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 bridge between Panamanian West Indians, the American managers of the Canal Zone, and the Panamanians. He waged a relentless battle against social inequities and discriminatory racial practices in all fields.
Westerman's primary profession was journalism. He wrote a column, "The Passing Review" and articles for the English language weekly "The Panama Tribune," catering to the West Indian 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 election in order to support the candidacy of his friend, Ernesto de la Guardia. He was subsequently appointed delegate with the 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 also used 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.
From the guide to the George W. Westerman papers, 1886-1988 (bulk 1934-1985, (The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.)