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by Emile Francis
(Spanish Town St.Catherine)
Norman Washington Manley was born to mixed-race parents in Roxborough in Jamaica's Manchester parish, on 4 July 1893. His father Thomas Albert Samuel Manley, the out-of-wedlock son of a former slave and an English merchant from Yorkshire, worked as an agricultural businessman; he sold Jamaican spices and fruit to the United States. Norman Manley's mother, Margaret Shearer, was the daughter of a mixed-race woman and her ethnic Irish husband, a pen-keeper.
Manley was a brilliant scholar, soldier and athlete, and studied law at Jesus College, Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. He served in the Royal Field Artillery during World War I, and was awarded the Military Medal (M.M.).
After the war, Manley returned to Jamaica and served as a barrister.
During the labour troubles of 1938, in the years of the Great Depression, he identified with the workers, donating his time and advocacy to assist them. That year, Manley founded the left-wing People's National Party, which later was tied to the Trade Union Congress and the National Workers Union. The PNP supported the trade union movement, then led by his cousin Alexander Bustamante. At the same time, Manley worked for Universal Adult Suffrage
After suffrage was approved in 1944, Manley had to wait ten years and two terms before his party was elected to office. He was a strong advocate of the Federation of the West Indies, established in 1958. When Sir Alexander Bustamante declared that the opposition Jamaica Labour Party would take Jamaica out of the Federation, Manley, already renowned for his commitment to democracy, called for a referendum, unprecedented in Jamaica, to let the people decide.
The vote was decidedly against Jamaica’s continued membership in the Federation. Manley, after arranging Jamaica’s orderly withdrawal from the union, set up a joint committee to decide on a constitution for separate independence for Jamaica. He chaired the committee and led the team that negotiated independence.
Norman Washington Manley MM, QC, National Hero of Jamaica (4 July 1893 – 2 September 1969), was a Jamaican statesman. A Rhodes Scholar, Manley became one of Jamaica's leading lawyers in the 1920s. With his cousin, Alexander Bustamante, Manley was an advocate of universal suffrage, which was granted by Parliament to the colony in 1944.
Together with Bustamante, in 1938 he founded the left-wing People's National Partycitation needed which later was tied to the Trade Union Congress and the National Workers Union. He led the PNP in every election from 1944 to 1967.citation needed Their efforts resulted in the New Constitution of 1944, granting full adult suffrage.
Manley served as the colony's Chief Minister from 1955 to 1959, and as Premier from 1959 to 1962. He was a proponent of the island's participation in the Federation of the West Indies but bowed to pressure to hold a referendum on the issue in 1961. Voters chose to have Jamaica withdraw from the union.
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