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Ralston Milton 'Rex' Nettleford
(3 February 1933 – 2 February 2010)
Professor The Honourable Ralston Milton 'Rex' Nettleford, OCC, OM
Academic and Choreographer, Jamaica

Ralston Milton "Rex" Nettleford (3 February 1933 - 2 February 2010), was a Jamaican author, academic, activist, choreographer, co- founder of Jamaica's National Dance Theatre Company, and Vice-Chancellor Emeritus of the University of the West Indies (UWI).

Early life and education

Born 3 February 1933 in Falmouth, Jamaica, Nettleford attended Unity Primary School in Bunkers Hill, Trelawny, and graduated from Cornwall College in Montego Bay, Jamaica, before going to the University of the West Indies (UWI) to obtain an honours degree in history. As a child he sang and recited in school concerts, sang in the church choir, danced, and began working as a choreographer at the age of eleven with the Worm Chambers Variety Troupe, which helped to fund his studies. At Cornwall College he acted in productions of the college's drama club, and was published as a poet. He was a recipient of the 1957 Rhodes Scholarship to Oriel College, Oxford where he received a postgraduate degree in Politics


He returned to Jamaica in the early 1960s to take up a position at UWI. At UWI he first came to attention as a co-author (with M. G. Smith and Roy Augier) of a groundbreaking study of the Rastafari movement in 1961. In 1962 he founded the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica, an ensemble which under his direction did much to incorporate traditional Jamaican music and dance into a formal balletic repertoire.

For over twenty years, Nettleford has also been the artistic director for the University Singers of the University of the West Indies, Mona campus in Jamaica. The combination of Nettleford as artistic director and Noel Dexter as musical director with the University Singers has seen the creation of what is referred to as "choral theatre".

Beginning with the collection of essays, Mirror, Mirror, published in 1969 and his editing and compiling of the speeches and writings of Norman Manley, Manley and the New Jamaica, in 1971, Nettleford established himself as a serious public historian and social critic. In 1968, he took over direction of the School for Continuing Studies at the UWI and then of the Extra-Mural Department. In 1975, the Jamaican state recognized his cultural and scholarly achievements by awarding him the Order of Merit. He also received the Gold Musgrave Medal and thirteen honorary doctorates, including one in Civil Law from Oxford University. In 1996, he became Vice-Chancellor of the UWI, and held that office until 2004, when he was succeeded by E. Nigel Harris.

Published works

  • Roots and Rhythms: the Story of the Jamaican National Dance Theatre (1969), London: Deutsch.
  • Mirror, Mirror: Identity, Race and Protest in jamaica (1970), Kingston: Sangster and Collins.
  • African Connexion: Parallels; Historical Continuity; Panafricanism; African in the World, University of the West Indies (1972).

Honours and awards    

Rex Nettleford was the recipient of the Order of the Caribbean Community, conferred in 2008.

Death and Legacy

On 27 January 2010, Nettleford was admitted to the intensive-care unit of the George Washington University Hospital, Washington, D.C., after suffering a heart attack at his hotel in the city. He was unconscious and in a coma for several days. On Tuesday, 2 February 2010, Nettleford was pronounced dead at around 8:00pm EST. HE was 76.

The Rex Nettleford Foundation was established after his death. Nettleford's life was the subject of a trilogy of films by Lennie Little-White, commissioned by the foundation.


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Rex Nettleford
Occupation Author, Academic, Activist, Choreographer
Date of Birth 3 February 1933
Place of Birth Trelawny, Jamaica
Date of Death 2 February 2010 (aged 76)
Place of Death Washington DC, USA
Notable Accomplishments
Order of the Caribbean Community: 2008
Co- founder of Jamaica's National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC)
Jamaica Jamaica
Order of the Caribbean Community

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