The Right Excellent Samuel Jackman Prescod is one of Barbados’ ten National Heroes and the first Black member of Parliament being elected in 1843.
He was born in 1806 to a free Black woman by the name of Lidia Smith a White man of status named William Prescod. Because of his ethnic background, he was barred from participating in Barbados politics. The law of the time stated he had to be White, Christian, and own 10 acres of land—basically he had to be someone with power such as a planter.
EARLY POLITICS AND JOURNALISM
In 1831, Barbados passed a law where free Black people were given the right to vote. Two years prior Prescod began participating in abolitionist circles and attending Parliament sessions to observe the process. By most accounts of the time, Samuel Jackman Prescod was White-passing and could legally view the process as a voting citizen, he was booted from the assembly often.
Five years after the passing of the new voting law, the newspaper New Times debuted. The paper was geared towards non-White Barbados citizens and Prescod was a writer for the publication. Eight months later and he runs into trouble with the paper. His views are seen as too extreme and he is gone in under a year.
He would land at The Liberal not too long afterward. This paper had a similar demographic of poor, working class, and middle-class people. In short order, the paper experienced a slump but was saved by Prescod and a bankroller named Thomas Harris. A fan of Prescod’s work, Harris gave him the green light to write as he wished and what he wished. The result saw Samuel Jackman Prescod and The Liberal butt heads with the Barbados government often.
In part two we will go into Prescod’s heavier involvement in politics and his path to the Parliament.