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Dr. Eva Naomi Hodgson, OBE
October 9, 1924-May 29, 2020
Educator, author, anti-racism campaigner

Best known as anti-racism campaigner, Eva Naomi Hodgson was almost singlehandedly responsible for putting race and racism on the national agenda.

Her prolific writings on the subject, beginning with letters to newspaper editors and opinion pieces in the 1960s, spanned nearly 60 years.

Her outspokenness won her admirers and critics in equal measure, from both whites and Blacks.


But as communities and countries continued to grapple with issues of race and racism in the first two decades of the 21st Century, despite the significant progress made since desegregation, there was a greater appreciation of her courage and conviction.

Eva Hodgson was a descendant of families whose roots in Crawl, Hamilton Parish went back more than two centuries. Her forbears were farmers, property owners, educators, entrepreneurs, parliamentarians and activists.

She was related to the Furberts, Hills and Hodgsons of Hamilton Parish. Benjamin Hill (1804-1866), a 19th century shipbuilder and landowner, was the common ancestor of the three families.


Crawl Gospel Hall, a Brethen church which the Hodgson family helped establish during the early 20th Century, was a major influence and shaped her strong religious convictions. During the 1940s, when she and her sisters Ruth and Damaris were teenagers, they were baptised at My Lord’s Bay, Hamilton Parish.
Hodgson was the second eldest of six children born to Harold Hodgson and Ilene (Furbert) Hodgson. She received her early schooling at home from her aunts, Annie and Emily Hodgson, and completed her primary education at Temperance Hall, before moving on to The Berkeley Institute.

In 1942, her mother died. Ruth (Hodgson) Paynter, the eldest,   assumed responsibility for raising her three youngest
siblings, Harold, Grace and two-year-old Arthur (1940-2023), who would become Bermuda’s first Black Rhodes Scholar as well as a Progressive Labour Party MP and Cabinet Minister.


Harold Hodgson encouraged Eva and her sister Damaris to continue with their education. Eva graduated from Berkeley with a Cambridge School Certificate then attended Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada as a recipient of the prestigious Bermuda Government Scholarship, awarded to academic highfliers.

She received her undergraduate degree in history and English from Queen’s in 1948, and a Diploma in Education from London University a year later.  She joined Berkeley Institute’s teaching staff, but in 1956, she returned to the UK to study for an honours degree in geography at London University.

Hodgson was raised in a segregated society, by a family with a “deep concern for social justice.” The years she spent in London heightened her awareness of racial injustice in Bermuda.  

She returned to Bermuda in 1959, the same year the Theatre Boycott had abolished segregation in cinemas, restaurants and hotels. But she would later write that “social injustices were deeply entrenched and widespread”.


She rejoined Berkeley’s staff as a geography teacher, and in her down time, she began firing off letters to the editor of the Bermuda Recorder, although all three newspapers, The Royal Gazette, Mid-Ocean News andthe Recorder, would become forums for her opinions and often controversial views.

Hodgson was an active member of the Black teachers union, the Bermuda Union of Teachers (BUT). In 1961, she was elected president. She retained the top post when it merged with the white teacher’s union in 1964 to become the Amalgamated Bermuda Union of Teachers (ABUT).

As a result of her role as ABUT president, she won the Russell Award for contributing to world peace from the World Confederation of the Organization of the Teaching Profession, and attended the organisation’s conference in Kenya.


The ABUT sponsored her seminal book, Second Class Citizens, First Class Men, which focused on the social and political changes that occurred in Bermuda between 1953 and 1963. The book, which she wrote during her summer vacations, was published in 1967.  

A second edition was published in 1988. In his foreword to that edition, former statistician, MP and political observer Calvin Smith described “the historic work” as “probably the only organised documentation of what was perhaps the most tumultuous period of Bermuda’s social history.”


In 1967, Hodgson moved to New York to study at Columbia University. She received two master’s degrees at Columbia, before embarking on studies for a Ph.D. in African history and Black American history.  In 1978, she was appointed chairperson 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 Center for the Study of Human Rights. She also worked with the New Jersey Historical Society on an oral history project.
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. She was also a contributor to Is Massa Day Dead? Black Moods in the Caribbean, a series of essays by Caribbean writers published in 1974 by Doubleday. Future Nobel literature laureate Derek Walcott wrote the foreword. Hodgson’s essay  was entitled “Bermuda and the Search for Blackness”.  

Upon her return to Bermuda, Hodgson, who had also obtained a Master’s in educational counselling, became guidance counsellor at Robert Crawford School.

 In 1983, she was appointed Co-ordinator of Oral History and Cultural Preservation in the Department of Education, a post she held until 1990.

Over the years, Hodgson argued that she was overlooked for top posts in education, at the Bermuda College in particular, because of her views. Former premier Sir John Swan, who was her political opposite, confirmed this claim when paying tributes to her following her death.


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.

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 co-founded the National Association of Reconciliation. Its primary purpose, she wrote, was to ensure the issue of race relations remained on the national agenda. Over the years it had forums and presented awards, but “after the first several meetings there were never more than two or three whites present.”

When the ruling United Bermuda Party created the Commission of Unity and Racial Equality during the tenure of Premier Sir John Swan, the NAR was no longer necessary, she wrote. It disbanded following the election of the Progressive Labour Party (PLP) in 1998.


While she was a supporter of the PLP, the party did not escape her criticism during its 30 years in opposition, and after it became the governing party.

Hodgson was critical of the PLP’s failure, once in power, to create a policy to close the wealth gap between whites and Blacks. While independence was dear to the heart of the PLP founders, she was lukewarm, saying it would not be a panacea for Black advancement. And she argued that party politics had been destructive to the Black community.

She remained a prolific writer well into her 90s. Her other writings include “A Storm in a Teacup—The 1959 Bermuda Theatre Boycott and Its Aftermath(1989); ”The Joe Mills Story—A Bermuda Labour Legend” (1995); and “The Experience of Racism in Bermuda and in its Wider Context—Reflections of Dr. Eva Hodgson” (2008).

Honours came her way in her final years. She received the Queen’s Certificate and Badge of Honour in 1999, and in 2011, an OBE. In 2018, she was honoured by the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs by being featured in the annual Dr. Kenneth E. Robinson/Cyril Outerbridge Packwood Memorial Lecture, in conversation with journalist Meredith Ebbin. Filmmaker Milton Raposo’s video tribute to Hodgson premiered at the event.

When she died in 2020, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, Premier David Burt led the tributes to her. Sir John Swan said: “She was extremely well educated and grasped the history of Bermuda, and did not hesitate to make her views known. She took on the challenge of trying to convert the country from a racist, obstructionist, intolerant society to one that embraced change.”

She was an honorary member of Citizens for Uprooting Racism in Bermuda (CURB), the anti-racism organisation whose formation in 1998, the same year the NAR disbanded, is arguably her most tangible legacy. 

In 2023, CURB presented its inaugural Dr. Eva Naomi Hodgson Social Justice Awards in honour of “a remarkable Bermudian activist whose legacy continues to inspire us all.”

In 2024, the Bermuda Literary Awards’ Non-Fiction Prize, awarded by the Bermuda Government, was renamed the Dr. Eva Hodgson Prize for Non-Fiction.

Editor’s Note: The Bermuda Union of Teachers assumed its original name in 1997.

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October 9, 1924—Eva Hodgson is born in Hamilton Parish

1940s— Hodgson and sisters Ruth and Damaris are baptised at My Lord’s Bay

October 1942—Hodgson’s mother, Ilene, dies of a heart attack

1948—Graduates from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada

1949—Graduates from London University with a Diploma in Education and becomes a teacher at Berkeley Institute

1956—Returns to England to study for an honours degree in geography at London University

1959—Graduates from London University and rejoins teaching staff at Berkeley

1961—Elected President of the Bermuda Union of Teachers

1964—Serves as President of the Amalgamated Bermuda Union of Teachers following the merger of the white and Black teacher’s unions

1967Second Class Citizens, First Class Men published; moves to New York to study at Columbia University

1978—Appointed chair of the history department at Essex County College

1980–Graduates with a Ph.D. in African and Black American history from Columbia

1983-1990—Appointed Co-ordinator of Oral History and Cultural Preservation in the Department of Education

1988—Second edition of Second Class Citizens, First Class Men published

1989A Storm in a Teacup—The 1959 Bermuda Theatre Boycott and Its Aftermath is published by the Writers’ Machine

1995The Joe Mills Story—A Bermuda Labour Legend is published by the Writers’ Machine

2008The Experience of Racism in Bermuda and in its Wider Context—Reflections of Dr. Eva Hodgson is published by the Ministry of Culture

1992—Forms the National Association of Reconciliation; it disbands in 1998

1999—Awarded a Queen’s Certificate and Badge of Honour

2011—Awarded an OBE

2018—Speaks to a full house at an event “A Conversation with Dr. Eva Hodgson”, presented by the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs  

May 29, 2020—Dies at age 95

“I wasn’t reared to be passive and accepting. I have five brothers and sisters, and I think we all have this trait. It creates problems because Bermuda isn’t traditionally a democratic society. It’s an oligarchic and authoritarian society. Freedom of speech is one of the things that contributes to democracy. Democracy isn’t in our guts.”—Mid-Ocean News, May 7, 1968

My family have always had a very strong sense of racial pride and racial loyalty….My father had six children and he had to be employed, but I had aunts who started out as teachers but resigned. My uncle worked for a printing press and he was one of those who participated in a work stoppage. He stopped working, as did another uncle, who became self-employed. They could not deal with the indignity of racism in the workplace…”

“People who see me as anti-white are not really concerned about whether I’m anti-white, they are concerned about the fact that I am pro-black.”—Bermuda Sun, June 24, 1994

“The divisiveness of political parties and the erosion of black social values resulted in the disintegration of the black community and led to the alienation of young black males who indulged in increasingly antisocial and self-destructive behaviour.”

“The attendance varied greatly but after the first several meetings there were never more than two or three whites present. Apart from their need for black votes, the white community more or less ignored the existence of the black community unless there was a strike, which might inconvenience them, or the outbreak of violence, which might prove costly.”—“The Experience of Racism in Bermuda and in its Wider Context—Reflections of Dr. Eva Hodgson.”


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Further Reading

The number of news articles featuring Eva Hodgson is extensive. Here’s a sample:  

“Eva Hodgson: ‘It’s the Moment that Counts’”—Bermuda Sun, May 8, 1965

“Eva Hodgson: ‘I wasn’t raised to be passive.’”—Mid-Ocean News, May 7, 1986

“A Woman Who is Hard to Ignore”—Bermuda Sun, June 24, 1994

Other sources

Bermuda’s Architectural Heritage, Hamilton Parish, Bermuda National Trust, 2002.

The Trail of Our People, published by the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs in 2018 (profiles of the Furbert, Hodgson and Hill families of Hamilton Parish)

Ruth Paynter obit, bernews.com, March 18, 2018


Milton Raposo’s Tribute Video


Bermudian Heartbeats: A Conversation with Dr. Eva Hodgson

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