The Right Excellent Samuel Jackman Prescod National Hero of Barbados
Samuel Jackman Prescod (1806 – 26 September 1871) became the first person of African descent to be elected to Barbados' Parliament in 1843. He also helped found the Liberal Party, whose following included small landowners, businessmen, and coloured clerks.
Samuel Jackman Prescod was born out of wedlock in 1806 to a Lydia Smith, a free coloured woman and fathered by, William Prescod, a white wealthy landowner. From a very young age, Prescod was subjected to humiliation due to his appearance, for during this era of the island's history, men of his complexion were considered insignificant and belittled at every opportunity.
His primary education was gained while attending St. Mary's School and sometime later he was trained as a joiner.
A gifted writer, Samuel Jackman Prescod used the power of his pen to make people think and encourage social consciousness. He raised racial and labour issues that were considered taboo without a thought for his safety and quickly became known as a dangerous revolutionary and enemy of the established order of the island.
His clever use of the printed media allowed for views to be expressed freely, encouraged discussion on all topics and stimulated change. He initially held the position of editor for the New Times but later left to join The Liberal newspaper which was founded by the poor whites. This paper focused on social injustice, the abolition of slavery and supported reforms that affected all classes in the community in an attempt to unite the masses being the coloured, blacks and poor whites against the powerful white plantocracy.
Samuel Jackman Prescod quickly grew in popularity and he dedicated his life to creating a better social environment. In 1831, Samuel Jackman successfully won the right for free coloured people to have the right to vote.
After The Liberal fell into financial difficulty, Thomas Harris and Samuel Jackman bought it. A fierce defender of the rights of blacks, he was charged with criminal libel and placed in jail for eight days during the year of 1840.
On June 6, 1843, Prescod was elected as one of two members for the City of Bridgetown - the newest constituency, thus making history as the first non-white person to sit in the House of Assembly.
Prescod formed the Liberal Party with a small group of white members from the House of Assembly which continued to fight for social justice for twenty five (25) years and the party became known as the opposition.
His accomplishments included assisting black people to develop and implemented educational programs to help them to know their rights so they could challenge the plantocracy. He fought for the establishment of primary, secondary and tertiary education for the children of former slaves and also encouraged the Secretary of State to review clauses in the Police Act which were considered unjust and sought to maintain unfair distinctions between white and coloured people.
An admirable gentleman who's first thought was always for that of the underprivileged, Samuel Jackman Prescod retired from Parliament in 1860 and accepted the office of Judge of the Assistant Court of Appeal.
Death and legacy
Samuel Jackman Prescod passed away at the age of 65 and is buried in St. Mary's Church yard.
Prescod has featured as a face on the 1973 Barbadian one dollar note and on the twenty-dollar note. The twenty-dollar note was redesigned in 1985, 2000, and 2013 but still retained Prescod's portrait. The one dollar note is no longer in circulation. He has also appeared on stamps.
The Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic is named in his honour and his invaluable contribution will remain in the heart of all Barbadians.
The Barbadian parliament has enacted that he should be called "The Right Excellent" and that his life be celebrated on National Heroes Day (28 April) in Barbados.
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