The black man’s history began long before slavery. Popular African history, however, for as long as many can remember, centred around the lows, and not the highs, of the land which produced the first humans. It explains a lot about the call for a taught diverse history, rather than just British history, in Bahamian schools, in 1966.
The origins of the Afro-Bahamian, in the Bahamas, had been mired in a history so wretched for the sober mind to ponder, that it was not until the mid 20th century, that the very subject became fit for general discussion.
And if African and Afro-Bahamian were not considered subjects fit for general discussion, it was certainly not fit for general education, in public schools, in the Bahamas. Guaranteed controversy and the potential for social upheaval was just too great of a risk to take on the tiny islands.
Arguably, after emancipation, throughout the era of what some might call the middle period of colonialism, in the Bahamas, nothing was really taken as acceptable from the descendants of the African race, in the islands, save for their labour and their music. That was all. Only the industry of their hands and the marketability of their music, which became Junkanoo, a mainstay tourist attraction, were acceptable commodities.
It is little wonder then that when public education was made possible in the government schools in the Bahamas, African, in all of its incarnations and forms, from language to culture to its long history before slavery, were not taught as a wide subject of general knowledge.
Education, throughout the British West Indies, was invariably limited to British European history. There would have been nothing out of the ordinary in this regard, as this was the same educational standard all colonies, which came under the Empire’s realm, afforded in government schools. A narrow historical and cultural education was important in exporting allegiance, the one thing necessary for the English, from their tiny island in Europe, to control a global realm of so many different cultures.
However, as time moved on, as colonies began seeking internal self rule, many, including the Bahamas, began lobbying for a more culturally targeted education, or at the very least, the inclusion of cultural distinctions as taught history.
THE AFRO-BAHAMIAN EMERGES 1966
In June 1966, seeking to remedy the problem of no Afro-centred education being taught in the government schools, Mr. Edmund Moxey, wrote to then Minister of Education, the Honourable Godfrey Kelly to “make the greatest possible haste” to include the black man’s history in the curriculum of the Ministry’s schools.
“The Afro Bahamian Club had written to the Minister for Education, the Honourable Godfrey Kelly, urging him to “make the greatest possible haste” in arranging for the inclusion of the African and black man’s history in the curriculum of the Ministry’s schools.
Signed by Mr Edmund S. Moxey, chairman of the Education Committee of the Afro-Bahamian Club, the letter states that “as the great majority of Bahamians are of African origin we feel that it is absolutely essential to teach African and black man’s history and culture which has up to now being very largely neglected.”
At a recent meeting of the Club, it was “unanimously agreed that the introduction of courses in African and black man’s history in the schools of the Bahamas would be of tremendous benefit in raising the educational standards of the Bahamian people opening the door to better understanding and instilling in our people a greater sense of pride,” the letter stated.
“We are sure that you will agree that in a racially mixed society such as ours there is an immense cultural reservoir which can be drawn upon from the various ethnic groups to enrich the cultural development of the Bahamas and accelerate the development of Bahamian personality,” it continued.
The Afro-Bahamian Club was formed in June.”
Who was Edmund Spencer Moxey, the man who called for Black Man’s history to be taught in Bahamian government schools?
“Edmund Spencer Moxey, the creator of Jumbey Village, a recreation of a Bahamian village on Baillou Hill Road, and the Jumbey Festival, was born on Ragged Island in December 1933.
He moved to New Providence where he joined the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) in the 1950s.
He was among the PLP members who ushered in majority rule when the party won the 1967 general election.
During his tenure he vigorously promoted and encouraged a deeper appreciation for Bahamian culture.
Moxey served as parliamentary secretary for community development from 1968 to 1971.
He resigned from the PLP in 1977 after a falling out with then Prime Minister Lynden Pindling.
Moxey later served as a senator for the Bahamian Democratic Party, and as a member of the Free National Movement (FNM).
Later in 1977, he called for the resignation of Pindling and his Cabinet and said he was prepared “to go even unto death to bring about the liberty of my people”.
He later staged a lie-in, in the House of Assembly in protest of the government’s decision to borrow $11 million.
As a senator in 1978, he ripped up amendments to the Lotteries and Gaming Act, during debate on the bill, as he said the bill “spells serious trouble for the Bahamian people”.
He also fended off several offers to return to the PLP.
Moxey was a cultural warrior, community activist and a musician extraordinaire.
During Moxey’s time as parliamentary secretary he began the development of Jumbey Village.”