Independence Day is a public holiday in Jamaica observed on August 6th.
Jamaica was long inhabited by Arawak and Taino peoples, but the Spanish wiped out most of them within 50 years of making Jamaica a Spanish colony in the early 1500’s. After the local Indian labor was depleted in this way, the Spanish imported African slaves to take their place. However, Jamaica remained mostly an outlying military base for the Spanish rather than a “major” colony.
The British invaded Jamaica in 1655 and seized it from Spain. In all the confusion, large numbers of slaves escaped and fled to the forests and mountains of the interior, where they joined up with and intermarried with surviving Taino Indians. This was how the “Maroons” came to exist. It took two wars before raids by Maroons were finally put to an end by the British rulers.
Later, in 1834, slavery was abolished in the British Empire. However, it took decades more before black Jamaicans gained equal rights.
With the break up of the British Empire in the 1950s, Jamaica had several amendments to its constitution to allow greater self-government and a Prime Minister. In 1958, Jamaica became a founding member of the West Indies Federation, a political union of various islands in the Caribbean that were colonies of the United Kingdom. In September 1961, Jamaican dissatisfaction with the Federation and the slow pace of moves to independence led to a referendum in Jamaica that resulted in 54% of voters wanting to leave. The elections of 1962 were won by the Jamaica Labor Party under the leadership of Alexander Bustamante.
This led to the Jamaica Independence Act being passed by the United Kingdom Parliament on July 19th 1962, granting independence on August 6th 1962 when the Jamaican flag was flown for the first time. Bustamante became Jamaica’s first Prime Minister and Jamaica joined the Commonwealth of Nations.
On Independence Day, Jamaicans take part in huge street parades, don clothing colored like the Jamaican flag, and put on all manner of cultural displays. The overall event is termed “Jamaica Festival”.