On this day in history, November 10, 1924, Michael Manley, a Jamaican pilot, politician, and the 4th Prime Minister of Jamaica was born. Coming from a prosperous background, Manley was a democratic socialist. According to opinion polls, he remains one of Jamaica’s most popular Prime Ministers since independence.
He instituted a series of socio-economic reforms that produced mixed results. Though he was a Jamaican from an elite family, Manley’s successful trade union background helped him to maintain a close relationship with the country’s poor 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, 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.
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. He is interred at the National Heroes Park, where his father Norman Manley is also interred.