The JBU traces its beginning to George Liele, a ‘free black slave’ from Atlanta Georgia who came to Jamaica in 1783 and started preaching in Kingston. His work grew and spread to other parts of the island. The Baptist Missionary Society (UK) was invited to support the work, and in 1814 they sent the first missionary to the island. The ministry continued to grow and expand under the British.
The Baptists were very involved in the struggle for the emancipation of slavery. Three of our national heroes were Baptists. After emancipation Baptists were instrumental in establishing “free Villages” for the new emancipated people. This included buying large parcels of lands and cutting these into small holdings, which were sold to families. The villages also included a school and a Baptist Church.
The Baptists also established, in 1843, the “Calabar Theological College” for the training of Ministers for the local ministry and also as missionaries to Africa and the Caribbean. The Baptist work in the Cameroons, West Africa, was started by the Baptists of Jamaica in 1846.
In 1849, some of the Baptist Churches in Jamaica came together to form the Jamaica Baptist Union. The Baptist Churches had seven years before declared their independence of the Baptist Missionary Society.
The JBU now has 337 Churches across the island, 121 ministers and approximately 40,000 communicant members.