The Bahamian Progressive League began as a political ideal, a community collective, and what would be referred to today, as a think tank. Comprised of Nassau’s negro intellectual elite – aspiring and sitting politicians, shop owners, the educated and determined – a group of coloured men in the early 1900s, saw the need to create a patriotic league, from the grassroots community.
Their goal was simple enough. Raise the economic, political and social plight of the negro in The Bahamas.
The League began to assume of the garb of a political organisation by publishing collective statements, organising purposeful functions and creating their own brand of public recognition for negro achievements in the community.
World War I – Signalling Coloured British-Bahamian Patriotism to the Mother Country
Black Bahamians were hugely patriotic and believed in the ideals of England as much as the next man. Despite the scars of history, negroes held Britain in high esteem. Politically, socially and educationally – to Blacks in the Bahamas Islands – England’s institutions represented the path to social change and political freedom.
It is little wonder then that the Bahamian Progressive League decided to create their own patriotic fundraising campaign during World War I. There were a number of such events held by them. Coloured British-Bahamians sought to exhibit their own brand of patriotism while ensuring that such events were advertised for all to read in the local newspapers. These papers, of course, would reach England.
Among others who comprised the Bahamian Progressive League, there were Ernest Lenkard Bowen, Member of the House of Assembly, H. E. S. Reeves (brother of C. H. Reeves), Stephen A. Dillet, Leon Walton Young was a Member of the House of Assembly, L. D. Neely, S. H. Tinker, R. M. Bailey, T. A. Toote from Harbour Island was a shop owner living in fashionable Augusta Street, both Toote the elder and Toote the younger would soon both be sitting in the House of Assembly.
Bahamian Progressive League celebrate the life of Booker T. Washington
1917 – Bahamian Progressive League Presents Gold Watch to WWI Wounded Coloured Soldier Private John Demeritte
War was the making of great men. Coloureds however, had to prove themselves, as true patriots to their land. This was true of Britain, as it was of America, during periods of war. Battle was the domain of white men. Coloureds were cooks or laundry hands or the supplementary help.
White men became historical legends because of the battles they fought. One only needed to look at American history, to the life of men like George Washington, or to Europe’a Napoleon to understand what legendary greatness war made of the obscure.
Negroes had to fight a political battle, just to be able to fight toe to toe in war.
So when a coloured Bahamian soldier came back from the war in Europe in 1917, wounded and with lots of stories to tell, the Bahamian Progressive League had to make a hero of him.