Caribbean disunity perpetuated under Alexander Bustamante

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There was no difference between what occurred in

ALABAMA under George Wallace and what happened in JAMAICA before Norman Manley forced Jamaica

to implement the Common Entrance Examination.

Before then, Dark skinned individuals were not admitted to Secondary schools unless their parents were

politicians or wealthy.

Munro College and Hampton High were 98% white.

Most Jamaicans I know experienced more discrimination there than in the US”

The Blackening of Blacks

Hartley Neita

Up to the first half of the last century, black Jamaicans secretly wished

they were born white. Little girls never knew black dolls, playing instead

with Shirley Temple dolls and wishing they were Sleeping Princesses and

Cinderellas, and little boys saw the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret-Rose

as the ideals of beauty. Young ladies in their late teens and over read Seventeen

and Vogue magazines, and powdered their faces thick with Pond’s (face powder),

while young men in that age group cut slim paths in their hair to coiffeur it

like screen stars Tyrone Power and Alan Ladd and smeared it with Vaseline

and other pomades which would give their hair the sheen they saw in the

photographs of these movie idols.

Jamaican young women who were educated at secondary schools went afterwards

to Duff’s and other secretarial training institutes. Those who were brown

and white joined the staff of the commercial banks and firms such as Bryden

and Evelyn and organisations such as the Jamaica Tourist Board and the

Jamaica Chamber of Commerce. Those who were black joined the Civil Service.

Other girls who only received elementary education went to Carron Hall

Vocational School, Shortwood and Bethlehem Training Colleges for teachers,

and the Kingston Public Hospital to be trained as nurses. Some were

employed as sales clerks and cashiers.

Young men with an elementary education either joined the Police Force or

went to Mico College for training as teachers. Those with a secondary

education, and were brown or white, were articled to solicitors and

surveyors. Brown and white young men who joined the Civil Service were

placed in the Colonial Secretary’s Office while those of a darker shade

were posted to the Treasury, Collector-General or Public Works departments.

The Jamaican theatre was dominated by expatriates. Black Jamaicans were not

welcome guests in our hotels so they went to guesthouses when they had to

visit our tourist areas on business.

Members of some churches did not want black parsons and the bishops were

“white as driven snow”. Captains of the Jamaica cricket teams were brown

and white, and the teams themselves had more salt than pepper.


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The 1940s and 1950s saw a number of young rebels who felt the need to

change the old order. Roger Mais painted a black portrait of Cain, the son

of Adam and Eve, and stirred society’s wrath. Vic Reid and Roger Mais began

to write short stories and novels about black courage. Poets like George

Campbell began to glorify black beauty, and playwrights like Archie Lindo,

A.E.T. Henry and Frank Hill told stories on stage of black Jamaican life.

Journalist Evon Blake got a white friend to pay the fee for swimming at the

Myrtle Bank hotel and dived in the pool, and was soon swimming in lonely

splendour as other guests hurriedly left it. Editor Theodore Sealy promoted

a beauty contest for black Jamaican girls and made them see themselves as

beautiful for the first time.


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The 1950s saw the first step by Jamaicans into international politics when

Norman Manley banned trade with South Africa. Trade with that country was

not much but the significance of that decision was not lost on the South

African Government when they sought to demand that England, our Imperial

masters, should overturn the decision. Ten years later it was Hugh

Shearer’s turn when he refused to provide funds to the Jamaica Cricket

Board of Control for a visit of South African cricketers to play here, and

later led the non-white Commonwealth countries in their demand that Britain impose its

authority on the Rhodesian Government who had seceded from British rule and

imposed a white-led authority over the black population of that country.

Leila Robinson’s fight to get South Africa expelled from world netball,

Sandra Kong’s withdrawal from the Miss World beauty contest when it was

brought to her attention that a Miss South Africa was a contestant, and

Michael Manley’s relentless assault on the apartheid policies of that

country, also helped black Jamaicans to see black as beautiful.

There are some today, among them men who leap-frogged from the canefields

to the corporate boardrooms, who ask why celebrate a month devoted to black

history. Well, I can remember, ­and it was not long ago,­ when the announcers on

Radio Jamaica had alien accents. I can remember the pride Jamaicans of all creeds


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felt with the elevation of Percival Gibson and S.U. Hastings, two black men, as Bishops

of the Anglican and Moravian churches, and of Samuel Carter, of Indian descent, to

become Roman Catholic Archbishop. Today, the managers of our banks can be black,

and when I go to my doctor’s office I can see my women on the covers of international

fashion magazines.

Man, I feel good every February.

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