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8 Organizations Started by Jamaican National Heroes

by Sheree-Anita Shearer | Associate Writer

Jamaica National Heroes
Photo: Jamaica National Heroes

Our National Heroes may have fought in different times and for different causes however they all had the same end goals - a better life and freedom of all. In doing this, they established different organizations some of which are still around today. Here are 10 organizations established by our National Heroes.

    Marcus Garvey

    Our first National Hero, Marcus Garvey created quite a few organizations:

  1. The Universal Negro Improvement Association was established in Jamaica in 1914 before Garvey relocated to the United States and where the UNIA was established in Harlem, New York. Although it was started in Jamaica, its presence was mainly felt in the US. There were over 700 locations in the US in several states including; New York, Arkansas, Mississippi, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Detroit and Illinois. There was also a location in the African country of South Africa. Garvey saw the U.N.I.A. as a way to foster racial pride and economic self-sufficiency within the Africans and descendants from Africa. In its time it was different from other civil rights movements as while the others sought to merely integrate into society where they lived, Garvey’s UNIA preached the message of “back to Africa”. Garvey believed in the separation of Black people from the white society and the emigration of black people all over the world back to the ‘motherland’ of Africa, which should also be free from white rule.

    In its heyday, the UNIA owned multiple businesses including various types of stores, restaurants mainly in the state of New York where it was headquartered. They also owned a printing plant and a Newspaper the Negro World. Though support for the organization dwindled in the late 1920s after Garvey was convicted of mail fraud and deported to Jamaica, the organization is still going strong in both Jamaica and the United States. Now the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League, the organization still seeks to carry out the plans of its founder which is to preserve the black race.

  2. Black Star Line(1919-1923) was also established by Garvey in an attempt to transport black people who wished to migrate from the Americas to the African continent. It was also to encourage black individuals all over the world to participate in the global market by facilitating the shipment of goods commerce amongst the black community wherever they were in the world. This, he thought would foster growth and self-reliance amongst the black race. The organization had three ships the Yarmouth, Shadyside and Kanawha which were vessels used in the first World War. Unsurprisingly they all had irreparable damages and were quite old. The Shadyside was used to transport passengers to the Hudson River where it eventually sank in an ice storm.

    The other ships were used to transport people across to and from the US, Latin America and the Caribbean. This was to celebrate the self-reliance and independence of the black race across the region. These ships docked at various ports in Jamaica, Panama, Costa Rica and Cuba among various other countries. No ship from the Black Star Line docked on the African continent.

    Riddled with scepticism and mismanagement by Garvey’s peers who had no experience in this sort of business, the company eventually closed in 1923 after Garvey was indicted in 1922 on claims of mail fraud.

  3. The Negro Factories Corporation (1919-1921) was Garvey’s attempt at a self-contained fully operated African community. He believed that black producers, distributors and consumers should all work together and not depend on the rest of the world who might not desire to do business with those in the black community. It served as the financial arm of the UNIA and supported businesses that employed African Americans to produce goods for black consumers. Garvey hoped that the organization would someday be a significant contributor to the black economy not just in the Americas but worldwide. This goal did not come to fruition as the Negro Factories Corporation became insolvent in 1921 due to mismanagement.

  4. People’s Political Party was the first political party in Jamaica. In September 1929, the PPP was established and was Jamaica’s first attempt to move away from colonialism. Its 14-point manifesto outlined its goal of fair work hours and minimum wage, Aid for the impoverished, technical schools in each parish, libraries and improvement to parish capitals and the appointment of Montego Bay and Port Antonio as cities. Ultimately, the PPP lost the elections. This was the first and only election contested by the party.

    Sir Alexander Bustamante

  5. Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) was established by Sir Alexander Bustamante in 1939. The Bustamante Industrial Trade Union is the oldest and largest multi-industry general trade union in the Caribbean. The BITU was created during a time when Jamaicans were oppressed by their working conditions. They were underpaid and overworked and they received little to no benefits. The years leading up to the establishment of the BITU, especially 1938, was riddled with riots from the workers which often turned violent. Bustamante had a way with the people in Jamaica, as he was very charismatic and he stood up for the rights of the workers. He wrote many letters to the government in the United Kingdom explaining the plight of the Jamaicans in the workforce. In 1939, Bustamante founded the BITU to have an organized way for workers rights to be articulated and addressed. This was the first of many unions to be formed in Jamaica across all professional groupings. Today, the Bustamante Trade Union is still a fully functioning union representing a wide crossection of Jamaica’s workforce.

  6. Jamaica Labour Party
    After his separation from the People’s National Party (PNP), Bustamante founded the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in 1943. Through the JLP, Bustamante won the first elections to become Prime Minister of an Independent Jamaica in 1962. He went on to serve as the Prime Minister of Jamaica until 1967 when he retired from active politics. Jamaica Labour Party is still an active political organization that has won the elections a total of 9 times. They currently serve as the government of Jamaica, led by Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

    Norman Washington Manley

  7. People’s National Party was founded in 1938 by Norman Manley alongside his cousin Alexander Bustamante. Around this time, Manley was also influential in the establishment of Universal Adult Suffrage. After they achieved the right to vote, the PNP contested the elections but lost to the recently established JLP led by Alexander Bustamante. The PNP eventually won in 1955 making Norman Manley the first Chief Minister of Jamaica. He won again in 1959 Making him the first Premier and served until Jamaica gained Independence in 1962. He lost the 1962 election to Alexander Bustamante and served as the leader of the opposition until he retired from active politics on his birthday on July 4th, 1969 and died a few months later from respiratory illnesses. During his time as opposition leader, he established the definitive role of the parliamentary opposition in a developing nation.

    George William Gordon

  8. George William Gordon made it his mission to use his success as a blessing for all around him. He would purchase lands and resell them to the poor black farmers so they would be able to plant and provide for their families. In 1844 he became a cofounding director of the Jamaica Mutual Life Assurance Society a financial institution that lasted from that time till its eventual closure 150 years later in 1994. Following the cholera epidemic in the 1850’s the directorship of the company advocated for it to be wounded up to avoid paying the overwhelming death benefit claims. Gordon filed a legal injunction blocking this move.
We are filled with a sense of gratitude that our heroes had such vision and deep belief in jamaica as a nation. They invested their means and effort into making Jamaica a free and independent nation and set up worthwhile institutions which continue to serve us long after they have departed.

I also recommend you read, Places In Jamaica Named After Our National Heroes?.


  • Frequently Ask Questions, Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League,
  • Jamaica Information Service,
  • Universal Negro Improvement Association, American Experience,

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