Log In


journalist , Lawyer , politician

Sir Grantley Herbert Adams was born on April 18, 1898 in Colliston, Government Hill, St. Michael, Barbados and was journalist, politician and practicing lawyer. When the West Indian Federation was established in 1958, he was installed as the first federal prime minister


ADAMS, SIR GRANTLEY HERBERT was born on 28 April 1898 at Colliston, Government Hill, St. Michael.


Adams was educated at St. Giles and at Harrison College in Barbados and then won a cholarship at Oxford University.


In 1925 he returned to Barbados where he became a journalist, a practicing lawyer, and a politician.He eventually won a seat in the House of Assembly in 1934 and, under the influence of a few white progressives, quickly came to identify with the radical forces for change. He saw labor disturbances and riots to be rooted in labor exploitation. When he visited London that year, he was influenced by the increasingly radical West Indian political groups there and by the Fabian Society.

In 1941 he helped form the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) and became its president.

The first major political change was lowering the qualifications for voting in 1944, which allowed the BLP to assume control of the government in 1946 with Adams as chief minister. After the introduction of universal adult suffrage in 1951, the constitution was further amended to provide limited internal selfgovernment. Adams became the first premier in the British West Indies. In 1958 the constitution was further changed to one of a cabinet system and full selfgovernment.

As president of the Barbados Workers Union (BWU), by 1944 Adams won the union’s right of collective bargaining. He was concerned about the overlap of labor and government, however, and in 1949 he formalized the separation between his governing party and the union despite retaining the union presidency until 1954 when he became premier.

Adams was elected president of the Caribbean Labour Congress in 1947 and began a strong commitment to Caribbean integration. When the West Indian Federation was established in 1958, he was installed as the first federal prime minister, relinquishing his post as premier of Barbados. However, after four frustrating years, the federation finally collapsed and was formally dissolved on May 31, 1962.

Adams’ growing emphasis on international and federal issues, and what some saw as a shift away from progressive politics began to take a serious toll on both the BLP and the BWU. In 1954 the BWU, under President Frank Leslie Walcott, formally broke all ties with Adams. The following year a few younger members of the BLP under leadership of Errol Walton Barrow seceded to form the Democratic Labor Party (DLP). In the elections of 1961, one year before the breakup of the federation, the BLP lost to the DLP and Adams returned to find his party in near shambles. He worked until his resignation from the BLP leadership in 1970 to rebuild the party and mold it into a powerful and effective opposition.


  • He lost the support of his coloured middle-class constituency but quickly fashioned the League into a political party, renaming it the Barbados Labor Party (BLP). He built up a wide mass following, using his gift of oratory and his powerful charismatic appeal. With Adams at the helm, winning successive electoral victories in 1946, 1948, 1951 and 1956, the BLP introduced progressive tax legislation, provided significant credit to small landholders, modernized the country’s health facilities, significantly increased old-age pensions, legislated a minimum wage, introduced a 44-hour week, and introduced a host of labor legislation including the right to strike and picket, workers’ compensation, and protection from industrial accidents. The result was a notable increase in the standard of living in the Barbadian working class and protection from exploitation characteristic of the plantation economy.


At first embracing the traditionally conservative position of the coloured middle class, he began a political assault against the progressives, particularly Charles Duncan O’Neale and Clennel Wilsden Wickham.Adams became the central figure in the formation of the Barbados Progressive League which undertook the struggle against the old regime of white oligarchs that totally and absolutely dominated the political affairs of the colony.


Adams was married to Grace Thorne in 1929 at St. John's Church. Their only child, Tom, himself won the Barbados Scholarship and attended Oxford to become a lawyer. Tom Adams would later be elected as Barbados' second Prime Minister in 1976.