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A New Era In Jamaica's History

Complete List of Past Pieces
Port Royal Earthquake
Port Royal Earthquake : I Was There
June 20, 1965: Martin Luther King Jr. visits Jamaica
Bog Walk Tube
For Your Listening Pleasure
The Road to Freedom
Birth of Independence
Hurricane of 1780
Tragedy at Kendal 1957
The Ward Theatre 1912
The Guarded City: Port Royal 1690
The Triumph of Will:1960s
The History of Our Parishes
Jamaica and the Great War
Jamaica's Grand Hotels
Celebrating Christmas Jamaica 'Style'
Disaster - The Earthquake of 1907
The Great Exhibition of 1891
The Mutiny On The Bounty & The Arrival of The First Breadfruit 1793
The Fall Of A Gentle Giant: The Collapse of Tom Cringle's Cotton Tree
Jamaica's Botanical Gardens
All Hail The State Visit Of Emperor Haile Selassie I
Jamaican Healer And War Heroine Mary Seacole
Mistresses Of The Sea: Female Pirates Mary Read and Anne Bonny
The Capital City: A Historic Look At Kingston
Riots Here: Send Help At Once
A Historic Portrait of the Town Where Jamaica's Tourism Began
Devon House -The first 500 years in Jamaica
Jamaican Coffee - A beverage of distinction
Jamaican Rum - A kill-devil of a drink
Jamaica Festival - What a Bam Bam
Captivated by Jamaica - Sir Hans Sloane's Passion for Jamaica
Captivated by Jamaica Pt II - Noel Coward, Errol Flynn and Ian Fleming
The Founding Of The BITU & The JLP
The Founding Of the People's National Party
Lewis Hutchinson: The Mad Master
A Pioneer, A Survivor: Dr. Cicely Williams

Henry Morgan: The Pirate King

Claude McKay: Jamaica's First Poet Laureate
Frazier versus Foreman on the Sunshine Island 1973
The Magical Spiderman: Anancy
The Case Of The Shark Papers
Katherine Dunham - Matriarch of Modern Dance
Money - The Roots of Jamaican Currency
Simon Bolivar: El Liberatador
Old Time Tellin's: A Closer Look At Jamaican Proverbs
Recollections of World War II
Place Names - A Window to Jamaica's History & Character: Wnat's In A Name?
The History Of Spanish Town
A Cultural Explication Of Empire: Lady Nugent's Journal
The History Of Falmouth: Boom Town Of The 19th Century
Dreamers Among Us - Famous Jamaican Scientists- Prof. Louis Grant 1913 - 1993 Part I
Dreamers Among Us - Famous Jamaican Scientists-Part II
Out Of Many Cultures: The People Who Came - The Jews In Jamaica
Out Of Many Cultures: The People Who Came - The Chinese
Out Of Many Cultures: The People Who Came - The Lebanese
Out Of Many Cultures: The People Who Came - The Indians
Out Of Many Cultures: The People Who Came - The Irish
Out Of Many Cultures: The People Who Came - The Africans
Out Of Many Cultures: The People Who Came - The Germans
Colourful Characters - Jamaican Birds
The Stamp Of History: The Jamaican Postal Service
The People Who Came - The English
Old-time Jamaican weddings
In this place dwelt Horatio Nelson
Printing in Jamaica
Museums in Jamaica
Gibraltar Camp: A Refuge From War
The history of the Salvation Army in Jamaica CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS
Somewhere beyond the sea
A fascination with football
Jamaican Horse racing History
A Time to Live...Jamaican Birth Rituals
A Time to Die Death rituals
Deadly superstitions

Feedback To the Series

"I have found your articles on the Pieces of the Past most entertaining and interesting to read. For me as a historian these pieces come at a time when Jamaicans need to reconnect themselves with their past and the Gleaner's efforts through this medium is quite commendable.

I have found especially today's article on the 1780 hurricane to be quite of interest to me as I am currently involved in bringing to light the role of natural disasters in the development of Jamaica's history, culture, society, economy and politics and the article on the "Hurricane of 1780" has greatly aided in this direction. Keep up the good work and I look forward to more interesting and historically significant pieces from this series." - Kerry-Ann

The First 500 years in Jamaica

We're taking you for a stroll down memory lane for the next six months. Along this journey,we will relive several events which
significantly impacted on the social, political and economic development of Jamaica. As we travel share your experience with us...

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Pieces of the Past,
The Gleaner Company Ltd.,
7 North Street, Kingston;

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Fax 922-6223.

The Founding Of The People's National Party

THE YEAR 1938 was a turning point in the history of modern Jamaica. Workers across the island began to demand better wages and working conditions and the colonial government had no choice but to listen. Strikes by the sugarworkers of Frome estate in Westmoreland, by the dockworkers of the Standard Fruit Company in Kingston, by farmworkers in Islington, St. Mary led to mass rallies and public meetings, the likes of which had never been seen on the island, not even the decade before
during the height of Garveyism.

Norman Manley

In that year, workers around the island had recognized as their leader a tall, striking middle-aged man, with a shock of somewhat unruly hair that seemed merely a reflection of his unbridled energy.

The leader of these meetings and of the negotiations on behalf of the
workers was Alexander Bustamante. His charisma, bravado and sincere belief in the cause of the workers exemplified by his numerous letters to the newspaper and his willingness to be arrested and even shot for the cause, led him to acquire legendary status in his own time. In June 1938, not even a month after his release from being imprisoned for inciting unlawful assembling
and obstructing a police inspector, Bustamante began converting the massive public support amongst workers all over the island into Jamaica's first recognized large scale trade union which would carry his name, the Bustamante Industrial and Trademen's Union, BITU.

The Movement Towards Political Organization

Meanwhile, his cousin, the renowned Oxford-educated Norman Manley from Roxborough, Manchester, who had mounted platforms to speak to workers upset about Bustamante's incarceration and attempted to keep the peace while he negotiated Bustamante's May release from jail, began to speak of the need for a political movement alongside the growing trade union one. This Manley believed was essential in order for Jamaica to achieve self-determination for Jamaicans. At a press conference in May, the tall, distinguished barrister announced that a number of committees were to be formed to propose solutions to debate ideas for Jamaica's development. It was these committees, he said, which would serve as the root of a genuine labour party. In this move towards national political organization Manley picked up on sentiments expressed as early as a decade before by skilled Jamaican orator Marcus Garvey who had attempted in his stirring public speeches and his US-based organization of the United Negro Improvement Association to better the condition of negroes everywhere. The events of 1938 were so monumentous that it was felt that a national political party had a better chance of survival as a result of the increased national awareness.

Manley did not act alone. Bustamante supported his efforts, but at that time was himself consumed with the organization of the BITU. O.T. Fairclough, a Jamaican who had managed a bank in Haiti and returned to his homeland to find the only job he could get was as an accountant at the Water Commission, became heavily involved impressing upon Norman the need for him to lead a political party. There was also the "Public Opinion," a weekly paper launched in 1937 by men such as Jamaica College history teacher Hedley Powell Jacobs to put forward views on the question of self-government. Jacobs was also a member of the National Reform Association (a group that began agitating for self-government in March 1938 and is considered ideologically to be a forerunner of the PNP) along with others such as Ken Hill and Noel "Crab" Nethersole. Florizel Glasspole (who eventually became Governor General 1973-1991) and future MP Wills O. Isaacs were also heavily involved. Of course there was also Norman's wife, renowned artist Edna Manley, whose art reflected ideals of self-determination. She supported him in his actions but maintained that no matter how many urged her husband to take up political leadership the final decision would eventually be his and his alone.

The launching of the PNP

H.P. Jacobs
BY AUGUST 1938 Fairclough had made a name for himself travelling all over the island to recruit members such as businessmen, lawyers and members from established organizations such as the Jamaica Union of Teachers (JUT) and the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS).

A set of some 50 delegates were eventually selected and they appointed a steering committee of seven that included Norman Manley as chairman, accountant O. T. Fairclough as secretary, teacher H.P. Jacobs, lawyer N.N. Nethersole, Rev. O. G. Penso, architectural draftsman W. G. MacFarlane and Howard F. Cooke, a JUT representative (and the present Governor-General of Jamaica, the only member of that committee still alive). He remembers the excitement of the time and the almost missionary urge of wanting to effect change. The steering committee's task was to draft a founding constitution and prepare the party's formal launch slated for September
18, 1938 at the landmark Ward Theatre in downtown Kingston.
Ken Hiill and Sir Stafford Cripps

On the evening of September 18 the Ward Theatre was packed to capacity with the overflow spilling out onto North Parade. People of different political beliefs from different walks of life were present to listen to Norman Manley and British Labour Party MP, Sir Stafford Cripps, the guest speaker. Manley spoke of a new era in Jamaica's history, stressing the "tremendous difference between living in a place and belonging to it and feeling that your own life and your destiny is irrevocably bound up in the life and destiny of that place. Radical change was under way." In addition, he spoke of the need for collaboration between politics and trade unionism.

Florizel Glasspole

He explained, "I have never been a labour leader and I have no ambition to be a labour leader. All I have offered is the counsel of a friend of the new labour movement..." and emphasized the fact that the movement towards the creation of the political party was a team effort. "I want to tell you that I am not the author of this party. I have discovered that a considerable number of persons in the country have been thinking about it, have been dreaming about it, but it wan ted some convulsion to make it plain that such a thing was necessary...." Sir Stafford Cripps expanded on Manley's words and called the formation of the political party a progressive and bold move ­ perhaps one of the most significant events of Jamaica's history.

The PNP set up its headquarters at Edelweiss Park, the former headquarters of Marcus Garvey's UNIA. A move was eventually made to South Camp Road and
today the headquarters can be found on Old Hope Rd. in Kingston. The presidents of the PNP have been Norman Manley, Michael Manley and P.J. Patterson.

  Sources: Bustamante, G. (1997) The Memoirs of Lady Bustamante. Kingston: Kingston Publishers Ltd. Black, C. V. (1983) The History of Jamaica. London: Longman Group UK Ltd., Sherlock, P. and Bennett, H. (1998). The Story of the Jamaican People. Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers. www.pnpjamaica.com/history_main

Special thanks to Troy Caine for his assistance with this piece.

* It is said that the name originally chosen was the Jamaica Labour Party in light of the
growing labour movement as indicated in a publication up to a week before the party's actually launch. Some supporters,
however, were concerned that the use of the word labour might sound as if the party should only be open to labourers. Hence the change of wording to people's and national.

* When the PNP began an islandwide campaign to organize chapters and the Kingston Chapter was formed Bustamante joined it for a short time. He then was forced to spend up to a year and a half in jail for what the then British Governor determined subversive activities with the BITU and soon after his release from jail that time he set about organizing the Jamaica Labour Party, launched at the Ward Theatre in 1943.

* The events of 1938 led to the appointment of the West India Royal Commission, otherwise known as the Moyne Commission, by the Colonial Office to inquire into conditions on the British West Indian islands. Before its report was published World War II erupted.

By Dr. Rebecca Tortello

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A Jamaica Gleaner Feature originally posted September 23, 2002
Copyright 2001-2 . Produced by Go-Jamaica.com