The Journal of Caribbean History: Volume 36, Issue 2

Article 5
Freemasonry in Barbados Before 1914: The Limits of Brotherhood

Aviston D. Downes


Freemasonry has been an important sociocultural institution in the Caribbean since the early eighteenth century, but to date there has been little scholarship on the movement in the region. This article, based on primary Masonic documentation, is a case study of Freemasonry in Barbados between 1880 and 1914. During this period Freemasonry was tom between its idealized notions of brotherhood and the discriminatory practices based on race, class and gender imbedded in colonial relations. Efforts by Barbadian whites to exclude blacks from English Freemasonry were thwarted by London-based Masonic officials. Indeed, the commitment of British Freemasonry to a policy of racial inclusiveness convinced middle-class black Barbadians of British “fair play”.