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    July 17

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Black History Month: Marcus Mosiah Garvey

SHERRYLYN CLARKE, sherrylynclarke@nationnews.com

Added 17 February 2014


Researched by SANDRA SEALEY Marcus Garvey, Jamaica’s first national hero, was a 20th century civil rights icon famed for creating the “Back To Africa” movement in the United States. He urged African Americans to be proud of their race and return to Africa, their ancestral homeland. Born Marcus Mosiah Garvey in St Ann’s Bay, Jamaica on August 17, 1887, he was the youngest of 11 children. He inherited a keen interest in books from his father, a mason, and made full use of the extensive family library. At the age of 14 he left school and became a printer’s apprentice where he led a strike for higher wages. From 1910 to 1912, Garvey travelled in South and Central America and also visited London. He returned to Jamaica in 1914 and founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). In 1916, Garvey moved to Harlem in New York where UNIA thrived. By now a formidable public speaker, he spoke across America. He urged African-Americans to be proud of their race and return to Africa and attracted thousands of supporters. To facilitate the return to Africa, in 1919 Garvey founded the Black Star Line to provide transportation to Africa, and the Negro Factories Corporation to encourage black economic independence. He also unsuccessfully tried to persuade the government of Liberia in West Africa to grant land on which black people from America could settle. In 1922, Garvey was arrested for mail fraud in connection with the sale of stock in the Black Star Line, which had now failed. Although there were irregularities connected to the business, the prosecution was probably politically motivated, as Garvey’s activities had attracted considerable government attention. Garvey was sent to prison and later deported to Jamaica. In 1935, he moved permanently to London where he died on June 10, 1940. In 1964, his body was returned to Jamaica where he was declared the country’s first national hero. Garvey visited Barbados in October 1937 but “organised 20th century black Barbadian political and labour activism began in 1919 when the Marcus Garvey Movement announced its arrival in Barbados with the establishment of the first of six branches of Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association” (PEP Column, WEEKEND NATION, Friday, May 18, 2012). He addressed Barbadians at the Queen’s Park Steel Shed and among the enthusiastic audience was a 17-year-old Errol Walton Barrow. Barrow described this as one of his “most formative political experiences”. Included in the list of Barbadian activists who were either members of the UNIA or significantly influenced by Garvey were Charles Duncan O’Neal, Clennel Wickham, James A. Tudor, Clement Payne, Menzies Chase, Chrissie Brathwaite, J. A. Martineau, Moses Small, J.T.C. Ramsay, Rawle Parkinson, Dr Hugh Gordon Cummins, Ulric Grant, Herbert Seale, Sir Hugh Springer and Wynter Crawford. It is little known in Barbados that Garvey was married twice, both times to a woman named Amy. Amy Ashwood Garvey, a Pan-Africanist in her own right, was one of the founding members of the UNIA and was at one time Garvey’s secretary. Married from 1919 to 1922, she stood by her man through thick and thin, becoming his defender and spokesperson even after their divorce. Amy Jacques Garvey was born in Port Antonio, Jamaica, but spent some of her early years in Panama. She married Garvey in 1922 shortly after his divorce from his first wife. She was the mother of Garvey’s two sons, Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jr, and Julius Winston Garvey, born in 1930 and 1933, respectively. In honour of Garvey’s contribution to the black diaspora, an annual Garvey Memorial Lecture is held in Britain. And in October 2013, Garvey’s son Dr Julius Garvey paid his first visit to Britain to pay tribute to his father. During his five-day tour, Garvey, a board-certified surgeon who specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of vascular diseases, participated in various events and met civic leaders and the lord mayors of each city he visited. He also conducted university lectures and visited schools and community events.   • Sources: BBC History (bbc.co.uk); Biography.com


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