On September 1, 1936, a group of Jamaicans living in Harlem, New York, led by Walter Adolphe Roberts founded the Jamaica Progressive League. The other members included Reverend Ethelred Brown, Wilfred A. Domingo, James O’Meally, Mrs. Ivy Essien and Mrs. T.A. D’Aguilar. The motive of the League was to “secure better financial, economic, social and educational advantages for Jamaicans in Jamaica.” One of the concerns was the inability of professional educated Jamaicans to attain high level positions in the civil service. These jobs of course were reserved for British expatriate civil servants.

Reverend Ethelred Brown

Recognizing that the existing colonial structure was inimical to bringing about such changes, they lobbied for a radical shift to the path of self government. So committed were they to this idea that the organization was built around this notion as demonstrated in their oath:


“Firmly believing that any people that has seen its generations come and go on the same soil for centuries is, in fact a nation. I pledge myself to work for the attainment of self government for Jamaica so that the county may take its rightful place as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations.”

Wilfred A. Domingo

Such a change in the system of government depended on the implementation of a combination of legislative measures and social intervention programmes. Thus, the League called for universal adult suffrage, the removal of property qualifications of candidates for public offices, the right of labour unions to function legally, inter-Caribbean trade and commerce as well as the encouragement of the study of history, geography and literature of Jamaica.