African History – Black History Month Quiz
Can you name the five former Caribbean and African colonies that won their independence or became nations during January and February?
On January 1, 1804, the French colony of Saint Domingue declared itself an independent nation. The colony restored the name the Taino Indians called their beautiful island Ayiti (Haiti). By then Toussaint Louverture who led successful slave revolts was imprisoned in the French Alps by Napoleon Bonaparte. But Jean Jacques Dessalines and Grenada-born Henri Christophe continued the struggle climaxing with Jean Jacques Dessalines’ proclamation of independence. Yes, the slaves of Haiti established the first black nation in the Americas. Although Toussaint Louverture and others were inspired by the 13 American colonies unilateral declaration of independence, the U.S. did not support the new nation. The nation was obligated to pay France 150 million gold francs as compensation for its flourishing sugar colony. The final amount was paid in 1947.
REPUBLIC OF THE GAMBIA
On February 18, 1965, a British colony in West Africa, Gambia, achieved independence from England. The nation is officially called The Republic of The Gambia. All the people who lost their lives in the Bronx, NY, fire in January 2022 were immigrants from The Gambia.
On February 7, 1974, Premier Eric Gairy led Grenada – the islands of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique – into independence. In late 1973, two delegations from Grenada went to England to discuss independence. A delegation consisting of leaders opposed to Gairy also visited London for the constitutional conference. Members of the anti-Gairy delegation included Maurice Bishop and Bernard Coard who overthrew Gairy in 1979. Bishop, H.A. Blaize, Coard and others informed the British Government that they were in favor independence but not under Gairy. Nevertheless, the British granted the spice island colony its independence. Unlike Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago and Barbados, Grenadians achieved independence under tense conditions. There was no electricity, supporters of the opposition boycotted independence ceremonies and most radical leaders such as Maurice Bishop were arrested during the impendence days.
On February 22, 1979, John Compton who was born on neighboring Canouan Island in 1925, a part of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and who spent most of his adult life in Saint Lucia, led the Associated State into independence. During direct British rule, Compton was Chief Minister (1964-1967) and when England initiated the process of preparing its colonies for independence, Compton became Saint Lucia’s first premier when Associated Statehood was granted on March 1, 1967. Saint Lucia celebrates its 43rd anniversary of independence on February 22 where Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state. But will the nation transition into a republican system of government by February 22, 2023?