Within the pages of a 1897, pictorial coffee table book entitled, The Queen’s Empire, there sits a photo, of a family on nine, from Grant’s Town, Nassau. The Queen of course in 1897, was Queen Victoria of Great Britain.
The photo of the British/Bahama family of nine, with six unkempt children posing on a horse cart, with a smartly attired British lady, while the parents stand in front of their dwelling place, is part of a section of the book titled “The Homes of the Queen’s Subjects.”
“Nine Little Niggers” A Scene In The Bahamas 1897, is a most extraordinary capture of the meagre life, thousands upon thousands had, in the negro area of Grant’s Town, in that era.
The century of the 1800s saw significant legal changes to the status of the negro, in the Bahamas, then in the British West Indies. The 1800s saw the end of slavery and the apprenticeship system of enforced servitude. Education, at a basic level for negroes, was first enforced legally, by Governor James Carmichael Smythe, before he was run out of the Bahamas by a very angry House of Assembly. They didn’t approve of Carmicheal Smythe’s attempts to better the condition of free negroes and slaves. During the 1800s, in the Bahamas, the negro population expanded in large numbers, due in large part to the landing of African slaves from captured slave ships headed to Cuba, North America and South America. Negro settlements like Fox Hill, Grant’s Town and Carmichael were created during the early 1800s.
In the photo, Nine Little Niggers, A Scene In The Bahamas, we see one British lady taking the opportunity to have her picture taken next the children, and another British lady in the far left corner with her parasol in hand, to protect from the heat of the Bahama sun, walking into the frame, supposedly also to have her photo taken next to squalid spectacle of people.
“NINE LITTLE NIGGERS”: A SCENE IN THE BAHAMAS
“It is to be hoped that the whole of the little black family who are sitting on the cart, and who form so droll a background to the charming English lady in front, are not inmates of the modest residence whose three principal occupants are seen in the centre of the picture; for nine persons, even though some of them be very little persons, would be a decidedly close fit in the little Bahama cottage. But however that may be, the whole party looks jovial and contented: as why should they not be, for life in the Bahamas is a very easygoing affair. The gifts of Nature are abundant, the sea air tempers the fierce sun, and the ideal of the negro—all play and no work, something to get and nothing to do—does not seem so far Out of the range of practical politics as it is found to be in other less favoured parts of the world.”