Jamaica’s National Heroes: Norman Manley

Norman Washington Manley was born in the parish of Manchester on July 4, 1893. He was a Rhodes scholar and athlete, soldier (First World War) and lawyer.

During the labor unrest of 1938, Manley identified himself with the cause of the workers and donated time and advocacy to the cause. In September 1938, he founded the People’s National Party (PNP) and was elected its president annually until his retirement in 1969.

Norman Manley
Norman Manley

Manley and the PNP supported the trade union movement, then led by his cousin, Alexander Bustamante, while leading the demand for Universal Adult Suffrage. However, when it came, Manley had to wait ten years and two terms before his party was elected to office.

Manley was a strong advocate of the Federation of the West Indies, established in 1958 and Jamaica’s participation in it. But when Sir Alexander Bustamante declared that the opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), would take Jamaica out of the Federation, Manley, already well known for his integrity and commitment to democracy, called a Referendum, an unprecedented move in Jamaica, to let the people decide. The vote was decisively against Jamaica’s continued membership of the Federation.

After arranging Jamaica’s orderly withdrawal from the union, Manley set up a joint committee to decide on a constitution for separate independence for Jamaica. He chaired the committee with great distinction and then led the team that negotiated the island’s independence from Britain.

That settled, Manley went again to the people. However, he lost the ensuing election to the JLP and gave his last years of service as leader of the opposition, establishing definitively the role of the parliamentary opposition in a developing nation.

In his last public address to an annual conference of the PNP, Manley said: “I say that the mission of my generation was to win self-government for Jamaica, to win political power which is the final power for the black masses of my country from which I spring. I am proud to stand here today and say to you who fought that fight with me, say it with gladness and pride, mission accomplished for my generation.

“And what is the mission of this generation? … It is… reconstructing the social and economic society and life of Jamaica.”

Norman Manley retired from politics on July 4, 1969. He died on September 2. 1969. His second son, Michael, served as prime minister in 1972 and 1989.

Manley was proclaimed a National Hero in 1969.

Source: jis.gov.jm

Jamaica’s National Heroes: Marcus Garvey

Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jamaica’s first National Hero was born in St. Ann’s Bay on August 17, 1887. He was the youngest of eleven children born to Marcus Garvey, Sr., and Sarah Jane Richards.

Garvey’s father, whom he described as “severe, firm, determined, bold and strong, refusing to yield even to superior forces if he believed he was right” influenced him greatly. The elder Garvey had an extensive library where young Marcus learned to read.

Marcus Garvey
Marcus Garvey

At age 14, Garvey went to Kingston where he worked as a printer and later published a small newspaper, The Watchman. While in Kingston, he became involved in union activities and took part in an unsuccessful printers’ strike in 1907.

From 1910-12, he traveled extensively throughout Central America observing and writing about the poor working and living conditions of black people. He later traveled to the UK where he attended Birkbeck College and worked for the African Times and Orient Review, which advocated Pan-Africanism.

Fueled by these experiences, Garvey returned to Jamaica in 1914 and started the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). The goal of the organization was to unite all the people of the African Diaspora to “establish a country and absolute power of their own.” The UNIA also encouraged self-help economic projects and protest against racial discrimination.

In 1916, Garvey settled in Harlem where he began a branch of the UNIA. He spoke across the United States, encouraging African-Americans to be proud of their race and return to Africa, their ancestral homeland. By 1918, he began publishing the Negro World newspaper to help spread his message.

In 1919, the UNIA launched the Black Star line, a shipping company that would establish trade between Africans in Africa and the rest of the world, and provide transportation back to Africa and started the Negro Factories Corporation to encourage black economic independence. He tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade the Liberian government to grant land on which black people coming from the Americas could settle.

By 1920, when the UNIA held its first international convention at Madison Square Gardens, in New York City, it boasted 4 million members. Speaking to a crowd of 25,000 people from around the world, Garvey exhorted them to have pride in their African heritage.

While Booker T. Washington, with whom he corresponded, and A. Philip Randolph supported Garvey’s views, W.E.B. Dubois called him “the most dangerous enemy of the Negro race in America.” The U.S. government also viewed his activities with disapproval.

In 1922, Garvey was arrested for mail fraud in connection with the sale of stock in the Black Star Line, which had now failed. Although there were irregularities connected to the business, the prosecution was probably politically motivated, as Garvey’s activities had attracted considerable government attention. He was sent to prison and later deported to Jamaica.

Back in Jamaica in 1927, he continued his political activities, forming the People’s Political Party in 1929. He was unsuccessful in national elections but won a seat on the Kingston & St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC). Unfortunately, the world of 1930s Jamaica was not ready for Garvey’s progressive ideas and he left for England in 1935. He died there on June 10, 1940. He was buried in England because of World War II travel restrictions. In 1964, his body was returned to Jamaica where it was re-interred at the National Heroes Park in Kingston.

Garvey’s memory and influence remain. His message of pride and dignity inspired many in the early days of the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. In tribute to his many contributions, Garvey’s bust has been displayed in the Organization of American States’ Hall of Heroes in Washington, D.C. The country of Ghana named its shipping line the Black Star Line and its national soccer team the Black Stars, in honor of Garvey.

A petition, started earlier this year to urge President Barack Obama to clear Garvey’s name, was reportedly rejected by the White House.

Jamaica’s National Heroes: George William Gordon

George William Gordon was born in 1819 to a slave mother and a planter father. In 1834, the year slavery was

George William Gordon
George William Gordon

abolished (on August 1st), he was elected to the House of Assembly for the parish of St. Thomas. He was 23 years old. Gordon was also a leader of the Native Baptist Movement.

The termination of slavery brought freedom and the right to vote but the majority of the black population did not qualify as they could neither read nor write or afford the high fee that was required. Seeing that many had no land to farm, Gordon subdivided his own lands and sold farm lots to them as cheaply as possible. He also organized a system through which they could sell their produce at fair prices. Gordon built several churches at his own expense and ordained ministers.

When a severe drought worsened economic conditions for the people and rumors of a return of slavery began circulating, Gordon urged them to protest. As a result of his activism, Gordon developed a reputation as a critic of the colonial government and in particular, Edward John Eyre, Governor of the island.

Eyre denied the terrible conditions the people lived in when in 1865, the secretary of the Baptist Missionary Society of Great Britain, Dr. Edward Underhill, wrote to the Colonial Office in protest on their behalf. Eyre also sent his comments with another letter that was sent by farmers in the parish of St. Ann asking Queen Victoria for Crown lands to cultivate as they could not find lands on their own. The Queen’s reply that they should work harder made it clear that Eyre had influenced her.

Jamaican $10 note bearing the image of George William Gordon
Jamaican $10 note bearing the image of George William Gordon

On October 7, 1865, Paul Bogle, a Baptist deacon, led men and women to the Morant Bay Court House to protest the issuance of warrants for the arrest of several men of the area and the general conditions under whish people had to live, Gordon was not in St. Thomas and had no knowledge of the protest.

That fact notwithstanding, he was arrested and charged for complicity in what is now known as the Morant Bay Rebellion. He was court martialed illegally and, despite a lack of evidence, convicted and sentenced to death. Gordon was executed on October 23, 1865, Paul Bogle a day later.

The execution of Gordon and Bogle and nearly 500 others caused an uproar in Britain. Those who sided with Eyre, Thomas Carlyle, Charles Dickens, Alfred Lord Tennyson and others, noted his decisive action in stopping the rebellion and restoring order. John Stuart Mill, who was against Eyre, created the Jamaica Committee, which included Charles Darwin, Thomas Huxley and others. They called for Eyre to be tried for murder. He was charged twice but the cases never went to trial.

As a result of the rebellion, Jamaica became a Crown Colony.

In 1960, the House of Assembly, now the Parliament building, was named George William Gordon House (Gordon House) his honor.

In 1965, Gordon was accorded highest honor Jamaica bestows, that of National Hero.

In 1969, his image was placed on the Jamaican $10 note, now a coin.

Several groups such as Culture, Steel Pulse and Third World 1865 96° in the Shade have paid tribute to him in their music.

Sources: caribbeanancestry.com, jis.gov.jm

Travel Photo Thursday: Firefly Estate

Firefly was the name British author, Sir Noel Coward gave to his vacation home in Jamaica. Located on the north east coast of the island in the parish of St. Mary, Firefly was once owned by the pirate and former Lieutenant-Governor of Jamaica, Sir Henry Morgan, who is said to have used it as a lookout — the property has a commanding view of the harbor.

Statue of Noel Coward at Firefly Estate
Coward's View: Statue of Noel Coward at Firefly Estate
View from Firefly Estate
View from Firefly Estate
Firefly Estate
Firefly Estate

Coward hosted many dignitaries at Firefly including, Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen Mother, Sir Laurence Olivier, Winston Churchill, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole, Sophia Lauren, Alec Guinness. He also entertained his neighbors Ian Fleming, Errol Flynn and Ruth Bryan Owen.

Of the time he spent at Firefly, Coward wrote in his diary, “Firefly has given me the most valuable benison of all: time to read and write and think and get my mind in order.” “I love this place, it deeply enchants me. Whatever happens to this silly world, nothing much is likely to happen here.”

He believe writing came easier when he was here, “the sentences seemed to construct themselves, the right adjectives appeared discretely at the right moment. Firefly has magic for me. . . .”.

Written on one of its walls were the first lines of his last poem, When I have fears, as Keats had fears, Of the moment I’ll cease to be, I console myself with vanished years, Remembered laughter, remembered tears, And the peace of the changing sea.

On March 26, 1973, Sir Noel Coward died of a heart attack at Firefly. He was 74 years old. He was buried in his garden at the estate.

Firefly was designated a National Heritage Site by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust. It is now a museum dedicated to the author.

This is my submission to this week’s Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday series. Be sure to check out other photo and story entries on their website!

Jamaica’s National Heroes: Paul Bogle

Paul Bogle was born free about 1822 in Stony Gut, near Morant Bay in St. Thomas. He was a Baptist deacon and landowner.

On October 11, 1865, thirty-one years following the abolition of slavery in Jamaica, Bogle led about 300 men and women to Morant Bay Courthouse, in protest against poverty and injustice and a lack of confidence in the authorities.

Paul Bogle
Paul Bogle

The community had a number of grievances. Small farmers had been hit hard by drought the previous year and rumors surfaced that the white owners had intended to bring back slavery.

White owners, who were outnumbered 32 to 1 by the majority black population, still controlled power. And even though, Jamaicans were legally allowed to vote, the requirement that they had to be able to read and write and pay a high fee in order to do so meant only a few, Bogle among them, could enjoy that privilege.

The incident that brought matters to a head was that arrest warrants had been issued for 27 men of the village. The men were among those who had freed one of their number who had been found guilty of trespassing on an abandoned plantation and thrown in jail.

When Bogle and his group arrived at the courthouse, they were met by a local militia who opened fire killing seven protestors. Eighteen people were killed during the riot that ensued and the peaceful protest turned into what is now known as the Morant Bay Rebellion when more than 2,000 others joined in.

Fearful that the uprising would spread to the rest of the island, Edward Eyre, the British Governor at the time, sent troops to Morant Bay to quell the revolt. By the time they arrived, however, things had calmed. Unfortunately, this did not stop the brutal response of the authorities.

Nearly 500 Jamaicans were killed by troops, 354 were arrested and later executed, and 600 punishments including floggings and prison sentences were carried out.

Paul Bogle was arrested and executed on October 24th at the Courthouse. His friend and supporter George William Gordon, another National Hero, who had very little to do with the uprising, was arrested in Kingston, tried under martial law and hanged on October 23rd.

The rebellion had a huge impact on Jamaica and Britain. In Britain, it caused significant public outcry with people falling into two camps: those who supported Governors Eyre’s response and those who believed that he should be tried for murder.

Those opposed to his actions, including liberal politicians, like Charles Darwin and John Stuart Mill, set up the Jamaica Committee. Eyre was charged twice with murder but never made it to trial. He returned to the UK in August 1866.

As a result of the riot, the Jamaican Assembly renounced its charter and Jamaica became a Crown Colony.

Paul Bogle was named a National Hero of Jamaica in 1969. His likeness appeared on the Jamaican $2 note from 1969 until it was phased out in 1989, and on the 10c coin since 1991.

Jamaican $2 with image of Paul Bogle
Jamaican $2 with image of Paul Bogle

According to a friend and descendant of Bogle, many family members, fearing further reprisals by the authorities, scattered to other parts of the island, some even changed their names. However, the Bogle name still lives on and is mentioned in music by several Jamaican musicians including Steel Pulse, and most notably Bob Marley, who sings in “So Much Things To Say” “I’ll never forget no way they turned their backs on Paul Bogle, so don’t you forget no youth who you are and where you stand in the struggle.”

Jamaica’s National Heroine: Nanny of the Maroons

Much of what is known about Nanny, or Granny Nanny as she’s also called, has been gained from oral history. One thing, however, is clear: Nanny was an outstanding military leader who was a thorn in the side of the British in their battles with the Maroons, communities of defiant slaves who escaped plantation life for the nearly impenetrable hills in the interior of Jamaica. She outsmarted, out-planned and out-manouvered the British at every turn.

Nanny, an Ashanti, was a small, wiry woman with piercing eyes. She was born in Ghana around 1686. Nanny was brought to Jamaica as a slave. She and her brothers, Accompong, Johnny, Quao, and Cudjoe ran away from their plantation and hid in the mountains. Later, they separated to organize more Maroon communities – Cudjoe to St. James (Cudjoe Town), Accompong to St. Elizabeth (Accompong), Nanny and Quao to Portland, where they controlled an area known as Nanny Town.

Jamaican $500 note with likeness of Nanny of the Maroons
Jamaican $500 note with likeness of Nanny of the Maroons

Nanny’s influence over the Maroons was so strong, that it seemed to be supernatural and was said to be connected to her powers of obeah. She was particularly skilled in organizing the guerilla warfare carried out by the Eastern Maroons to keep away the British troops who attempted to penetrate the mountains to overpower them.

Her cleverness in planning guerilla warfare confused the British and their accounts of the fights reflect the surprise and fear that the Maroon traps caused among them.

Besides inspiring her people to ward off the troops, Nanny was also a village elder, a wise woman, who passed down legends. She encouraged the continuation of customs, music and songs, that had come with them from Africa, and which instilled in them confidence and pride.

Her spirit of freedom was so great that in 1739, when Quao signed the second Treaty (the first was signed by Cudjoe for the Leeward Maroons a few months earlier) with the British, it is reported that Nanny was very angry and in disagreement with the principle of peace with the British, which she knew meant another form of subjugation.

In 1976, Nanny was named National Heroine, the only woman to be so honored. Her likeness graces the face of the Jamaican $500 note, the “Nanny.” Her portrait is also used as the logo of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Abolition and Resistance at Yale University. The Center sponsors research and conferences on slavery and resistance in the Americas.

Jamaica’s National Heroes: Samuel Sharpe

Born in 1801 in St. James, Samuel Sharpe was a deacon in the Baptist church. Although he was a slave, he

Statue of Sam Sharpe, Sam Sharpe Square, Montego Bay
Statue of Sam Sharpe, Sam Sharpe Square, Montego Bay

was also an educated man. Since religious meetings were the only forms of organized activities permissible for the slaves, Sharpe travelled widely teaching other slaves about Christianity and encouraging discussions about the fight for freedom. Sharpe became a highly regarded of the native Baptists in Montego Bay and was widely known as “Daddy” Sharpe.

He devised a plan of passive resistance – the slaves would refuse to work on Christmas Day of 1831 and after, unless their grievances regarding better treatment and their consideration of freedom were accepted by the owners.

Sharpe explained his plan to chosen supporters after his religious meetings and had them kiss the Bible to show their loyalty. They, in turn, took the plan to other parishes. Unfortunately, word reached the owners and troops, with guns drawn, were sent to Montego Bay and Black River in St. Elizabeth.

On December 27, 1831, the Kensington Great House in St. James was set on fire as a signal that the Slave Rebellion had begun. Soon after, a series of other fires broke out in the area and it was clear that the plan of non-violent resistance, which Sharpe had created was no longer possible.

Sam Sharpe Mural, Montego Bay
Sam Sharpe Mural, Sam Sharpe Square, Montego Bay

By the first week of January, the Rebellion was put down. More than 500 slaves and 14 whites lost their
lives.  Sharpe, who had vowed that he “would rather die upon yonder gallows than live in slavery” was hanged on May 23, 1832 at Parade in Montego Bay. It was renamed Sam Sharpe Square in his honor.

In 1834, the British Parliament passed the Abolition Bill that ended slavery in 1838.

Sharpe was named a National Hero in 1975. His likeness can also be found on the $50 note.

A Taste of Jamaica in Photos

The Taste of Jamaica, a display of local foods and culinary contests, was held over the weekend at the Convention Center near Montego Bay. Here are some photos of the event.

A medley of local fruits and vegetables at a Taste of Jamaica
Fruits and vegetables
Ackees at Taste of Jamaica
Ackee, the National Fruit
Sample meal from the chef's competition at Taste of Jamaica
Sample from the chefs’ competition
Taste of Jamaica - Beverages
Beverage samples
Beverage samples from Taste of Jamaica
Beverage samples
Attendees at the Taste of Jamaica
Part of the crowd
Taste of Jamaica Ice sculpting contest
Ice sculptors

I’m still trying to sort out my internet connection, which is spotty at best. As a result, I haven’t been able to spend much time online. Please bear with me, I promise to get to your comments and catch up on all the posts that I’ve missed.


Six Must See New York City Landmarks

As promised in my earlier post, here are a few more New York City landmarks that my blog buddy, Tony, who’s planning an upcoming trip to Big Apple, can add to his list.

Bell Laboratories, 463 West Street – The original home of Bell Laboratories (1925-1960s) and of numerous inventions including the first experimental talking movies, black and white and color television, video telephone, the first commercial broadcast of the New York Philharmonic with Toscanini and a baseball game. Now home to the Westbeth art collective, it is on the National Register of Historic Places and a National Historic Landmark.

African Burial Ground, Duane and African Burial Ground Way (Elk Street) – During excavation at the site of the Foley Square Federal Office Building in 1991, remains were found and the location was later identified as a cemetery for African slaves. Although only 400 remains were discovered, it was determined that between 15-20,000 people were buried there from the 17th century to its closure in 1812. The site has been declared a U.S. National Monument, a U.S. National Historic Landmark and is on the National Register of Historic Places. A visitor center is located at 290 Broadway.

Rose Reading Room, Main Branch, NYPL - photo courtesy of bridgeandtunnelclub.com
Rose Reading Room, NYPL - photo from bridgeandtunnelclub.com

New York Public Library, 42nd Street & Fifth Avenue – One of the best known Beaux-Arts buildings in New York City, the main branch of the New York Public library housed over a million books on 75 miles of shelves when it opened in 1911. It’s also home to Jefferson’s handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence, Columbus’ letter to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella and Virginia Woolf’s diaries. Tour hours: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., Tuesdays to Saturdays. Closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Andrew Carnegie Mansion, 2 E 91st Street at Fifth Avenue, former home of Andrew Carnegie who built it in 1903 and lived there with his wife until his death in 1919. She died there in 1946. Currently, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the mansion is on the NY List of Historic Sites and the National Register of Historic Places. Unfortunately, it is closed for renovation until 2013.

Chamber of Commerce Building, 65 Liberty Street – This Beaux-Arts marble building was constructed in 1901 for the Chamber of Commerce for the State of New York. It became the home for the International Commercial Bank of China after the Chamber moved in the 1980s. It is on the National Register of Historic Places, a National Historic Landmark and a NYC Landmark.

Church of the Ascension, 36-38 Fifth Avenue at 10th Street – This Gothic Revival church is well known for its valuable interior artwork. Its architectural design, sculpture, stained glass and artwork landed it on the National Register of Historic Places. It is also a National Historic Landmark.

Will add to this list as I find more.


Harlem’s Backyard Gems

“Harlem’s Backyard Gems is my entry into TBEX Blog Carnival Contest sponsored by Choice Hotels International Services Corp.

When I decided to move to New York in the late 90s, the only place I wanted to live in was Harlem. I imagined myself in a brownstones like the one of a family friend I visited in the 1970s that became symbolic of this historic neighborhood. With sweeping steps that led to beautifully hand-crafted double doors it seemed to welcome everyone in.

But brownstones are just one of many things Harlem is known for. Formerly a Dutch village, Harlem got its name from the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands. It was also once the second largest Jewish community in the U.S. and home to a large population of Italians.

Continue reading “Harlem’s Backyard Gems”