Matriarch of antiracism
Educator, author and activist Eva Hodgson is best known as an antiracism campaigner.
Letters to newspaper editors she has written since the 1960s and publications she has authored have had race relations as their overriding theme.
Her outspokenness as a race advocate has won her admirers and critics in equal measure.
Dr Hodgson is a member of a family that put down roots in Crawl, Hamilton Parish, more than two centuries ago. Her forebears include farmers, property owners, educators, entrepreneurs, parliamentarians and activists.
Crawl Gospel Hall, a Church of the Brethren that the Hodgson family helped to establish during the 19th century, was a significant influence and shaped Dr Hodgson’s strong religious convictions.
The second eldest of six children, Dr Hodgson received her early schooling at home and completed her primary education at Temperance Hall.
She attended the Berkeley Institute, and received a government scholarship to attend Queen’s University, in Kingston, Ontario, where she obtained her undergraduate degree. She earned a Diploma in Education at London University, to which she returned some years later and obtained an honours degree in geography, the subject that she taught at Berkeley.
The time she spent in London heightened her awareness of racial injustice in Bermuda. Upon returning to Bermuda in 1959, she began writing letters to the editor of the Bermuda Recorder.
In 1965, while teaching at Berkeley, she became president of the Amalgamated Bermuda Union of Teachers, the first person to hold the post after the merger of the white and black teachers’ unions.
The Bermuda Union of Teachers sponsored the seminal book she authored, Second Class Citizens, First Class Men, which focused on the social and political changes that occurred in Bermuda between 1953 and 1963.
In 1967, she moved to New York to study at Columbia University. She received two master’s degrees at Columbia, before embarking on studies for a PhD in African History and Black American History. She obtained her doctorate in 1980.
During her years in New York, she taught part-time at Essex County College in New Jersey and other colleges, and was a contributor to Is Massa Day Dead? — Black Moods in the Caribbean, published in 1974. Her article was entitled “Bermuda and the Search for Blackness”.
In 1978, she was appointed chairwoman of the History Department at Essex County College. While serving in that position, she was awarded a fellowship grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities to study human rights at Columbia’s Centre for the Study of Human Rights.
She also worked with the New Jersey Historical Society on an oral history project.
Upon her return to Bermuda, she served as a guidance counsellor at Robert Crawford School. In 1983, she was appointed co-ordinator of Oral History and Cultural Preservation in Education in the Ministry of Education, a post she held until 1990.
Dr Hodgson travelled widely, beginning with her student days in Canada when she worked as a cook to finance a trip to the Canadian Rockies.
As a result of her work with the BUT, she won the Russell Award for contributing to world peace from the World Confederation of the Organisation of the Teaching Profession, and attended the organisation’s conference in Kenya.
Her second trip to Africa was made possible by a grant she was awarded during her studies at Columbia. She travelled to Liberia to do field research and also visited several other West African countries.
In 1992, Dr Hodgson cofounded the National Association of Reconciliation, which remained an entity for 15 years. She has credited it with helping to put the issue of race on the national agenda.
Dr Hodgson has won recognition for her contribution over the years. She received the Queen’s Certificate and Badge of Honour, and in 2011, she was appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.
Her other writings include A Storm in a Teacup — The 1959 Bermuda Theatre Boycott and Its Aftermath, published in 1989, and The Experience of Racism in Bermuda and in its Wider Context — Reflections of Dr Eva Hodgson, published in 2008.
She lived in Crawl, was an honorary member of Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda and attended Harrington Sound Gospel Hall.
• Meredith Ebbin is the founder and editor of bermudabiographies.bm
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