The Signature Society

Jamaica Land We Love

Celebrate Jamaica

The beginning of “Brand” Jamaica

On August 6, 1962, Jamaica became an independent dominion within the Commonwealth of Nations 
Our History

Our History

 Both Sir Alexander Bustamante and Norman Manley were instrumental in Jamaica’s move towards self-government. … The concept of Caribbean unity was soon abandoned in 1961 when Jamaicans voted against the Federation of the West Indies. On August 6, 1962, Jamaica was granted its independence from England.


The Caribbean island of Jamaica was inhabited by the Tainotribes prior to the arrival of Columbus in 1503. Early inhabitants of Jamaica named the land “Xaymaca”, meaning “Land of wood and water”. The Spanish enslaved the Tainos, who were so ravaged by their conflict with the Europeans and by foreign diseases that nearly the entire native population was extinct by 1600.  The Spanish also transported hundreds of West Africans slaves to the island. 

In the year 1655, the English invaded Jamaica, defeating the Spanish colonists.  Enslaved Africans seized the moment of political turmoil and fled to the island’s interior, forming independent communities (known as the Maroons).  Meanwhile, on the coast, the English built the settlement of Port Royal, which became a base of operations for pirates and privateers, including Captain Henry Morgan


In the 18th century, sugar cane replaced piracy as British Jamaica’s main source of income.  The sugar industry was labour-intensive and the British brought hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans to Jamaica, so that by 1800 black Jamaicans outnumbered whites by a ratio of twenty to one.  Enslaved Jamaicans mounted over a dozen major uprisings during the 18th century, including Tacky’s revolt in 1760.  There were also periodic skirmishes between the British and the mountain communities, culminating in the First Maroon War of the 1730s and the Second Maroon War of the 1790s. 


Jamaica celebrates Independence on August 6 each year, in commemoration of its first Independence Day on August 6, 1962. The period leading up to the public holiday is crammed with parties and activities celebrating the island’s culture. … This holiday recognises the day slaves were given full freedom in 1838.

Discover Jamaica

Excerpt from Discover Jamaica

 At midnight on August 5, 1962, Jamaica became a free independent nation within the British Commonwealth of Nations. A ceremony marking the event was held at the newly constructed National Stadium in Kingston, which was filled to its capacity of 35,000. 

The chief persons taking part were Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret (representing Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II), her husband, the Earl of Snowdon, Sir Kenneth Blackburne, who had been nominated by the Queen on the recommendation of our then Premier to be Jamaica’s first Governor-General, Sir Alexander Bustamante, Jamaica’s first Prime Minister, and Mr. Norman Manley, Leader of the Opposition. 
Prayers were offered by the Rt. Rev. Percival Gibson, Lord Bishop of Jamaica, His Lordship Bishop McEleney, Roman Catholic Bishop of Kingston, Bishop S. U. Hastings, Chairman of the Jamaica Christian Council,and Mr. Ernest H. DaSouza, Jr. as acting spiritual leader of the Jewish Community. 

Hundreds of notable guests and visitors from many countries of the world attended, among them Mr. Lyndon Johnson, Vice-President of the United States of America, as the personal representative of President Kennedy. Precisely at midnight, the Union Jack- the British flag – was lowered and the Jamaican flag hoisted. The new National Anthem of Jamaica was sung by combined choirs. This was followed by a magnificent fireworks display at the Stadium.

The Jamaican National Symbols

The Jamaican Coat of Arms

Jamaica Coat of Arms

The original Coat of Arms granted to Jamaica in 1661, was designed by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, William Sanderoft. Apart from a partial revision in 1957, it remaines virtually the same as was originally designed. The Arms shows a male and female Arawak, standing on either side of the shield which bears a red cross with five golden pineapples superimposed on it. The Crest is a Jamaican crocodile surmounting the Royal Helmet and Mantlings. The original Latin motto, “Indus Uterque Serviet Uni”, which mean “The two Indian will serve as one” has been changed to one in English: “Out of Many, One People” on July 13, 1962 (The year of Independence)

Ackee the Jamaican National Fruit

Ackee National Fruit

Ackee the Jamaican National Fruit . Ackee (Blighia sapida). Whilst not indigenous to Jamaica, this fruit has remarkable historic associations. It was originally imported from West Africa, probably brought here in a slave ship, and now grows luxuriously producing each year large quantities of edible fruit.


The tree was unknown to science until plants were taken from Jamaica to England in 1973 by none other than Captain William Bligh of “Mutiny on the Bounty” fame, hence the botanical name “Blighia spadia” in honour of the notorious sea captain. One of the earliest local propagators of the tree was Dr. Thomas Clarke who introduced it to the eastern parishes in 1778.

Jamaica is the only place where the fruit is generally recognized as an edible crop, although the plant has been introduced into most of the other Caribbean islands. 

The Jamaican National Bird

The Jamaican National Bird
The “Doctor Bird” (Trochilus polytmus) lives only in Jamaica and is one of the most outstanding of all the species of Humming Birds. The feathers of the Doctor Bird are beautifully iridescent, a characteristic peculiar to this family

Blue Mahoe Tree – Jamaica National Tree

Blue Mahoe Tree

Mahoe (Hibiscus elatus). This has been regarded as one of the primary economic timbers. It is currently much used for re-afforestation and is a valuable source of cabinet timber. Of an attractive blue-green colour with variegated yellowish intrusions, it is capable of showing to advantage the variety of grain and colour tones. The trade, local and foreign, consumes annually many thousands of feet of this beautiful timber.

Lignum Vitae Jamaica National Flower

Lignum Vitae
Lignum Vitae (Guiacum officinale) is indigenous to Jamaica and was found here by Christopher Columbus. It is thought that the name “Wood of Life” was then adopted because of its medicinal qualities.

The Jamaica National Flag

The Jamaica National Flag

The Jamaica National Flag came into use on August 6,1962, jamaica’s Independence Day. It was designed by a bipartisan committee of the Jamaica House of representatives.

The Flag has a diagonal cross or saltire with four triangles in juxtaposition. The diagonal cross is in gold and one-sixth of the length of the fly of the flag; the top and bottom triangles are in green; and the hoist and fly triangles are in black. The exact shade of green used in the flag is Emerald T8 17, British Admiralty Bunting Pattern. The Flag follows the “Admiralty Pattern” and the proportion is 2 x 1.


New Symbolism as of 1996 – “Hardships there are but the land is green and the sun shineth is the symbolism of the Flag. Black symbolizes the strength and creativity of the Jamaican people ; Gold, for natural wealth and beauty of sunlight; and Green stands for hope and agricultural resources”.

Original Symbolism – “Hardships there are but the land is green and the sun shineth” is the symbolism of the Flag. Black stands for hardships overcome and to be faced ; Gold, for natural wealth and beauty of sunlight; and Green stands for hope and agricultural resources”.

Our National Pride

Our National Anthem

Eternal Father bless our land,
Guard us with Thy Mighty Hand,
Keep us free from evil powers,
Be our light through countless hours.

ti To our Leaders, Great e,

To our Leaders, Great e,
Grant true wisdom from above.
Justice, Truth be ours forever,
Jamaica, Land we love.
Jamaica, Jamaica, Jamaica land we love.

Teach us true respect for all,
Stir response to duty’s call, strengthen us the weak to cherish,
Give us vision lest we perish.
Knowledge send us Heavenly Father,
Grant true wisdom from above.
Justice, Truth be ours forever,
Jamaica, land we love.
Jamaica, Jamaica, Jamaica land we love.

Our National Pledge

Before God and all mankind,I pledge the love and loyalty of my heart, the wisdom and courage of my mind, the strength and vigour of my body in the service of my fellow citizens;
I promise to stand up for Justice,
Brotherhood and Peace, to work diligently and creatively, to think generously and honestly,that Jamaica may, under God, increase in beauty,  fellowship and prosperity, and play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race.

Our National Song

I pledge my heart forever to serve with humble pride

This shining homeland, ever So long as earth abide.

I pledge my heart, this island as God and faith shall live 

My work, my strength, my love and my loyalty to give.

O green isle of the Indies, Jamaica, strong and free,

Our vows and loyal promises O heartland, ‘tis to Thee.


Our National Heroes

Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr.

Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr.

Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jr. ONH (17 August 1887 – 10 June 1940) was a Jamaican-born political activist, publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, and orator. He was the founder and first President-General of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL). Ideologically a black nationalist and Pan-Africanist, his ideas came to be known as Garveyism. 

Garvey was born to a moderately prosperous Afro-Jamaican family in Saint Ann’s Bay, Colony of Jamaica and apprenticed into the print trade as a teenager. Working in Kingston, he became involved in trade unionism before working briefly in Costa Rica, Panama, and England. Returning to Jamaica, he founded UNIA in 1914. In 1916, he moved to the United States and established a UNIA branch in Harlem. Emphasising unity between Africans and the African diaspora, he campaigned for an end to European colonial rule across the continent, urging the creation of an independent, politically unified Africa. He envisioned this as a one-party state that would enact laws to ensure black racial purity. Although he never visited Africa himself, he was committed to the Back-to-Africa movement, arguing that many African-Americans should migrate there. UNIA grew in membership and Garveyist ideas became increasingly popular. However, his black separatist views—and his collaboration with white racist groups like the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) to advance their shared interest in racial separatism—divided Garvey from other prominent African-American civil rights activists like W. E. B. Du Bois. 

Committed to the belief that African-Americans needed to secure financial independence from white-dominant society, Garvey launched various businesses in the U.S., including the Negro Factories Corporation. In 1919, he became President of the Black Star Line shipping and passenger company, designed to forge a link between North America and Africa. After it went bankrupt, in 1923 Garvey was convicted of mail fraud for selling its stock and imprisoned. Many commentators have argued that the trial was politically motivated; Garvey blamed Jewish people, claiming that they were prejudiced against him because of his links to the KKK. Deported to Jamaica in 1927, Garvey continued his activism and established the People’s Political Party in 1929. As well as establishing the Edelweiss Amusement Company, he continued to travel internationally to promote UNIA, presenting his Petition of the Negro Race to the League of Nations in Geneva. In 1935 he relocated to London, where his anti-socialist stance distanced him from many of the city’s black activists. He died there in 1940, although in 1964 his body was returned to Jamaica for reburial in Kingston’s National Heroes Park. 

Garvey was a controversial figure. Many in the African diasporic community regarded him as a pretentious character and were highly critical of his collaboration with white supremacists and his prejudice towards mixed-race people. He nevertheless received praise for encouraging a sense of pride and self-worth among Africans and the African diaspora amid widespread poverty, discrimination, and colonialism. He is seen as a national hero in Jamaica, and his ideas exerted a considerable influence on movements like Rastafari, the Nation of Islam, and the Black Power Movement.

Paul Bogle

Paul Bogle

Paul Bogle (1820 – 24 October 1865) was a Jamaican Baptist deacon and activist. He was a leader of the 1865 Morant Bay protesters, who marched for justice and fair treatment for all the people in Jamaica. After leading the Morant Bay rebellion, Bogle was captured by government troops, tried and convicted by British authorities under martial law, and hanged on 24 October 1865 in the Morant Bay court house. 

Bogle had become a friend of wealthy landowner and fellow Baptist George William Gordon, a bi-racial man who served in the Assembly as one of two representatives from St. Thomas-in-the-East parish. Gordon was instrumental in Bogle being appointed deacon of Stony Gut Baptist Church in 1864. Conditions were hard for black peasants, due to social discrimination, flooding and crop failure, and epidemics. The required payment of poll taxes prevented most of them from voting. In August 1865, Gordon criticized the British governor, Edward John Eyre, for sanctioning “everything done by the higher class to the oppression of the negroes”. 

Bogle concentrated on improving the conditions of the poor. As awareness of social injustices and people’s grievances grew, Bogle led a group of small farmers 45 miles to the capital, Spanish Town, hoping to meet with Governor Eyre to discuss their issues, but they were denied an audience. The people of Stony Gut lost confidence and trust in the Government, and Bogle’s supporters grew in number in the parish.

Sir Alexander Bustamante

Sir Alexander Bustamante

Sir William Alexander Clarke Bustamante GBE PC (24 February 1884 – 6 August 1977) was a Jamaican politician and labor leader, who, in 1962 became the first prime minister of Jamaica. He founded the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union following the 1938 labor riots, and the Jamaican Labor Party in 1943. Bustamante is honored in Jamaica with the title National Hero of Jamaica in recognition of his achievements. 

He was born as Alexander Clarke to Mary Clarke (née Wilson), a woman of mixed race, and her husband Robert Constantine Clarke, an Irish Catholic planter, in Blenheim, Hanover. He said that he took the surname Bustamante to honor a Spanish sea captain who adopted him in his early years and took him to Spain where he was sent to school and later returned to Jamaica.  

Bustamante travelled the world and worked in many different places. He left Jamaica once again in 1905 at the age of 21. His occupations included working as a policeman in Cuba and as a dietician in a New York City hospital. At the age of 48, he returned to Jamaica in 1932. 

He became a leader in activism against colonial rule. He gained recognition by writing frequent letters on the issues to the Daily Gleaner newspaper. In 1937 he was elected as treasurer of the Jamaica Workers’ Union (JWU), which had been founded by labor activist Allan G.S. Coombs. During the 1938 labor rebellion, he quickly became identified as the spokesman for striking workers, who were mostly of African and mixed-race descent. Coombs’ JWU became the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) after the revolt, and Bustamante became known as “The Chief”. 

In 1940, he was imprisoned on charges of subversive activities. The widespread anti-colonial activism finally resulted in Parliament’s granting universal suffrage in 1944 to residents in Jamaica. 

Released from prison in 1943, Bustamante founded the Jamaica Labor Party the same year. Previously he had belonged to the People’s National Party (founded in 1938 by his cousin Norman Manley). Bustamante’s party won 22 of 32 seats in the first House of Representatives elected by universal suffrage. He became the unofficial government leader, representing his party as Minister for Communications, until the position of Chief Minister was created in 1953. He held this position until the JLP was defeated in 1954. In 1947 and 1948, he was elected as mayor of Kingston. In 1952 he was arrested by the American authorities while he was on official business in Puerto Rico. 

Though initially a supporter of the Federation of the West Indies, during the 1950s, Bustamante gradually opposed the union. He agitated for Jamaica to become independent of Great Britain. He said that the JLP would not contest a by-election to the federal parliament. His rival and cousin, Premier Norman Manley, called a referendum on the issue in 1961. Jamaicans voted for the nation’s withdrawal from the Federation. 

After Jamaica was granted independence in 1962, Bustamante served as the first Prime Minister until 1967. In 1965, after suffering a stroke, he withdrew from active participation in public life. The true power was held by his deputy, Donald Sangster.

George William Gordon

George William Gordon

George William Gordon (1820 – 23 October 18650) was a wealthy mixed-race Jamaican businessman, magistrate and politician, one of two representatives to the Assembly from St. Thomas-in-the-East Parish. He was a leading critic of the colonial government and the policies of Jamaican Governor Edward Eyre.

After the start of the Morant Bay rebellion in October 1865, Eyre declared martial law in that area, directed troops to suppress the rebellion, and ordered the arrest of Gordon in Kingston. He had him returned to Morant Bay to stand trial under martial law. Gordon was quickly convicted of conspiracy and executed, on suspicion of having planned the rebellion. Eyre’s rapid execution of Gordon on flimsy charges during the crisis, and the death toll and violence of his suppression of the revolt, resulted in a huge controversy in Britain. Opponents of Eyre and his actions attempted to have him prosecuted for murder, but the case never went to trial. He was forced to resign. The British government passed legislation to make Jamaica a Crown Colony, governing it directly for decades. In 1969, the Jamaican government proclaimed Gordon as a National Hero of Jamaica.

George William Gordon was the second of eight children born in Jamaica to a Scottish planter, Joseph Gordon (1790–1867), and an enslaved woman, Ann Rattray (1792? – before 1865). His siblings were Mary Ann (1813), Margaret (1819?), Janet Isabella (1824?), John (1825), Jane (1826), Ann (1828?) and Ralph Gordon (1830). Gordon was self-educated, teaching himself to read, write, and perform simple accounting. At the age of ten, he was allowed to live with his godfather, James Daly of Black River, Jamaica. Within a year, Gordon began working in Daly’s business.

In 1836, young Gordon opened a store in Kingston and operated as a produce dealer. Richard Hill (Jamaica), a mixed-race lawyer and leader of the free colored community, met him in that year and said of him, “He impressed me then, though young-looking, with the air of a man of ready business habits.” In 1842, he had earned enough to be able to send his sisters to England and France to be educated. Three years later, worth £10,000, he married Lucy Shannon, the white daughter of an Irish newspaper editor.

Gordon later moved to St. Thomas-in-the-East Parish at the eastern end of the island, where he became a wealthy businessman and a landowner. In the 1840s, he married a white Jamaican woman named Mary Jane Perkins, and he co-founded the Jamaica Mutual Life Assurance Society, and was appointed a justice of the peace in seven parishes. In the early 1860s, Gordon lost heavily in coffee dealings.

Gordon was elected from St. Thomas-in-the-East parish as a member of the House of Assembly. On more than one occasion, Gordon deputized as mayor of Kingston for Edward Jordon. Gordon was a radical politician who was popular in the parish of St Thomas-in-the-East, and he was deeply affected by the suffering of the black poor. He complained to a previous governor, Charles Henry Darling, about the poor conditions of the Morant Bay gaol. In 1862, when he made similar complaints to Eyre, the governor immediately removed Gordon from the magistracy. The Colonial Office took the curious stance of backing Eyre while praising Gordon for calling for prison conditions to be improved.

Gordon earned a reputation by the mid-1860s as a critic of the colonial government, especially Governor Edward John Eyre. He maintained a correspondence with English evangelical critics of colonial policy. He also established a Native Baptist church, where Paul Bogle was a deacon.

In 1863, Gordon defeated his rival, a white planter, for a seat on the Assembly for St Thomas-in-the-East with the support of the small settler vote, galvanized by Bogle. Gordon was also made a member of the parish vestry. However, the colonial elite who ran the parish vestry objected to the presence of Gordon, because he represented the concerns of the black peasantry. A father and son team of the same name, Stephen Cooke, conspired to have Gordon expelled from the parish vestry, a move that angered the black peasantry. The next year, the settlers re-elected Gordon to the parish vestry, and he brought a court action against the custos of the parish, Baron von Ketelhodt. 

In May 1865 Gordon allegedly attempted to purchase an ex-Confederate schooner with a view to ferrying arms and ammunition to Jamaica from the United States of America, although this was unknown at the time. In 1865 the mass of Jamaicans were ex-slaves and their descendents; they struggled with poverty and crop failure in the mostly rural economy, and the aftermath of crippling epidemics of cholera and smallpox.

Norman Washington Manley

Norman Washington Manley

Norman Washington Manley MM, QC, National Hero of Jamaica (4 July 1893 – 2 September 1969), was a Jamaican statesman. A Rhodes Scholar, Manley became one of Jamaica’s leading lawyers in the 1920s. Manley was an advocate of universal suffrage, which was granted by the British colonial government to the colony in 1944.

Encouraged by the Founder of the People’s National, Osmond Theodore Fairclough, who had joined forces with the brothers Frank and Ken Hill, Hedley P. Jacobs and others in 1938, he helped to launch the People’s National Party which later was tied to the Trade Union Congress and even later the National Workers Union. He led the PNP in every election from 1944 to 1967. Their efforts resulted in the New Constitution of 1944, granting full adult suffrage. 

Manley served as the colony’s Chief Minister from 1955 to 1959, and as Premier from 1959 to 1962. He was a proponent of self-government but was persuaded to join nine other British colonies in the Caribbean territories in a Federation of the West Indies but called a referendum on the issue in 1961. Voters chose to have Jamaica withdraw from the union. He then opted to call a general election even though his five-year mandate was barely halfway through. 

Norman Washington Manley was born to mixed-race parents in Roxborough in Jamaica’s Manchester Parish. His father, Thomas Albert Samuel Manley was a small businessman born in Porus, Manchester, Jamaica in 1852. His mother, Margaret Shearer, was the daughter of a mixed-race woman and her Irish husband, a pen-keeper (animal husbandry). His grandparents were Samuel Manley, a trader who had migrated from Yorkshire, and Esther Anderson Stone.

Manley was a brilliant scholar, soldier and athlete, and studied at Jamaica College as a Rhodes Scholar. He won six medals in the Jamaican schoolboy championships in 1911, including the 100 yards in 10 seconds, an island schoolboy record not broken until 1952. That time would have put young Manley into the final of that event in both the 1908 and 1912 Olympics. He served in the Royal Field Artillery during World War I, and was awarded the Military Medal (M.M.) 

After the war, Manley returned to Jamaica and served as a barrister. 

During the labor troubles of 1938, in the years of the Great Depression, he identified with the workers, donating his time and advocacy to assist them. That year, Manley co-founded the People’s National Party, which was tied to the Trade Union Congress and later the National Workers Union. The PNP supported the trade union movement including the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union, then led by Manley’s cousin Alexander Bustamante. At the same time, Manley worked for Universal Adult Suffrage. 

After suffrage was approved in 1944, Manley had to wait ten years (two terms) before his party was elected to office. He was a strong advocate of the Federation of the West Indies as a means of propelling Jamaica into self-government. When Sir Alexander Bustamante declared that the opposition Jamaica Labor Party would take Jamaica out of the Federation, Manley, already renowned for his commitment to democracy, called for a referendum, unprecedented in Jamaica, to let the people decide. 

The vote was decidedly against Jamaica’s continued membership in the Federation. Manley, after arranging Jamaica’s orderly withdrawal from the union, set up a joint committee to decide on a constitution for separate independence for Jamaica. He chaired the committee and led the team that negotiated independence. And then he called the election that was to see him become Leader of the Opposition instead of Jamaica’s first Prime Minister. 

As premier, Manley renegotiated a government contract with bauxite companies, leading to a six-fold increase in revenue. His government also set the dominant economic agenda for the future in Jamaica by establishing statutory boards, government bodies, and quasi-government authorities to regulate and play an active role in industry.

Industrialization, increased agricultural production, and agrarian reform figured large in the People’s National Party’s plan for a great leap forward. According to Philip Sherlock, five years after he took office, Manley was able to claim that much had been done to correct the imbalance in the distribution of land in Jamaica. Of the country’s 2.2 million acres of usable land, 1.2 million acres were in the hands of people who owned under 500 acres each, and 0.7 million acres were held by those who owned properties of over 500 acres. According to a 1954–55 census, there were 198,000 farmers with holdings of under 500 acres. There had been a great shift in land ownership (which was continuing), and steps were also taken to ensure that idle acres were put to use, with Manley repeating a “commonplace thought,” that the ownership of land was a sacred obligation, and that no country could afford to regard land as unfettered private property because the life of the whole community depended on it. The Manley Government showed that it meant business by passing a Land Bonds Law that gave powers for the compulsory acquisition of land and provided the means for compensation. Thousands of small farmers were provided with subsidies, while new markets were opened for increase of products in various fields. The Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation was set up for public education and entertainment as well as to encourage Jamaican creative talent, public library facilities were extended to all parishes, and primary schools were built.

The Facilities for Title Act of 1955 enabled people who occupy land for more than 7 years to obtain credit for development. The Loans To Small Business Act was passed in 1956 “to provide for the establishment of a board to grant loans and other forms of financial assistance to persons engaged in carrying on small businesses,” while the Shops and Offices Act was passed in May 1961 to provide for “the regulation of the hours of business of shops and offices and for the welfare and the regulation of the hours of work of persons employed in or about the business of shops and offices.”

Agricultural aid was also increased during Manley’s time in office. Rather than giving subsidies, as the Jamaican Labor Party had done, incentives were offered and facilities for soft loans were provided. The money allocated for agricultural credit went up from £182,000 in 1954 to £893,000 in 1959 and to £947,000 in 1961. money was available for land reclamation, dairy farming, fish farming, water and irrigation, improved land use, fertilizer programs and the like.

The Jamaica Institute of Technology was established in 1958, and that same year Caledonia Junior College was established under the Emergency Teacher Training Scheme to address the shortage of trained teachers. The Education Law was amended in 1958 so that the old education department of the colonial period might be integrated into the ministry, and that the constitutional responsibility of the minister for the entire educational system might be fully established. A five-year education plan f 1955 was expanded into a ten-year plan in 1957, and by the following year 15% of government funds were being spent on education. Some of this money was allocated towards a program of grants-in-aids that brought secondary education within the reach of many more children. In 1958, the Common Entrance examination was introduced, which offered an unprecedented 2,000 free places in high schools each year (previously, most high-school students were the fee-paying children of the well-to-do, with only a handful of parish scholarships available through which the bright poor could gain access). In 1960, a pension scheme for sugar workers was introduced.

Queen Nanny

Queen Nanny

Queen Nanny or Nanny (c. 1686 – c. 1755), a Jamaica National Hero, was an 18th-century leader of the Jamaican Maroons. Much of what is known about her comes from oral history, as little textual evidence exists. She was born into the Asante people in what is today Ghana, and escaped from slavery after being transported to Jamaica. 

Historical documents refer to her as the “rebels’ old ‘obeah’ woman. “Following some armed confrontations, colonial officials reached a settlement for peace. They legally granted “Nanny and the people now residing with her and their heirs … a certain parcel of Land containing five hundred acres in the parish of Portland” Nanny Town was founded on this land but was destroyed during the First Maroon War in 1734. Another Maroon town was founded by survivors and later known as Moore Town. 

The Maroons are descendants of West Africans, mainly people from the Akan Asante people of what is today Ghana. They were known as Coromantie or Koromantee, and were considered ferocious fighters. A minority of slaves originated from other regions of Africa, including the Congo and Madagascar. After being brought to Jamaica in the course of the Transatlantic slave trade, many slaves fled from the oppressive conditions of plantations and formed their own communities in the rugged, hilly interior of the island. People who escaped from slavery joined the other Maroons. Up to the 1650s under Spanish rule, slaves escaped and intermarried with the native islanders, the Arawak people, in their communities in the Blue Mountains (Jamaica), located in Portland Parish and Saint Thomas Parish, Jamaica, in the eastern end of the island. 

Later, after the British assumed control of the colony, more slaves escaped joining the two main bands of Windward and Leeward Maroons. By the early 18th century, these were headed respectively by Nanny of the Maroons and Captain Cudjoe. From 1655 until they signed peace treaties in 1739 and 1740, these Maroons led most of the slave rebellions in Jamaica, helping to free slaves from the plantations. They raided and then damaged lands and buildings held by plantation owners. 

Nanny was born into the Asante tribe/nation about 1686 in what is now Ghana, West Africa. It is believed that some of her family members were involved in intertribal conflict and her village was captured. Nanny and several relatives were sold as slaves and transported to Jamaica. There she was likely sold to a plantation in Saint Thomas Parish, just outside the Port Royal area. The commodity crop was sugarcane, and the slaves toiled under extremely harsh conditions to cultivate, harvest and process it. Another version of her life tells that she was of royal African blood and came to Jamaica as a free woman. She may have been married to a man named Adou, but had no known children who survived.

As a child, Nanny was influenced by other slave leaders and maroons. One story says that she and her “brothers”, Accompong, Cudjoe and Quao, ran away from their plantation and hid in the Blue Mountains. While in hiding, they split up to organize more Maroon communities across Jamaica: Cudjoe went to Saint James Parish and organized a village, which was later named Cudjoe’s Town (Trelawny Town); Accompong settled in Saint Elizabeth Parish, in a community that came to be known as Accompong Town; and Nanny and Quao founded communities in the Blue Mountains. 

A more likely origin for the Leeward Maroons occurred in 1690 when there was a Coromantee rebellion on Sutton’s estate in western Jamaica, and most of these slaves ran away to form the Leeward Maroons.[8] Cudjoe is probably the son of one of the leaders of this revolt. While Cudjoe emerged as the leader of the Leeward Maroons of the west, Nanny came to prominence as one of the main leaders of the Windward Maroons of the east. 

By 1720, Nanny and Quao had settled and controlled an area in the Blue Mountains. It was later given the name Nanny Town. Nanny Town had a strategic location overlooking Stony River via a 900-foot (270 m) ridge, making a surprise attack by the British very difficult. The Maroons at Nanny Town also organized look-outs for such an attack, and designated certain warriors to be summoned by the sound of a horn called an abeng. 

Nanny became a folk hero. While the British captured Nanny Town on more than one occasion, they were unable to hold on to it, in the wake of numerous guerrilla attacks from the Maroons. The Maroons waged a successful war against the British colonial forces over the course of a decade.

When Nanny Town was abandoned, the Windward Maroons under the command of Nanny moved to New Nanny Town, which consisted of 500 acres (2.4 km²) of land granted by the government to the refugee slaves under a 1740 treaty ending the First Maroon War.

The community raised animals, hunted, and grew crops. Maroons at Nanny Town and similar communities survived by sending traders to the nearby market towns to exchange food for weapons and cloth. It was organized very much like a typical Asante society in Africa. 

The Maroons were also known for raiding plantations for weapons and food, burning the plantations, and leading freed slaves to join their mountain communities. Nanny was highly successful at organizing plans to free slaves. During a period of 30 years, she was credited with freeing more than 1000 slaves, and helping them to resettle in the Maroon community. 

Many in her community attributed Nanny’s leadership skills to her Obeah powers. Obeah is an African-derived religion that is still practiced in Suriname, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Barbados, Belize and other Caribbean countries. It is associated with both good and bad magic, charms, luck, and with mysticism in general. In some Caribbean nations, aspects of Obeah have survived through synthesis with Christian symbolism and practice introduced by European colonials and slave owners. 

Nanny’s tribe of origin, Asante, strongly resisted Europeans in West Africa and the New World. She was also likely influenced by her “brothers” and other Maroons in Jamaica. She can even be compared to Asante figures such as Nana Yaa Asantewaa 200 years later who also resisted the British for the sake of Ashanti independence. 

Nanny possessed a wide knowledge of herbs and other traditional healing methods, practiced by Africans and native islanders. She served as a physical and spiritual healer to her community, which in turn elevated her status and esteem. 

Nanny shared the leadership of the Windward Maroons with Quao. The leaders of the Leeward Maroons during the conflict were Cudjoe and Accompong.

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Samuel Sharpe  (1804 – 22 May 1831), also known as Sam Sharpe, was an enslaved Jamaican man who was the leader of the widespread 1832 Baptist War slave rebellion (also known as the Christmas Rebellion) in Jamaica. 

He was proclaimed a National Hero of Jamaica in 1975 and his image is on the $50 Jamaican 

Samuel Sharpe was born into enslavement in the parish of St James, Jamaica on a plantation owned by Samuel and Jane Sharpe around 1805. The Slave Return of 1832 announcing his death gave his name as Archer aka Samuel Sharpe, the son of Eve, and he was only 31 years old when he died. The Slave Return of Samuel and Jane Sharpe 1817 showed a young 12-year-old Archer on the plantation with his mother Juda Bligom and siblings Joe (two years old) and Eliza (20 years old). He was allowed to become educated. Because of his education, he was respected by other slaves. 

Sharpe became a well-known preacher and leader in the Baptist Church, which had long welcomed slaves as members and recognized them as preachers. He was a deacon at the Burchell Baptist Church in Montego Bay, whose pastor was Rev. Thomas Burchell, a missionary from England. Sharpe spent most of his time travelling to different parishes in Jamaica, educating the slaves about Christianity, which he believed promised freedom. 

Main article: Baptist War

Slaves learned that the British Parliament was discussing abolition of slavery; those who could read followed such news closely. In the mistaken belief that emancipation had already been granted by the British Parliament, Sharpe organized a peaceful general strike across many estates in western Jamaica to protest working conditions. As this was the harvest of the sugar cane, it was a critical time for the plantation owners: generally, the workforce had to work overtime to process the cane quickly at its peak. The Christmas Rebellion (Baptist War) began on 27 December 1831 at the Kensington Estate. Reprisals by the plantation owners led to the rebels’ burning the crops. 

Sharpe’s originally peaceful protest turned into Jamaica’s largest slave rebellion. The uprising lasted for 10 days and spread throughout the entire island, mobilizing as many as 60,000 of Jamaica’s enslaved population. The colonial government used the armed Jamaican military forces and warriors from the towns of the Jamaican Maroons to put down the rebellion, suppressing it within two weeks. Some 14 whites were killed by armed slave battalions, but more than 200 slaves were killed by troops. Afterwards, more reprisals followed. The government tried, convicted, and hanged many of the ringleaders, including Sharpe, in 1832. A total of 310 to 340 slaves were executed through the judicial process, including many for minor offenses such as theft of livestock. 

In the months leading up to his execution, while in jail, Sharpe had several meetings with Rev. Henry Bleby, a missionary, who reported that Sharpe told him: “I would rather die upon yonders gallows than live my life in slavery, than live a slave.”[8] The rebellion and government response provoked two detailed Parliamentary Inquiries. The Jamaican government’s severe reprisals in the aftermath of the rebellion are believed to have contributed to passage by Parliament of the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act and final abolition of slavery across the British Empire in 1838.

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