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Michael Norman Manley ON OCC (December 10, 1924 – March 6, 1997) was the fourth Prime Minister of Jamaica (1972–1980, 1989–1992). Michael Manley was a democratic socialist.[1]

The second son of Jamaica's Premier Norman Washington Manley and Jamaican artist Edna Manley, Michael Manley was a charismatic figure who became the leader of the Jamaican People's National Party a few months before his father's death in 1969.

Pre-political career

He attended Jamaica College and served with the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II. In 1945, he enrolled at the London School of Economics. In 1949, he graduated, and returned to Jamaica to serve as an editor and columnist for the newspaper Public Opinion. At around the same time, he became involved in the trade union movement, and became a negotiator for the National Workers Union. In August, 1953, he became a full-time official of that union.[2]

When his father was elected chief minister of Jamaica in 1955, Michael resisted the idea of entering politics, not wanting to be seen as capitalizing on his family name. He eventually relented, however, and accepted an appointment to the Senate of the Parliament of Jamaica in 1962. He later won a very close election to the Jamaican House of Representatives in 1967. After his father's retirement, he became the leader of the People's National Party in 1969. In that capacity, he served as leader of the Opposition until his party won in the general elections of 1972.[2]


Manley soundly beat the unpopular incumbent Prime Minister Hugh Shearer (his cousin) in the election of 1972 after running on a platform of "better must come," giving "power to the people" and leading "a government of truth."

Manley instituted a series of socio-economic reforms that yielded mixed success. Though he was a biracial Jamaican from an elite family, Manley's successful trade union background helped him to maintain a close relationship with the country's poor, black majority, and he was a dynamic, popular leader. Unlike his father, who had a reputation for being formal and businesslike, the younger Manley moved easily among people of all strata and made Parliament accessible to the people by abolishing the requirement for men to wear jackets and ties to its sittings. In this regard he started a fashion revolution, often preferring the Kariba suit which was a type of formal bush or safari jacket with trousers and worn without a shirt and tie.

Under Manley, Jamaica established a minimum wage for all workers, including domestic workers. In 1974, Manley proposed free education from primary school to university. The introduction of universally free secondary education was a major step in removing the institutional barriers to private sector and preferred government jobs that required secondary diplomas. The PNP government in 1974 also formed the Jamaica Movement for the Advancement of Literacy (JAMAL), which administered adult education programs with the goal of involving 100,000 adults a year.

Land reform expanded under his administration. Historically land tenure in Jamaica has been rather inequitable. The Project Land Lease, introduced in 1973 attempted an integrated rural development approach, providing tens of thousands of small farmers with land, technical advice, inputs such as fertilizers and access to credit. An estimated 14 percent of idle land was redistributed through this program, much of which had been abandoned during the post-war urban migration and/or purchased by large bauxite companies.

Other reforms introduced by Manley's administration included:

  • The lowering of the minimum voting age to 18 years.
  • The introduction of equal pay for women.[3]
  • The introduction of maternity leave.[4]
  • The outlawing of the stigma of illegitimacy.[5]
  • The abolition of Masters and Servants Act.[6]
  • A Labour Relations and Industrial Disputes Act which provided workers and their trade unions with enhanced rights.[7]
  • The establishment of the National Housing Trust, which provided “the means for most employed people to own their own homes,” and greatly stimulated housing construction, with more than 40,000 houses built between 1974 and 1980.[8]


Manley and his fourth wife Beverly (formerly Beverly Anderson) with US president Jimmy Carter in 1977.

Manley developed close friendships with several foreign leaders, foremost of whom were Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Olof Palme of Sweden, Pierre Trudeau of Canada and Fidel Castro of Cuba. With Cuba just 145 km (90 miles) north of Jamaica, he strengthened diplomatic relations between the two island nations, much to the dismay of United States policymakers.

At the 1979 meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement, Manley strongly pressed for the development of what was called a natural alliance between the Non-aligned movement and the Soviet Union to battle imperialism. In his speech he said, "All anti-imperialists know that the balance of forces in the world shifted irrevocably in 1917 when there was a movement and a man in the October Revolution, and Lenin was the man." Manley saw Cuba and the Cuban model as having much to offer both Jamaica and the world.

In diplomatic affairs, Manley believed in respecting the different systems of government of other countries and not interfering in their internal affairs.


Manley was the Prime Minister when Jamaica experienced a significant escalation of its political culture of violence. Supporters of his opponent Edward Seaga and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and Manley's People's National Party (PNP) engaged in a bloody struggle which began before the 1976 election and ended when Seaga was installed as Prime Minister in 1980. While the violent political culture was not invented by Seaga or Manley, and had its roots in conflicts between the parties from as early as the beginning of the two-party system in the 1940s, political violence reached unprecedented levels in the 1970s. Indeed, the two elections accompanied by the greatest violence were those (1976 and 1980) in which Seaga was trying to unseat Manley.

In response to a wave of killings in 1974, Manley oversaw the passage of the Gun Court Act and the Suppression of Crime Act, giving the police and the army new powers to seal off and disarm high-violence neighborhoods. The Gun Court imposed a mandatory sentence of indefinite imprisonment with hard labor for all firearms offenses, and ordinarily tried cases in camera, without a jury. Manley declared that "There is no place in this society for the gun, now or ever."[9]

Violence flared in January 1976 in anticipation of elections. A State of Emergency was declared by Manley's party the PNP in June and 500 people, including some prominent members of the JLP, were accused of trying to overthrow the government and were detained, without charges, in a specially created prison at the Up-Park Camp military headquarters.[10] Elections were held on 15 December that year, while the state of emergency was still in effect. The PNP was returned to office. The State of Emergency continued into the next year. Extraordinary powers granted the police by the Suppression of Crime Act of 1974 continued to the end of the 1980s.

Violence continued to blight political life in the 1970s. Gangs armed by both parties fought for control of urban constituencies. In the election year of 1980 around 800 Jamaicans were killed. Jamaicans were particularly shocked by the violence at that time.

In the 1980 elections, Seaga's JLP won and he became Prime Minister.


As Leader of the Opposition Manley became an outspoken critic of the new conservative administration. He strongly opposed intervention in Grenada after Prime Minister Maurice Bishop was overthrown and executed. Immediately after committing Jamaican troops to Ronald Reagan's invasion of Grenada in 1983, Seaga called a snap election – two years early – on the pretext that Dr Paul Robertson, General Secretary of the PNP, had called for his resignation. Manley, who may have been taken by surprise by the maneuver, led his party in a boycott of the elections, and so the Jamaica Labour Party won all seats in parliament against only marginal opposition in six of the sixty electoral constituencies.

During his period of opposition in the 1980s, Manley, a compelling speaker, travelled extensively, speaking to audiences around the world. He taught a graduate seminar and gave a series of public lectures at Columbia University in New York.

In 1986 Manley travelled to Britain and visited Birmingham. He attended a number of venues including the Afro Caribbean Resource Centre in Winson Green and Digbeth Civic Hall. The mainly black audiences turned out en masse to hear Manley speak.

Meanwhile, Seaga's failure to deliver on his promises to the US and foreign investors, as well as complaints of governmental incompetence in the wake Hurricane Gilbert's devastation in 1988, also contributed to his defeat to the popular Manley in the 1989 elections.


By 1989 Manley had softened his socialist rhetoric, explicitly advocating a role for private enterprise. With the fall of the Soviet Union, he also ceased his support for a variety of international causes. In the election of that year he campaigned on a very moderate platform. Seaga's administration had fallen out of favor – both with the electorate and the US – and the PNP was re-elected.

Manley's second term was short and largely uneventful. In 1992, citing health reasons he stepped down as Prime Minister and PNP leader. His former Deputy Prime Minister, Percival Patterson, assumed both offices.


Michael Manley was married five times. In 1946 he married Jacqueline Kamellard but the marriage was dissolved in 1951. Manley then married Thelma Verity in 1955; in 1960 this marriage was also dissolved. In 1966 Manley married Barbara Lewars (died in 1968); in 1972 he married Beverley Anderson but the marriage was dissolved in 1990. Beverly Anderson Manley wrote The Manley Memoirs in June 2008.[citation needed] Michael Manley's final marriage was to Glynne Ewart in 1992.[11]

Manley had 5 children from his five marriages: Rachel Manley, Joseph Manley, Sarah Manley, Natasha Manley and David Manley.[citation needed]

Retirement and death

Manley wrote seven books, including the award-winning A History of West Indies Cricket, in which he discussed the links between cricket and West Indian nationalism.

Michael Manley died of prostate cancer on 6 March 1997, the same day as another Caribbean politician, Cheddi Jagan of Guyana.

Preceded by
Hugh Shearer
Prime Minister of Jamaica
Succeeded by
Edward Seaga
Preceded by
Edward Seaga
Prime Minister of Jamaica
Succeeded by
Percival Patterson


  2. 2.0 2.1 Lentz, Harris M., III (1994). Heads of States and Governments. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc. pp. 451–452. ISBN 0899509266.
  3. Insight Guide: Jamaica, Insight Guides, APA Publications, 2009
  4. ibid
  5. ibid
  6. ibid
  7. ibid
  8. ibid
  9. "Stalag in Kingston". Time Magazine. September 23, 1974. Retrieved 2009-01-14.
  10. The Daily Gleaner, Monday 6 July 1986 Page 14
  11. Payne, Anthony (March 8, 1997). "Obituary: Michael Manley". The Independent. London. Retrieved May 12, 2010.

Hon Bruce Golding 2007–Present


  • Henke, Holger (2000) Between Self-Determination and Dependency: Jamaica's foreign relations, 1972-1989. Kingston: University of the West Indies Press
  • Levi, Darrell E. (1990) Michael Manley: the making of a leader. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press

External links