In this image we see the classroom
in San Miguel English School circa 1935.
Notice the stern looking Schoolmaster in the
back who kept perfect order in his classroom.
Image thanks to CZimages.com
Since I had heard some of the neighborhood Westindian boys talk about Teacher Thomas’ School, I couldn’t wait for the opportunity to attend his, by now, very reputable school since it was right across the street from our house. Apparently, Teacher Thomas had taken over the old Jamaican Society Hall and converted it into his school. It was said that since before the 1920’s old Teacher Thomas had been right there providing education for Black children. I would never, much to my disappointment, however, be able to attend his famous school and to this day it remains a mystery to me why not. Continue reading
A little girl enjoys the pleasure of writing
on a Slate Board. We thank our
friends over at Oberlin Heritage Center for the beautiful image.
In those earlier days of Panama City’s barrios we, as children, were facing the repercussions of being part of a cruel heritage of racial segregation both in and out of the United States Panama Canal Zone. These were the years that history tells us were some of the worst for the policy of expulsion of Black Westindian employees out of the Black Canal Zone townships, and for our family, we were especially catching it. Continue reading
The Panama Tribune masthead
For me becoming literate would come during those times of feeling really isolated as a child, as I have mentioned in previous posts. It was also during these moments in my life that I’d lie in bed in the early mornings intently listening to the neighbors’ boys, all Panamanian Westindian, above our little room on Mariano Arosemena Street leave for their Canal Zone Silver School wishing I were one of them. We had known this particular family since arriving in Panama from the home of our grandparents in the City of Colon after the fire of 1940 which destroyed most of the Atlantic coast city. Continue reading
Image thanks to ren at www.morguefile.com
Throughout my university studies in the United States I’d encountered reminders that my advanced educational opportunities were in fact a vindication of the Westindian teachers of Panama, especially so when the irreverence to my Panamanian Westindian roots came into question regarding being part of the African Diaspora in the Americas. However, when assessing the cost to my future and professional career I insisted in believing that in the country of Panama I’d find written traces of these formidable teachers that would aid me in my search. Continue reading
English School in San Miguel circa 1935. I believe that is Teacher Reid in the back. Image thanks to czbrats.com
Alfred E. Osborne. Image thanks to Afro-Panavision.com
The founders of the first schools that I’d ever heard of were the Westindian teachers or, as they were sometimes referred to, the Teachers. By the time I came of age to begin going to school in the early 1940’s and started dealing with a childhood fraught with much sadness, these teachers had taken on a special meaning. West Indian teachers were the initiators of not only the first West Indian English Schools but schools of any kind in a small nation like Panama which was almost devoid of institutions of learning in the first fifty years of its history as a Republic. Continue reading