Jamaica 1970, Mixed Race Leaders try to graft Socialism onto Black Jamaica

How a place is to be administered after the colonial power leaves is a difficult issue. Socialists in the mid 20th century brought much to that discussion but convincing the people that this is how they should self determine is a challenge. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

I rather like this stamp. So many former colonies shut off anyone who participated in the colonial administration as if they were evil vassals of the devil. Yet here is a stamp issue that declares them heroes. Not that Jamaica was in a great place but it was independent and there was hope for a better future. This is not a standard Commonwealth issue with the Queen in the corner aimed at Anglophile stamp collectors. This is a more open window into Jamaica.

Todays stamp is issue A89, a 5 cent stamp issued by Jamaica on March 11th 1970. It displays former Prime Minister Norman Manley. It was part of a 5 stamp issue honoring leaders of the movement toward independence. According to the Scott Catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents whether it is mint or used or which independence leader was displayed. One of the leaders is Marcus Garvey, who is also known as a civil rights leader in the USA. This does not seem to help it’s value which I think is pretty good evidence that not enough historians of the civil rights movement collect stamps.

Post World War II, Great Britain’s time in Jamaica was nearing an end. As part of the transition two members of the Jamaica mixed race community were given prominance. They were Alexander Bustamante and the subject of this stamp Norman Manley. They were well educated in Britain and surprisingly even served in Empire militaries. Their educations had seen them exposed to the workers unite socialist movements that they hoped would be good for Jamaica. The challenges economically for Jamaica were great. Sugar caine really does require the type of large plantations and ample slave labor to be economically successful. Therefore it is not suited to post land reform, post independence Jamaica. In the 1950s, there was a bauxite mining boom that saw Jamaica become the worlds leading producer. These facilities were foreign owned and it is always a challenge to make sure the foreign company is making enough to continue while the area is seeing enough of the benefit. Remember Dr. No’s laird in Crab Key was a bauxite mine in the James Bond movie.

The two leaders formed rival socialist parties and set out toward land and education reform. In education, results were mixed as the new opportunities only slowly trickled from the top down and land reform saw output collapse as the crops did not suit the new small farms. The bauxite mines were so heavily taxed and beset with labor strife that Jamaica has fallen far down the list of producers. Another independence leader, Marcus Garvey, proposed former slaves emigrating back to Africa, where they won’t be held back the vestiges of the colonial system. His ideas were never tried.

By the end of the 60s things were getting worst fast. Manley’s son Michael took over his father’s party and served as Prime Minister several times the first in 1972. By then mixed race leaders were unfashionable and many of the younger Manley’s six wives were black. He even took to wearing a formal but shirtless and tieless Kariba suit. Bustamante old party was now in black hands and the two parties had armed gangs fight it out in the street during election time. 800 died in the 1980 election.

Michael Manley, in his kariba suit, his fourth wife Beverley, and then USA President Carter

Well, my drink is empty and I will pour another to toast Marcus Garvey. Since his ideas were not tried, he did not disappoint anyone. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.


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