Top Ten Greatest Jamaicans – #10 Michael Manley

Why ‘Top Ten Greatest Jamaicans’?

Well why not. Fifty years of independence is a long enough time to reach some agreement about which of this country’s sons and daughters have fought for justice and equality, and given Jamaicans pride in themselves as a people. And is this not a reasonable definition of greatness?

Many will naturally disagree with my judgements. But wouldn’t it be a rather boring world if we all agreed on everything all the time? In fact it would be nice if this list helped to kickstart a national debate on the subject. So the more ‘Yuh is a idiot who don’t have a clue what yuh talking bout’ responses the better!

My list is based on a fair bit of reading, many on the ground conversations, and a few ‘who is the greatest Jamaican’ john public polls. My views don’t coincide completely with those on the street, but there is much overlap. The greatest difference is probably historical perspective. Most regular folk are too busy getting on with life to think much on the distant past. Only historical dabblers have time to compare what was and what is.

So who’s number 10? Well let’s examine the pros and cons of three potential candidates. They are respectively: the most famous living Jamaican of all time, the most popular Prime Minister ever, and the person who has probably contributed to more areas of national endeavour than anyone else. Namely Usain Bolt, Michael Manley and Edward Seaga.

Usain Bolt is unquestionably the greatest sprinter in history, and maybe the most famous athlete since Mohamed Ali. Actually in Ali’s heyday most Chinese and Indian peasants – roughly a third of the world population – had no access to outside world news. So Usain is probably more instantly recognizable than any active sportsman who ever lived.

His fame is due not only to his hitherto unmatched speed, but the wonderfully exuberant yardie style in which he wins and celebrates. Which Jamaican’s heart has not soared while seeing Bolt decimate the rest of the world, and then making everyone around him smile and laugh? ‘Come to Jamaica and feel alright!’ He unquestionably makes us proud of ourselves as a people.

Still, he has dedicated his life to simply running as fast as he can, and has not to my knowledge expressed much interest in anything but being the best he can be in his field. This is not a criticism of a young man who has, all things considered, handled his unprecedented fame marvellously well, so far. But others on this list have consciously fought for justice and equality and the betterment of others.

Michael Manley greatest JamaicansMichael Manley was certainly one of these. Even today the tone of his speeches still resonate with many Jamaicans. He simply made them feel good about themselves, and raised their sense of self-worth. And he broke down social barriers and championed enlightened laws such as paid maternity leave and the ‘anti-bastardy’ act. Many also give him credit for being able to go to school and earn university degrees and all the benefits they bring. Every poll taken shows him our most popular Prime Minister.

Yet under his 1972 to 1980 stewardship Jamaica’s average per capita income fell by over 30%. His critics bluntly attribute this to economic mismanagement. Sympathisers cite extenuating circumstances like the cold war and oil crisis. But many other countries in similar situations as Jamaica (e.g. Barbados, Bahamas, Dominican Republic) substantially improved their material well being over the same period. Man cannot live by bread alone, but bread is also the staff of life. All fine words aside, the ordinary Jamaican’s standard of living declined considerably under Michael Manley’s first tenure.

Edward Seaga is the most multi-dimensional leader this country has known, and perhaps no one influenced independent Jamaica in so many ways: an anthropology pioneer; a driving force behind the popularisation of ska and reggae; an originator of the annual cultural Festival; an award winning poet; one of our more finance ministers; the third longest tenure as Prime Minister.

Many respond with one word – Tivoli. The May 24th to 27th 2010 events in West Kingston, they say, trace right back to the 1965-1966 demolition of Back a Wall and building of Tivoli Gardens. Even if not the originator and certainly not the sole practitioner, his detractors charge that Edward Seaga institutionalized the garrison concept, and is highly responsible for all the ills that have flowed thereof.

Many pluses and minuses all around, but a final decision must be made. When in doubt, it’s no bad thing to go with the public’s choice. So my number ten greatest Jamaican is Michael ‘Joshua’ Manley. Let the cheers and boos begin.

Adapted from Jamaica Fi Real: Beauty, Vibes and Culture

Links to other members of the Top Ten Greatest Jamaicans

Number 10

Number 9 

Number 8

Number 7

Number 6

Number 5

Number 4

Number 3

Number 2

Number 1

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David Martin
Guest

totally agree Micheal Manley is iconic indeed

Alwayne AlterEgo Brown
Guest

Initially I thought this would be a list of 10 in one post but I stand corrected. With that said I will end with “interesting” and wait to see how this plays out (y)

Douglas Bruce Gooden
Guest

You are ascribing what is the result of a megalomaniac predisposition of ordinary people who were of the opinion that they were extraordinary. What has been destroyed has been the prestige in which Jamaica was held by everyone. That is what we have lost. King Street was the street of consequence in the entire Caribbean. Not any more. None of these people has any clear understanding of enterprise and entrepreneurship along with the innovation and initiative which are part and parcel of any prosperous. Consequently the mandate of the generation of those charge with the responsibility of the social and… Read more »

Dwight Thompson
Guest

Manley’s heart was definitely in the right place, even if ideological excess got the better of him, still he remains the greatest agent for social change in post independent

Merdina Callum
Guest

“Manley’s heart was definitely in the right place, even if ideological excess got the better of him, still he remains the greatest agent for social change in post independent”. Just having your heart in the right place can make you a great human being. Words and no action. No wonder Ambassador Gary once said Jamaicans applaud pronouncements… Oh how Jamaica has suffered as a result of sweet talk. We are really suffering from battered women syndrome!

Daryl Wilkinson
Guest

If it were not for the Manleys, Apartheid would have continued in Africa and racism would be significantly more prevalent today. Michael Manley altered consciousness and popular culture, tried to eradicate class differences and is still #10. Keep in Mind that Seaga was the one who claimed in an In-focus article that “with support of the private sector he managed to apply pressure to the costs of free education (by withholding local financial grants) in 1972 from 49 million to 240 million in 1973. To combat this Manley pulled resources from every sector, Sugar, Bauxite, Tourism,” because Manley thought nothing… Read more »

Stewart Spencer
Guest

So where are the other 9?

Rhyle Small
Guest

Michael Manley is the first Jamaican leader with access to state power who actively lead change to remove racial discrimination in Jamaica. During my youth, I did not know what was racial discrimination. Is long after I have now come to realize this man was far ahead of his time. He certainly had negatives i.e his close association to communism. This was his weakness. However his strength have put him far ahead of many of our herons.

Shilo M Evans
Guest

NOT READING THE COMMENTS but love me some Michael Manley. All day!

Azar'el Keith Russell
Guest

If Mnaley is in it we might as well include Seaga and other politicians who also had the right motives but diverted same as Manley did. Liek I reiterated my list would contain ordinary great modern Jamaicans who our post independence population now identify with such as Marley, Bolt, Ottey, Oliver,Lecky et al

Dwayne Goodison
Guest

Yuh still need to read more widely and deeply

Paul Moses
Guest

My list would include: Marcus Garvey ( #1), Bob Marley, Lenard Howell. Regardless the your personal views, these peoples were universal and resound beyond our boundaries.

Clive Hinds
Guest

Politicians in general are usually all for themselves, but Mr Manley was about the people, and for the people!! Best Politician hands down!! Definitely top five!!

Cynthia Wright
Guest

Miss Lou was great, but not greater than the Hon. Norman Manley,it was Bustamante and Manley who mold Jamaica .Bustamante was two cousins Busta was the illiterate one and Norman was the educated one They are who tamed Jamaicans who’s blood line is from the rebellious slaves.

Cynthia Wright
Guest

Michael Manley,son of Norman Manley carry the torch to let Jamaican people know they can be what the choose to be educationally

Cynthia Wright
Guest

Anybody can speak Patois and rhyme it like miss Lou the only difference is that you won’t be miss lou. Why not give the list of 10?.

Gerald Stephenson
Guest

Everybody praising Michael M cause you all not old enough to comment on anyone prior to Michael. He inherited a great Foundation, so prior to Michael we had great leaders. Seaga was great but influenced by USA who turned him

Maleus Noir
Guest

I have read all ten submissions, and am greatly disappointed. Michael Norman Manley is second only to Robert N. Marley. Michael Manley brought Jamaica into the twentieth century. He made Jamaicans realize the value of education, of being enlightened. Politically speaking, he is the greatest Jamaican of All. Bob Marley is the most renowned Jamaican ever.. I have lived in 22 countries and visited 16 others. BOB is still revered worldwide. He was a messenger that all peoples still relate. No other person, to my knowledge, has had the global impact that Bob continues to have.

Daryl Wilkinson
Guest

If it were not for the Manleys, Apartheid would have continued in Africa and racism would be significantly more prevalent today. Michael Manley altered consciousness and popular culture, tried to eradicate class differences and is still #10. Keep in Mind that Seaga was the one who claimed in an In-focus article that “with support of the private sector he managed to apply pressure to the costs of free education (by withholding local financial grants) in 1972 from 49 million to 240 million in 1973. To combat this Manley pulled resources from every sector, Sugar, Bauxite, Tourism,” because Manley thought nothing… Read more »

Dwight Thompson
Guest

Manley’s heart was definitely in the right place, even if ideological excess got the better of him, still he remains the greatest agent for social change in post independent

Merdina Callum
Guest

“Manley’s heart was definitely in the right place, even if ideological excess got the better of him, still he remains the greatest agent for social change in post independent”. Just having your heart in the right place can make you a great human being. Words and no action. No wonder Ambassador Gary once said Jamaicans applaud pronouncements… Oh how Jamaica has suffered as a result of sweet talk. We are really suffering from battered women syndrome!

Douglas Bruce Gooden
Guest

You are ascribing what is the result of a megalomaniac predisposition of ordinary people who were of the opinion that they were extraordinary. What has been destroyed has been the prestige in which Jamaica was held by everyone. That is what we have lost. King Street was the street of consequence in the entire Caribbean. Not any more. None of these people has any clear understanding of enterprise and entrepreneurship along with the innovation and initiative which are part and parcel of any prosperous country. Consequently the mandate of the generation of those charge with the responsibility of the social… Read more »

Paul Moses
Guest

My list would include: Marcus Garvey ( #1), Bob Marley, Lenard Howell. Regardless the your personal views, these peoples were universal and resound beyond our boundaries.

Azar'el Keith Russell
Guest

If Mnaley is in it we might as well include Seaga and other politicians who also had the right motives but diverted same as Manley did. Liek I reiterated my list would contain ordinary great modern Jamaicans who our post independence population now identify with such as Marley, Bolt, Ottey, Oliver,Lecky et al

Shilo M Evans
Guest

NOT READING THE COMMENTS but love me some Michael Manley. All day!

Dwayne Goodison
Guest

Yuh still need to read more widely and deeply

Clive Hinds
Guest

Politicians in general are usually all for themselves, but Mr Manley was about the people, and for the people!! Best Politician hands down!! Definitely top five!!

Alwayne AlterEgo Brown
Guest

Initially I thought this would be a list of 10 in one post but I stand corrected. With that said I will end with “interesting” and wait to see how this plays out (y)

David Martin
Guest

totally agree Micheal Manley is iconic indeed

Stewart Spencer
Guest

So where are the other 9?

Marie Wilson
Guest

I agree both a politician and a statesman tried but like all great people he had feet of ckay so he made mistakes but good intentions

Walter Williams
Guest

The Right honorable Michael Manley , the best priminister Ja. ever had and will ever have .

Walter Williams
Guest

The Right honorable Michael Manley , the best priminister Ja. ever had and will ever have .

Naomi Marissa Miller
Guest

Michael Manley is my political Legend. He sees the interest of the people. I grew up under his leadership and management of the country. Spoke with such an eloquence and empower the entire nation of self worth. He was sent from above. I remember when I was in College and came for a motivational speaker. Got us ladies all wild and we could not contain ourselves. He is a true leader that leads by example. No corruption and discrepancies during his tenure. I did get a pic of him. May his soul forever rest in peace.

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Lyndon Allen
Guest

Michael Manley without a doubt is the 10 th greatest Jamaican.

Lenny 'Terie' Davis
Guest

Mr Michael Manley.

David Shani Smalling
Guest

OK, I can see this is another PNP fan page.

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