V is for Hilton A. Vaughan (1901-1985)

Hilton Augustus Vaughan, or H.A. Vaughan, was a poet, attorney-at-law, political historian, diplomat, and a parliamentary representative for Bridgetown in the Democratic League in the 1930s. He was part of a progressive group (that included other Barbadian writers of the time such as Clennell Wickham), advocating for social justice, racial equality, and reform of the school curriculum to reflect a more Afrocentric and Caribbean view. 

As a writer, Vaughan is best known for his lyrical pen portraits of Barbadian political figures of the time, and the poems “Revelation” and “To A Tudor Street Shop Girl,” which wonderfully capture moments of, and celebrate, black female spirit and beauty. The latter poem is featured in the Bridgetown Literary Tours, an initiative of Barbados’ Poet Laureate Esther Phillips, and the publishing company ArtsEtc. The tour bus stops in Tudor Street while the poem, which imagines the shop girl dreaming of life beyond the bustling city backstreet, is read to those on board.

Vaughan’s literary style could be described as a bridge of sorts between the European classical and the post-Independence, Afrocentric and Pan-Africanist writing of the 60s and 70s. His poetic form and language are strict and formal but his subject matter is filled with black pride and joy, and a Caribbean consciousness and sensibility that is surprisingly modern for its time.

Selected works: 

  • Sandy Lane and Other Poems (1948); 
  •  Caribbean Voices: An Anthology of West Indian Poetry, Vol 1 – Dreams and Visions (selected by John Figueroa, 1966)

—Linda Deane

More about the author

The H.A. Vaughan Collection is held by the Barbados Dept. of Archives. The archives also hold papers from Frank Collymore, editor of BIM.

Vaughan’s poems, “Revelation” and “To a Tudor Street Shop Girl,” are freely available to read via the Digital Library of the Caribbean.

An article in The Morning Record discusses the appointment of Vaughan as representative to the U.N. and ambassador to the U.S.

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