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Eric Williams - Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago

Eric Eustace Williams Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago
Eric Eustace Williams

Dr Eric Eustace Williams

Born on the 25th September 1911.

Died on the 29th March 1981.

Ethnicity French Creole

Chief Minister 28th October 1956 to 9th July 1959 (2 years, 254 days).

Premier 9 July 1959 - 31 August 1962 (3 years, 53 days).

Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago 31 August 1962 to 29 March 1981 Died in Office (18 years, 210 days)

He was married to Elise Ribeiro (married: 1937, divorced: 1948) and then toEvelyn Siulan Soy Moyou (married:1951 died:1953). He had 3 children by the names of Alistair (born:May 6, 1943), Elsie Pamela ( born: July 22, 1947) Erica (born: February 12, 1951) .

His father was Thomas Henry Williams a minor civil servant and a devout Roman Catholic, his mother was Eliza Frances Boissiere she was a descendent of the mixed French Creole elite and had both French and African Ancestry.

In his early years he attended Tranquility Boys' intermediate Government School he was later educated at Queen's Royal College where he excelled at football and academics. In 1932 he won a scholarship which allowed him to attend St. Catherine's Society (later renamed to St. Catherine's College).During his time there he represented the university at football. In 1935 he received a first class honours degree which ranked him first among history graduates that year. He also went on to obtain his doctorate in1938.

In one of his books called the Inward Hunger he recounts what happened in the period following his graduation, he said that he was "severely handicapped" in his research by his lack of money, he was turned down everywhere he tried and he "could not ignore the racial factor involved". However things took a change when in 1936 Sir Alfred Cluad Hollis (Governor of Trinidad and Tobago, 1930-36) recommended him and the Leathersellers' Company Awarded Dr. Eric Williams a £50 grant to continue his advanced research in history at Oxford. He placed first in the First Class of the History Honours School and received completed the Doctor of Philosophy in 1938 under the supervision of Vincent Harlow. A Caribbean historian, and is regarded as "The Father of The Nation."

In 1939 Williams joined the Political Science department at Howard University. In 1943 he organised a conference about the economic future of the Caribbean in which he argued that if the small islands of the West Indies were to become independent states they would become vulnerable to domination by former colonial powers. Williams advocated for a West Indian Federation as a solution to most-colonial dependence

In 1944, he was appointed to the Anglo-American Caribbean Commission. In 1948 he returned to Trinidad as the Commission's Deputy Chairman of the Caribbean Research Council. While in Trinidad he delivered a series of educational lectures for which gained him fame. In 1955 after some disagreements between Williams and the Commission the Commission decided not to renew his contract. However he still proceeded to give a series of public lectures on World history, Greek democracy and philosophy, the history of slavery and the history of the Caribbean to large audiences of every social class.

On the 15 January 1956 he inaugurated his own political party, the People's National Movement (PNM), which would take Trinidad and Tobago into independence in 1962, and dominate its post-colonial politics. Until this time his lectures had been carried out under the auspices of the Political Movement, a branch of the Teachers Education and Cultural Association, a group that had been founded in the 1940s as an alternative to the official teachers' union. The PNM's first document was its constitution. Unlike the other political parties of the time, the PNM was a highly organised, hierarchical body. Its second document was The People's Charter, in which the party strove to separate itself from the transitory political assemblages which had been the norm in Trinidadian politics. ​In elections held eight months later, on 24 September the People's National Movement won 13 of the 24 elected seats in the Legislative Council, defeating 6 of the 16 incumbents running for re-election. Although the PNM did not secure a majority in the 31-member Legislative Council, he was able to convince the Secretary of State for the Colonies to allow him to name the five appointed members of the council (despite the opposition of the Governor, Sir Edward Betham Beetham). This gave him a clear majority in the Legislative Council. Williams was thus elected Chief Minister and was also able to get all seven of his ministers elected.

Between 1968 and 1970 the Black Power movement gained strength in Trinidad and Tobago. The leadership of the movement developed within the Guild of Undergraduates at the St. Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies. Led by Geddes Granger, the National Joint Action Committee joined up with trade unionists led by George Weekes of the Oilfields Workers' Trade Union and Basdeo Panday, then a young trade-union lawyer and activist. The Black Power Revolution started during the 1970 Carnival. In response to the challenge, Williams countered with a broadcast entitled "I am for Black Power".

On 3 April 1970, a protester was killed by the police. This was followed on 13 April by the resignation of A. N. R. Robinson, Member of Parliament for Tobago East. On 18 April sugar workers went on strike, and there was the talk of a general strike. In response to this, he proclaimed a State of Emergency on 21 April and arrested 15 Black Power leaders. In response to this, a portion of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force, led by Raffique Shah and Rex Lassalle, mutinied and took hostages at the army barracks at Teteron. Through the action of the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard the mutiny was contained and the mutineers surrendered on 25 April.

Williams made three additional speeches in which he sought to identify himself with the aims of the Black Power movement. He reshuffled his cabinet and removed three ministers (including two White members) and three senators. He also proposed a Public Order Bill which would have curtailed civil liberties in an effort to control protest marches. After public opposition, led by A. N. R. Robinson and his newly created Action Committee of Democratic Citizens (which later became the Democratic Action Congress), the Bill was withdrawn. Attorney General Karl Hudson-Phillips offered to resign over the failure of the Bill, but Williams refused his resignation.

He introduced a 5% levy to fund unemployment reduction and established the first locally owned commercial bank.

Books he Authored History of the people of Trinidad and Tobago British Capitalism and British Slavery Education in the British West Indies Documents of West Indian History The Negro in the Caribbean From Columbus to Castro: the history of the Caribbean, 1492-1969 Inward Hunger Capitalism And Slavery

Message to the Youth of the Nation Independence Youth Rally, Queen’s Park Oval 30th August 1962.

The Nation is on the march. There is no turning back. The road from now on leads forward and only forward Your responsibility, therefore, is a very heavy one. If you shirk it, you betray our Nation. If you fail in that responsibility, you jeopardize our Nation. I have given to the Nation as its watchwords, Discipline, Production, Tolerance. They apply as much to you the young people as your parents. The discipline is both individual and national; the individual cannot be allowed to seek his personal interest and gratify his personal ambition at the expense of our Nation. We must produce in order to enjoy. Wealth does not drop from the skies for any individual or any Nation. Reduce production, skylark on the job, take twice as long to do a job and make it cost twice as much – do any of these things and in effect, you reduce the total amount available to be shared among the total number of people, you don’t pull your weight, and you fatten at the expense of others.

Your rally here today is a good demonstration of our mixed society. Some of you have ancestors who came from one country. Some of you profess one religion, some another, others a third of forth. You in your schools have, like the Nation in general, only two alternatives – you learn to live together in peace, or you fight it out and destroy one another. The second alternative makes no sense and is sheer barbarism. The first alternative is civilized and is simple common sense. You, the children is the great responsibility to educate your parents. Teach them to live together in harmony, the difference being not race or colour of skin but merit only, differences of wealth and family status being rejected in favour of equality of opportunity. I call upon all of you young people to practice what you sing today and tomorrow, to translate the ideal of our National Anthem into a code of everyday behavior, and to make our Nation one in which “every creed and race find an equal place”.

I give to you, the young people, one additional principle on which to base your lives for the salvation of our Nation. This principle is honesty. In your future career you will at some time or other have responsibility for money that is not yours, weather your employer is the Government of the country or a private firm. Every country makes special provision for the control of public expenditure and for the protection of the property of its citizens. In the final analysis, however. The control is exercised not by the Government or by the police but by the citizens themselves. Make honesty the guiding principle of your lives from this day forward. Let your ambition be the development of a Nation which, whatever its limitations, is distinguished in the eyes of the world by the honesty and integrity of its citizens. And so I say to you young people, forward to Independence, Do not allow anyone to disrespect our National Flag. Do not allow anyone to destroy one single National Bird. Do not allow anyone to desecrate our National Anthem. They are your Flag, your Birds, your Anthem. It is your Nation, even more than it is the Nation of your parents. You are the future; we are at best the present, at worst the past. To your tender and loving hands the future of the Nation is entrusted. In your innocent hearts the pride of the Nation is enshrined. On your scholastic development the salvation of the Nation is dependent. At the birth of our Nation, four of its leading personalities, four of the people with the heaviest responsibility for its guidance, in the Cabinet, Parliament and the Judiciary, are scholarship winners, educated abroad at the expense of your parents, the taxpayers: the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice, The Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the House of Representatives, and the Leader of the Opposition. When you return to your classes after Independence, remember therefore, each and every one of you, that you carry the future of Trinidad and Tobago in your school bags.



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