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.
Born Alexander Clarke in the parish of Hanover, he took the name Bustamante from an Iberian sea captain who befriended him in his early life. 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 realise that the social and economic ills that such a system engendered had to be countered by mobilisation of the working class.
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.
On September 8, 1940, Bustamante was detained at Up Park Camp for alleged violation of the Defence of the Realm Act. He was released 17 months 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. He died on August 6, 1977 at the age of 93.
SAM SHARPE was the main instigator of the 1831 Slave Rebellion, which began on the Kensington Estate in St James. This rebellion 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 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 Baptists in Montego Bay.
GEORGE WILLIAM Gordon was a free coloured land-owner and an associate of Bogle. Born to a slave mother and a planter father who was an 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.
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, in spite of a lack of evidence, convicted and sentenced to death. He was executed on October 23,1865.
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 Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and spoke out against economic exploitation and cultural denigration.
Jamaica's first national hero was born in St Ann's Bay on August 17, 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 travelled extensively throughout many countries observing the poor working and living conditions of black people.
In 1914, he started the UNIA in Jamaica. The UNIA, which grew into an international organisation, encouraged self-government for black people worldwide, self-help economic projects, protests against racial discrimination and cultural activities.
Marcus Garvey's legacy can be summed up in the philosophy he taught - racial pride, the need for African unity, self-reliance, the need for black people to be organised and for rulers to govern on behalf of the working classes.
Norman Washington Manley was born at Roxborough, Manchester on July 4, 1893. He was a brilliant scholar, athlete, soldier (World War I) and lawyer. He identified himself with the cause of the workers at the time of the labour troubles of 1938 and donated time and advocacy to the cause.
He founded the People's National Party in September 1938, which later was tied to the Trade Union Congress and the National Workers' Union.
Together with Bustamante, his efforts resulted in the new constitution of 1944 granting full adult suffrage. In 1955, Manley was elected chief minister.
He was a strong advocate of the Federation of the West Indies, established in 1958, but when Sir Alexander Bustamante declared that the Opposition Jamaica Labour 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.
Norman Manley died on September 2, 1969.
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 Ashanti 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 immortalised in songs and legends, certain facts about Nanny (or 'Granny Nanny', as she was affectionately known) have also been documented.
SPIRIT OF FREEDOM
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.
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 legends and documents refer to Nanny of the First Maroon War as the 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.