July 4 means many things to many people.
Globally, many people associate it with the US independence celebrations. In the Caribbean region, this July 4, 2013 marks 40 years since the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas, marking the establishment of the Caribbean Community, much better known as CARICOM. And in Jamaica, the day also marks 120 years since the birth of National Hero, Norman Washington Manley.
In February 1950, at the time that the then brand new University (College) of the West Indies was installing its first Chancellor, Norman Manley described it as “our child and father to be”. The university, then a college of the University of London, had just taken in its first two cohorts of students from across the region. Manley, himself a Rhodes Scholar, was quietly supportive of the institution which ticked many boxes for him including education, professional development so necessary for national development and regional integration.
Manley was intellectual and activist; top flight barrister and supporter of the arts; statesman and politician – he co-founded Jamaica’s governing political party, the People’s National Party in 1938 and for a time he represented the East St Andrew constituency that included the university’s Mona campus.
In 1962, the university – along with the Caribbean islands of Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago – gained its independence. In 1969, it decided to award an Honorary degree of Doctor of Laws to the recently retired N.W. Manley. But Manley died that September and in place of the degree, the university paid tribute:
“How proud was Norman Manley of our University, how knowledgeable of its struggles and its achievements, how sympathetic to its aspirations, how truly cognisant of its value to our island communities. From its very beginning – nay before – he encouraged and supported it in every way in his power, and remained a constant supporter and understanding advocate even in its deepest trials. He saw in the education of his people their only hope of breaking with their past, and in the University of the West Indies the culmination of the educational ladder….”
The UWI Museum’s cameo exhibition on NW Manley: Our child and father to be, continues through July.