Jagan, Cheddi (1918–1997)

views updated

Jagan, Cheddi (1918–1997)

Cheddi Jagan, a Guyanese political leader, was the grandson of indentured Hindu Indians brought by the British to work the plantations of British Guiana (present-day Guyana). Despite a humble rural background, Jagan, born on March 22, 1918, was sent to secondary school in the capital, Georgetown, where he excelled in his studies and in sports. In 1936 his family pooled all their savings and sent him to Howard University in Washington, D.C. After two years he transferred on a full scholarship to Northwestern University in Chicago, where he earned his degree in dental surgery. In 1943 he married Janet Rosenberg, a committed socialist. That same year he returned to British Guiana to practice dentistry.

In 1946 Jagan entered politics, and in 1947 he was elected to the colonial legislative council. In 1950 he teamed up with another Guyanese of socialist inclinations, the Afro-Guyanese lawyer Forbes Burnham, to found the People's Progressive Party (PPP). The party won the 1953 election and declared that it would "fight" for socialism. By 1955 Jagan and Burnham had split, establishing the basic political and racial divide that survives to this day: a rural, Indian-based PPP and an urban, black People's National Congress (PNC). It is widely accepted that repeated electoral frauds, starting in 1964, kept Jagan and the PPP from power. Burnham's sudden death in 1985 put Desmond Hoyte in the presidency. In 1992, in the first truly democratic elections since 1961, Jagan and the PPP won by a handsome majority. He died of heart failure on March 6, 1997, and was succeeded by his wife, Janet Jagan, who served until 1999.

See alsoGuyana; Jagan, Janet.


Jagan, Cheddi. The West on Trial: My Fight for Guyana's Freedom. London: Joseph, 1966.

Maingot, Anthony P. The United States and the Caribbean: Challenges of an Asymmetrical Relationship. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1994.

Spinner, Thomas J., Jr. A Political and Social History of Guyana, 1945–1983. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1984.

                                   Anthony P. Maingot

About this article

Jagan, Cheddi (1918–1997)

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article