Dr. Eric Eustace Williams, Historian, Educator, Philosopher, Politician (1911-1981)
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We will close out our Black History series with a feature on the man known as the “Father of the Nation”, Dr. Eric Eustace Williams, the first Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago.
Dr. Eric Eustace Williams was born on born September 25, 1911, in Port of Spain, Trinidad. His father, Thomas Henry Williams was a civil servant and his mother, Eliza Frances Boissiere was a descendant of the mixed French Creole elite. Williams was educated at Queen’s Royal College, Port of Spain, and at the University of Oxford, where he received a B.A. in 1932 and a D.Phil. in 1938, in history and political science. In 1939 he went to the United States and joined the faculty of social and political science at Howard University. In 1948, he left Howard University to lead the Anglo-American Caribbean Commission Research Branch until 1955. On his return to Trinidad, he became more involved in politics and in 1955, he gave his first major political speech entitled "My Relations with the Caribbean Commission."
Dr. Williams was beloved and respected by the people of Trinidad and Tobago and through his speeches in Woodford Square, which he renamed the “University of Woodford Square", he established the political party, the People's National Movement (PNM) in 1955-1956. Remarkably, the PNM won the general elections eight months after it was founded. He was the Chief Minister, Premier, and Prime Minister respectively of Trinidad and Tobago from 1956 to 1981. During his term as Prime Minister, Williams led Trinidad and Tobago into The Federation of the West Indies, a short lived political union of ten islands of the Caribbean, established from 1958 to 1962, and then to independence within the Commonwealth in 1962. In 1976, he made the country a Republic.
As Prime Minister, Williams focused on social services, improved education and economic development. Through these practices, Trinidad and Tobago became the wealthiest Commonwealth Caribbean nation. Dr. Williams will be remembered as the leader who made secondary education compulsory in Trinidad and Tobago. The paying of school fees was abolished and free tuition at a secondary school was no longer through a competitive college education examination, for which only a few were instructed, but through a common entrance examination open to all children of primary school age. This provided many opportunities for further education and the establishment of secondary schools throughout the islands.
Dr. Eric Eustace Williams remains one of the most significant leaders in the history of Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean and this is just a snapshot of his remarkable life. Dr. Williams died in office at the age of 69 on March 29, 1981.
The video The Godfather of the Caribbean on the life and works of Dr. Williams is a good history lesson. It is both entertaining and educating.
Dr. Eric Eustace Williams was a teacher, historian and philosopher. Before and during his time as Prime Minister, he wrote many articles and books on the Caribbean, education and politics. The following is a bibliography of his works in chronological order:
- "The Golden Age of the Slave System in Britain." Journal of Negro History 25 (1940).
- "British West Indian Slave Trade After Its Abolition in 1807." Journal of Negro History 27 (1942).
- The Negro in the Caribbean. Washington, DC: Associates in Negro Folk Education, 1942.
- "Laissez Faire, Sugar and Slavery." Political Science Quarterly Capitalism and Slavery. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1944.
- "Race Relations in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands." Foreign Affairs 23 (January 1945).
- "Historical Background of British Guiana's Problems." Journal of Negro History 30 (1945).
- "Proposed British West Indian University." School and Society 63 (April 1946).
- "Education in Dependent Territories in America." Journal of Negro Education 15 (Summer 1946).
- Ed. Documents Illustrating the Development of Civilization. 3 vols. Washington, DC: Kaufman Press, 1947.
- Education in the British West Indies. Port of Spain: Guardian Commercial Printery, 1950.
- Ed. Documents on British West Indian History, 1807-1833. Port of Spain: Trinidad Publishing Company, 1952.
- Ed. The British West Indies at Westminster: Extracts from the Debates in Parliament. Port of Spain: Historical Society of Trinidad and Tobago, 1954.
- Constitutional Reform in Trinidad and Tobago. Port of Spain: Teachers' Economic and Cultural Association, Public Affairs Pamphlet, no. 2, 1955.
- Historical Background of Race Relations in the Caribbean. Port of Spain: Teachers' Economic and Cultural Association, Public Affairs Pamphlet, no. 4, 1955.
- Economic Problems of Trinidad and Tobago. Port of Spain: Teacher's Economic and Cultural Association, Public Affairs Pamphlet, no. 1, 1955.
- The Case for Party Politics in Trinidad and Tobago. Port of Spain: Teacher's Economic and Cultural Association, Public Affairs Pamphlet, no. 4, 1955.
- My Relations with the Caribbean Commission. Port of Spain: Teachers' Economic and Cultural Association, 1955.
- Federation: Two Public Lectures. Port of Spain: PNM Publishing, 1956.
- Perspectives for Our Party. Port of Spain: PNM Publishing, 1958.
- From Slavery to Chaguaramas. Port of Spain: PNM Publishing, 1959.
- Economics of Nationhood. Port of Spain: Government Printing Office, 1959.
- People's National Movement: Major Party Documents, Vol. 1 Port of Spain: PNM Publishing, n.d.
- Massa Day Done: A Masterpiece of Political and Sociological Analysis. Port of Spain: PNM Publishing, 1960.
- Perspectives for the West Indies. Port of Spain: PNM Publishing, 1960.
- Our Fourth Anniversary. Port of Spain: PNM Publishing, 1960.
- History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago. Port of Spain: PNM Publishing, 1962.
- "Speech on Independence." Nation, August 31, 1962.
- Documents of West Indian History. Port of Spain: PNM Publishing, 1963.
- Reflections on the Caribbean Economic Community: A Series of Seven Articles. Port of Spain: PNM Publishing, 1965.
- British Historians and the West Indies. London: André Deutsch, 1966.
- Britain and the West Indies. London: Longmans for the University of Essex, 1969.
- Inward Hunger: The Education of a Prime Minister. London: André Deutsch, 1969.
- PNM Perspectives in the World of the Seventies: An Address. Port of Spain: PNM Publishing, 1970.
- From Columbus to Castro: The History of the Caribbean, 1492-1969. London: André Deutsch, 1970.
- Nationwide Broadcast. Port of Spain: Government Printery, 1970.
- Some Historical Reflections on the Church in the Caribbean: An Address. Port of Spain: Public Relations Division, Office of the Prime Minister, 1970.
- The Chaguaramas Declaration. Port of Spain: PNM Publishing, 1970.
- "The Blackest Thing in Slavery Was Not the Black Man." Revista Interamericana (Puerto Rico) 3, no. 1 (1973).
- "The Case Against Proportional Representation." Round Table (Great Britain) 249 (1973).
- "A New Federation for the Commonwealth Caribbean." Political Quarterly (Great Britain) 44, no. 3 (1973).
- PR: To Dissolve Present PNM Majorities. Port of Spain: PNM Publishing, 1973.
- "The Threat to the Caribbean Community." Port of Spain, 1977.
- The Political Leader's Address. Port of Spain: PNM Publishing, 1977.
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