Are All Jamaicans Black? The Truth May Surprise You…
When you consider Caribbean countries, Jamaica is one of the first you probably think of.
And when you think of their country and their people, you might immediately think of Jamaicans you know.
Names like Usain Bolt and Bob Marley will come up, and while both men happen to be Black, do they represent all Jamaicans?
Jamaica, and many other countries, are probably thought to be all Black because they’re the racial majority, but let’s discuss it?
Are all Jamaicans Black?
Are All Jamaicans Black?
I’m not going to mince words and make you wait for the answer.
Are all Jamaicans Black?
The answer is no.
There might be misconceptions out there that predominantly Black countries are all Black.
That clearly isn’t the case.
While countries like the United States and the U.K. have become a melting pot of diverse ethnicities, there are still many countries where Black people are the racial majority.
You’ll find this to be the case in some Caribbean countries.
You’ll definitely see this in African countries.
Even so, while the racial demographic of these countries might be 90-95% Black, you could never say that every Jamaican is Black.
And in the next few sections, we’ll dive into Jamaica’s history and ethnic composition.
The History Of Jamaica
In order to understand the ethnic composition of Jamaica, we must first dive into Jamaica’s history.
Jamaica is another country that has a long history that is riddled with colonization and slavery.
Jamaica was originally home to the native Arawak people.
At the height of the civilization, there were probably 60.000 living in Jamaica.
The Arawak people are even credited with providing words that have been used in both the English and Spanish language.
For example, “barbecue” comes from the word barbacoa.
We get words like sweet potato, hurricane, and tobacco from yuca, juracan, and tabaco, respectively.
This land was peacefully inhabited by the Arawak people until the end of the 15th century.
It is said that Christopher Columbus first landed in Jamaica during his second voyage to the Americas in May 1494.
During his fourth voyage, he was actually stranded on the island for approximately a year.
After the Spanish granted the island to Christopher Columbus’ family, the first European settlement was founded in 1509.
While some of the Arawak were able to escape the Spanish, many of them were enslaved, but ultimately, most died from European diseases.
Even though many of the native people died, they are still tied to the name of the country.
The Taino, an Arawak tribe, called the island “Xaymaca,” which the Spanish would gradually change to “Jamaica.”
With the decline of the Arawak population, the Spanish colonizers turned to Africa to bring the first slaves over to the island.
The Spanish reign in Jamaica would come to end in the mid-17th century.
After failing to capture Hispaniola, the British turned their eyes towards Jamaica.
The British took over the island in 1655, and while they initially began increasing the islands population through European indentured servants and prisoners, the African slave trade continued to grow through the end of the 1600s.
The slave population continued to grow through Jamaica’s sugarcane boom and the First and Second Maroon Wars.
After enslaved preacher, Samuel Sharpe, led the slave rebellion called The Baptist War in 1831, this would eventually incentivize Britain to pass the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833.
With the abolishment of slavery, the economy of Jamaica went down, so the country began looking for workers elsewhere.
This brought about the recruitment of workers from countries like India and China.
The country would continue to change through the 20th century with the country gaining its independence from Britain in 1962.
Through music, sports, and more, the country has seen numerous notable figures lift the country since their independence.
Grace Jones is a popular Jamaican model, singer, and record producer.
Bob Marley, a pillar of reggae music, is one the most-recognized Jamaicans in the country’s history.
Considered the greatest sprinter of all time, Usain Bolt hails from Jamaica.
Lastly, we can’t forget to mention the rise of reggae and dancehall music thanks to musicians like Buju Banton, Beanie Man, and Mr. Vegas.
And while all of these notable Jamaican figures are Black, they don’t account for all of the country’s population.
Black And Jamaican Can Be Mutually Exclusive
Before we break down the ethnic composition of Jamaica, it is important to stress that while you can guess that most Jamaicans are Black, all are not.
It’s important to stress that the words “Black” and “Jamaican” are not mutually exclusive.
Jamaica simply refers to the country and has less to do with what ethnicity their citizens actually are.
If you see someone who is Black, you wouldn’t immediately assume that they are Jamaican.
The same would hold true if you’re looking at it in an alternative form.
Just because you are told someone is Jamaican doesn’t mean they are Black.
The country of Jamaica is made up of different ethnic groups, and we’ll explore them in detail in the next section.
What Is The Ethnic Composition Of Jamaica?
As mentioned in the section “The History of Jamaica,” the original inhabitants of Jamaica were the indigenous Arawak and Taino people.
We can’t forget that white colonizer Christopher Columbus came over in the late 1400s, and soon Jamaica became a Spanish colony.
After the native people died from a series of European diseases, the Spanish settlers brought slaves from Africa.
When the British took over in 1655, this would lead to slavery in the country ending almost 200 years later in 1838.
According to World Atlas, around this time, the population of Jamaica was around 21,000 British and 300,000 slaves of African origin.
While Jamaica’s ethnic composition began as a country of indigenous people, the country is predominantly Afro-Jamaican, a term used for citizens of Jamaica who are descendants of Black Africans.
Another ethnic group you’ll find in Jamaica are the Indo-Jamaicans.
Forming the country’s third largest ethnic group, these Jamaican citizens are descendants of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent.
The Indo-Jamaican ethnic group comes after the African multiracials.
Because many of the former simply identify as Black, it is believed that the 0.8% Indo-Jamaicans that make up the country’s population is actually larger.
This population started growing in 1845.
Between 1845 and 1917, thousands of Indians, trying to escape the poor socio-economic conditions of India, left British India for British Jamaica.
World Atlas also estimates that about ⅔ of the Indian laborers who came to Jamaica stayed on the island.
Another ethnic group you’ll find in Jamaica are the Chinese Jamaicans.
This accounts for the citizens who trace their lineage to the descendants of Chinese migrants.
Jamaica has seen different waves of migration, the first of which began in the early 19th century.
The second wave was between the 1980s and 1990s.
The first Chinese migrants arrived in Jamaica in 1854.
Over the next twenty years, hundreds of more landed in Jamaica, mostly from other Caribbean islands.
Because slavery was banned in 1838, the Chinese workers were in place to replace the former free labor.
The Chinese were essentially placed into a system that seems similar to indentured servitude where they were required to sign a five-year contract that bound them as a laborer to a specific planter.
And the last ethnic group left for us to explore is the White Jamaicans.
Whites have been a part of Jamaica’s history just as long as Blacks have.
World Atlas describes this particular ethnic group as tracing their ancestry to Europe, particularly England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Spain, and Portugal.
The number of White Jamaicans has changed dramatically since the beginning of the country’s history.
In 1662, a few years after Jamaica became a British colony, the country’s population was 87% White.
By 1673, the country had decreased to 45% White because while the number of white people increased, the number of black slaves had also increased during that time.
More recently, in the 1970s, the white population had decreased majorly to 0.66%.
According to the latest census taken in Jamaica, White Jamaicans currently makeup 0.16% of the country’s population.
Now, with all these facts, who would be considered the minority in the country?
Who Is Considered The Minority In Jamaica?
I don’t know about you, but as a young child in the United States, I had a very wrong perception of what the words “majority” and “minority” meant.
Of course with more education, I have come to understand what these words really refer to, but I’m sure there are some people out there who might still have the misconceptions I had as a child.
Growing up in a country where people of color were always referred to as the “minority,” I just assumed that all people of color in all countries were considered minorities.
I thought that Black people in my parents’ native country of Haiti were minorities.
I assumed that the Blacks in Africa were minorities.
Somewhere along the line, I learned what “majority” and “minority” really meant.
While yes, Blacks are a minority in the United States, that’s not the case in every country around the world.
Blacks are considered a racial minority in the United States because the country is 12.2% Black compared to the racial majority of 63.7% White.
It happens to be that people of color are the racial minority in the United States, but that doesn’t hold up in all other countries.
As proven by the section above, the racial majority in Jamaica is actually Black or Afro-Jamaicans.
The face of their racial groups are flipped.
The Black population is considered the majority racial group on the island country.
The minorities within the country would be those of Indian, Chinese, and white European descent.
So Are All Jamaicans Black? Conclusion
And there you have it.
While most Jamaicans are Black, all of them aren’t.
Jamaica is a country with a long, rich history, but they’re not the only one.
If you’re looking to dive deeper into Black majority countries and their history, take an afternoon off for a movie marathon.
With 54 countries, Africa is a continent that is also rich in history.
From dramas to biopics to cartoons for the kids, be sure to check out our post on movies about Africa and all its wonders.
Really good article.