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Constantine, Learie

Constantine, Learie

September 21, 1901
July 1, 1971


Learie Nicholas Constantine was one of the best all-round cricketers in the world. Born in Diego Martin, Trinidad, Constantine was selected to the Trinidad and Tobago and the West Indies teams in 1922 and 1923, respectively. In 1928 he became the first member of the West Indies team to achieve 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in a season. He played on the West Indies team until he retired in 1940. The first black professional to play cricket for the Nelson team in the Lancashire League (19281937), he wrote many books on cricket, including How to Play Cricket (1954).

In 1946 Constantine received the M.B.E. (Member of the Order of the British Empire) for his work as a billeting officer in Nelsonwhere he lived for many years with his wife, Agatha, and daughter Gloriaand as a welfare officer in the British Ministry of Labour in Liverpool. In 1955 he was admitted to the bar in England, but he returned to Trinidad, where in 1956 he became one of the founding members and the first chairman (the highest office) of the People's National Movement led by Dr. Eric Williams. Because of his international reputation he attracted wide support for the party, which won the 1956 general elections. Constantine won the Legislative Council seat for Tunapuna and became the minister of communications, works, and, utilities, responsible for over half of all government expenditures.

In 1962, after Trinidad and Tobago gained independence, Constantine was appointed the first high commissioner to England (19621964). That same year he was knighted for his contribution to cricket. In his ambassadorial role he challenged the restrictions the British government placed on West Indian immigration. He also intervened in the Bristol transport strike in which white workers protested the appointment of blacks as bus conductors and drivers.

Constantine was honored many times by being appointed or elected to many prestigious institutions and boards. In 1963 he was given the unprecedented honor, as a junior barrister, of being elected an Honorary Bencher of the Middle Temple, London's prestigious legal association. Between 1966 and 1971 he served on the British Race Relations Board, which investigated cases of racial discrimination in England. He was known for his strong views against racial discrimination in England and South Africa, and he wrote the book Colour Bar (1954), an autobiographical work that dealt with racial prejudice in England. In 1967 he was honored by the town of Nelson as a Freeman of the Borough of Nelson. He was also the first black elected as rectorthe third-ranking officialof St. Andrew's University in Scotland. At his installation as rector in 1968, he spoke on the theme "Race in the World."

Before his death on July 1, 1971, in London, he was appointed a governor of the British Broadcasting Corporation, for which he served as a broadcaster on many occasions. His capstone honor came in 1969 when he was given life peerage, as the first black man appointed to the House of Lords, as Baron Constantine of Maraval in Trinidad and Tobago and of Nelson in the County Palatine of Lancaster. He was buried in his native country, which posthumously gave him its highest national award, the Trinity Cross.

See also International Relations of the Anglophone Caribbean; Peoples National Movement (PNM); Williams, Eric

Bibliography

Anthony, Michael. Historical Dictionary of Trinidad and Tobago. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 1997.

Clarke, A. M. Lord Constantine & Sir Hugh Wooding. Freeport, Trinidad: HEM, 1982.

Giuseppi, Undine. A Look at Learie Constantine. London: Thomas Nelson, 1974.

Howat, Gerald. Learie Constantine. London: Allen & Unwin, 1975.

learie b. luke (2005)

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