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Jul 22, 2019

Remembering the 1919 Revolution

An event that happened a century ago; has not been featured prominently in our history books, but it could have sparked a change in history of the then colony. According to organizers of an event today, the 1919 revolution was the first revolt that could have had significant impact to change the course of what is now Belize. The issues then were about racism, discrimination and other ills that a hundred years later, are still very much being felt. At the time, black ex-servicemen revolved against the white colonial masters.  News Five’s Duane Moody reports.


Duane Moody, Reporting

It is not prominent in history books, but a century ago on July twenty-second, 1919, black British Honduran ex-service men, who served in World War One, staged a protest in the then Belize Town. The group of three hundred and thirty plus ballooned when one fifth of the population of the country, about three thousand persons, joined the men as they paraded along Albert and Regent Streets, over the Swing Bridge and then on to Queen and North Front Streets.


Yasser Musa

Yasser Musa, Founder, Image Factory

“Three hundred and thirty black ex-service men, British Hondurans, who had gone to the Theatre of War, a European War, World War One, having faced serious dramatic prejudice, racism and on their return continued to experience that same racism decided to organize a revolt.  And on the night of the twenty-second of July, they assembled starting on these same streets that we are standing here today. We’re at the Battlefield Park, but on Albert Street, Regent Street, Swing Bridge, Queen Street and North Front Street. They started with three-thirty of them with whistles, organized and by ten o’clock that night, the police had joined them and over three thousand of the town’s people in a town of only twelve to fifteen thousand at the time had joined them.”


While the events of a century past have been described as a night of rioting and looting, Yasser Musa says that it was a revolution rooted in a social issue that is still plaguing the country today.


Yasser Musa

“That is just a superficial view of the real root of a revolution that had occurred and that a hundred years later is still relevant to the consciousness of the country we call Belize because we are still struggling with who we are and our consciousness and trying to understand. Today is a remembrance day that why we see the young people here. Before you arrived, they read all three hundred and thirty plus names of the soldiers and now we are about to go around on the route and then we are going to end up at the Paslow.”


….and through the streets they marched, stopping in front of the Supreme Court building on Regent Street before making their way to the corner of Queen and North Front Streets. There, the group officially launch the publication, the 1919 Revolution, authored by Elmer Tzib, a history teacher at Saint John’s College.


Elmer Tzib

Elmer Tzib, Author, 1919 Revolution

“The 1919 Revolution, is also known as a riot, but we used the word revolution to provoke something in your thought process. This is part of the history where black people from Belize Town almost took over the full colony. They took control of Belize Town and it was only by the skin of the teeth that they didn’t take control of the full colony. So the magnitude of it is so important and we noted that it was so ignored in our history. It is just placed as one event that occurred. It is highlighted, but is just placed as a date and something occurred and that’s it.”


The book provokes thinking on an event that could have brought about a complete shift in our history since around that time, only Haiti had acquired full independence from any European power. The book was created in a way that it allows for teachers to incorporate it into the curriculum.


Elmer Tzib

“Our school system does not have history as a subject. It is now including Belizean studies, but even in that, we are not taught some of these facts about the 1919 revolution. So our intent is basically to have this particular part of history to be included in the curriculum. But not only in the curriculum; the bigger picture is to have people engage in it. So the level of writing is for anybody to take it out and read it, but also there is a website attached to this project. So the book is the provocation; if you want to see the original documents, you can at the website; if you want to see the list of the names of the veterans, you can at the website.  It also has a unit plan which gives some samples as to how it can be taught in the classroom. It also has an activity sheet which is how you can provoke critical thinking to the students through the use of this topic in particular.”


Duane Moody for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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