Campbell wrote about the struggle for independence and the appalling social conditions that drove the Jamaican masses to revolt, and about the rising consciousness of black Jamaicans after centuries of oppression. He wrote out of a consciousness of history and religious faith, a faith in which, for him, Jesus and Lenin were not incompatible icons. He also wrote about love, its ecstasies and bitter disappointments, and some of his very best poems are luminous celebrations of Jamaica’s natural beauty.
George Campbell was born of Jamaican parents in Panama in 1916 and lived variously in Columbia and Costa Rica before returning to Jamaica. He became intensely involved in the nationalist movement and with the Manley family, who championed the poetry he was beginning to write. First Poems appeared in 1945. In the same year, Campbell migrated to New York, where he worked in theatre and dance. In 1978, he returned to Jamaica, working as a consultant to the Institute of Jamaica and the People’s National Party archives. In 1994 he returned to New York, where he died in 2002.