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Located in the Atlantic Ocean to the southeast of Florida, the Bahamas are a Caribbean archipelago made up of more than 700 individual islands and cays. The Lucayan people, an indigenous group, settled on the islands and have been there for generations, marking the beginning of the country’s recorded history. As European nations vied to establish their New World empires, the Bahamas eventually became a key site. From the Lucayans to modern times, the history of the Bahamas is explored in detail here.


Natives of the Lucayan

The Lucayans, originally from South America, were the first people to settle in the Bahamas around A.D. 900. They were a nonviolent people who farmed and fished their way to prosperity and settled in communities across the islands. The Lucayans were expert sailors who explored the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico with their canoes. In 1492, Christopher Columbus came across them for the first time and dubbed them “Indians” since he thought he had arrived in the East Indies.

Colonization and Exploration in Europe

The Bahamas were an important stop for European nations on their way to establishing colonies in the New World after Columbus’s arrival. On the island of Eleuthera, the English Puritans founded a colony in 1629, and they were quickly followed by additional English immigrants. In the late 1600s, pirates utilized the Bahamas as a safe haven from which to launch attacks on Spanish ships in the Caribbean. In the early 1700s, the British established a foothold in the Bahamas, and by 1718, the islands were considered a crown colony.

Abolition and Slavery

The plantations in the Bahamas, like those in many other Caribbean nations, were operated by slaves. Slavery in the Bahamas was widespread by the early 1800s, three centuries after the first slaves arrived. Slavery in the Bahamas was ended by the British in 1834, at which point the formerly enslaved people were referred to as “freedmen.” Due to a lack of labor, the economy suffered when slavery was abolished.

Independence and Travel

The Bahamas’ modern tourist business was launched in the 20th century. When the first hotel opened in Nassau in the 1920s, the islands quickly became a favorite vacation spot for affluent Americans. The Bahamas were an important staging area for Allied forces during World War II. The Bahamas attained partial independence from the United Kingdom in 1964 and complete independence in 1973.

Bahamas, Today

The Bahamas are a well-liked vacation spot due to their stunning shores, pristine oceans, and exciting culture. Visitors travel to the islands for the weather, sand, and sea, which is a major contributor to the country’s economy. The offshore banking industry in The Bahamas is well developed. High unemployment, crime, and climate change-related impacts like rising sea levels and more frequent storms threaten the country’s prosperity.

The history of the Bahamas is complex and interesting because of the many different European, African, and American civilizations that have left their mark there. The Bahamas, unfortunately, share a convoluted history of racism with many other countries in the area.

Racism in the Bahamas has deep roots, going all the way back to the colonial era when Europeans first settled there. Although the Spanish were the first Europeans to set foot on Bahamian soil in the 15th century, it was the British who staked claim to the islands by the end of the 17th. The British colonizers relied on enslaved Africans to cultivate their plantations across the islands. Africans in the Bahamas who were forced into slavery endured terrible conditions.

Even after the British Empire outlawed slavery in 1834, the Bahamas relied on freed slaves for low-cost labor. The freed slaves, however, were not treated fairly. They were often made to work for minimal pay and had no say in political or civic affairs. This form of discrimination and persecution endured for decades, and it wasn’t until the middle of the twentieth century that real strides were made toward more equality and civil liberties.

There was a developing civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s in the Bahamas. Black Bahamians staged rallies and protests to push for racial equality in the Bahamas. The Burma Road Riot of 1942 was the largest of these demonstrations; it began with the arrest of a black lady who was protesting the low standard of life in her neighborhood. Several people were killed and many more were injured during the unrest, which continued for days.

It wasn’t until the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) won office in the Bahamas in 1967 that a black-majority party in the Caribbean had won power from the British. The PLP administration instituted several progressive measures, including as free education and healthcare, land reform, and affirmative action initiatives, to better the lives of black Bahamians.

Despite these advances, racism is still an issue in modern-day Bahamas. Colorism is a persistent problem in the Bahamas, where those with lighter complexion tend to be given preferential treatment. There is a serious issue with discrimination against Haitian immigrants and their descendants in the Bahamas. Even though they were born in the Bahamas, Haitians face discrimination and frequent deportations because of their country of origin.

There has been a rising social justice and racial equality movement in the Bahamas in recent years. Efforts are being made by activists and groups to increase awareness of and tolerance for diversity in order to combat prejudice and inequity. The government has established a committee to examine claims of police violence and has launched an anti-discrimination campaign.

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