother of a murdered girl; and The Message (1976) - the story of the Prophet Muhammad; Tarzan the Magnificent (1960) in which he played Tate; Flame in the Streets (1961) in which he played Gabriel Gomez; Tarzan's Three Challenges (1963) in which he played Mang; Guns at Batasi (1964) in which he played Captain Abraham; Battle Beneath the Earth (1967) in which he played Sergeant Seth Hawkins; Sandwich Man (1966) in which he played a bus conductor; and the James Bond movie Thunderball (1965) in which he played the role of James Bond's Caribbean assistant Pinder Romania. More recently, he was in The Interpreter (2005) in which he played the fictitious dictator Edmond Zuwanie. In 2006, not looking at all 89 years old at the time, he had a brief speaking part early in the film The Queen, playing the affable artist painting the Queen (Helen Mirren). He has appeared in a wide range of TV shows, one of the earliest of which was in the BBC 1960 TV drama The Dark Man in which he played a West Indian cab driver in the UK. The show examined the reactions and prejudices he faced in his work. In 1956 he had a smaller part in another BBC drama exploring racism in the workplace entitled Man From The Sun in which he appeared as a community leader called Joseph Brent. He was in five episodes of the TV series Dangerman alongside series star Patrick McGoohan. He worked with McGoohan again in 1967 when he appeared in the TV series The Prisoner as the Haitian Supervisor in the episode "The Schizoid Man". His other work on popular TV shows includes: Emergency Ward 10; The Zoo Gang; Crown Court; Jackanory in 1971; Dixon of Dock Green; Doctor Who; Neverwhere; Waking the Dead; Kavanagh QC, Babyfather; Eastenders (as Mr Lambert), Dalziel and Pascoe, and Lovejoy. He has also appeared in a number of other one off TV dramas including: Television Playhouse (1957); ITV Play of the Week (two stories - The Gentle Assassin (1962) and I Can Walk Where Like Can't I? (1964); the BBC's Wind Versus Polygamy (1968); ITV's A Fear of Strangers (1964);  ITV Play of the Week - The Death of Bessie Smith (1965); The Great Kandinsky (1995); and two episodes of Thirty-Minute Theatre (1969 and 1971). Cameron is a member of the Baha'i Faith. He currently lives in Warwickshire in England. He is married to Barbara Cameron. His first wife, Audrey Cameron, died in 1994. He has five children. In Bermuda in 2007, accompanied by his wife, he was given the Prospero Award for lifetime achievement in his field by the Bermuda International Film Festival.  In the Queen's New Year Honors List 2008/2009 he was awarded a CBE for services to drama after a movie, television and theatre career spanning seven decades. 

 

1918. Over 240 black Bermudians served with the Bermuda Militia in the Great War

 

1919. June 6. The last Bermudian to die from the effects of the Great War was black Bermudian Hayford Douglas Simmons. He died of the effects of the war when still in service 

 

1920. Legislation was enacted for creation of the Bermuda Development Company, thereby also making provision for the compulsory acquisition with compensation expropriation of certain then under-utilized but much-needed tourism development land at Tucker's Town to be used for the building by Furness Withy of the Mid-Ocean Golf Club and the development of Castle Harbour Hotel. Mostly black home and land owners were to be dispossessed by compulsory acquisition but legal provision was made for them to be fully compensated by standards prevailing at the time. Following expropriation of the land in Tucker's Town on which it sat, Marsden Church, built in 1861 for its mostly black community, announced its relocation to the South Road, Smith's Parish.
 

1920. The Governor instructed the Commissioner of Police to recruit white police officers from the United Kingdom, after a legislative consensus that the island's police should not be predominantly black.

 

1923. Furness Withy began the development of the Mid Ocean Club and Castle Harbour Hotel at Tucker's Town. It had earlier (1920) formed its subsidiary, the Bermuda Development Company, in response to growing American tourism expectations. This body aimed to create an exclusive and prestigious enclave in Bermuda for wealthy tourists.  The plan was favored by many forward-looking Bermudians who were excited by the prospect of a post-war tourism revival of a pre-Great War (1914-1918) buoyant tourism industry. It had been impacted unfavorably following the end of the war and its economic aftermath and something drastic needed to be done. Furness Withy, a British shipping company, wanted Bermuda and Bermuda really needed Furness Withy. Mostly black home and land owners were dispossessed by compulsory acquisition but legal provision was made for them to be fully compensated by standards prevailing at the time. Cash, a semi-precious commodity for some at the time, was offered for their land. A number of those so dispossessed but compensated used their compensation to purchase homes elsewhere, such as at Devil's Hole, elsewhere in Smith's such as John Smith's Bay, as near the relocated Marsden Church and other parishes. Devil's Hole was deemed important to them, one reason being it was easiest to obtain kerosene fuel for their stoves from there. Another was that it was far less isolated. There were rumors of much more good news, after various meetings were held. The then-American owners promised employment to all able-bodied men on construction sites to help build the hotel and in subsequent hotel maintenance. Plus, all the females who could work were offered employment, not just part-time but regular work. The Tucker's Town development project was directly responsible for hundreds of Portuguese, mostly from the Azores, being brought to Bermuda. As many as 539 Azoreans worked under contract. Unlike the many hundreds who had come before them, when their contracts were completed they were not encouraged to remain on the island.

 

1925. The Bermuda Recorder began life, initially as a bi-weekly newspaper.  A. B. Place was a printer. He and four others, Henry Hughes, David Augustus, Joaquin Martin and James Rubaine, were the founders. (Such was the contribution made by A. B. Place to the community that the Bermuda Government’s media room was later named after him). For the next 50 years it became the voice of the black community. 

 

1926. Stanley Burgess, first won the Marathon Derby. accurately a half marathon of 13 miles. Dating back to January 1910. It began as a friendly cross-country race in June 1909 between Bermudian soldiers and those in the British Army then based in Bermuda, by then renamed the Marathon Derby. In January 1910 it became an official annual event. It was then hosted by the Somerset Athletic Club, a newly formed black community organization. Stanley Burgess first took part in 1921, when he was 20, After winning it in 1926, then 1927 and 1928 and eventually 10 times, it became famous locally.

 

1932. First company of black Girl Guides, First Excelsior, was formed in Bermuda. There was also a Brownie Pack and Rangers.

 

1937. Oliver Caisey, Sr. (with his race horse Fanny) became the first  black jockey at the Shelly Bay race track. His groom was Claude (Poker) Furbert.