Author and poet, Claude McKay, penned the bestselling novel “Home to Harlem,” for which he received the Harmon Gold Award for Literature. He wrote two other books, a collection of short stories and two autobiographies. Born near James Hill, Jamaica on Sept. 15, 1889, he was of Ashanti and Malagasy descent. Prior to his rise to fame, he was apprenticed to a carriage and cabinetmaker, worked as a police officer and attended the Tuskegee Institute. McKay was involved with the African Blood Brotherhood for a time and later emerged as a leader in the Harlem Renaissance. He received the Jamaican Institute of Arts and Sciences gold medal, the Harmon Foundation Award for literary achievement and the James Weldon Johnson Literary Guild Award. He died May 22, 1948.
Courtney Andrew Walsh
A former international cricket star, Courtney Walsh was born Oct. 30, 1962 in Kingston, Jamaica. He held the record for most Test wickets, captained the West Indies in 22 Test Matches and held the record for the most Test wickets from 2000 to 2004. Walsh was voted one of the Wisden Cricketers of the Year in 1987. In Test cricket, he’s one of four to ever bowl over 5000 overs and is well known for his sportsmanship to other players. He owns the Cuddyz restaurant in Jamaica and is a regular on Lashings World XI with other cricket legends.
Donald O’Riley Quarrie was one of the top sprinters in the world during the 1970s. Born in Kingston, Jamaica on Feb. 25, 1951, his name is often used there as a measure of speed. He won gold, silver and bronze medals in the Olympic Games for the 100 and 200-meter, and the 4×100 meter. He took golds in the Pan American Games in the 100 and 200-meter events. Quarrie received six gold medals in the Commonwealth Games for the 100, 200 and 4×100 meter competitions.
Born in Jamaica in 1967, Donald Bailey immigrated to Canada as a child. He won the 100-meter sprint and the 4×100 meter relay titles at the 1995 Track & Field Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden. Prior to the centennial Olympics in 1996, he broke the 50-meter world record and set the world record at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. His third world title came in 1997 as part of the Canadian relay team. He was named the world’s fastest man in 1997. His career ended when he ruptured his Achilles tendon in 1998. He officially retired in 2001 as a three-time World and two-time Olympic champion. He founded DBX Sport Management, a firm that aids amateur athletes in self-promotion. Bailey worked as a sports commentator during the 2008 Olympics, was inducted into the Canada Sports Hall of Fame as an individual in 2004, and as part of the Canadian relay team in 2008.
Known as the mother of Jamaican art, Edna Manley was born March 1, 1900 and was one of Jamaica’s most gifted sculptors. Her Jamaican mother, Ellie Shearer, was left to raise Edna and eight siblings when her husband died when Edna was eight. Manley moved back to Jamaica from England in 1922 with husband Norman Manley, founder of the Jamaican People’s National Party. She worked primarily with native woods and her work through the years reflected the many upheavals and civil unrest in the country. Her work was the impetus for the first showing of artists throughout the island. Manley was one of the founders of the Jamaica School of Art and taught there. Her famous “Negro Aroused” was the first piece of what would become a national collection. She eschewed wood in favor of terracotta and plaster in the 1970s. She continued to work until her death on Feb. 2, 1987.
Edward Alston Cecil Baugh was born Jan. 10, 1936 in Port Antonio, Jamaica. A poet and scholar, he’s a recognized authority on the works of Derek Walcott. He began writing poetry in high school and won a scholarship to University College of the West Indies. Baugh earned his Ph.D. in 1964, and taught at the University of the West Indies. He wrote numerous scholarly publications and his work has appeared in anthologies and magazines worldwide.
Reggae and ska musician, the Honorable Jimmy Cliff, was born April 1, 1948 in St. James, Jamaica. He’s the only living musician to hold the Order of Merit, the highest honor bestowed by the Jamaican government for arts and sciences achievement. He helped reggae attain worldwide prominence. Many of his songs can be heard in the movie “Cool Runnings” and he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010. He was also an actor of note, starring as Ivanhoe “Ivan” Martin in the film “The Harder They Come,” and with Robin Williams in “Club Paradise,” along with several other films. Cliff is a member of the Independent Music Awards judging panel. He’s released 28 albums and six singles.
Jody-Anne Maxwell has the distinction of being the first black student and the first outside the U.S. to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee in the competition’s history. She won the event in 1998 at the age of 12. She later hosted the Jamaican program, “The KFC Quiz Show,” with a range of co-hosts until 2004. Maxwell is currently a law student attending the Norman Manley Law School.