This Day in History: Saint Lucia becomes independent

Flag of Saint Lucia

By Celina DeCastro

On this day in 1979, February 22, the island of Saint Lucia became fully independent from British control. Allowing John Compton of the United Worker’s Party (UWP) to become the first Prime Minister.

Saint Lucia, one of the Windward Islands, was originally home to the Arawak tribe until 800 A.D. when the Carib tribe dominated the island.

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England first attempted to colonize the island 1605 and 1638, but failed due to the aggressiveness from the Carib tribe. The first official settlement was achieved by the French in 1746.

Control of the island has changed 14 times between the English and the French between the 17th century and 1800’s. England gained final control in 1814 as part of the Treaty of Paris after the Napoleonic Wars.

English became the island’s official language in 1842.

The island developed a plantation economy based on sugar cane and labor of enslaved Africans until slavery was abolished in 1834. In 1882, indentured Indians arrived to work the agricultural industry, where many remained.

In 1951, all citizens over the age of 21 were granted the right to vote, in an attempt to move towards independence.

In 1967, Saint Lucia received its constitution to be included in the Federated States of the Antilles, allowing the island to self-govern.

Saint Lucia remains a parliamentary democracy within the British commonwealth after gaining its independence in 1979.