Re-thinking Nassau’s Bay Street

Throughout the 20th century, Nassau’s Bay Street was the main commercial district in The Bahamas. It remains the home of the main branches of several international banks and was home to several retail outlets, including clothing, jewelry and perfume stores as well as nightclubs, restaurants and bars. Nassau’s Bay Street, as the home of the country’s parliament, is also the key political space in the country. And, it has been a key site for social and cultural expression in the archipelago.

With frequent co-author Nona Martin, Dr. Storr has explored the social, politic al and economic significance of Bay Street and investigated a number of the key historical events that have occurred on and helped to shape Bay Street.

In “Whose Bay Street? Competing Narratives of Nassau’s City Centre” published in Island Studies Journal (2009), for instance, Martin and Storr argue that Bay Street has increasingly become a tourist space over the last half of the twentieth century. As a result of this transformation, they suggest, tensions arise “between maintaining Bay Street as an ‘authentic’ Bahamian experience and growing Bay Street as a critical port of call.”

Similarly, in “Bay Street as a contested space” which is forthcoming in Space and Culture, Martin and Storr argue that “Nassau’s Bay Street is and has always been … a place where different groups vied for recognition, redress and control.” As the explain, “racial groups in The Bahamas, for instance, “negotiated” this place since the earliest days of the colonies. Whites used the law and their socio-economic power to limit where and when blacks could be on the street. Similarly, blacks worked within and around those laws and sometimes in direct resistance to the socio-economic hegemony of white elites to carve out a place for themselves on the street.”

In “I’se a Man: Political Awakening and the 1942 Riot in the Bahamas” (Journal of Caribbean History, 2007) and “Demystifying Bay Street: Black Tuesday and the Radicalization of Bahamian Politics in the 1960s” (Journal of Caribbean History, 2009) Martin and Storr explore the two key socio-political events that occurred on Bay Street and that bookended the turbulent 25 year march from minority to majority rule in the archipelago. “[T]he 1942 riot,” they write, “demonstrated to both Bahamian blacks and the oligarchs – who were known collectively as the ‘Bay Street Boys’ – that Bay Street was vulnerable.” Similarly, Black Tuesday “was definitive proof that blacks in the Bahamas were prepared and able to stand up to the white ruling minority.”