Dr. Eric Eustace Williams was born on September 25, 1911 and attended Queen’s Royal College in Port of Spain. His talents extended from academics to football. He was injured during a football match and was forced to wear a hearing aid for the remainder of his life. He went on to graduate at the top of his class from the University of Oxford. In one of his most famous writings, he articulated that the propelling rationale for British abolition was economic and not humanitarian, as the British attempted to portray. He later returned to Trinidad and earned fame for his public lectures on world history.
When he returned to Trinidad, he led a new political party, the People’s National Movement (PNM). The PNM won its first election in 1956 and diligently attempted to form a multi-racial cabinet, improve education, and develop industries. There were only a few Indo-Trinidadians in the PNM government. Regardless, the PNM successfully built new schools for both boys and girls. Secondary education was previously only available to the wealthy. Perhaps most importantly, the PNM encouraged factories to manufacture clothes and household items to reduce the need for importing the same. The PNM also encouraged the oil industry and tourism. To facilitate the latter, roads were constructed and electricity was run throughout Trinidad and Tobago. Tobago never even had electricity before 1952.
Dr. Eric Williams and the PNM intensified the independence movement in Trinidad and Tobago. He successfully negotiated with The United States and Britain to return Chaguaramas (the entire northwest peninsula used as a WW2 war base). The PNM won the 1961 election and on August 31, 1962, Trinidad and Tobago became an independent country.
There were some setbacks for the new nation but there were also great successes. The new secondary schools were mainly controlled by the government instead of the churches, as it had been in the past. Education fostered new social and economic mobility. The schools introduced new technical subjects to prepare students for jobs in the growing factories and businesses. Dr. Williams also participated in the Black Power movement that helped shed light on the prevalent racial discrimination. Both Africans and Indians began exploring their roots, promoting their culture, and exhibiting pride for their backgrounds. There were noticeable victories in the war on discrimination as Afro and Indo Trinidadians starting working together in businesses previously reserved for light-skinned individuals. Finally, the oil boom in the 1970s propelled Trinidad and Tobago into the modern arena.
On March 29, 1981, Dr. Williams passed away suddenly. Nevertheless, his zeal for his nation helped Trinidad & Tobago gain independence, preserve and learn its history, and foster a national identity for an emerging country.
Melissa D. Goolsarran Ramnauth, Esq. is a foreclosure, civil litigation, and bankruptcy attorney. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, a minor degree in History that focused on the slavery and indentured servitude eras, a minor degree in Criminology, and a Juris Doctor degree.
MDGR Law, P.A.
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