Seaga and Garvey

The Most Honourable Edward Philip George Seaga, O.N. P.C., M.P., LL.D. (Hon.), former Prime Minister of Jamaica, 1980-89, played a principal role in the return of the body of Marcus Garvey to Jamaica and in establishing the nation’s highest order, that of National Hero, of which Garvey was the first recipient.

In response to public sentiment for the return of Garvey’s body to Jamaica, Mr. Seaga, as Minister of Development and Welfare, with assistance from Mr. Leslie Alexander, a Kingston auctioneer, began negotiations for the return of Garvey’s body. The matter was put on the Cabinet Agenda and The Most Hon. Alexander Bustamante, then Prime Minister, approved Mr. Seaga’s proposal. After the approval was granted, a special committee of the National Trust Commission was established to make arrangements for the building of a shrine at what was to be Garvey’s final resting place in the George VI Memorial Park, later renamed National Heroes Park in 1973. 

Mr. Seaga’s involvement with Garvey continued well into his tenure as Prime Minister of Jamaica in the 1980s. He lobbied Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, Sr. for a US Presidential pardon of Garvey on the bogus 1923 mail fraud charges. He also spearheaded the pardoning of Garvey’s 1929 contempt of court conviction in Jamaica, and the purchase of Liberty Hall, at 76 King Street and its subsequent designation as National Monument to commemorate Garvey’s 1987 centenary celebrations.

Liberty Hall is the grateful recipient of a signed copy of the speech Mr. Seaga had given at a symposium in commemoration of Garvey’s centenary at the then Marcus Garvey Building at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, now The Courtleigh Hotel and Suites. He donated it in April 2016.

Mr. Seaga has long been an avid admirer and supporter of Marcus Garvey. He describes him as being “the most important man in Jamaica’s history” and that he was important “not only because of his message but also because of how he believed and conveyed this message”.

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