This Day in the Law
August 6

Jamaica Declares Independence (1962)

On August 6, 1962, Jamaica gained independence from Britain. Today, Jamaicans celebrate this day as Independence Day.

Historians believe that Arawak Indians first arrived to Jamaica around 2,500 years ago from South America. In 1494, Christopher Columbus landed on the island of present-day Jamaica, claimed it for Spain, and named it Santiago.

The Spanish held the island against raids from pirates and other bandits for a few centuries. In the 17th Century, the British took over Jamaica from the Spanish and imposed their laws upon the inhabitants. In the 1940s, Jamaica gained some political independence from Britain. The People's National Party (PNP) was founded during this era, along with its rival party, the Jamaica Labor Party (JLP). In 1944, Jamaica held its first elections where adults could legally vote. In the 1950s, Jamaica continued to push for more independence.

On this day, August 6, 1962, Jamaica gained independence from Britain and Jamaica’s National Flag was raised to commemorate the occasion. The first prime minister elected to Jamaica was Alexander Bustamante of the Jamaica Labor Party.

Today, Jamaica remains a member of British Commonwealth of Nations, otherwise known as the Commonwealth. Jamaicans celebrate this day as Independence Day with music, parades, costumes, dance, and other cultural and historical activities.

Jamaica is the third largest Caribbean island and maintains a fairly stable political government. However, Jamaica continues to face difficult economic and social problems with high unemployment levels, debt, and high crime in certain cities.