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On This Day: Jamaica gains independence after three centuries of British rule

On This Day: Jamaica gains independence after three centuries of British rule

Posted by Shanelle Weir on August 06, 2014

Jamaicans celebrated their independence after three centuries of British rule ended on this day in 1962.

The union flag was lowered across the Caribbean island before citizens hoisted up a new banner that had been selected following a public contest.

A British Pathé newsreel filmed the nation’s Prime Minister Alexander Bustamante, an eccentric native-born white trade union leader, welcome Princess Margaret. The Queen’s sister, who had come on behalf of the monarch, who would remain technical head of state in Jamaica, was there to provide formal ascent.

She was filmed attending a massive stadium gala, which had unfortunately been deluged by a tropical downpour on the eve on independence.

At the stroke of midnight, fireworks were lit up across the nation as the citizens of the former slave colony became the masters of their own fate.

After the sun rose, Princess Margaret opened the country’s new parliament, which has an upper and lower house and works in the same way as the Westminster system.

In 1655 the English seized Jamaica during a war between the two European naval powers and many of those mixed-raced forced labourers escaped into the hills.

By 1796, following two successive wars with the new colonists, the majority of these ‘Maroons’ were deported to Nova Scotia and later moved to Sierra Leone in Africa.

In 1807, Britain abolished the slave trade, but did not emancipate the roughly 290,000 people involuntarily bonded to plantation owners.

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