On March 23rd, 1903, a Trinbagonian mob assembled outside Port of Spain’s Red House — the seat of colonial government in Trinidad and Tobago — to protest a water tax that was recently levied. In the decade preceding 1903, water became a scarce resource in the tiny British colony at the bottom of the Caribbean’s Leeward Islands. In Port of Spain, water had been rationed since 1895; a widely unpopular decision aimed at preventing drought during the island’s lengthy dry seasons. Earlier in 1903, the colonial government announced a public ordinance that forbade the public washing of clothes, the watering of gardens, or the maintenance of public baths.
The jurisprudential underpinnings of civil rights are indissolubly linked with a tortured legislative history. At the founding of American statehood, equal protection under the law was absent in the original Constitution of 1787. These rights only became a part of the Constitution in 1868, when the Fourteenth Amendment promulgated. As an intellectual force, the constitutional philosophy of equal protection addressed the law’s aegis of black Americans’ rights. The Fourteenth Amendment’s immediate legal effect was to protect newly freed slaves from masked racism. The post-Civil War era wrought a plethora of changes into the legal framework of civil rights consciousness. Still, in light of legal developments, emancipated blacks endured protracted racial parochialism. Radical Republicans argued for a system where state constitutionalism did not extirpate blacks’ rights and where the national government would use its powers of moral suasion to enforce black rights against the state.
The chronicity of racism and prejudice after the Civil War stubbornly persisted as a defining characteristic of the disjunction of race relations. Politically inspired feuds and violent controversies over race along with the growth of domestic terrorism in response to the sociopolitical landscape demonstrated high levels of racial resentment. At the apogee of the era, extremist politics grew cumulatively and became ripe for violence that was reinforced by conspiracy theories emanating from white nationalism. With a conspiratorial tone, racism and the cycle of social prejudice were an elusive and pervasive phenomenon in states with longstanding controversial histories sprouting from the angst of equality with black Americans.
A few summers ago, I signed up for the Ontario Black History Society’s (OBHS) walking tour in downtown Toronto. I took the tour not only because of the importance of learning Black history, but also because the walking method seemed to be a way of feeling the histories in their respective spaces. I was intrigued to experience how the OBHS tour guides might present the city as a living museum where everyday streets are ever-changing interactive exhibits. When I and two friends—both women of colour—met the OBHS tour guides—both Black women—our journey began in what was once the southern end of The Ward.
Remembrance Day continues to be a topic of debate each November. For some, this day is recognised with a heavy heart to think of loved ones past and present who participated in military conflict or peacekeeping. For others, this day is symbolic of military aggression or may not be observed at all. Regardless of what opinion you may hold (if any) on the relevance or significance of Remembrance Day, it is typically white soldiers who are recognized on this occasion. In popular memory, the voices of non-white actors of the First World War have been marginalized over the ensuing decades and reduced to second-line experiences in a white war. Here are some of the “forgotten” soldiers of the First World War.
In the early stages of my doctoral work, I quickly understood how both the federal government and Canadian national historians perceived the many regions of Canada to be impediments to national unity and identity. With this, I began to see that there was a conceptual problem with Canada’s national history. The dominant central-Canadian perspective used in inquires of national significance, like national identity and unity, did not accurately reflect the history.
I would like for you to do me a favour. I want you to think about the First World War – any aspect, no holds barred. But, I really want you to imagine it. Shut out your surroundings, try to immerse yourself into the conflict. For only a few seconds, let nothing other than the ‘war to end all wars’ occupy your mind. Close your eyes.
“I used to go down to the Wazzer bazaar [in Cairo], that’s where all these girls, women were. There was a certain section that had a green card that was supposed to be passed by some medical officer saying they were ‘clean’, but they weren’t, of course. But these girls would show you their cards … There was no really safe girl whatsoever. Mind you, some of dark girls, quite young of course, 16 or 17, were quite attractive. They had a nice figure and, well, you could be tempted. But I tell you, as far as I was concerned, I was too scared.”