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Jamaican History: 10 facts!

INDEPENDENCE: Jamaicans in London celebrating in 1962

IN CELEBRATION of Jamaica's 50th year of independence we count down 10 important facts about the amazing country's history.

1) Two indigenous tribes, the Arawak and Taino resided in Jamaica before European colonisation, from about 4000 BC, until the 1494 arrival of Christopher Columbus, who claimed the island for Spain.

2) The Spanish were forcibly evicted by the British at Ocho Rios in 1655. Many West African slaves fled into the mountains, when the English captured Jamaica to live with the Tainos. They became known as the Jamaican Maroons.

3) During the first 200 years of British rule, Jamaica became the world’s leading sugar-producing nation.

4) The Christmas Rebellion of 1831-32, a 10-day revolt led by preacher Samuel Sharpe, saw 60,000 slaves demand freedom and a working wage of half the going rate.

It was the largest slave uprising in the British West Indies, but was suppressed by the British forces, with approximately 500 slaves killed.

5) The 1865 Morant Bay Rebellion involved about 300 Jamaicans, including Paul Bogle, who wanted the right to vote and an improvement of economic and social standards.

The rebellion was brutally smashed by the British forces who – as has been stated in the history books – “slaughtered all before [them]…man or woman or child.” 793 black Jamaicans were killed and over 600 flogged.


Handshake: (l-r) Alexander Bustamante; British MP Hugh Fraser; Secretary of State for the Colonies Reginald Maudling; and Jamaican Premiere Norman Manley after the formal signing of the Jamaican Independence Conference report in 1962

6) The People’s National Party (PNP) was founded by Norman Manley in 1938.

7) The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) was founded in 1943 with leader Alexander Bustamante.

8) The first general election took place in 1944, with a new constitution and popularly elected House of Representatives. The JLP won the election with 22 of the 32 seats.

9) Before gaining independence in 1962, Jamaica was part of the 1958 Federation of the West Indies, a union of all British colonies in the Caribbean.

10) Jamaica’s constitution was drafted and came into force in February 1962. On August 6, 1962, Jamaica became independent within the British Commonwealth, with Alexander Bustamante of the Jamaica Labour Party as Prime Minister.

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