Few images have pricked the moral consciousness of 20th century America, more than photos of poor negroes – men, women and even little children – in the Jim Crow southern states of America, still slaving away in the cotton fields, almost 100 years, after the end of slavery.
Behind those images of children picking cotton, was the harsh reality of life for negroes, which gave birth to the Civil Rights Movement.
The Bahamas’s history of collaboration with slaving owning southern states of America is a well documented one. Bahamians, between 1860 to 1865, assisted slave owning states, during the American Civil War, by running the Union Blockade.
Bahamians helped cotton bales, picked by slaves, to reach Europe. There, in Europe, they were sold to the British and others, for their textile factories. These textile factories contributed to the world economic boom called the Industrial Revolution.
Blockade running, between 1860 to 1865, was hugely profitable to the then broke, fishing island colony of New Providence. Blockade running brought new wealth and kick started our now thriving tourism industry.
In turn, money, liquor, armaments and supplies were sent back, via the same route. And again, assisted by Bahamians, money and supplies were distributed to the waiting hands of the Confederacy.
The Bahamas, in fact, hosted many soldiers of the Confederacy during the Civil War Years. This was how the Bahamian tourism economy truly began.
It must be said that, many historians have concluded, but for the Bahamas assisting the southern states during the war, hostilities may have ended in America, a year or two before it finally did, in 1865.
Cotton was still king, some 100 years after, slavery ended…
1952 – Norman Solomon purchases a fabric store on Bay Street, buys bulk cotton from the Southern American States, ships it to Britain where it is made into African inspired fabrics, then shipped back to Nassau where it is sewn into dresses by negro seamstresses and then sold in Mademoiselle
Sensibilities today are different from the sensibilities of yesteryear.
In the early 1950s, the negro was all but invisible. African inspired products were all the rage among whites who could afford the trappings of disposable income and new wealth.
Many profited from it all, many that is… except the African Negro.
Profiting from African designs, while the African in The Bahamas could not shop in Mademoiselle on Bay Street in the 1950s
In the early 1950s, the negro was as invisible in The Bahamas as he was in America. So, it is little wonder, images of negro children picking cotton, so that white people could wear the latest African inspired print fashion of material milled in British textile factories and shipped back to The Bahamas, wouldn’t have caused a single brow to lift even a fraction of a millimetre.