Tag Archives: racial segregation

Growing Public Outcry Against Racism

You have only to replace these Jim Crow
“White” or “Colored” Only signs with Gold or
Silver signs and they would be identical with
what it was like in The Panama Canal Zone.

It was a challenging time in the history of the Westindian Panamanian community when their youngsters were blatantly being denied an opportunity for an education. They would, as I’ve pointed out, receive additional and much needed support from other civic and political institutions as well. Continue reading

Learning From Observing

Even today the “Silver Cemetery” at Corozal remains segregated.
In the foreground is the Silver side of the cemetery, in the background,
divided by the cyclone fencing, is the American “Gold” Roll cemetery.
The radio shows of the times made me into the individual that I am today. The abuse of my person by my relatives had come so early in my life and continued for so long after that I made every attempt to avoid them as much as I could. I often retreated into the world of radio personalities and shows to try to forget the periodic pummel-lings I would receive. Our neighbors and the people from the neighborhood around me also became my source of solace.  Continue reading

An Increasing Security Force and Tightening Racial Isolation

Ft. Clayton in Panama

Images: Top is an aerial view of “former” Ft. Clayton,
one of the largest military installations in Panama.
Bottom image shows Kenneth b. Clark,
American Black author, psychologist,
and civil rights activist.

The centralized Silver roll personnel administration offices, as we have noted, began implementing policies that would characterize what the Panama Canal Zone would eventually become, and so it would remain until some years before negotiations would begin for the transfer of the Canal and all installations to the Government of Panama. All these events, however, would occur much later in the 20th century. Continue reading

Social Control and Coping Mechanisms for the Silver Roll

The chain link fence around the “American Cemetery” in Corozal today is
reminiscent of the chain link fence of the Canal Zone

As our history of the Silver People unfolds these crucial times would become marked by a first generation of Westindian youth that would seek to develop their own coping mechanisms for the progressively tighter and systematic forces of social control imposed by the Canal Zone authorities. Since they had been born into a system that rejected them from birth to the grave they found some creative as well as direct and indirect ways of countering these negative forces in their lives. Many countered, if they could, by simply refusing to work on the Canal Zone. Continue reading

Joshua Austin Reid- From Dispensary Director to New Dangers

The former Gorgas Hospital atop Ancon Hill in Panama. Image thanks to Panamacz.com

Image thanks to Panamacz.com

Although the widow Reid did not elaborate much on the issue of my grandfather’s employment, Joshua Reid seemed always to occupy a position of leadership in the community. As Director of the Silver Roll Employees’ Dispensary he was also responsible for overseeing Public Health in those parts of the segregated Panama Canal Zone and as director one of his important duties was the identification and control of vectors against all sicknesses. Continue reading

Communal Life in the “Black” Zone

Image shows an early Culebra “Silver” School (1905)
courtesy of Mr. George W. Westerman

Construction of the “
Big Ditch” once again became the priority project despite the feelings and attitudes of the white Americans. The “character set” of racist America, however, surfaced in the whole country of Panama. The Westindian* community, with their Black American counterparts, lived and somehow blossomed in the places set aside for them on the Black United States Canal Zone. Still being dug out where mountains once lay dormant, not a ship, as yet, had traveled the trench. Continue reading