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Freedom's Children

The 1938 Labor Rebellion and the Birth of Modern Jamaica

Colin A. Palmer

Publication Year: 2014

Freedom's Children is the first comprehensive history of Jamaica's watershed 1938 labor rebellion and its aftermath. Colin Palmer argues that, a hundred years after the abolition of slavery, Jamaica's disgruntled workers challenged the oppressive status quo and forced a morally ossified British colonial society to recognize their grievances. The rebellion produced two rival leaders who dominated the political life of the colony through the achievement of independence in 1962. Alexander Bustamante, a moneylender, founded the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union and its progeny, the Jamaica Labour Party. Norman Manley, an eminent barrister, led the struggle for self-government and with others established the People's National Party.

Palmer describes the ugly underside of British colonialism and details the persecution of Jamaican nationalists. He sheds new light on the nature of Bustamante's collaboration with the imperial regime, the rise of the trade-union movement, the struggle for constitutional change, and the emergence of party politics in a modernizing Jamaica.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-5


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pp. 6-7

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illustrations, tables, and map

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pp. 8-9

Alexander Bustamante and striking workers, June 1, 1938 | 62 3. Racial Origins and Literacy, Seven Years of Age and Older, 1943 | 16 8. The West Indies Sugar Company, Ltd., Cultivation Rates | 35 ...

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pp. ix-x

I would like to thank several persons for their kind assistance as I con-ducted the research for this book. The staffs of the Jamaica Archives; the Institute of Jamaica; the National Archives in College Park, Maryland; the British Archives; and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture deserve my gratitude. Nora Strudwich of the Bustamante Museum was par-...

Jamaican Currency in 1938

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pp. xi-xii

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pp. 1-6

This book is the third in a series that began with the publication in 2006 of Eric Williams and the Making of the Modern Caribbean . That volume was pri-marily a study of the important role that the brilliant scholar and statesman from Trinidad and Tobago played in imagining and working to construct a politically and economically integrated Anglophone Caribbean. Williams ...

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ONE: Jamaica in 1938

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pp. 7-27

The spectacle of bonfi res on the hills, fi reworks at the National Stadium and other centres, dancing in the streets, donkey races, treats for school children and the aged, regattas, parties galore, brought Jamaicans of all races, all classes, and colours and creeds together to celebrate their inde-pendence and to symbolize the motto, Out of many, one people ,? reported ...

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TWO: The Labor Rebellion

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pp. 28-63

Newly released from jail in May 1938, Alexander Bustamante addressed ?a vast gathering of labourers? at Trench Pen, Kingston. The labor leader had come to announce to the cheering crowd that the government had agreed to increase the wages of those who worked for the Public Works Department by 25 percent. ?I have given proof I am willing to suffer for your cause,? ...

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THREE: Race and the Colonial Imagination

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pp. 64-86

The situation,? the letter to Malcolm MacDonald, the secretary of state read, ?is further complicated by the fact that an issue between Capital and Labour, or property owners and Labour, takes on added gusto according to colour.? 1 The writer, presumably Robert Kirkwood, an Englishman and the new managing director of the West Indies Sugar Company, was discuss-...

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FOUR: Looking Back, Moving Forward

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pp. 87-114

The West India Royal Commission?s arrival was anxiously awaited in the island. It was only the second time in forty-one years that a commission had been appointed by the imperial government to investigate conditions in the Caribbean colonies. The members of the ten-person commission were excited by the prospect of traveling to the West Indies to do their civic ...

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FIVE: Bustamante, Unionism, and the Politics of Performance

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pp. 115-178

I had the honour to be responsible for the birth of Trade Unionism in the is-land of Jamaica,? Alexander Bustamante wrote to Secretary of State Oliver Stanley on December 22, 1942. Bustamante was writing to Stanley to urge him to investigate the circumstances under which he had been arrested and placed in Detention Camp as a security risk. This was an erroneous claim ...

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SIX: Bustamante and the Politics of Power

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pp. 179-229

The position here is very diffi cult owing to the large number of persons who have nothing to do but attend mass meetings, listening to wild speakers, one of whom, Bustamante, has been guilty of utterances on which I am ad-vised he can be arrested, but I do not desire to do so at the moment or until such utterances can be associated with any direct act of disturbance,? Gov-...

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SEVEN: Challenging Power and Facing the Consequences

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pp. 230-279

Despite the great heat in the Hall,? the Daily Gleaner reported, ?men and women of all classes listened attentively for close over three hours.? The large crowd of some 2,000 persons had gathered in the St. George?s Hall in Kingston to protest against the government?s abuse of the power it ac-quired under the aegis of the Defense Regulations it had received from ...

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EIGHT: Constitutional Change

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pp. 280-308

We are imperialists,? the Daily Gleaner exulted in an editorial comment on May 5, 1941. ?We love the word as well as the thing. We believe in the Brit-ish Empire . . . and of course imperialism goes with Empire as salt fi sh goes with ackee, and as avocado pear goes with roasted bread fruit.? The Gleaner was not engaging in a moment of levity. The newspaper was defending the ...

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NINE: Party Politics

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pp. 309-356

I am not a labour leader,? Norman Manley declared to the large crowd that assembled to hear him on May 26, 1938. The barrister had volunteered to mediate the labor-inspired rebellion on the waterfront in Kingston. Hith-erto, Manley was not identifi ed with labor?s cause, but he had stepped in to fi ll the vacuum created in the leadership of the nascent labor move-...

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pp. 357-362

It had been a century since property in persons had offi cially ended in Ja-maica. But the passage of the Act of Emancipation in 1833 and the formal end of slavery in 1838 could not destroy the habits of thought and behavior that had nurtured and fertilized the institution of African slavery in the island since its introduction by the Spaniards in 1511. Their English suc-...


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pp. 363-392

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 393-398


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pp. 399-419

E-ISBN-13: 9781469615301
E-ISBN-10: 1469615304
Print-ISBN-13: 9781469611693
Print-ISBN-10: 1469611694

Page Count: 432
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2014