National Heroes

Rt. Excellent Paul Bogle
1822 – 1865

Paul Bogle, it was believed, was born free about 1822. He was a Baptist deacon in Stony Gut, a few miles north of Morant Bay, and a voter at a time when there were only 104 in St. Thomas. He was a firm political adherent of George William Gordon.

He believed in the teachings of the Holy Bible, endorsing the principles of charity and endurance.

Though he was generally regarded as a peaceful man who shunned violence, he was a leader and organizer, he spent time in educating and training his followers.

Poverty and injustice in the society and lack of public confidence in the central authority urged Paul Bogle to lead a protest march to the Morant Bay Court-house on October 11, 1865.

In a violent confrontation with official forces that followed the march, nearly 500 people were killed and a greater number were flogged and punished before order was restored.

Paul Bogle who lived in St. Thomas was captured and hanged on October 24, 1865; but his forceful demonstration achieved it?s 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.

Rt. Excellent Sir Alexander Bustamante
1884-1977

Labour Leader, nationalist politician.

Born Alexander Clarke in the parish of Westmoreland, he took the name Bustamante from an Iberian sea captain who befriended him in his early life. After acquiring some wealth on the American stock exchange, he returned to Jamaica in 1932 and in 1938 lead the resistance to the colonial government.

When Bustamante began to make his presence felt in Jamaica, the country was still a crown colony. Under this system, the Governor had, at all times, the right to veto, which he very often exercised against the wishes of the majority.

Bustamante was quick to realize that the social and economic ills that such a system engendered had to be countered by mobilization of the working class.

Pay and working conditions were poor in the 1920′s and 1930′s. Failing harvests and the lay-off of workers resulted in an influx of unemployed from the countryside into the city. This mass migration did little to alleviate the already tremendous unemployment problem.

Bustamante first impressed his name on the society by a series of letters to Jamaica?s newspaper, the Gleaner and occasionally to British newspapers calling attention to the social and economic problems of the poor and underprivileged in Jamaica.

The years 1937 and 1938 brought the outbreak of widespread discontent and social unrest. In advocating the cause of the masses, Bustamante became the undisputed champion of the working class. He also confronted the power of the colonial Governor, declaring, “Long live the King! But Denham must go.”

During the troublous days of 1938 the security forces were everywhere eyeball to eyeball with Bustamante and the workers. Labour unrest continued on and off.

On September 8, 1940, Bustamante was detained at Up Park Camp for alleged violation of the Defense of the Realm Act. He was released seventeen month he later.

On his release, he formed the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union and the Jamaica Labour Party in 1943. He was the first Premier of Jamaica (1944-1954) and Prime Minister at independence in 1962.

The first general election under Universal Adult Suffrage came in 1944 and the JLP won 22 of the 32 seats.

Alexander Bustamante was an aggressive, outspoken young man who understood the dynamics of labor relations. A charismatic and impressive speaker who criticized the prevailing political system and its attendant social problems.

He is Jamaica?s first Chief Minister, a position he held until 1954, being knighted that same year by the queen.

On August 6, 1962 Jamaica was granted full independence. At the first session of Parliament, Bustamante received the Instruments of Independence from the queen?s representative, Princess Margaret.

In 1962 Sir Alexander Bustamante became Jamaica?s first Prime Minister.

He retired from active politics in 1967. He died on August 6, 1977 at the age of 93.

This time in Jamaica?s history drastic changes were heralded, not by bloodshed but by peaceful negotiations.

Rt. Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey
1887-1940

Marcus Mosiah Garvey stands out in history as one who was greatly committed to the concept of the Emancipation of minds. He sought the unification of all Blacks through the establishment of the United Negro Improvement Association and spoke out against economic exploitation and cultural denigration.

Jamaica?s first national hero was born in Saint Ann?s Bay on August17, 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 Marcus Garvey traveled 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; protest against racial discrimination and cultural activities.

In 1916, Garvey went to the USA where he preached his doctrine of freedom to the oppressed blacks throughout the country. He spent many years in the United States pursuing his goal of Black Unification.

However, USA officials disapproved of his activities and he was imprisoned, then deported.

Back in Jamaica in 1927, he continued his political activity forming the People?s Political Party in 1929. He was unsuccessful in national elections. The world of the thirties was not ready for Marcus Garvey’s progressive ideas. He left Jamaica again, this time for England where he died in 1940.

His body was brought back to Jamaica in 1964 and buried in the National Heroes Park in Kingston.

Marcus Garvey’s legacy can be summed up in the philosophy he taught – race pride, the need for African unity; self-reliance; the need for black people to be organised and for ruler to govern on behalf of the working classes.

His political and cultural activities were largely unsuccessful in his own day but he is now revered as one of the fathers of West Indian nationalism and black racial pride.

The Saint Ann Heritage Foundation in Jamaica is soliciting funds to restore the birthplace of Marcus Garvey.

Rt. Excellent Nanny of the Maroons

Nanny of the Maroons stands out in history as the only female among Jamaica?s national heroes. She possessed that fierce fighting spirit generally associated with the courage of men. In fact, Nanny is described as a fearless Asante warrior who used militarist techniques to fool and beguile the English.

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. Although she has been immortalized in songs and legends, certain facts about Nanny (or “Granny Nanny”, as she was affectionately known) have also been documented. Both legends and documents refer to her as having exceptional leadership qualities. She was a small wiry woman with piercing eyes. Her 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 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.

Her cleverness in planning guerrilla warfare confused the British and their accounts of the fights reflect the surprise and fears which the Maroon traps caused among them. Beside inspiring her people to ward off troops, Nanny was also a type of chieftainess or wise woman of the village, who passed down legends and encouraged the continuation of customs, music and songs that had come with the people from Africa, and that 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.

There are many legends about Nanny among the Maroons. Some even claim that there were several women who were leaders of the Maroons during this period of history. But all the legends and documents refer to Nanny of the First Maroon War as he most outstanding of them all, leading her people with courage and inspiring them to struggle to maintain that spirit of freedom, that life of independence, which was their rightful inheritance.

Like the heroes of the pre Independence era, Nanny too met her untimely death at the instigation of the English sometime around 1734. Yet, the spirit of Nanny of the Maroons remains today as a symbol of that indomitable desire that will never yield to captivity.

Rt. Excellent Norman Washington Manley
1893-1969

Norman Washington Manley founded the People?s National Party which later was tied to the Trade Union Congress and the N.W. U. Together with Bustamante, their efforts resulted in the New Constitution of 1944 granting full Adult Suffrage. In 1955 Manley was elected Chief Minister. The 400 year British Rule, invoking slavery, deculturisation, uprising and bloodshed was not at an end.

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 labor troubles of 1938 and donated time and advocacy to the cause.

In September1938, Manley founded the People?s National Party and was elected its President annually until his retirement 31 years later.

Manley and the PNP supported the trade union movement, 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.

He was a strong advocate of the Federation of the West Indies, established in 1958, but when Sir Alexander Bustamante declared that opposition Jamaica Labor Party would take Jamaica out of the Federation, Norman Manley, already renowned for his integrity and commitment to democracy, called a referendum, unprecedented in Jamaica, to let the people decide.

The vote was decidedly against Jamaica?s continued membership of the Federation. Norman 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 himself chaired the committee with great distinction and then led the team that negotiated our independence from Britain.

The issue settled, Manley again went to the people. 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, he 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 died on September 2, 1969.
Rt. Excellent George William Gordon
1820-1865

George William Gordon was a free colored land owner and an associate of Bogle. Born to a slave mother and a planter father who was attorney to several sugar estates in Jamaica, he was self-educated and became a landowner in St. Thomas.

Gordon entered politics to offset the government’s attempts to crush the spirit of the freed people of Jamaica and again reduce them to slavery. He faced severe odds as the people whose interests he sought to serve did not qualify to vote.

As a member of the House of Parliament, he used his position to highlight the sufferings of the people and to make a plea for changes.

He subdivided his own lands, selling farm lots to the people as cheaply as possible, and organized a marketing system through which they could sell their produce at fair prices.

Gordon urged the people to protest against and to 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.

The Morant Bay Rebellion and the resultant deaths of Bogle and Gordon precipitated the beginning of a new era in Jamaica?s development. The British government became compelled to make changes including outstanding reforms in education, health, local government, banking and infrastructure.


Samuel Sharpe
1801-1832

Sam Sharpe was the main instigator of the 1831 Slave Rebellion which began on the Kensington Estate in Saint James which was largely instrumental in bringing about the abolition of slavery.

Sharpe, an educated town slave, was a preacher and spokesman. He followed the developments of the abolition movement by reading discarded local and foreign papers and was able to advise his followers.

Because of his intelligence and leadership qualities, Sam Sharpe became “daddy” or leader of the native Baptist in Montego Bay. Religious meetings were the only permissible forms of organized activities for the slaves. Sam Sharpe was able to communicate his concerns and encourage political thought concerning events in England which affected the slaves and Jamaica.

Sam evolved a plan of passive resistance in 1831, by which the slaves would refuse to work on Christmas Day of 1831 and afterwards, unless their grievances concerning better treatment and the consideration of freedom were accepted by the state owners and managers.

Sam explained his plan to his chosen supporters after his religious meetings and made them kiss the Bible to show their loyalty. They, in turn took the plan to the other parishes until the idea had spread throughout Saint James, Trelawny, Westmoreland, and even Saint Elizabeth and Manchester.

Word of the plan reached the ears of some of the planters. Troops were sent into Saint James and warships were anchored in Montego Bay and Black River with their guns trained on the towns.

On December 27, 1831, the Kensington Estate Great House was set on fire as a signal that the Slave Rebellion had begun. A series of other fires broke out in the area and soon it was clear that the plan of non-violent resistance which Sam Sharpe had originated was impossible and impractical.

A terrible retribution followed. While fourteen whites died during the Rebellion, more than 500 slaves lost their lives – most of them as a result of trials after.

The Rebellion started on December 28 and lasted 8 days. Sam Sharpe was eventually captured and hung at the Parade in Montego Bay (now renamed Sam Sharpe Square).

On August 28, 1833 slavery was abolished and the System of Apprenticeship instituted, allowing for the total freedom of slaves in the next 4-6 years.

4 thoughts on “National Heroes

  1. hey, my name is martin, and i’m doing a project of jamaica. i’m from uruguay. and my english is not as well as y pretend, so maybe someone can bring me this information in spanish, that could really help me. so thanks. Martin

  2. This is really good information . Thanks very much.
    would it be possible if you could make or create worksheets with the national heroes, that would be great

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