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
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.
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.
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
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
Man, I feel good every February.