John Hawkins is the first Englishman to lead a slave trading voyage from the west coast of Africa. Britain would become one of the biggest players in the Atlantic slave trade which led to the enforced transportation of 13 million Africans (according to a recent estimate). In spite of high mortality rates, the enslaved African population produced 1 million tonnes of sugar between 1766 and 1791 in the Americas.
An enslaved African is punished
1655 LAND GRAB The British seize control of Jamaica from the Spanish.
Slavery ended in British empire
After numerous slave revolts, from Maroons (see Nanny and Sam Sharpe in our national heroes gallery) to the successful overthrow of slavery in Haiti, the British Parliament finally abolishes slavery after more than 200 years.
The Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 officially abolished slavery in most of the British Empire from 1 August 1834. However, formerly enslaved Africans had to serve an “apprenticeship” until 1838. The owners received £20 million in compensation, while the freed received nothing.
The Federation of the West Indies is formed in 1958, comprising various Caribbean islands in the that were colonies of the United Kingdom, including Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados. The aim is to create a unified state that would then become independent from Britain. This dream is never realised as each island, including Jamaica, pursues its own path to independence.
Map of the West Indies Federation (by NuclearVacuum, via Wikimedia Commons)
JAN 1962 LETTER OF THE LAW House of Representatives sanctions the draft constitution for an independent Jamaica.
MAY 1962 WORLD STAGE Jamaica admitted as an associate member of the World Health Organisation.
Air Jamaica established as the national airline.
The little piece of Jamaica that flies
Established in October 1968, Air Jamaica’s operations started in April 1969. Dubbed the “little piece of Jamaica that flies”, the national airline initially ran one DC8 and one DC9 providing flights from Kingston and Montego Bay to New York and Miami. At first the airline was a joint project between the Government of Jamaica and Air Canada. Over the next decade Air Jamaica expanded adding routes to Toronto, Montreal, Puerto Rico, Philadelphia and Europe, with passengers being welcomed on board with a signature drink the Rum Bamboozle. The airline now operates as part of Caribbean Airlines Limited.
The world’s music
Jamaica’s unique musical voice has seen many developments since independence from ska to rock steady to reggae, and more latterly, dancehall. Apart from Bob Marley, there is a gallery of Jamaican artists have had global impact and have shaped modern music. People like Toots and the Maytals, Lee Scratch Perry, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Burning Spear, King Tubbys, Augustus Pablo, U Roy, Dennis Brown, Buju Banton to a name but a few. Try this Jamaican music quiz.
Jamaican scientists develop new eye medication
The eye drop, Canasol, begins commercial distribution, later being exported to the UK and throughout the Caribbean. The medicine was developed to treat glaucoma after more than 10 years of research by pharmacologist, Professor Manley West, and ophthalmologist, Dr Albert Lockhart. The medicine is cannabis-based after Dr Lockhart had noted that his Rastafarian patients who used ganja had a low incidence of glaucoma. More recently, he discovered that Canasol improves the integrity of the optic nerve, thus preventing blindness. In the early 1990s, Professor West also developed Asmasol to treat asthma, colds and the flu. Both he and Dr Lockhart received the Order of Merit from the Government of Jamaica and the Gold Musgrave Medal from the Institute of Jamaica for the development of Canasol.
2000 HOWZAT? Courtney Walsh takes the record for most Test wickets. He is one of only four bowlers to have bowled over 5000 overs in Test cricket.
2006 WOMAN PM Portia Simpson-Miller becomes Jamaica’s first female prime minister.
Jamaica, 50 years young
Jamaica celebrates its fiftieth year of independence by holding events not only in Jamaica itself but also in cities like London, Birmingham, New York and Toronto. Jamaica also takes the first step to no longer having the British monarch as head of state. Jamaica’s impact on the world has been immense producing great scientists, musicians, athletes and writers. Celebrations of the Jamaican independence anniversary are planned throughout Jamaica and around the world.