So many unanswered questions and so much mystery abounds about the life of a Bahamian coloured man named Arthur E. Leslie. Mr. Leslie is a historical mystery because with only minimal education and no formal schooling, Arthur Enoch Leslie, just might have been a mathematical and poet genius.
At some point between 1911 or 1912, Leslie, a school teacher had what is only described as a “misunderstanding” with the Inspector of Schools in the Bahamas. This misunderstanding ended with A. E. Leslie resigning his position and leaving for Florida. What is immensely curious, is that on a 1930 American resident census, Leslie writes that he had never gone to school.
We can say with some assurance that Arthur Enoch Leslie was a teacher of arithmetic and music. He was an inventor and a war poet. Leslie wrote incredible poems about World War One. He also wrote about Bahamians in the war. A. E. Leslie also claimed to be a veteran of the first world war.
Arthur E. Leslie arrived in the United States in 1912, then just 19 years old.
In a 1930 United States census, Leslie, stated he was born about the year 1893. The use of the word about denotes an uncertainty on his behalf about the exact date. In 1930, he was listed as being 37 years old. Leslie was widower in 1930. He rented and the home value was $40.00. For the question of whether or not he attended school he wrote NO. He noted that he could read and write. He, his mother and father were all born in the Bahamas. His profession was music teacher. The industry was ‘his own business.’ He said that he was a war veteran.
His name (not entirely sure if it is the same person) is listed on October 17, 1917, as a member of the First Infantry National Guard of Florida, as 1st Lieut. Arthur E. Leslie… 118th Machine Gun Battalion.
Arthur Enoch Leslie died in Dade County, Florida in 1955 at the age of 62.
In January 1916, a letter was printed in the Nassau Guardian and Bahama Islands Advocate and Intelligencer. The writer says that he knows a Professor Arthur Enoch Leslie and details the reasons why Leslie left the Bahamas and moved to Florida.
What is somewhat curious is that between 1912 when he emigrated to Florida and 1916, he somehow gained the title of “Professor.”
PROF. ARTHUR ENOCH LESLIE.
PRINCIPAL, DUNDELLON, FLA.
(As the writer knew him.)
Professor. Leslie, the subject of this writing, was employed in this Colony as a Board School Teacher some years ago. He was one of the successful students under the special training of an English teacher, who was a short time with us and left for England. He served the Board very faithfully until, he because of some misunderstanding between him and the then Inspector of Schools, he resigned and went to Florida. Mr. Leslie was one of the most methodical and painstaking teachers the Board had upon its Staff at the time of his resignation; but the prophet being without honour among his people, had of necessity to go and employ his talent elsewhere. It is regrettable that so talented a man in the Educational Department was ever allowed to slip from us to take up his abode in a foreign country, because the Colony is just so much poorer, and the richer for his services.
In conversation on several occasions, Prof. Leslie expressed the desire for the foundation of a Teacher’s Association, but because of his sudden departure this scheme was nipped in the bud. This would have brought the teachers employed in the various islands of the group together at the Metropolis during their summer vacation, and the mind being thus exercised allowing a few days for recreation would have been the fitter for use after having returned to their various appointments Prof. Leslie is now an active member of a similar Association in Florida and at a Convention held on the 29th Dec. 1914 in Lakeland, he read a paper on “How to teach Arithmetic.” At the conclusion of the blackboard illustration on the subject it was the general opinions of the Association that all the Teachers were much benefited by the very masterly and scientific way in which he handled his subject.
Nassau Guardian and Bahama Islands Advocate and Intelligencer, January 29, 1916
One year later, in 20th January 1917, another news article appeared. Arthur E. Leslie, who left the Bahamas at age 19, now at only 24 years old, was a Professor who had invented a mathematical apparatus and was applying for a patent. The story ran in the Florida news and reprinted in the Bahamas news.
The following is taken from the Florida Metropolis:-
A BAHAMIAN INVENTS MATHEMATICAL APPARATUS
That inventive talent is not the monopoly of any particular race, colour or creed, has been recently proven by the fact that Prof. Arthur E. Leslie, formerly a Board School Teacher in the Bahamas, but now in the service of the Board of Public Instruction, of the State of Florida, has invented a number of devices designed to rationalise and facilitate the teaching of Mathematics.
A petition has been filed in the United States Patent Office at Washington, D.C., praying for the granting of letters patent relative to one of these devices, and the necessary models, specifications, etc., in connection with another of them are in course of preparation with a view to filing the same at an early date in the Patent Office.
Then on 4th August 1917, the Nassau Guardian and Bahama Islands Advocate and Intelligencer, publishes another extraordinary story about Arthur E. Leslie. He is now a writer and a poet. Leslie has written so much poetry that a music publishing company had commissioned two of his poems to be put to music.
BAHAMIAN CONTRIBUTES TO WAR LITERATURE.
From the Ocala “Star.
Having found it once profitable and pleasurable, Prof. A. E. Leslie, of he Bahamas, and now a resident here in the State of Florida, has of late been devoting a great deal of of his spare time to literary pursuits, thereby accumulating a goodly number of poems, many of which relate to the great European struggle, essays and other forms of literary composition. He is recognised by all accounts as a consistent and valued client of the National Literary and Publishers Service Bureau and the Music Sales Company, respectively of St. Louis, and Hannibal, Mo., U.S.A., both of which firms have undertaken to commercialise his literary efforts with the understanding the they receive for their services a percentage of the proceeds. The firms are at present engaged in setting to music one each of Prof. Leslie’s poems entitled respectively “The Soldier’s Farewell to his Betrothed,” and “The Kaiser’s U-Boat Campaign.”
Below is the beautiful poem written by Leslie entitled “BAHAMIAN LOYALTY”
Leslie may have been referring to himself when he writes:-
“Though born and bred remote from camps—
Some never heard a cannon’s roar —-
Bahamian lads in this contest
Are equal to the needs of war.”
We do not know if Arthur Enoch Leslie ever went to the actual war or saw battle. As a coloured man in the army between 1914-1918, it is highly unlikely that he did, as his name is listed as part of the Florida National Guard only.