Garvey’s Final Return

November 15, 2022 marked the 58th anniversary of the re-interment of, not only Jamaica’s First National Hero, but arguably Jamaica’s most revered hero, the Right Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey.

From 1914 to 1940, Garvey made a tremendous impact on the consciousness of people of African descent all over the world. He ignited an overwhelming sense of racial pride through his “Race First” ideology. He empowered his followers through his push for self-reliance which was realized through the establishment of Black-owned enterprises through his Universal Negro Improvement Association- African Communities League (UNIA-ACL). Garvey’s philosophical reach extended to every country in the Caribbean, Central America and many countries in South America. Though having never set foot on the continent of Africa, Garvey’s influence was very evident there, as well. He inspired leaders there such as Jomo Kenyatta, first President of Kenya and Kwame Nkrumah, first President of Ghana. Even in countries such as Asia and Australia, Garvey’s words resonated with the locals and stirred people to action against colonial occupation and racial discrimination.

In March 1935, Garvey moved to London, England in an effort to rebuild the international influence of the UNIA. He thought that London was the ideal place for the UNIA’s international headquarters because it had become a centre for Black intellectual thought and Pan-Africanism. He remained there until his death on June 10, 1940. He was mourned worldwide.

World War II had begun the year prior to Garvey’s death and so his remains could not be sent back to Jamaica for interment. Consequently, he was buried in the catacombs of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Kensal Green, west London. In 1956, in recognition of Garvey’s global greatness and the significant part he played in liberating the spirit and minds of his people, the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation erected a bronze bust of Garvey in the George VI Memorial Park in Jamaica. The bust was officially unveiled on November 4, 1956 and was symbolic of Garvey’s love for his people. 

It had been reported that Garvey’s dying wish was to have his body brought back to Jamaica. Despite several unsuccessful attempts after the war to fulfill his wish, it was made a reality in November 1964, some 24 years after his death. Under the initiative of the Jamaican Government steered by then Minister of Development and Welfare, the Hon. Edward Seaga, Amy Jacques Garvey, widow of Marcus Garvey and the UNIA-ACL, Garvey’s remains returned home on November 10, 1964. The body was met on arrival at the airport by Government officials, Mrs. Garvey, sons, Marcus Garvey Jr and Julius Garvey, among others.

Garvey’s body lay in state for five days at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Kingston where thousands of persons came to pay their last respects. The casket was closed and draped with the UNIA flag. However, UNIA officials along with approximately 200 persons were allowed to view the open casket so as to remove any doubts as to whether it was really Garvey in the casket. Garvey was given a state funeral on November 15, 1964 at the Holy Trinity Cathedral. Following the service, there was a motorcade from the Cathedral to George VI Memorial Park where his remains were reinterred. An estimated thirty thousand people, including UNIA members, government officials and representatives of various commonwealth countries gathered at the park to watch the reburial. A shrine had been erected for Garvey’s final resting place which included the bust that had been previously erected at another section of the park. He was buried in a vault that lies in the middle of a Black Star, a symbol associated with Garvey.   

Liberty Hall: The Legacy of Marcus Garvey hosted a floral tribute on Tuesday, November 15, 2022 at the re-interment site to commemorate Garvey’s return to his home soil.

When I am dead, wrap the mantle of the Red, Black and Green around me, for in the new life I shall rise with God’s grace and blessing to lead the millions up the heights of triumph with the colours that you well know. Look for me in the whirlwind or the storm, look for me all around you, for, with God’s grace, I shall come and bring with me countless millions of Black slaves who have died in America and the West Indies and the millions in Africa to aid you in the fight for Liberty, Freedom and Life.” – Marcus Garvey, 1925


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