In this final instalment of a three-part article series exploring the history of Bethesda, Antiguan Trumpet sat under Bethesda’s Iconic Tamarind tree with community Activist Ian Joseph, listening as he spoke about the first strike in Antigua and Barbuda.
“Once you hear about Bethesda in modern history, you will hear about the Tamarind tree. The Tamarind tree is actually where the ‘Antigua Trades and Labour Union’ first flexed its muscles, representing cane cutters who demanded better wages.
Under the leadership of Sir Vere Cornwall Bird Sr; Antigua and Barbuda’s first Prime Minister, the Union interceded and fought on their behalf in 1951,” Joseph said.
Joseph who is also an executive leader in the Bethesda / Christian Hill community group revealed that the strike went on for more than three months and the planters were determined not to surrender until they received a 25% increase in their wages.
“The owners of the estates declined their request but when realizing the seriousness of the workers, Moody Steward, an estate owner told them that he was going to starve them into submission,” the Activist revealed.
These words by Steward stirred strong passions in the souls of the labourers and their determination became much more intense, driving them to carry on striking until all the crops in the fields were spoiled.
Eventually, in January 1952, Moody Stewart, and his colleagues gave in and the workers got the increase in addition to better working conditions.
“Thirteen strikers were sent to prison and one of these is actually still alive today, residing right here in Bethesda at the age of 92.
These men gave up their freedom back then for the justice of us all, and today we are definitely reaping the fruits of their sacrifices and fearlessness,” Joseph ended.