10 Things Jamaica has Contributed to the World

By Hume Johnson, PhD

Members of the cast of 'Cool Runnings', the popular Disney Film about the exploits of the Jamaica bobsled team at the Winter Olympics in 1988

Members of the cast of ‘Cool Runnings’, the popular Disney Film about the exploits of the Jamaica bobsled team at the Winter Olympics in 1988

‘What is the greatest contribution your nation has given to the world’? This was the question suggested by followers on Facebook to Miss Universe 2015 contestants. For scholars and practitioners of nation brand, this is the perfect question – a chance to pitch your nation to a global audience. Projecting national image is the new capital for nations in the 21st century; so important in a competitive global environment where each nation must compete with each other for their share of tourists, aid, capital, investments, students, for consumers of your products, talent and for respect and attention in the global community. With only 30 seconds to respond, there is only so much one can say. Miss Jamaica Universe Kaci Fennell – a striking beauty sporting a distinctive low cut hairstyle – mentioned Bob Marley and the fastest man alive, Usain Bolt as contributions Jamaica has given the world. Yet Jamaica – a tiny island located in the Caribbean Sea; a mere speck on the world map – has given so much more. For a population of merely 2.7 million people and a brutal history of plunder, enslavement and colonisation, Jamaica has  established a remarkable posture and presence in the world based on a raft of astounding accomplishments. These accomplishments are numerous, but here, I will highlight ten things that Jamaica has contributed to the world:

1. Influenced the Global ‪Civil Rights‬ Movement: Jamaica has contributed to the civil rights movements taking place across the world from the early 1960s onwards through the philosophical ideas purported by Jamaican national hero, Marcus Garvey, a black activist who preached about black racial identity and repatriation to Africa. Marcus Garvey became one of the most influential leaders emerging from Jamaica during the 1920s and 30s. Garvey’s advancement of Pan-African philosophies in UNIA, combined with his own beliefs became known as Garveyism. This philosophy inspired the Rastafari Movement and the Nation of Islam. Garvey’s ideas also had a huge influence on the views of American civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King and Malcolm X who fought for equality for blacks in America and across the world. Garvey’s political actions and beliefs gave rise to social movements of activism around the world.  These grassroots movements led to further advancements in the field of civil rights worldwide.



Jamaican - Robert Nesta 'Bob' Marley - one of the world's most iconic artistes

Jamaican – Robert Nesta ‘Bob’ Marley – one of the world’s most iconic artistes

2. Through Reggae Led Global Movement for Equality, Peace & Justice: Through the powerful message embedded in the island’s indigenous music Reggae and popularised by its iconic emissaries such as Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, Jamaica has been at the forefront of  a global movement for equality, peace and justice since the 1970s. Songs such as Marley’s ‘One Love’ – named by the BBC as the greatest song of the 2oth century – and ‘War’ resonated with oppressed peoples on every continent and inspired a desire to fight for and protect their rights. Indeed the expression ‘One Love’ is a widely understood expression of love and respect for all peoples regardless of race, creed or colour, Jamaica’s gift to the world.


3. Played a lead role in the global movement against apartheid in South Africa: It would be remiss not to talk about the role Jamaica played in the anti-apartheid movement across the world. Jamaica’s historical connection to Africa meant that  the plight of their African brothers and sisters suffering through apartheid in South Africa did not go unnoticed. Through  protests and petitions and songs, Jamaica kept the anti-apartheid issue on the global agenda and forced action by other nations.

4. Gave the world an entirely new forms of music- Reggae & Ska: Originating in Jamaica in the early 1960s, Reggae is noted for its message of love, equality and justice. Thanks to its most iconic emissary, Bob Marley, Reggae took root around the world. Today, Reggae artistes such as Jimmy Cliff, Burning Spear, Diana King and Shaggy are well known across the world and continue to spread Reggae’s message of peace and love. Indeed, in 1999, to recognise the start of the new millennium, Time Magazine named Bob Marley’s album ‘Exodus’ the best album of the 20th century while British broadcaster BBC named his famous record ‘One Love,  ‘Song of the Century’. Ska itself preceded Rocksteady and Reggae, originating in Jamaica in the early 1950s, combining elements of Caribbean mento and calypso with American jazz and blues. In the 1960s, Ska was the dominant music form in Jamaica, taking a hold among the urban, young and hip in London and elsewhere.
5. Introduced to the world an entirely new religion – Rastafari: Developed in Jamaica in the 1930s, Rastafarians revere the late emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, support repatriation to Africa, the home of their ancestors and racial pride and identity. The followers, which now number in the thousands around the world, sport the distinctive dreadlocks hairstyle, observe various rites and customs and use weed (marijuana) as a religious sacrament. Many of Jamaica’s Reggae artistes are Rastafarians and their popularity and fame around the world helped to popularise and contribute to the expansion of Rasta culture globally.


Jamaican dubpoet, Mutabaruka. Photo Credit: SparksofDissent.blogspot.com

Jamaican dubpoet, Mutabaruka. Photo Credit: SparksofDissent.blogspot.com

6. Gave global popularity to a whole new cultural lifestyle (Rasta Culture). Attendant to the global embeddedness of Rastafari was a whole new culture and lifestyle including the sporting of dreadlocks. Although this hairstyle has its origins in the far east, and among the Masai tribe in Africa it was the Jamaican Rastafarian that gave it global popularity. Jamaica is also the country to which ‘dreadlocks’ is most associated. Rasta also introduced a whole new fashion embodied in fatigue wear and the red, green and gold of the Ethiopian flag, which Rastas adopted and a unique language. This lifestyle continues to resonate with urban youths on every continent.

7. Gave the world sought after export products‬: Although Jamaican cuisine remains largely unknown around the world, Jamaican export products such Blue Mountain Coffee, Red Stripe Beer, Jerk Spice have been fully established worldwide, with Jamaican meat pies – patties growing in popularity. Blue Mountain coffee, for example, is one of the most expensive and sought after coffees in the world, with Japan importing the highest percentage – some 80 per cent. Jamaican Jerk has made its name globally, with its hot and spicy flavour a major appeal. Not many beers and rums are as well known as red Stripe Beer as well as Wray and Nephew and Appleton Jamaica Rum are across the world. The latter noted as one of the top sellers among the elite in Europe.Red Stripe
8. Transformed the sport of Track and Field: Known as the ‘sprint factory’ of the world, Jamaica has produced some of the world’s greatest runners. Athletes such as Merlene Ottey, Veronica-Campbell-Brown, Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce, and particularly Usain Bolt, the fastest man alive, have helped to transform the entire field of athletics from a fading sport to the most popular event at the Olympic Games. Breaking record after record, Jamaican athletes have set new bars of achievement in world athletics and have given the world new sprint techniques and coaching tactics.


Jamaican sprinters - Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell

Jamaican sprinters – Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell

9. Inspired  confidence and courage through Bobsled): Since its historic participation in the Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, Canada in 1988, although hailing from a country where snow does not exist, the Jamaican bobsled team has been an example of courage, confidence and triumph over adversity for many people around the world. Many other nations from with tropical climates have since participated in the Winter Games, drawing inspiration from Jamaica.  At the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2015, the Jamaica bobsled team was the centre of international media attention for the enduring glory they bring to the Games.

10. Gave the world one of the most inspiring films of the last century. CoolRunnings‬; The inspired participation of the Jamaican Bobsled team at the Winter Olympics in 1988 became the subject of the popular Disney Film ‘Cool Runnings’. This is perhaps the most well-known film set in Jamaica and its human plot of courage and confidence and optimism continues to capture the imagination of people around the world. It is worth mentioning that the Jamaican film ‘The Harder They Come’ starring Reggae singer, Jimmy cliff, helped to project Jamaica around the world, exposing life in the reggae industry and the subculture in which it finds its message.

Although I noted only 10 more popular contributions on this list, it is worthy of mention that  – although less known – Jamaica has contributed to the following:

  • The freeing of slaves in British colonies through the work of the Maroons who took on the British and won a Treaty;
  • Important discussions surrounding a new world economic order in the 1970s via former Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley’s role in the Non-Aligned Movement;
  • Academics such as the late Stuart Hall and others who made made a massive impact upon the global knowledge economy;
  • Poets and others in literature and the arts who have helped to define and interpret the human condition, as well as
  • Scientists and agriculturalists who have contributed to human development; the developments in medical marijuana by Jamaican scientists among them.
  • Led a global campaign for the legalisation of marijuana through social and artistic activism since the 1970s. Although this is not yet the case in Jamaica, other nations, including the United States have legalized marjuana use in some states. Jamaica has begun to move to legislation decriminalizing weed for recreational use.

In sum, Jamaica has contributed to the  world a rich heritage, a vibrant culture and a proud and talented people.

#OneLove !

PLEASE NOTE: Thanks for the numerous commentary on this piece guys. I established a list of 10 things Jamaica has contributed to the world, not to critique Kaci but for the edification of our young people who should know about our place in the world. We can debate them if we so desire, add to the list or strike off others. The list is by no means exhaustive. I merely wanted to note some popular contributions. In some future, I will take into account your comments and establish a more expansive essay. It is nevertheless a valid conversation to attempt to locate Jamaica’s contribution and place in the world.

I am glad the conversation about #BrandJamaica has found some fresh lease. Be sure to join us for the inaugural #BrandJamaicaSymsposium to be held at the UWI, July 16-17, 2015. Its called ‘Re:Imagine Jamaica: Unlimited Possibilities’. We shall be discussing the key trends, issues and challenges that are shaping #BrandJamaica. See this link for more information and Watch my FACEBOOK page for more details in the months ahead. http://centerforinterculturaldialogue.org/…/cfp-brand…/


About the Author: Dr. Hume Johnson is the Chairman of the nation brand think tank, ‘The Re:Imagine Jamaica Project’ which aims to promote global understanding of Jamaica by highlighting Jamaica’s credentials in the arts, sports, science and technology, academia and business. Dr. Hume Johnson is also a Professor of Public Relations at Roger Williams University, Rhode Island, USA. A former broadcast journalist, Dr. Johnson writes extensively on Jamaica’s national image (Brand Jamaica), governance, popular protest and civil society in Jamaica. She is the author of “Challenges to Civil Society: Popular Protest & Governance in Jamaica” (Cambria Press, New York, 2011). She can be reached at humejohnson@gmail.com


65 Comments on “10 Things Jamaica has Contributed to the World

  1. Very interesting. I agree with your list of the top ten things Jamaica has contributed to the world. As we continue to struggle as a nation to grow our economy and address the social ills that hold us back, I would like to suggest that our governments use this list to guide them in policy making. If these are indeed our greatest contributions to the world, then it would make sense that these and other similar activities that are born out of our intellect, culture and talents, be given priority attention.

    • The question was ‘What is the greatest contribution your nation has given to the world’?
      Answer: “The greatest contribution my Nation has given to the world is its People”.
      Their grace and beauty, their drive and determination for excellence, their music and enduring strength to persevere against all odds and of-course their great love for all mankind.

      This is JAMAICA’S Greatest Gift that She has freely given to the world!

  2. Tourism is missing. That should be very high on the list along with bauxite

    • Hi

      Jamaica is known for tourism but tourism is not something we have contributed to the world. many countries can boast of beautiful beaches and the natural environment.

      • Tourism is unique because medical tourism had its roots in.Portland where troops were sent to Jamaica during WW2. for rest and recreation

      • We have popularised the All-inclusive concept. So, yes, we have contributed that to the world.

    • Totally agree with these two, that they should be at top of the list, I’d also add sugar cane which when brewed and aged turn into our great Jamaican rum.

      • I have subsequently added rum. Yes, this deserves inclusion. Thank you

  3. Wow!! very impressive, and informative, honestly some of these i didn’t know, I guess we are not too old to learn a thing or two..thanks so much Dr.Hume Johnson. keep up the tremendous work you are doing, i know the good Lord will continue to shine HE’S light on you..

  4. Beer and coffee isn’t unique to Jamaica Bob sledding not is the movie cool running unique to Jamaica. Apart from the music and the fastest man and woman, because athletic isn’t unique to Jamaica. Is the slave freedom equality of black and white and if ms Jamaica has said do they would claim she brought racism to the competition. Yendi said God in her answer and it was said she affects atheists and other religion. Nothing Jamaica had said would land her that prestige crown

    • Jamaica’s export products are a crucial aspect of its brand in the world. Cool Runnings is based on the real life events of the bobsled team. The movie captured imagine around the world because of their courage. It’s inclusioN in the list is valid.

    • I think the question was, “What has Jamaica contributed to the world” Not what is unique to Jamaica. As a small nation we are unique because we stand tall on the world’s stage; that aside: Let us not forget the filming of the James Bond movies and written novels. Jamaica’s north coast is peppered with other landmarks from the 007 books and films – particularly the three stories set on the island: Dr No, Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun. A 20-minute boat ride from Goldeneye is Laughing Waters beach, where Ursula Andress emerged from the surf during the first film….. it was argued that Fleming’s love for Jamaica was so great that it is stamped throughout Bond’s DNA. Rafting the Rio Grande – which Fleming described as “an enchantingly languid… elegant and delicately romantic adventure” – remains excellent fun today and a tourist attraction to the island”. (extract) “No problem” is a derivative from the Jamaican way of life..we will survive no matter what; now gone abroad !!!

    • Red stripe Beer is unique to the world and the Jamaican Blue mountain coffee is the best in the world, because it is used as base to flavor other coffee’s from other regions the flavor is indeed unique. the Jamaican bobsled team did make an impact, because coming from a country where there is no snow to place 9th better than the USA , that my friend was and is history. which shows the tenacity, strength, and audacity of a people which is a force to be contend with internationally Weather or not Kaci got the crown is of little significance at this time, she was on the world stage and her astounding beauty was seen by all and the world loved her. so it is still “Jamaica and Jamaicans to The world”

  5. Loved your piece! Just one inaccuracy in reference to the maroons. While they fought the British for freedom, they also played a role in the recapture of enslaved persons to retain their own, even capturing National hero, Paul Bogle. This was a condition of the treaty signed with the British.

    • There is no inaccuracy in my reference. What you mean to say it’s an ommission. That the Maroons also helped to recapture runaway slaves – and this is a controversial feature of their history – this does not invalidate the larger point of their massive contributions to overturning British slavery in the Colonies.

  6. We gave the world hot chocolate (cocoa tea). There are more chocolate drinkers than reggae listeners, track & field enthusiasts and civil/human rights activists combined. A good read, but we left out the biggest (not necessarily the most important) one.

  7. Desmond Decker and Millie small were 2 that brought Jamaican music to the world, bob and peter made it more popular, Author Wint as a sprinter put Jamaica on the world stage of running, and the start of bringing attention to social injustice during the Olympics I believe it was in brazil as he went on the podium with the Americans and held there fist in solidarity for black power movement. Marcus Garvey was well before the early 60’s , the hair style of the Rastafarians is based off the Tribe of the naserine, such as Samson and John the Baptiise who according to biblical standard do not cut their hair, and also the no nomads of Africa, who lives of the land which is in grained in that culture. not picking at straws just stating facts. But over all a good article. enjoyed reading.

  8. Great article, Hume! Regarding music – I want to add dub and ska to the list of forms of music contributed to the world, though reggae is the form Jamaica remains centred in and most prominently associated with. Many will also argue dancehall in its own right as well. And the list keeps growing – but I stop here. Wi likkle but wi tallawah.

  9. nice piece. But have to disagree with the dreadlocks portion as this hair still has been around before Jamaica even existed as a nation. Maybe we reinvented it but I think this style came from ancient Egypt or possibly Babylon.

  10. Pingback: 10 Things Jamaica has Contributed to the World | EvaMFrancis MSN,RN

  11. Dr. Hume Johnson
    This is very interesting, but did the other Miss Universe ever been asked about their Country. Dr. Hume Johnson for all those who speak against Miss Universe Miss Jamaica now they will see that she give them an entire new study. This is a very art-piece adding to who we’re as Jamaican. Other Nations can now write their piece of Brand. Miss Universe Miss Jamaica was trying to make what is a lengthy Brand, now becomes short for the limited time given.. Now the teachers will educate the students with this wonderful ……
    Dr. Hume Johnson thanks for enlighten us ….
    Garth B. Thompson

    • There is absolutely nothing new about the question as a subject of debate. It has in fact become the ‘national question’ since Jamaica’s original embarrassment and preoccupation with “selling our country”, a feat Allison Barnett stumbled over and failed to impress the judges with in Ms. World since 1985 when, like Kacie, she was the forerunner and top-voted by every bookmaker in the UK and around the world to win. Barnett froze, cat got her tongue, Ms. USA chatted away and jumped over her. She placed fifth and we never got over that. I am shocked at how similarly this contest played out. Here’s the deal: coming up with brilliant answers after the fact is easy, when there is time to reflect. Thinking on your feet is quite

  12. Kaci’s response was correct, she only needed to expound more. Robert Nesta Marley aka Bob Marley has contributed globally through Reggae Music, breaking down barriers that separated Reggae from other music. The entire world knows about Bob Marley, so her response was on point. We know that Usain Bolt has made great contributions in the world of sport. After all, isn’t he the World’s Fastest Man? His contribution has encouraged the younger generation to see that they too can become a contributing factor to their country and the world. Jamaica is not the only country that contributed to the Abolition of Slavery, Tourism or fought against apartheid. As a matter-of-fact, many other countries have been in the “same boat”. BUT, REGGAE MUSIC? That’s our GREATEST CONTRIBUTION globally! Bob sang, “ONE LOVE! ONE HEART! LET’S GET TOGETHER AND FEEL ALRIGHT! That’s a song for universal peace! EVERYONE knows that song!

  13. Nice article. In Kaci’s defense she had a limited time frame to give an eloquent answer, on the spot which can be difficult. Having been in that position before, I know, first-hand, that the pressure is enormous. Either way anything she would’ve said people would’ve had a problem with because that’s mere human nature. This article was great because it shed light on her answer and went a little further. Great read!

    • For many it sheds no light on her answer. I found out abut this piece by someone who read this and concluded, “Kaci was not robbed”. Another one thought she should have given all ten paragraphs and more stated here

      Too few are able to gather that it sheds light on Kaci’s answer

  14. I can attest to our contribution to the new South Africa. On a visit to Cape Town a few years ago, I ask our housekepper in the hotel of an iron…she reply “none available”” so I said when ever it is available, Ii will wait…she did a doulble take and ask where are you from? “”Jamaica”, was all I needed to say…..I got the iron AND the iron board for the whole stay,,,”we will never forget your support …” was her reply…AMEN!!

  15. Excellent article… Good conversation peices….black history month coming up… Will certainly use this article and the constructive feedback given…thanks Hume!

  16. GREAT EXCELLENT OUTSTANDING & MAGNIFICENT Jamaica JAH MEK YAH JAH IS THE MAKER JAH IS THE CREATOR WE ARE JAH CHILDREN de Great Jamaicans even hip hop has its roots in jamaican dancehall and dubs and sound system,,,fe real

  17. Few errors in the article but a good read nonetheless. Most Jamaicans were so critically of Kaci when she said Bob and Usian, not knowing that she wasn’t wrong. While she didn’t express herself in the manner in which Dr. Humme did, much of our contribution has been based on those two icons. In addition I’m sure the girl was nervous (Who wouldn’t be?) which would’ve been a major reason for her not so detailed answer….our country is filled with a lot of talented people, but part of the reason why we are in the position in which we are today is because of our naysaying

    • The article is less about Kaci and more to highlight what we as a nation has contributed so our young people can be informed.

  18. Let’s not forget marijuana & it’s medicinal purpose. I would think that’s a contribution.

  19. Very good read. Would like to add our contribution to Art and literature with Poets and writers especially our Poet Laureates overs the years.

  20. Hi Hume. Your article is a lovely addition that is helping to continue discussion on the notion of Jamaica as a nation. I really appreciated the additional contributions by persons who are passionate about aspects that were not mentioned: Cocoa, the literary figure James Bond; Ska, rock steady, the all inclusive resort as a business model; and I now add popularising the healthy jerk method of cooking. One Love.

    • Hi Gwyneth
      Thank you. I included Jerk under export products. We didn’t give the world James Bond. He is not Jamaican. That he wrote his James Bond novels from Jamaica is a great associative fact, not a contribution we have made to the world. I will ponder some more on the all inclusive resort concept. It may be worth mentioning.

  21. I have read Hume’s piece… it is excellent. The conversation following is – all views contend, but we should not leave it there. It pains my soul when I ask teenagers and young adults about Jamaican history and they cannot give a sensible response. We talk about February being Black History month why not make a month a Jamaican history month can we start there? We have to change the status quo. Thank you Dr. Johnson for starting the conversation…may it yield positive results for this our beloved country

  22. This i s such a well written piece. I am so grateful for this edification. I am sure the younger generation is being edified as well. I am sure Kaci knew alot more but nerves must have taken the better of her. We are still proud of her.

  23. Yes, and also with only 30 seconds to answer she did the best she could. I don’t remember hearing Columbia& others explaining what her country contribution is except for ms USA. Thank you Dr Hume for that piece. I also agree with Pauline Nelson,my son I ameAmerican and attending school in Jamaica and he knows alot about where is mommy’s from and this would be an addition for him to know.

  24. An excellent article! I have shared this on LinkedIn & Twitter, with the hope that the conversation will continue.

    This would be a good starting point for the Ministry of Education to introduce a combined Civic Pride programme/course, to sensitize Jamaican students from the Basic Schools through to Tertiary level, about Jamaica’s role in global cultural enrichment, justice, equality for all, & economic development (including the Apartheid & other struggles).

    Additionally, this article, or an updated version of it, should be included in the Ministry of Tourism’s marketing campaigns (pluralized bcz it must be long-term), JAPEX brochures, and Cultural Tourism packages (when that part of the product is finally rolled out).

    #Jamaica2DWorld! #ProudJamaican! #HumeJohnson!

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