In the southern States of America, of the early 1900s, the Bahamian negro encountered a form of vicious racism and associated violence that had largely been unheard of in the Bahamas, since the days of slavery.
Bahamian negroes began migrating across to South Florida in search of work, and new opportunities in the decades after emancipation in the United States. Then, the islands being very much a colony of Great Britain, meant that Bahamians abroad were classed as British subjects. This status afforded them the protection and resources of Britain’s government.
(The Scotsman, Scotland, Monday May 21, 1928)
As the 20th century dawned, more made their way into Miami, Tampa and the Florida Keys. By the 1920s, there was a growing community of British West Indians living in Southern Florida. Some went on contract farm labour work, others becoming small business owners in coloured communities, and others just settled seeking whatever job opportunities may have been available.
The negro’s relationship with law enforcement officials in America has long been a contemptuous one to say the least. In the early 1900s, it was practically volcanic. From police brutality, to extreme violence, to disproportionately imposed lengthy jail sentences, to even outright murder, the negro has learned that fine line between life and misery can sometimes be crossed in mere seconds, if he encounters the wrong policeman, at the wrong time.
The murder of HASKIN NEMO
On March 14, 1927, Haskin Nemo, a Bahamian Negro, a British subject and a storekeeper in Miami, Florida, was driving home when he collided with another automobile. The other automobile was being driven by a white resident. Collided may have even been too strong a word for what had happened.
There were no damages.
There were no injuries.
Both Nemo and the white resident went on with their respective journeys. The white resident, however, drove to the police station to report the incident. He demanded that the negro be arrested.
Not long after Haskin Nemo arrived home, two Miami police officers, E. W. Glisson and C. C. Shadduck, arrived at his address. They searched Nemo and his home for guns and liquor. Remember this was also during Prohibition. The police found nothing. Yet just a few moments later, Nemo would lay shot to death, in the street, outside of his home.
As eyewitnesses would later tell, the two Miami policemen then grabbed, roughly manhandled, Haskin Nemo shoving him violently into the police car.
They threw him so violently that Nemo went straight through the other door of the police car. His body was half in the car, half hanging downward onto the street. As the policemen came around the other side to push him back into the police car, Haskin Nemo clutched at the coat of the policeman who was shoving him back inside the police car. Undoubtedly, this action was to steady himself, to prevent more injury being inflicted by the policeman, or even more probably it was an involuntary action as he may have already sustained a head injury.
The second policeman came alongside Nemo, pulled his gun and shot the man dead.
The first policeman also drew his gun and shot into the already dead body of Haskin Nemo.
Both said that they thought Nemo was reaching for their guns. The jury at the inquest found that shooting was justified as the police were only discharging their lawful duties.
(The Gazette, Montreal Canada, Monday 14 May 1928)
1927 – Another Version of Events Surrounding the Killing of Bahamian Haskin Nemo
Another version of events, just days after the shooting, in 1927, say that Haskin Nemo was being viciously beaten in the backseat of the police car. He was being beaten so brutally that his body fell out of the car as the door flew open. At the time, the police said he was trying to run away. The policemen then picked him up, grabbed him forcefully and shot him, almost at point blank range.
(The Tallahassee Democrat, Saturday 26 March 1927)
The Murder of James Major
On April 15, 1928, Bahamian negro James Major was arrested by the sheriff of Broward County for being drunk. The sheriff turned Major over to a emergency police deputy to him to the local county jail for processing. Major was put into the police car. That was the last time he was seen alive.
At some point in between handing over Major and driving to the jail, the emergency police duty officer Livingstone, shot James Major to death.
Britain Pushes For Accountability and Compensation For Years
To their credit, the British government pushed for an investigation and compensation for the families for years. But two men were already long dead, shot in the street, by Miami police who claimed they resisted arrest. Some five years later, the call for compensation and accountability continued. No compensation came. And as for accountability, that was questionable. None of the police involved served any significant jail time.
(The American Statesman, Friday 18 May 1928)
(The Democrat Monday 01 December 1930)
MOUNTING DEATH TOLL OF NEGROES IN MIAMI JAIL PROMPTS LUKEWARM ACTION
In 1928, after the shooting deaths of Bahamians Haskin Nemo and James Major, four more negroes met their end at the hands of Chief of Police Leslie Quigg and three of his staff. Quigg and three others who were awaiting trial on various charges related to the murders of negroes in their custody.
(The Edmonton Journal, Edmonton Canada, Saturday 12 May 1928)
Former Policeman Serves ONE DAY SENTENCE For Second Degree Murder Knocked Down To Manslaughter in the case of Haskin Nemo
It took years of posturing and international manoeuvring by the British to even get the case to trial. Of the two policemen involved in the murder of Haskin Nemo, only one could be located. E. W. Glisson surrendered to police for trial in 1931. He claimed he didn’t even know there were charges pending for him since he had moved away from the Miami area. C. C. Shadduck had moved away and could not be located.
Glisson stood trial on second degree murder in 1932.
By the end of trial, the charge had been reduced to manslaughter.
Glisson was sentenced to serve the term of ONE DAY in jail.
(The Miami News Tuesday 17 February 1931)
Sentenced to ONE DAY in Prison