Independence Day Jamaica

The Colony of Jamaica gained independence from the United Kingdom on 6 August 1962. In Jamaica, this date is celebrated as Independence Day, a national holiday. The island became an imperial colony in 1509 when Spain conquered the Indigenous Arawak people. In 1655, British forces took the island with hardly a fight, and the British Empire claimed it. Over the years, escaped slaves joined Indigenous survivors in the mountains, forming a society known as Maroons. Maroons won a war against British forces (1728–1740) but lost a second war (1795–1796). In the 1800s, slavery was abolished and Jamaicans gained suffrage, although the British still held power. Early in the 20th century, Marcus Garvey promoted Black nationalism and became the most notable Black leader of his day. During the Great Depression, workers protested inequality and fought the authorities in Jamaica and other Caribbean colonies. In 1943, labor leader Alexander Bustamante won an electoral victory and established a new, more liberal constitution. After World War II, Jamaican leaders developed the government structure to prepare for independence. In 1962, Bustamante’s party won the election and he became premier. That same year, the UK Parliament officially granted Jamaica independence, and Bustamante became the independent country’s first prime minister.

1. Indigenous origins

The Colony of Jamaica gained independence from the United Kingdom on 6 August 1962. In Jamaica, this date is celebrated as Independence Day, a national holiday.

The island became an imperial colony in 1509 when Spain conquered the Indigenous Arawak people. In 1655, British forces took the island with hardly a fight, and the British Empire claimed it. Over the years, escaped slaves joined Indigenous survivors in the mountains, forming a society known as Maroons. Maroons won a war against British forces (1728–1740) but lost a second war (1795–1796). In the 1800s, slavery was abolished and Jamaicans gained suffrage, although the British still held power. Early in the 20th century, Marcus Garvey promoted Black nationalism and became the most notable Black leader of his day. During the Great Depression, workers protested inequality and fought the authorities in Jamaica and other Caribbean colonies. In 1943, labor leader Alexander Bustamante won an electoral victory and established a new, more liberal constitution. After World War II, Jamaican leaders developed the government structure to prepare for independence. In 1962, Bustamante’s party won the election and he became premier. That same year, the UK Parliament officially granted Jamaica independence, and Bustamante became the independent country’s first prime minister.

2. Jamaican Maroons

Many former Spanish slaves used Anglo-Spanish war as a chance to free themselves and fled into the mountainous and forested regions of the colony to join the ranks of surviving Tainos. As interracial marriage became extremely prevalent, the two racial groups underwent assimilation. The escaped slaves and their descendants, known as the Jamaican Maroons, were the source of many disturbances in the colony, raiding plantations and occupying parts of the island's interior. Imported African slaves would frequently escape to Maroon territory, known as Cockpit Country. Over the first seventy-six years of British rule, skirmishes between Maroon warriors and the British Army grew increasingly common, along with rebellions by enslaved Blacks.

These conflicts culminated in 1728, when the First Maroon War began between the English and Maroons. Largely owing to the easily defendable, dense forest of Cockpit Country, the British were unsuccessful in defeating the Maroons. Following negotiations, the Maroons were granted semi-autonomy within their five towns, living under a British supervisor and their native leader.

In 1795, tensions between the Maroons of Cudjoe's Town (Trelawny Town) and the British erupted into the Second Maroon War. The conflict ended on a less favorable term for Maroons, with a bloody stalemate reigning over the island for five months. Following the killings of plantation owners and their families and the release of slaves by the Maroons, Major-General George Walpole planned to trap the Maroons in Trelawney Town via the use of armed posts and bloodhounds, pushing them to accept peace terms in early January 1796. Fearing British victory, the Maroons accepted open discussions in March. This delay was used as a pretext to have the large majority of the Trelawney Maroons deported to Nova Scotia. They were later moved to Sierra Leone

3. Marcus Garvey

Slavery was abolished in the British Empire by the Slavery Abolition Act  in 1834.[8] Following a period of intense debate, the native and African populace of Jamaica were granted the right to vote; as the 19th century continued the government allowed some of them to hold public office. Despite these accomplishments, the white members of Jamaican colonial society continued to hold the real power.

During the first half of the 20th century the most notable Black leader was Marcus Garvey, a labour leader and advocate of Black nationalism. Garvey, rather than advocating independence of Jamaica and other colonies, promoted the Back-to-Africa movement, which called for everyone of  to return to the homelands of their ancestors. Garvey, to no avail, pleaded with the colonial government to improve living conditions for indigenous peoples in the West Indies. Upon returning from international travels, he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League in 1914, which promoted civil rights for blacks in Jamaica and abroad.Garvey served a five-year prison sentence at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary for defrauding investors in the league, following which he was deported to Jamaica in November 1927, after having his sentence commuted by PresidentCalvin Coolidge. After returning to his place of birth, Garvey tried and failed to be elected into public office. The latter defeat is attributed to his followers lacking the proper voter qualifications. Despite these shortcomings, Marcus Garvey is regarded as a national hero in present-day Jamaica.

4. Party politics

The spike of nationalist sentiment in colonial Jamaica is primarily attributed to the British West Indian labour unrest of 1934–39, which protested the inequalities of wealth between native and British residents of the British West Indies. Through these popular opinions Alexander Bustamante, a White native-born moneylender, rose to political prominence and founded the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union. Bustamante advocated autonomy of the island, and a more equal balance of power. He captured the attention and admiration of many black Jamaican youths with his passionate speeches on behalf of Jamaican workers. After a waterfront protest in September 1940, he was arrested by colonial authorities and remained incarcerated for the better part of two years.

As Bustamante Industrial Trade Union gained support, a cousin of Alexander Bustamante's,Norman Manley, founded the People's National Party (PNP), a democratic socialist movement which also advocated trade unions. Although Bustamante was originally a founding member of the PNP, he resigned from his position there in 1939, citing its socialist tendencies as "too radical."

In July 1943, Bustamante launched the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), which his opponents brushed aside as just a political label of Bustamante Industrial Trade Union. In the following elections, the JLP defeated the PNP with an 18-point lead over the latter in the House of Representatives.

The following year, the JLP led government enacted a new constitution that granted universal adult suffrage, undoing the high voter eligibility standards put in place by British. The new constitution, which was made official on 20 November 1944, established a bicameral legislature and organised an Executive Council made up of ten members of the legislature and chaired by the newly created position of Premier, the head of government. A checks and balances system was also established for this council

5. Path to Independence, 1945–62

As World War II came to a close, a sweeping movement of decolonization overtook the world. British Government and local politicians began a long transition of Jamaica from a crown colony into an independent state. The political scene was dominated by PNP and JLP, with the houses of legislature switching hands between the two throughout the 1950s.

After Norman Manley was elected Chief Minister in 1955, he sped up the process of decolonisation via several constitutional amendments. These amendments allowed for greater self-government and established a cabinet of ministers under a Prime Minister of Jamaica.

6. Independence

In the elections of 1962, the JLP defeated the PNP, resulting in the ascension of Sir Alexander Bustamante to the premiership in April of that year. On 19 July 1962, the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed the Jamaica Independence Act, granting independence as of 6 August with The Queen as Head of State. On that day, the Union Jack was ceremonially lowered and replaced by the Jamaican flag throughout the country. Princess Margare opened the first session of the Parliament of Jamaica on behalf of The Queen.

With the independence of Jamaica, the Cayman Islands reverted from being a self-governing territory of Jamaica to direct British rule.

7. Since 1962

Sir Alexander Bustamante became the first Prime Minister of Jamaica and joined the Commonwealth of Nations, an organisation of ex-British territories. Jamaica continues to be a Commonwealth realm, with the British monarch, Elizabeth II, remaining as Queen of Jamaica and head of state.

Jamaica spent its first ten years of independence under conservative governments, with its economy undergoing continuous growth. However, as it had been throughout much of its history, the independent Jamaica was plagued by issues of class inequality. After the global economy underwent deterioration, the leftist PNP returned to power after the 1972 elections. Uncertain economic conditions troubled the country well into the 1980s.

Michael Manley, the son of Norman Manley, who led what was largely the opposition party throughout the development of independent Jamaica, went on to become the fourth Prime Minister of Jamaica and maintained the People's National Party's status as one of two major political factions of the country