In the decade following emancipation in Barbados, classism and racism continued to be a major problem. This social and political climate would produce another of Barbados’ National Heroes: Clement Osbourne Payne.
Born 1904 in Trinidad to Barbados-born parents, he spent most of his childhood in Barbados. There he was exposed to the social issues in the colony and throughout the Caribbean as a result of White planters still holding power.
DURING THE BRITISH WEST INDIAN LABOR UNREST
Spending a good amount of his adulthood in Trinidad, Clement Osbourne Payne helped establish unions and resistance groups to combat the plantocracy there and represent workers. This planted the roots for what he would go on to do in Barbados.
During the 1930s—1934 to 1939 to be exact—the Caribbean was hit with several major riots and strikes. Occurring during the Great Depression, this economic backlash came down to class outrage at the work and living conditions of the time and income disparity.
Payne would head up the Bajan resistance to the colony’s long-standing system in 1937. His public speeches informed the Black populace of what the government was doing economically. This resulted in them turning against law enforcement and Parliament, making him an instigator in the government’s eyes. By July 1937, he was banned from the colony.
It was convenient that he was booted from Barbados for entering the colony illegally. Payne, on the other hand, figured he was born in the colony, not finding out he was born in Trinidad until being forced to leave. After his deportation, the colony erupted into rioting. As a result, 14 protesters were killed and 47 injured.
The violent pushback resulted in a British public inquiry that found that Payne’s claims against Barbados’ government were true. Finally, Barbados moved in making social reform presented by Clement Osbourne Payne—particularly trade union laws.
He continued to combat colonial power into the late-1930s and early-1940s before dying on April 7, 1941, while speaking in Trinidad. He was 37-years old.