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Westerman, George Papers
- 58 linear ft.
The George Westerman papers document the numerous and diverse interests of this journalist, sociologist, diplomat and activist, who was deeply immersed in issues relating to practically every issue on the isthmus of Panama, especially those affecting people of West Indian origin, from the 1940's through the early 1980's. The collection consists primarily of personal papers, news articles and administrative files pertaining to Westerman's journalism career, his published and unpublished writings, speeches, conference papers, and material relating to his career as an impresario. Additionally, the collection encompasses his involvement in Panamanian politics, United States-Panamanian relations,especially Panama Canal treaty negotiations, as well as education, labor, ameliorating conditions associated with racial discrimination, and sports. There is also referencematerial about various aspects of West Indian life in Panama.
The Personal Papers series, 1897-1988 (bulk 1933-1984) includes a large number of news clippings by and about Westerman, 1933-1984, including his "Panama Tribune" columns. The articles discuss nearly every professional issue and activity in which Westerman was involved, from Panamanian politics, trips abroad, the Canal Zone, labor, housing, the United Nations. Race relations, U.S.-Panama relations, to his presentation of speeches, and honors awarded him. His "memoranda of record," 1967-1973, relate important conversations he had with prominent figures on issues of national and international importance, especially United States-Panama relations. This series also includes information about Westerman's numerous business ventures, particularly his efforts to improve housing conditions for West Indian laborers.
The Community Organizations series, 1942-1983, encompassescorrespondence, administrative files and printed material about thirty-seven organizations in Panama and the United States that attempted to further the progress of Panamanians of West Indian descent. One of the best documented organizations is the Dedicators. There are alsosome records for the Isthmian Negro Youth Congress, 1942-1947, and the National Civic League, 1946-1952, which document the efforts to abolish the discriminatory policies of the 1941 Constitution of Panama.
The Diplomatic Career series, 1956-1983, documents Westerman's service as a delegate to the United Nations from 1956 until 1960, and the trips he took representing Panama, as well as his special service to Caribbean nations in the 1960's. The United Nations subseries, 1956-1983 (3 lin. ft.) includes his official statements as a member of the Fourth Committee of the United Nations dealing with non-self-governing territories, especially South West Africa (Namibia) and Togoland (Togo), the latter under French administration. The Non-United NationsDiplomatic Activities subseries, 1957-1983, includes documentation on Westerman's appointment as special ambassador for the purpose of establishing diplomatic relations between Panama and the Caribbean nations and assisting with their admittance to the Organization of American States in 1967.
The Education series, 1934-1985, includes information regarding the curriculum conversion mandated for children of Panamanian employees attending U.S. schools on the Canal Zone.
The Journalism Career series, 1928-1982, reflects Westerman's primary occupation and demonstrates how he utilized his position with "The Panama Tribune" and other newspapers to improve social conditions for West Indians and other Panamanians. There are letters to Westerman as the associate editor and correspondence between Westerman and Sidney Young, founder of the "Panama Tribune" regarding the newspaper's involvement in a struggle against Communist control over a labor union on the Canal Zone. Some of the correspondence between Westerman and hisnephew, Rex Williams, the Chicago correspondent for the newspaper, discuss contemporary issues affecting Panama. The series contains Westerman's weekly editorial in "The Panama Tribune," "The Passing Review," another column, andarticles he wrote, 1935-1973, as well as articles he prepared for other Panamanian and American papers.
The Labor series, 1926-1985 (bulk 1950-1980), documents the role of West Indian labor, "local rate" employees and the history of labor unions on the Canal Zone. Besides thepublications and news articles written by Westerman, this series also contains several of his manuscripts about labor unions. Interspersed throughout the series are clippings that mention Westerman's involvement in labor issues as well as his correspondence. Other information relates to salary and benefit disparities and working conditions of the "local rate" employees as compared to U.S. employees. Papers pertaining to the National MaritimeUnion, which represented both American and non-U.S. citizens, also includes material regarding efforts to achieve equality of treatment for Americans and Panamanians working for the Canal Zone Company.
The Politics series, 1886-1986 (1946-1986, bulk), documents Panamanian politics dating to the nineteenth century. This series contains a section about the general history of Panamanian politics consisting of articles written by Westerman, and printed matter about presidents and other individuals prominent in nineteenth and early twentieth century Panamanian politics. There is documentation pertaining to the presidential election of José A. Remón, the Renovador Party candidate in 1952. Westerman's efforts to elect de la Guardia are documented via the files for the Renovador Party's Patriotic Coalition.
The series Racial Discrimination, 1935-1984, documents themany forms of racial discrimination in Panama, affecting the entire country as well as the discriminatory policies of the Panamanian government affecting West Indians and African-American tourists. Information regarding U.S. discriminatory policies impacting life on the Canal Zone is also included. The series contains Westerman's writings,in draft and published form, discussing his efforts to change several of these discriminatory policies, such as modifying the 1941 Constitution as well as the immigrationlaw of 1948.
Papers delivered by Westerman and others at a variety of conferences held internationally and in Panama concerning subjects of worldwide importance can be found in The Conferences series, 1950-1981. The Speeches series, 1944-1982, encompasses the many speeches Westerman delivered inPanama and the United States, as well as several interviews. Topics he spoke about involve United States-Panama relations, including tensions which sparked the Panama riots of January 1964, the history of basic changesin Canal policies governing relations between the two countries, the United States tax haven law of 1962, and the Panamanian economy. There are several addresses concerning the history and contributions of West Indians in Panamanian society, and blacks of Hispanic traditions in Panama (i.e. blacks transported directly from Africa orSpain to Latin America).
The Sports series, 1920's-1985 deals with some of the manyorganized sports played in Panama with a focus on West Indian athletes. A scrapbook of news clippings documents Westerman's years as a tennis champion (1936-1938), and correspondence discusses his coverage of other tennis players in "The Panama Tribune." Boxing is represented by a scrapbook of news clippings, 1920's, and Westerman's news articles about Al Brown and Harry Wills. Correspondence and news articles discuss the Central American and Caribbean Olympics in which Panamanian athletes participated in 1959 and 1970, as well as additional sports.
Material which Westerman collected because of his broad interest in Panamanian affairs affecting West Indians but which he himself did not play an active role in achieving particular goals, have been placed in a Subject File series. The subseries within this series are: Economics; Fraternal and Benevolent Societies; Health; Housing Policies; Reference Material - West Indians in Panama; andReligion. The subseries Fraternal and Benevolent Societies,1922-1985 (bulk 1967-1983), consists of anniversary and other programs and news clippings concerning these societies in Panama. Of interest are news clippings and correspondence regarding the successful protest by the Canal Zone Government against the "White only" membership policy of the Elks of the World on the Canal Zone, 1971-1974.
The United States-Panama Relations series, 1962-1986 (bulk1941-1985), provides extensive documentation on the problems and cooperation between these two countries in the operation of the Panama Canal, and also deals with thenumerous changes which have taken place both in Panamaniansociety and in U.S.-Panamanian relations in the areas of politics, trade, transportation, American foreign aid, andday-to-day social issues, among others. The files consist of the following subseries: Administration, Alliance for Progress and Agency for International Development, Flag Controversy on the Canal Zone and its Aftermath, Flags of Necessity, History, Panama Canal Operations, Panama Canal Treaty Negotiations, Panama Canal Zone, Pan American Highway, Publications, United States Congressional Hearings, United States Information Service, United StatesTax Haven Law, and General. The material in this series encompasses news clippings, reports, press releases, correspondence, publications and other printed matter.
The subseries Flag Controversy on the Canal Zone and its Aftermath, 1958-1974 (bulk 1960-1964), consists primarily of clippings from Panamanian and American newspapers dealing with the rioting and controversy which ensued whenPanamanian citizens demanded that their flag fly beside the American flag in the Canal Zone as visible evidence ofPanama's titular sovereignty over the Zone. The Panama Canal Treaty Negotiations, 1942-1985, subseries deals withover forty years of treaty negotiations which can be followed in detail. The documentation is primarily in the form of news clippings, however, Westerman's statements and articles can also be found here, as can copies of drafts of treaties, correspondence and speeches. The internationalization of the Panama Canal is discussed, andthere are also statements and other documents relating to American negotiators and government officials Ellsworth Bunker, Daniel Flood and Henry Kissinger.
The final series Writings, 1942-1982 (10.8 lin. ft.), is divided into two subseries, published and unpublished. A prolific writer, Westerman wrote about nearly every aspectof Panamanian West Indian life in which he was involved. Contained in the Published Writings subseries, 1942-1979, are pamphlets written by Westerman, and if available, the manuscript, related correspondence, research material and notes. Subjects include West Indian labor on the Panama Canal Zone, United States-Panama relations, education, andthe history of West Indians in Panama, among many others. The Unpublished Writings subseries consists of manuscripts, correspondence, research material and notes. Included is his most significant unpublished manuscript entitled "Fifty Years of West Indian Life on the Isthmus of Panama (1903-1953)."
Journalist, sociologist, and diplomat, George Washington Westerman was a Panamanian of West Indian origin and has been identified with almost every major social, cultural, civic and labor struggle, particularly those affecting people of West Indian descent on the Isthmus, from the 1940's until the late 1970's. Westerman served as a bridgebetween Panamanian West Indians, the American managers of the Canal Zone, and the Panamanians. He waged a relentlessbattle against social inequities and discriminatory racialpractices in all fields.
Westerman's primary profession was journalism. He wrote a column, "The Passing Review" and articles for the Englishlanguage weekly "The Panama Tribune," catering to the WestIndian community from 1935 until the paper's folding in 1973. He also authored numerous pamphlets about U.S.-Panama relations, West Indian laborers on the Canal Zone, education and West Indian contributions to the history of Panama, among other topics. Westerman became involved in many areas which would serve to advance West Indian Panamanians, particularly in the fields of education, labor, politics and housing. From 1949 until 1956 he directed Westerman Concerts, an organization which showcased African-American performers in Panama.
Westerman actively became involved in politics in the 1940's, and in the mid-1950s he organized the West Indian community to participate in the 1956 presidential electionin order to support the candidacy of his friend, Ernesto de la Guardia. He was subsequently appointed delegate withthe rank of ambassador to the General Assembly of the United Nations where he served from 1956-1960. In that position he advocated for the independence of African non-self-governing territories and Caribbean colonies. He alsoused his political contacts and role in the community to influence the 1955 Panama Canal treaty negotiations between the United States and Panama with respect to the discrepancies in wages and retirement plans between Panamian and U.S. employees.
Controlled Access Terms
- Westerman, George W.
- Guardia, Ernesto de la, b. 1885.
- Young, Sidney Adolphus.
- Schuyler, Philippa, 1932-
- Anderson, Marian, 1897-1993.
- Warfield, William.
- Chiari, Roberto F., 1905-1981.
- Remón, José A.
- Powell, Adam Clayton, 1908-1972.
- Tubman, William V. S., 1895-1971.
- Barrow, Errol Walton, 1920-1987.
- Sullivan, Leonor K.
- Renovador Party (Panama)
- National Patriotic Coalition Party (Panama)
- Panama American (Panama)
- Westerman Concerts (Firm)
- United Nations.
- Organization of American States.
- Panama Canal Treaties (1977)
- Dedicators, Inc. (New York, N.Y.)
- National Civil League (Panama)
- Panama Railroad Co.
- Isthmian Negro Youth Congress.
- Inter-American Press Association.
- United Nations Publications.
- Panama tribune.
- Political parties -- Panama.
- Race discrimination -- Panama.
- West Indians.
- West Indians -- Panama -- History.
- Labor -- Panama.
- Newspaper editors -- Panama.
- Journalists -- Panama.
- Tennis players -- Panama.
- Sports -- Panama.
- Education -- Panama.
- Ambassadors -- Panama.
- Labor unions -- Panama.
- Labor unions -- Panama -- Canal Zone.
- Housing development -- Panama.
- Prefabricated houses -- Panama.
- African American entertainers.
- African American singers.
- African American musicians.
- Fraternal organizations -- Panama.
- World War, 1939-1945 -- Panama.
- Blacks -- Panama.
- Blacks -- Panama -- Canal Zone.
- Blacks -- Education (Higher) -- Panama.
- Blacks -- Social conditions -- Panama.
- Communism -- Panama -- Canal Zone.
- Racism in education -- Panama.
- Nationalism -- Panama.
- Discrimination in education -- Panama -- Canal Zone.
- Minorities -- Panama.
- Housing -- Panama.
- Community organization -- Panama.
- Blacks -- Employment -- Panama.
- Blacks -- Religion -- Panama.
- Education, Higher -- Panama.
- Panama Canal (Panama)
- Canal Zone.
- Panama -- Politics and government.
- Panama -- Social conditions.
- Panama -- Religion.
- Panama -- Race relations.
- Panama -- Foreign relations -- United States.
- United States -- Foreign relations -- Panama.