A peek into our collection: Garvey’s Cane

A cane belonging to Marcus Garvey forms part of the Marcus Mosiah Garvey Multimedia Museum collection at Liberty Hall: The Legacy of Marcus Garvey in Kingston, Jamaica. The 2 1/2 foot, 2lb, cane has a sterling silver, looped handle which has an inscription which reads, “Marcus Garvey, August 1922”. One can only assume that the cane might have been a birthday gift to Garvey, being that his birthday is August 17th.

But why would Garvey need a cane? Was it a fashion statement of that period or did he need it for support? The informed guess would be the latter. Did you know that there was an assassination attempt on Garvey’s life in 1919? Whilst there are several versions of the incident, Garvey, in his autobiographical writings, The Negro’s Greatest Enemy, recounted that in October [14] 1919, he was at his [UNIA] office at 56 West 135th Street in New York City when a man named Tyler, entered and told him that he was sent by the Assistant District Attorney of the County of New York, Edwin Kilroe, to “get him”. He subsequently fired four (4) shots from a .38 calibre revolver at Garvey resulting in Garvey being shot in the right leg and the right side of his scalp. Amy Jacques’ recount of the incident is much more dramatic as she said George Tyler, who was a part-time vendor of the Negro World, brushed past her on entering the building and began shouldering and kicking open the doors for the offices located downstairs, all the while, shouting and demanding to see Garvey. Garvey, who was on the upper floor with Amy Ashwood and another secretary, Mrs. Mary Clarke Roach, came to the top of the stairs to investigate what the commotion was about. No sooner than he got in position, Tyler fired at him. The first shot was a wild one and Garvey ducked, so it missed him. However, the second grazed his right temple and the third and fourth lodged in his right leg. After being hit, Garvey fell to the ground and was shielded by Amy Ashwood and Mrs. Roach. The switchboard operator tried to disarm Tyler but was unsuccessful. Tyler fled the building but was quickly apprehended by a passing patrolman and taken to the local precinct. Garvey was taken to hospital in an ambulance and rushed into surgery.

In all pictures of Garvey seen holding the cane, he always has it in his right hand. So, more than likely it gave support to the right leg in which he was shot twice. Garvey had the cane up until his death in 1940. So how did it get to Jamaica? Well, credit should be given to a gentleman called Cunningham. It is said that after Garvey’s death, the British Government had his belongings thrown out of the house he resided at 53 Talgarth Road, Hammersmith, Fulham, London. One of the men contracted to dispose of the items, Cunningham, knew of Garvey and his significance, so instead of throwing them out, he kept two walking sticks he found among the items. After his death, his grandson, Ben Cunningham, with the help of Garveyite, Ferdinand Satchmo and Neville Garrick, arranged for the cane to be returned to Jamaica. On its return in 1987, it was received by then Minister of State in the Ministry of Culture, the Hon. Mike Henry on behalf of the government ant citizens of Jamaica. The cane was then given to the Institute of Jamaican. When the Marcus Mosiah Garvey Multimedia Museum was established in 2006, the cane was handed over to form part of the museum’s permanent display.

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