Sir Alexander became the first Prime Minister of Independent Jamaica in 1962. He retired from active politics in 1967. He died on August 6, 1977, at the age of 93. When Alexander Bustamante began to make his presence felt in Jamaica, the country was still a Crown Colony. Under this system, the Governor had, the right to veto at all times, which he very often exercised against the wishes of the majority. On September 8, 1940, Bustamante was detained at Up Park Camp, for alleged violation of the Defence of the Realm Act. He was released seventeen months later. In 1943 he founded the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), with himself as head. The first general election under Universal Adult Suffrage came in 1944 and the JLP won 22 of the 32 seats.
Norman Washington Manley
Norman Washington Manley was born at Roxborough, Manchester, on July 4, 1893. He was a brilliant scholar and athlete, soldier (First World War) and lawyer. He identified himself with the cause of the workers at the time of the labour troubles of 1938 and donated time and advocacy to the cause. In September 1938, Manley founded the People’s National Party (PNP) and was elected its President annually until his retirement in 1969, 31 years later. Manley and the PNP supported the trade union movement, and then led by Alexander Bustamante, while leading the demand for Universal Adult Suffrage. When Suffrage came, Manley had to wait ten years and two terms before his party was elected to office.
Paul Bogle, it is believed, was born free about 1822. He was a Baptist deacon in Stony Gut, a few miles north of Morant Bay, and was eligible to vote at a time when there were only 104 voters in the parish of St. Thomas. He was a firm political supporter of George William Gordon. Poverty and injustice in the society and lack of public confidence in the central authority, urged Bogle to lead a protest march to the Morant Bay courthouse on October 11, 1865. Bogle was captured and hung on October 24, 1865; but his forceful demonstration achieved its objectives. It paved the way for the establishment of just practices in the courts and it brought about a change in official attitude, which made possible the social and economic betterment of the people.
George William Gordon
Born to a slave mother and a planter father who was attorney to several sugar estates in Jamaica, George William Gordon was self-educated and a landowner in the parish of St. Thomas. In the face of attempts to crush the spirit of the freed people of Jamaica and again reduce them to slavery, Gordon entered politics. He faced severe odds, as the people whose interests he sought to serve did not qualify to vote.
He subdivided his own lands, selling farm lots to the people as cheaply as possible, and organised a marketing system, through which they could sell their produce at fair prices. Gordon urged the people to protest against and resist the oppressive and unjust conditions under which they were forced to live. Gordon was arrested and charged for complicity in what is now called the Morant Bay Rebellion in 1865. He was illegally tried by Court Martial and, inspite of a lack of evidence, convicted and sentenced to death. He was executed on October 23, 1865.
Jamaica’s first National Hero was born in St. Ann’s Bay, on August 17, 1887. In his youth Garvey migrated to Kingston, where he worked as a printer and later published a small paper “The Watchman”. During his career Garvey travelled extensively throughout many countries, observing the poor working and living conditions of black people. In 1914 he started the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), in Jamaica. The UNIA, which grew into an international organisation, encouraged self-government for black people worldwide; self-help economic projects and protest against racial discrimination.
Samuel Sharpe was the main instigator of the 1831 Slave Rebellion, which began on the Kensington Estate in St. James and which was largely instrumental in bringing about the abolition of slavery. Because of his intelligence and leadership qualities, Sam Sharpe became a “daddy”, or leader of the native Baptists in Montego Bay. Religious meetings were the only permissible forms of organised activities for the slaves.
On December 27, 1831, the Kensington Estate Great House was set on fire, as a signal that the Slave Rebellion had begun. Samuel Sharpe was hanged on May 23, 1832. In 1834 the Abolition Bill, was passed by the British Parliament and in 1838, slavery was abolished. Sharpe had said: “I would rather die upon yonder gallows than live in slavery”.
Nanny was a leader of the Maroons at the beginning of the 18th century. She was known by both the Maroons and the British settlers as an outstanding military leader who became, in her lifetime and after, a symbol of unity and strength for her people during times of crisis.
She was particularly important to them in the fierce fight with the British, during the First Maroon War from 1720 to 1739. Both legends and documents refer to her as having exceptional leadership qualities. She was particularly skilled in organising the guerrilla warfare carried out by the Eastern Maroons to keep away the British troops who attempted to penetrate the mountains to overpower them.