Words by LargeUp Crew—
Today marks 50 years since Jamaica was granted its independence from England, beginning its swift transition from a colony into a cultural capital. The level and pace of musical innovation that followed independence was astounding. Within a year ska was born; a decade later, reggae was taking over the world, becoming the global soundtrack for a good time, and establishing Jamaica as more than a country but also a cultural brand. In recent years, the country has become nearly as well known for its athletes as for its musicians, but Jamaica’s contributions to the world run so much deeper than songs and exciting gold medal finishes. Here is an alphabetical look at 50 significant Jamaicans whose influence has been felt in major ways on both a local and global scale, from politicians and painters to poets and scholars.