In last week Tuesday’s issue of this newspaper, we published, without any kind of editorial comment, an excerpt from Godfrey P. Smith’s authorized biography of the late, Rt. Hon. George Cadle Price. The excerpt had to do with the fact that in 1936 Mr. Price had travelled to segregated Mississippi to study in a black seminary there for aspiring Roman Catholic priests. He spent four years there without returning to British Honduras, where he had been born in 1919.
Mr. Price’s father, William Cadle Price, was an officer in the Belize Territorial Force (BTF) when the Ex-Servicemen’s Riot exploded in Belize Town (later Belize City) in July of 1919. That riot was a two-day black rebellion against a racist, colonialist status quo which existed in British Honduras at the time. Mr. Price’s father would have been considered a member of the white and near-white elite which administered the black majority colony.
Our thesis is that it would had to have been major culture shock for the teenaged Mr. Price when he was sent to a segregated black seminary which trained 50 aspiring priests at a time. Historically, Mississippi has arguably been the most violently segregated state in the United States of America.
The socio-politics in British Honduras in the 1950s featured an upper class of brown and black Belizeans who referred to themselves as “Creoles” and were basically in alliance with the British colonial masters. The civil service of the colony was almost completely dominated by Creoles, but there was a working class base of Creoles who were oppressed by British colonialism and were bitterly resentful of the status quo.
Mr. Price’s employer in the 1940s, Robert Sydney Turton, even though he was the richest native in British Honduras, was not a favorite of the pro-British Creoles, for various reasons. The fact of the matter was that Mr. Turton hated Englishmen, because his English army officer father had abandoned his Creole mother and himself.
First sponsored in local politics by Mr. Turton in the 1944 municipal elections, Mr. Price became a high ranking officer of the anti-colonial People’s United Party (PUP) when that organization was formed in 1950 and allied itself with the General Workers Union (GWU), which was a majority black organization at the time. The early leadership of the PUP featured several graduates of St. John’s College, such as Johnny Smith, Nick Pollard, and Mr. Price, St. John’s College being run at the time by Jesuits of Irish and German descent, peoples who have been traditional enemies of the British.
In the year following Mr. Turton’s death in 1955, Mr. Price ousted Leigh Richardson and Philip Goldson from the leadership of the PUP, and the party began to change somewhat. The history of the PUP under Mr. Price after 1956 was marked by charges of “Latinization” by Mr. Price’s middle class and upper class Creole opponents, but the undeniable fact of the matter was that the black working masses basically remained loyal to Mr. Price’s PUP.
In Belize in the 1950s and 1960s, almost no one knew anything about Mr. Price’s four years in a segregated black seminary in Mississippi, so that Mr. Price’s political opponents were openly contemptuous of the black masses’ love for Mr. Price, a light-skinned man with straight hair. Presumably, Mr. Price, as his time on earth came to an end, felt that it was important for his years in the black Mississippi seminary to be included in his biography. It is logical to conclude that Mr. Price became comfortable with, in fact close to, people of visibly African descent during his four years in Mississippi.
After Hurricane Hattie in 1961, black Belizeans chose to begin migrating to the United States of America. That migration contributed to changing the demographic of British Honduras from a black majority to a Mestizo majority. Hard line opponents of Mr. Price often blame him for this demographic shift, but economics is a complex social science, and the working class Belizean move from Belize to America was a movement of labor, a phenomenon of economics.
This week marks the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the United Black Association for Development (UBAD) in 1969. At that time, Belize was still very much a country with a black majority population. A black-conscious, cultural movement, UBAD began to be viewed by Mr. Price’s ruling PUP as a political opponent and threat by early 1970. So the years between early 1970 and late 1972 involved bitter hostility and physical confrontation between the youthful UBAD and the powerful PUP.
The question now is, after all these years, whether the internal strife in UBAD in early 1973 was a result of one leadership faction deciding that the other faction was not hostile enough to Mr. Price’s PUP. As older readers know, one leadership faction of UBAD decided to link up with the newly formed United Democratic Party (UDP) in 1973, while in early 1975, the other UBAD faction became allied with Mr. Price’s PUP, until late 1980.
All this discourse is preliminary to seeking an understanding of why so many Honduran, Guatemalan, Salvadoran, and Nicaraguan workers have flocked to Belize since the late 1970s. Sociologically, Belize has changed substantially since 1969. On the economic side, Belize has become much more robust where financial and material wealth are concerned. The face of the country has been transformed. A serious and frightening development since 1969, nevertheless, has been the wide gulf between the wealthy elite and the struggling masses which is now the order of the day in 2019.
For us at this newspaper, the bottom line in this essay is that the descendants of Africans who had been violently forced into slavery and transported here chained in the bottom of slave ships, voluntarily chose to migrate from Belize to the United States. We do not believe Mr. Price can be blamed for that, except in the case of a few elite colonial families. Yes, Mr. Price opened up the civil service to the Mestizos and the Garinagu, but that was a case of righting a wrong of ethnic discrimination which had been the cynical work of the British. Yes, it was no doubt the case that Mr. Goldson felt for black Belizeans more than Mr. Price did. And yes, who was there who fought Mr. Price’s PUP more fiercely than UBAD and this newspaper did?
These are some of our thoughts this week as we remember the founding of the UBAD organization.
Power to the people.