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Sunday, March 05, 2006

Jamaican National Heroes

Jamaica's National Heroes

Sir Alexander Bustamante, K.B., O.N.H., Ll.D (Hon.)

Alexander Bustamante born William Alexander Clark, in Blenheim, Hanover on February 24, 1884 to Robert Clarke, a Irish-descended book-keeper, and his wife Mary Wilson, a small farmer. Poverty ruled out any significant amount of schooling for the young man and he started working at an early age.

After primary school at Cacoon under Alexander James, grandfather of P.J. Patterson, as Clerk. In 1905 he traveled across Latin America and the Mediterranean. It is at this point that his trade union involvement began. When he returned to Jamaica in 1934 he had a new name "Alejandro Bustamante". This, however, was changed by deed poll to Alexander Bustamante in 1944.

Between 1934 and 1938, Sir Alexander Bustamante swamped the press with letters denouncing the social conditions and demanding a better deal for poor and under-privileged persons. In 1937, Bustamante became treasurer of the Jamaica Workers and Tradesmen's Union, led by future legislator, Allan George St. Claver Coombs.

In 1938, there were stages of unrest in Kingston, angry workers began to follow Bustamante through various strikes. On May 24, Bustamante was refused permission to stage any meeting in Kingston. Later that afternoon he and Sir Williams Grant were arrested and charged with inciting people to unlawful assembly. They were sent to jail without bail and a state of emergency was declared by the Governor.

On September 8, 1940 he entered detention camp and spent the next 17 months there. On his release he resumed full control of his Union and continued to organize labour. On July 8, 1943 Bustamante launched the Jamaica Labour Party at a meeting at the Ward Theatre in Kingston.

Sir Hugh foot, Governor, in 1949 put forward proposals which meant slight advance in self rule. Bustamante accepted the proposal. By 1953, he was named Chief Minister. Shortly after adult suffrage was passed in May 1944, he took the JLP to the general election and won 22 seats of the 32. Sir Alexander Bustamante became the first Prime Minister of Jamaica in 1962. He retired active politics in 1967 and died on August 6, 1977 at age 93.

George William Gordon

The Rt. Excellent George William Gordon was born near Mavis Bank, in 1820 to a Joseph Gordon, a Scottish Planter, and a slave woman. George William Gordon saw that his son had special characteristic and from an early age decided to take an interest in his education. George went to live with his godfather, James Daly, in Black River and there completed his education. Gordon was mostly self educated.

George William Gordon was a large land owner, shop keeper, produce dealer, preacher, politician, social worker and philanthropist. Gordon started out as an Anglican but changed to Baptist. He was baptized to the Baptist Society by Rev. J.M. Phillippo, founder of Jamaica's first Free Village. Gordon later became a leader of the Native Baptist Movement and began building several churches at his own expense, ordained Ministers and was an active evangelist.

In 1843, age 23, he was elected to the House of Assembly for St. Thomas. Gordon's public life began about 1844. He entered politics as an advocate for the poverty-stricken Negro peasants. In 1865, the economic condition in Jamaica had gotten worst. Gordon, spoke openly on behalf of the poor Negroes and with bitter criticism of Lieutenant Governor Edward Eyre.

During this period of oppression for the Negroes, Paul Bogle was very active in revolting against the system of government. On October 11, Paul Bogle with about 300 men, marched in Morant Bay, where the Town Council was in session. There they raided a police station for arms and the Court House was set on fire. They killed the Custos, Baron von Ketelhodt and fifteen vestrymen. It from this incident that a warrant was done for Gordon's arrest.

Gordon having heard that a summon was out for his arrest took himself in to Governor Eyre. On October 21, 1865 he was sentenced to death. On October 27, 1960, the Jamaican Parliament named the building in this building where the Parliament Meeting will be kept in his honour. It was named the George William Gordon House often called "Gordon House". After independence was given the nation's highest honor, Order of National Hero.

Samuel Sharpe

Born in 1801 in Montego Bay, Samuel Sharpe grew up as a house slave. He was educated by his master who was also named Samuel Sharpe. His master treated him very well. Samuel was literate and was allowed certain amount of freedom. He became the master's right-hand man.

Samuel Sharpe had special responsibilities. One of his responsibility was to take the jobbing slaves, those hired out to others, to work. While carrying out his daily duties he was disgruntled with the way slaves were treated, himself included. He wanted to be free.

Sam Sharpe was the main instigator of the Slave Rebellion which began on Kensington Estate in St. James. I was this rebellion that lead to the abolition of slavery. Sam Sharpe was executed as a result in the Montego Bay market place on 23 May 1832. He was buried in the sands of the Montego Bay Harbour. His remains were exhumed and reburied beneath the pulpit at Burchell Baptist Church.

Marcus Mosiah Garvey

Marcus Garvey was born in St. Ann's Bay on August 17, 1887. He is said to have been a descendant of the Maroons. He was the last of eleven children.

In his youth, Garvey migrated to Kingston where he worked at the Government Printing Office. He resigned this job in 1910 to publish a small paper called "The Watchman". This was regarded as the turning point in his career.

In 1914, he started the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). The UNIA encourages self government for black people worldwide, self help, economic projects, protest against racial discrimination and cultural activities.

In 1916, he went to United States where he preached his doctrine of freedom to the oppressed blacks. He visited thirty-eight (38) states in one year and in a few months there were more than thirty branches of the UNIA across the United States. Other branches existed in Africa and the West Indies.

By 1921 Garvey was the leader of the largest black organization in history, which at its highest had 6 to 11 million. At this time there were 859 branches of the UNIA in over 30 countries.

Between 1922 to 1927, Garvey's life had taken a turn. In 1922 he ran into financial difficulties and was charged with fraud. He denied the charges but was found guilty and fined $1000 and sentenced to five years in jail. He appealed the verdict in 1925 but it was dismissed. He was imprisoned in Atlanta where he spent nearly three years and then deported to Jamaica. During that time his wife, Amy Jacques, worked for him in his absence.

Back in Jamaica, he continued to hold public meetings and other cultural activities in Edelweiss Park. But changes did not come easily and so he left in 1935 to England. In England, he remained active until January 1940 when he suffered a stroke. After suffering a second stroke he died in June 1940. He was embalmed and buried in Kendal Green Cemetery, London. In 1964 his body was exhumed, brought home, and reburied in the National Heroes Park.

Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jamaica's first National Hero, has been recognized as the first black man to awaken the dignity of the black race in Jamaica, North America and Africa.

Paul Bogle

It was believed that Paul Bogle was born free about 1822. He was a firm political adherent of George William Gordon. It was Gordon who made him a Deacon. He lived in Stony Gut and had another house in Spring Garden. Bogle was not a poor man, he also had 500 acres at Dunrobin.

In 1865 the economic situation had gotten worst. There were increases in unemployment and taxes but a reduction in wages. Gordon had appointed Bogle the leader of the group he had chosen to take their complaints to the Governor.

Bogle, with the support of his brother Moses, was holding private meetings without Gordon's knowledge. Bogle and Moses along with 200 men, marched to Morant Bay to watch a trial at the Court. A man shouted out to the Court and the police tried to arrest him. Bogle and his men saved the man from the police and they escaped. The following day in Stony Gut, they heard that a warrant was out for 28 of them. They tried to arrest Paul Bogle but his followers fought them off.

On Wednesday, October 11, Bogle and about 300 men marched into Morant Bay and raided the police station and took some old guns. They then marched to the Court House where the Custos was having a meeting. They killed the Custos, Baron von Ketelhodt and fifteen vestrymen and set 51 prisoners free.

The parish was put under Martial Law on October 13, and General Forbes-Jackson dispatched from Kingston with orders to crush the rebellion. The soldiers killed hundreds of innocent people were beaten, shot and hanged. Stony Gut was burnt out. Bogle and his man however had already fled to bushes. They were hunted throughout the day by the Maroons and the Soldiers as a $400 reward was out for Bogle. He was held by the Portland Maroons the same say that George Williams Gordon was hanged.

His trial was short. He was found guilty and sentence to death. He was hanged from the burn Court House with his brother Moses on October 24, 1865.

Norman Manley

Norman Manley was born at Roxborough, Manchester on July 4, 1893 to Thomas Albert Samuel Manley, a planter and producer, and Margaret Ann Shearer, a small pen-keeper from Blenheim, Hanover. Manley was one of four children. He had two sisters, Vera and Muriel, and one Brother Roy, who was killed in the first World War. At age six his father died, leaving the family with limited resources. His mother then moved to Belmont, St. Catherine.

Manley was a brilliant scholar. He was also an athlete, a soldier in World War I and a lawyer. In September 1938, he founded the Peoples National Party (PNP) and was elected President until his retirement 31 years later. As Chief Minister and later Premier, he moved the country rapidly towards internal self-government in July 1959 and independence, August 1962.

Manley died on September 2, 1969 at age 76.

Nanny of the Maroons

It is not certain whether Nanny was born in Jamaica or in Africa. Nanny was of Ashante origin and was the sister of Cudjoe, the leader of the Trelawny Town Maroons and Quao. Nanny was not a slave. She was married but had no children. Her full responsibility was for the welfare of the women and children in the community; even the King had to call up on her for advice, especially those relating to women.

Nanny, the spiritual leader of the 'Winward Maroons' at Nanny Town, Portland, was known to be an outstanding military leader. In her lifetime and after she was seen as a symbol of unity and strength for her people during their time of crisis.

It is believed that Nanny died 1750s. Her remains were put to rest at Bump Grave in Moore Town, (New Nanny Town).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

great blog, i've enjoyed reading it!