The People of Bahamas - History

The People of Bahamas - History

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Eighty-five percent of the population of the Bahamas is of African heritage. About two-thirds of the population resides on New Providence Island (the location of Nassau). Many ancestors arrived at the Bahama Islands when they served as a staging area for the slave trade in the early 1800's. Others accompanied thousands of British loyalists who fled the American colonies during the Revolutionary War. In July 2001, the estimated population was 297,852. However, due to the high death rates, this estimate may not be acurate. There are currently about 7,000 people living with HIV or AIDS

Population, total (millions)
Population growth (annual %)
Surface area (sq. km) (thousands)13.913.913.913.9
Population density (people per sq. km of land area)25.629.83639.1
Life expectancy at birth, total (years)71727576
Fertility rate, total (births per woman)
Adolescent fertility rate (births per 1,000 women ages 15-19)70513528
Contraceptive prevalence, any methods (% of women ages 15-49)6245....
Births attended by skilled health staff (% of total)99999998
Mortality rate, under-5 (per 1,000 live births)24161411
Prevalence of underweight, weight for age (% of children under 5)........
Immunization, measles (% of children ages 12-23 months)86939489
Primary completion rate, total (% of relevant age group)..829399
School enrollment, primary (% gross)98.396.9107.995.3
School enrollment, secondary (% gross)86789390
School enrollment, primary and secondary (gross), gender parity index (GPI)1111
Prevalence of HIV, total (% of population ages 15-49)12.933.3
Forest area (sq. km) (thousands)
Terrestrial and marine protected areas (% of total territorial area)0.20.3..1.2
Annual freshwater withdrawals, total (% of internal resources)........
Urban population growth (annual %)
Energy use (kg of oil equivalent per capita)2,517..2,071..
CO2 emissions (metric tons per capita)7.615.64.586.32
Electric power consumption (kWh per capita)........

Bahamas — History and Culture

People of the Bahamas are islanders through and through. They are a friendly bunch with an intriguing history that includes piracy, colonialism, slavery, and cotton. Several noted landmarks were left behind from the British, but today the islands are very American with a hint of West African/Creole charm.


West Indians were here prior to Christopher Columbus’ arrival in 1492. The early folk, known as the Ciboney, were fishermen that were also present in the Gulf region. The arrival of Spanish slave traders saw the natives taken hostage and transported to San Domingo to work the mines.

Later, in the mid-1600’s, the Eleutheran Adventurers from Bermuda settled into the island of Eleuthera, followed by other British colonists, which lead to the claiming of the islands by Britain. Due to the location of the Bahamas, piracy was rife, and they would hide out amid the islands, including the notorious Blackbeard. The Pirates Museum (Nassau) tells all about their struggles and triumphs.

After being held by both the Americans and Spanish, the Bahamas eventually became part of the British Empire in 1787. Several forts hail from this time, including Fort Charlotte, which was built between Cable Beach and Nassau a couple of years later to protect the harbor. Another landmark is the 14th century Cloisters, which was transported from France (via the US, for 40 years) and placed on Paradise Island.

The cotton trade was a principal earner for the Brits, but the industry died off post emancipation of the African slaves (1834) and after a massive cholera epidemic. Along with Bermuda, the Bahamas was used by blockade runners during the American Civil War, as well as during Prohibition by rum-runners.

Independence came in 1973, though the island nation is still a member of the Commonwealth. Tourism is the Bahamas’ main industry today, with the archipelago being especially popular with North Americans escaping the harsh cold winters back home.


The Bahamas has been thoroughly Americanized owing to the proximity and sheer amount of visitors that vacation here. Expect McDonalds and KFCs in all main towns, and the US dollar being used side by side the Bahamian dollar. For the most part, Bahamians are easy going, polite, and humorous, and they speak an intriguing mix of American/British slang. Dress is casual, although avoid wearing a bikini away from the beach.

Evidence of West African roots and culture is all around in the form of music and dance. Many festivals celebrate this heritage, with parades in town that feature lively singing and dancing, the clanking of steel drums, and the donning of unusually elaborate costumes. The top festival is the end-of-year Junkanoo an extravaganza that spans into the new year.

The shopping in the Bahamas is average, although there is an abundance of arts and crafts, with conch carvings, straw hats, woven knick-knacks, and art in the main markets.


Lucayanss were the first people to arrive in the Bahamas. They moved into the southern Bahamas from Hispaniola and Cuba around the 11th century AD, having come there from South America. They came to be known as the Lucayan. About 30,000 Lucayan lived the Bahamas when Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492. Columbus' first landfall in the New World was on an island named San Salvador, which some scholars believe to be present-day San Salvador Island.

The Spanish forced much of the Lucayan population to move to Hispaniola. They were used for forced labour. This and the exposure to foreign diseases led to most of the population of the Bahamas dying. [10] Smallpox alone wiped out half of the population in what is now the Bahamas. [11]

In 1670, King Charles II rented out the islands to the Carolinas, along with rights of trading, tax, and governing the country. [12] During this time, the Bahamas became a haven for pirates, including the infamous Blackbeard. To restore proper government, Britain made the Bahamas a crown colony in 1718. The first governor was Woodes Rogers. [13]

After the American War of Independence, the British resettled some 7,300 Loyalists and their slaves in the Bahamas from New York, Florida, and the Carolinas. The first group of loyalists left St. Augustine in East Florida in September 1783. These Loyalists established plantations on several islands. British Americans were outnumbered by the African-American slaves they brought with them, and ethnic Europeans remained a minority in the territory. On 10 July 1973 The Bahamas gains full independence within British Commonwealth.

Nearly 500,000 people live in the Bahamas. The ethnic groups of the population is:
82% African descent
15% European & Mixed descent
3% Asian and other.

Languages Edit

The official language of the Bahamas is English, but they also speak a local dialect called Bahamianese. The Bahamian dialect is based based on the West Country England accents along with South Hiberno English dialects with strong influences from West African languages.

In 1864 the Governor of the Bahamas reported that there were 29 islands, 661 cays, and 2,387 rocks in the colony. [14]

The closest island to the United States is Bimini. The southeasternmost island is Inagua. The largest island is Andros Island. Nassau, capital city of The Bahamas, is on the island of New Providence.

All the islands are low and flat. The highest point in the country is Mount Alvernia on Cat Island. It is 63 metres (207 ft) high.

Climate Edit

The climate of The Bahamas is subtropical to tropical. The Gulf Stream can be very dangerous in the summer and autumn. This is when hurricanes pass near or through the islands. Hurricane Andrew hit the northern islands during the 1992 Atlantic hurricane season. Hurricane Floyd hit most of the islands during the 1999 Atlantic hurricane season.

There has never been a freeze reported in The Bahamas. The temperature can fall as low as 2–3 °C (35.6–37.4 °F).

The Bahamas are divided into 32 districts and the town of New Providence.

The Bahamas does not have an army or an air force. The Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) is the navy. The Defence Force has a fleet of 26 coastal and inshore patrol craft along with 2 aircraft and over 850 personnel including 65 officers and 74 women.

Lenny Kravitz

One for the young people, Lenny Kravitz was born in America but is the son of Roxie Roker, a famous Bahamian who was an actress in the successful 1970’s TV sitcom The Jeffersons.

Roxie was another native Bahamian who broke racial barriers by portraying a black wife married to a white husband in the TV series.

Lenny tried hard to break into the music business for some time until he swept onto the scene in the early 1990’s. He was hunky and gorgeous and soon had a serious audience of swooning girls.

As well as being an outstanding musician, writing songs for himself and for other famous artists such as Madonna, Lenny has also successfully worked as a designer and he has been honoured for his work for the United Nations Millennium Campaign, a campaign to reduce world poverty.

The history of the Bahamas

Humans have lived on the islands of the Bahamas since around the fourth century. In the 1600s the area drew pirates such as Blackbeard and Calico Jack. These bold buccaneers looted cargo ships sailing along trading routes that circled the islands.

The territory came under British rule in 1718, and would remain that way until 1973, when the Bahamas gained its independence. Today the spot is a popular destination for tourists – over five million people visit each year to check out the country’s wildlife, culture and beautiful beaches!

One of the many beautiful beaches on the Bahamas

The People of Bahamas - History

To understand the evolution of Keys history, the Bahama Islands should be considered. The seafaring Bahamian people greatly influenced the settling of the Florida Keys. The 200-mile stretch of islands just off the Florida coast stretching to Haiti is the Bahama Islands. The water there is relatively shallow. "Baja Mar" is Spanish for shallow sea. The Spanish letter "J" is pronounced like the English letter "H." This sounds like Ba-Ha-Mar. Since the land masses were islands, the end result was Bahama Islands.

When Columbus became the first Bahamian "tourist," he called the inhabitants "Indians," but they called themselves Lucayans, which means "Island People." They were descendants of the Arawaks of Hispaniola. Pandora-like, Columbus opened the door to "their world." Soon the Spanish entered and decimated the Arawaks of Hispaniola. They forced -or lured- the Lucayans into slave labor on Hispaniola, destroying the entire indigenous race. The Spanish brought to Florida a West Indies native word, "Cacique," pronounced "Ka-SEEK-ee" by some, but "Ka-SEE-eh" by the Spanish, meaning Chief. The fierce Caribe tribe, Spanish for cannibal, gave rise to the name Caribbean.

Much the same religious dissension that caused the Pilgrims to sail to Plymouth Rock in 1620 caused Captain William Sayle and 25 others to form "The Company of Adventurers for the Plantation of the Island of Eleuthera." They drew up Articles and Orders and sailed to Eleuthera in the Bahamas in 1648.

New Providence became the population center for its central location. It also had a good harbor (Gnaws) with two entrances/exits and was inhabited primarily by seafarers. The sea was a better food source than the island's barren land was for the farming Eleutherans.

The Bahamians probably developed the commerce of wrecking, i.e., salvaging goods from wrecked ships. They were intense at their work and nothing stood between them and fortune, often even the surviving crew members. The wreckers made temporary harbors throughout the 700 islands, but Gnaws was their home port.

Soon the Bahamian economy started to deteriorate. The "wrecking" turned to "privateering" which degenerated into "pirating." In October 1703, a combined force of French and Spanish sacked and burned Gnaws. It was quickly rebuilt and continued to be the home for hundreds of "Black Flags" of the likes of Blackbeard. This is not to slight two other famous Bahamian pirates, Mary Read and Ann Bonney. It is said they dressed like men, fought like devils and were unsurpassed in bravery. The Bahamas prospered until the onset of the American Revolutionary War, when both England and America took everything they could from the Bahamas to fight each other.

After the Declaration of Independence in 1776, many of the English Loyalists (Tories) fled Georgia and the Carolinas either to Florida (then English-owned), or to the Bahamas. The Treaty of Versailles in 1783 restored Florida to Spain, and a great number of these transplanted Florida Loyalists had to flee to the Bahamas to remain under the British flag. By 1788, about 9,300 Tories had fled to the Bahamas and more would follow, but they all had tasted life in the U.S.

Before the influx of the American Loyalists, there were probably no more than 1,000 slaves in the Bahamas. There were many Free Blacks who were either exiled from Bermuda, or had escaped to the Bahamas. Bermuda appears to have been uninhabited until 1609 when the British ship Sea Venture wrecked. The ship was transporting English men and women to the Jamestown Colony.

The 1776 influx of Loyalists quickly brought in 3,000 or more slaves and the 1783 influx attracted 1,000 more. They started cotton plantations on Crooked Island, the Bahama Lumber Company on Andros Island, a large salt mine on Great Inagua Island, and provided stevedores for all over the world.

Florida became a U.S. Territory in 1821, and in 1825, the U.S. decreed that all wrecked goods in the area must be taken to a U.S. port of entry. Key West and St. Augustine were ports of entry. This prompted many Bahamians to move to Key West. (It also prompted Jacob Housman in 1831 to buy Indian Key and attempt to have it declared an official port of entry in competition with Key West.)

The U.S. Civil War of 1861-1865 aided the economy of the Bahamas. The Bahamians were expert blockade-runners, but this economic boost ended in 1865 with the end of the war. A killer hurricane struck the entire chain of islands further deteriorating the economy the next year. Effective lighthouses and modern steamships began to replace the older sailing vessels, resulting in fewer shipwrecks. This brought on a decline in the wrecking industry. Sponging and pineapples began replacing wrecking as a business, as they did in the Keys also. The population of the Bahamas rose from 39,000 in 1870 to 53,000 in 1900.

The Flagler railway extended to Key West in 1912 and brought in cheap Cuban pineapples. This doomed not only the Bahama pineapple market, but also that of Planter and Plantation Key. One in five Bahamians departed for the U.S.

The Bahamas fared well in World War I with its shipping expertise and were helped greatly in 1919 by the passing of U.S. Prohibition. Commerce once more boomed as the result of ships acting as rumrunners. Gun Cay, Cat Cay, Bimini and West End were all within 60 miles of Florida, but, as with all booms, it came to an end. In 1933 Prohibition was repealed. However the Bahamas had prospered and its population had risen to 60,000.

Late in 1938, a deadly malady struck the sponge industry, but the tourist industry flourished. Britain granted self-government to the Bahamas in 1964. In 1967 Lynden Pindling and his Progressive Liberal Party won control. The Bahamas gained independence from Britain on July 10, 1973. The new nation was admitted to the United Nations the same year.

Greek Bahamians

The Greek Bahamians account for less than 1% of the population in the Bahamas, and they are Bahamian citizens who either have full or partly Greek heritage. Most of the members of this ethnic group are descendants of the Greek laborers who moved the Bahamas in the 1880s and were involved in the Sponging industry. The Greek immigrants were expert spongers mainly from the Aegean Islands, and they lead an impoverished life in their country. When they arrived in the Bahamas, they employed the local community, particularly the black laborers and used their connections to move up the economic and social ladder. They benefited significantly in the same way as other European immigrants who had advantages and opportunities over the native population. Other Greek immigrants were engaged in baking, restaurateurs, and shoemaking. When the sponge industry collapsed, the majority of the Greeks moved the restaurant and hospitality industry, and others join the furniture making, becoming the first furniture making in the island of the Bahamas.

24 Interesting Facts About The Bahamas

Located in the southeast of the U.S. state of Florida, the Bahamas is the archipelago of more than 700 islands in the North Atlantic Ocean. First settled by Lucayans people, the Bahamas became the first landfall to the great navigator, Christopher Columbus in 1492. Having been deserted until the 16th or early 17 century, the islands were settled and organized by the British. Recognizing its British legacy, the Bahamas became an independent Commonwealth realm in 1973. Due to its location in the Atlantic Ocean, the Bahamas is a spellbinding place for sun and fun seekers. To know more, let us read some more interesting facts about the Bahamas.

1. Stopover For Christopher Columbus

Painting depicting the landing of Columbus

The great navigator, Christopher Columbus found his landfall in the Bahamas. However, he did not claim this land for Spain. He caught some slaves from here and took them to Santo Domingo.
Source:, Image:

2. The Name Is From Spanish

The name, Bahamas has come from the Spanish words “Baja Mar” means ‘shallow sea.’

3. Only Thirty Are Inhabited

The Bahamas is an archipelago of more than 700 islands, but only 30 are inhabited. The capital city of Nassau is situated on the island of New Providence.

4. One Of Two Countries

The Bahamas is one of two countries whose official names start with ‘the.’ The other country is “The Gambia.”

5. British Ruled Over Here

The United Kingdom rule over the Bahamas for more than 150 years. On 10 July 1973, the Bahamas attained its independence. However, it chose to be in the Commonwealth Realm.

6. Second Deepest Blue Hole Is Here

Dean’s Blue Hole near the coast A diver in Dean’s Blue Hole

There is a blue hole named, ‘Dean’s Blue Hole’ which is located in the bay which is in the west of Clarence Town on Long Island, The Bahamas. This blue hole is the second deepest blue hole after the Dragon Hole in the South China Sea. The depth of Dean’s Blue Hole is 202 meters.
Source: Wikipedia, Image:, Image: Wikimedia

7. Third Richest In The Americas

The nominal GDP per capita of the Bahamas is more than $25,000 and that makes the Bahamas third richest country in the Americas after the United States and Canada. Its economy is heavily reliant on tourism.

8. Dive Through Sea Caves

A diver in an underwater sea cave

The Bahamas has a magnificent underwater cave system. The water level of the sea was 250 feet below the present level during the last ice age. Acid rain eroded the soil of the Bahamas and much of the land of the Bahamas is under water now, that leads to the formation of underwater sea caves. Lucayan National Park on Grand Bahama Island is the site of one of the longest known underwater cave systems in the world.
Source:, Image: Pixabay

9. An Astronaut’s View

The Bahamas in the red circle

Canadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield believes that the Bahamas is the most beautiful place on Earth from Space.
Source:, Image:

10. Third Longest Barrier Reef Is Here

The Andros Coral Reef near Andros island is the world’s third longest. It is about 305 kilometres (190 miles), long and averaging a distance of 1.6-3.2 kilometres (1–2 miles) from the Andros shore. It is home to a large variety of marine life, with over 164 species of fish and coral, that makes it one of the most popular locations in the country for divers and snorkelers.
Source:, Image: Flickr

11. Eat The Popular Seafood

The popular seafood in the Bahamas is Conch.
Source:, Image: Flickr

12. Once There Was A Snowfall

Despite being in the tropical region, cold waves and breeze captured the Bahamas once in 1977 when first recorded snowfall occurred in the city of Freeport. However, the country’s climate is warm and pleasant throughout the year.

13. The Highest Point Is Only 63 Meters Above

The Hermitage on the summit of Mount Alvernia

Mount Alvernia, on Cat Island, is only 63 metres in altitude and is the highest peak in the country.
Source:, Image: Wikimedia

14. Only Country In The World

The Bahamas is the only country with the marching band on its 1 dollar currency.

15. Once The Home Of Pirates

The Bahamas was once the home of the Pirates of the Caribbean. The Piracy lasted from 1690 to 1720. The capital city of the Bahamas, Nassau was the center of the Pirates.

16. Obesity Is The Main Problem

The people of the Bahamas are more obese than that of the United States and the United Kingdom. It is the main problem. According to the CIA’s World Factbook, almost 35% of the adult population is considered obese whereas 33% of the adult population of the U.S. is obese and 27% of the adult population of U.K. is obese.
Source:, Image:

17. Have You Ever Seen The Pink Beach?

Pink Sand Beach, the Bahamas

The Harbour Island is most famous for its beautiful Pink Sand Beach, located along its eastern side of the Atlantic Ocean. It is considered one of the best beaches in the world.
Source:, Image: Flickr

18. Swim With Pigs

Swimming is unique in Exuma island of the Bahamas where people enjoy swimming with chubby pigs. The beach is often called ‘Pig Beach.’ There is a colony of pigs that live on the island and in the surrounding shallows.
Source:, Image:

19. No Income Tax

There is no sales and income tax in the Bahamas. The country is heavily dependent on tourism.

20. It Is Expensive

According to Numbeo’s annual cost of living survey, the Bahamas is the third most expensive country in the world to live.

21. No Railway In The Country

There is no railway system in the Bahamas. The country has a large road network on larger islands stretches to 2,693 km of highways.
Source: Wikipedia

Nassau, The Bahamas (1492- )

Nassau is the capital city and chief port of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, an archipelago of over 700 islands that stretch from 50 miles southeast of Florida. Nassau is located on New Providence Island and is the largest city in the Bahamas approximately two-thirds of the nation’s people live in Nassau with a population of 210,832 in and around the city (2000 estimate).

In 1492, Christopher Columbus made his first landfall on another Bahamian island, San Salvador, and is credited with discovering the site of Nassau that same year. Most of the indigenous Lacuyan people died from contact with the Spanish, who deported and enslaved the natives in the mines of Hispaniola. Later the indigenous population was replaced by enslaved people brought from West and Central Africa.

In 1656, the first European settlement was established in Nassau by a group of English settlers who initially named the site Charles Towne for King Charles II of England. In 1666, Charles Towne became the capital city of the colony. In 1694, the city was attacked and destroyed by Spain for harboring pirates and was rebuilt a year later and renamed Nassau after the family name of William III of England.

In 1776, during the American Revolutionary War, Nassau was briefly held by the Americans. After the war many Loyalists, black slaves, and freedmen emigrated from the United States to the Bahamas, creating a significant population increase. Slavery was outlawed in the Bahamas in 1834, but during the U.S. Civil War Nassau served as a supply base for Confederate blockade runners.

Historically, the mostly black population of the Bahamas was dominated by a white minority of wealthy farmers and merchants. This began to change with the 1942 Burma Riots, when black Bahamians constructing a US Air Force base agitated for pay that was comparable to their foreign and white coworkers. Then, in 1953, the Progressive Liberal Party was founded by a group of middle class mixed-race professionals. Universal suffrage was won in 1962 and Sir Lynden Oscar Pindling, a black lawyer, became Prime Minister from 1967-1992, ending white minority rule. The Bahamas became independent from the United Kingdom in 1973, but remains connected to the UK through the commonwealth.

Today, Nassau is world famous as a tourist destination, known for its beaches and tropical vegetation. Visitors also enjoy Paradise Island, a resort community located across the harbor. In 2002, Nassau hosted the First World Music and Jazz Festival and the city opened the National Gallery of the Bahamas in 2003. The College of the Bahamas is located there as well as the Parliament Building, Christ Cathedral Church, Ardastra Gardens, and other key landmarks.

Islanders in the Stream: A History of the Bahamian People: Volume One: From Aboriginal Times to the End of Slavery

From two leading historians of Bahamian history comes this groundbreaking work on a unique archipelagic nation. Islanders in the Stream is not only the first comprehensive chronicle of the Bahamian people, it is also the first work of its kind and scale for any Caribbean nation. This comprehensive volume details the full, extraordinary history of all the people who have ev From two leading historians of Bahamian history comes this groundbreaking work on a unique archipelagic nation. Islanders in the Stream is not only the first comprehensive chronicle of the Bahamian people, it is also the first work of its kind and scale for any Caribbean nation. This comprehensive volume details the full, extraordinary history of all the people who have ever inhabited the islands and explains the evolution of a Bahamian national identity within the framework of neighboring territories in similar circumstances.Divided into three sections, this volume covers the period from aboriginal times to the end of formal slavery in 1838. The first part includes authoritative accounts of Columbus’s first landfall in the New World on San Salvador island, his voyage through the Bahamas, and the ensuing disastrous collision of European and native Arawak cultures. Covering the islands’ initial settlement, the second section ranges from the initial European incursions and the first English settlements through the lawless era of pirate misrule to Britain’s official takeover and development of the colony in the eighteenth century. The third, and largest, section offers a full analysis of Bahamian slave society through the great influx of Empire Loyalists and their slaves at the end of the American Revolution to the purported achievement of full freedom for the slaves in 1838.

This work is both a pioneering social history and a richly illustrated narrative modifying previous Eurocentric interpretations of the islands’ early history. Written to appeal to Bahamians as well as all those interested in Caribbean history, Islanders in the Stream looks at the islands and their people in their fullest contexts, constituting not just the most thorough view of Bahamian history to date but a major contribution to Caribbean historiography. . more