Spotlight on Miss Beverly Hamilton

The month of March is celebrated as Women’s History Month. The month is dedicated to reflecting on the often-overlooked contributions of women to history. Consequently, we at Liberty Hall: The Legacy of Marcus Garvey would like to feature a stalwart who dedicated her life to researching Garvey and his works; Miss Beverly Hamilton.

Beverly Hamilton (1944 – 2013) was a Garvey Scholar and Journalist. Born on November 14, 1944 in Jamaica, Miss Hamilton specialized in investigating the cultural initiatives of the Garvey Movement in Jamaica in the 1930s, and its impact on the island’s cultural development. She wrote several articles highlighting Garvey’s productions including his plays. She also looked at the mass choirs, the sporting programmes at Edelweiss Park and the role of his Jamaican newspapers, the Blackman (1929-1931) and the New Jamaican (1932-1933). She did extensive research on the artistic work of various personalities in the Movement including Ranny Williams (Maas Ran), Ernest Cupidon, Daisy Greenidge and Iris Lucille Patterson.

In the 1960s, Beverly Hamilton made it her duty to seek out and interview many elderly Garveyites who constituted the foot soldiers of the movement; this included St. William Grant. This aided her in building a valuable collection of memoirs which she used as reference for publications and presentations. She often made presentations to schools and communities on Africa and Jamaica’s cultural heritage.

Miss Hamilton was a member of the African Studies Association of the West Indies at UWI in the 1960s and 1970s and she participated in the conference marking the centenary of Garvey’s birth where she presented a paper entitled, Garvey and Cultural Development in Jamaica. She later founded the African Liberation Day Committee (ALDC) which organized an annual public activity on May 25, African Liberation Day, also called Africa Day.

Miss Hamilton was also an advocate for the teaching of Garvey in schools and was a founding member of the Friends of Liberty Hall. She worked to make Liberty Hall, 76 King Street, a fitting tribute to the legacy of the Garvey movement.

Miss Hamilton did extensive research over the years, however, she lost her research documents when her house was ravaged by fire in December 2011. Miss Hamilton never fully recovered from that devastation as a lot of what she lost was irreplaceable. She died on July 17, 2013.Though a vast amount of information was eventually lost, she still managed to disseminate vital information, over the years, to the Jamaican people, through various efforts.  

Beverly Hamilton has made a significant contribution to Jamaica’s history, particularly the history of the Garvey Movement; and for this we are extremely grateful.


As we are about to enter the month of February which is not only celebrated as Black History Month but also as Reggae Month, there is the usual heightened awareness of culture here in Jamaica. The month is packed with cultural activities commemorating the respective themes. Discussions surrounding Marcus Garvey often focus on his political involvement, however he also contributed significantly to the cultural development of Jamaica.

Garvey and the Universal Improvement Negro Association (U.N.I.A) were very significant to cultural development in Jamaica because Black people were not given the opportunity to perform in the mainstream artistic community before Garvey came along. So, Garvey was a forerunner, in this regard, as he used his movement to not only train Black people as artistes, but to give them a sense of purpose and direction.

Garvey supported or launched the careers of several performers or artistes. These persons included:

  • Ranny Williams – Dancer, actor, composer and singer
  • Ernest Cupidon – Comedian and impersonator
  • Miss Myrtle Bennett – Soprano

Garvey, himself, was quite talented.  He wrote seven plays and directed several more. He wrote poetry; most of which were written while he was in prison in the U.S.  He wrote songs; the most popular being Keep Cool which he also wrote while in prison in the U.S. Garvey was also an exceptional orator.  

Long after his death in 1940, Garvey continues to influence the Arts. Artists use him as inspiration for art and craft pieces, likewise poets for their poetry. Musicians such as Peter Tosh, Burning Spear and Fred Locks, among others, compose lyrics about him or use his philosophies in their songs. One of the most popular musicians who was influenced by Garvey was Bob Marley. Many of his songs included Garvey’s views on Africa, unity and the upliftment of Black people. Songs like Africa Unite and Redemption Song with the popular lyrics, “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.”

Finally, Garvey influenced the Rastafari Movement. The movement was founded on Garvey’s philosophy and opinions of a united Black race and repatriation to Africa. This was probably because the founders of Rastafari were Garveyites, Leonard Howell, Joseph Hibbert, Archibald Dunkley and Robert Hinds. Rastas revere Garvey as a prophet and the movement has become one of the most iconic representations of Jamaica’s culture, boasting worldwide recognition and influence.  

Marcus Garvey was a cultured man who had great ideas to empower Black people and build their character, and, he used the Arts extensively to help achieve this.


December is a month many people look forward to, mainly because of the holiday season commemorating the birth of Christ, Christmas. Generally, December seems to be a month of good fortune, for many. For Marcus Garvey, the month of December seemed to have been an eventful, probably memorable one, as well. Let us highlight a few of the events that would have contributed to this.

  • Amy Jacques, Garvey’s second wife, was born on December 31, 1895.
  • Commissioned by Marcus Garvey, the Universal Ethiopian Anthem was written by Arnold Josiah Ford and Mignon Inniss Ford and was officially sung for the first time at a UNIA meeting held at Liberty Hall in Harlem, New York on December 21, 1919.  
  • Garvey courted Amy Ashwood, his first wife, for over five years. After this seemingly long period of courtship, the couple got married in a private ceremony at a Catholic church in Harlem on December 25 (Christmas Day), 1919.  This ceremony was followed by a more elaborate public ceremony and then a reception at the Liberty Hall in Harlem.
  • After having closely monitored the activities of Garvey and the UNIA for several months, the Bureau of Investigation requested that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) investigate them on December 12, 1921.  
  • Garvey was incarcerated for mail fraud and sentenced to 5 years in prison. However, his sentence was commuted by President Calvin Coolidge after having served 2 years and 9 months. Garvey was deported from the US on December 2, 1927. He arrived in Jamaica on December 10, 1927 to a hero’s welcome.
  • The official opening of Edelweiss Park at 67 Slipe Road, Kingston was commemorated with the hosting of a ceremony on December 10, 1928. This venue became the international headquarters of the UNIA in 1929.
  • Garvey was imprisoned for contempt of court because of comments he had made concerning one of the points on his manifesto for his political party, the People’s Political Party, the first official political party in Jamaica. The manifesto stated that there should be “A law to impeach and imprison judges who, with disregard for British justice and constitutional rights, dealt unfairly”. He was sentenced to a fine of £100 and three months at the St. Catherine District Prison, Spanish Town. Garvey was released from prison at 4:00 p.m. on December 19, 1929.

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

“He built a city which hath foundations”

During the month of October, Jamaica celebrates National Heritage Week which is observed each year during the week leading up to the third Monday in October which is National Heroes Day. Various activities are held during Heritage Week in celebration of our unique culture.

The first National Heroes Day was celebrated on Monday, October 20, 1969 and designated a public holiday in order to honour the sacrifices made by Jamaica’s seven National Heroes. Later on, the day took on additional significance as it was also used to show appreciation to those who have made a meaningful and significant impact on national life through their service and contribution.

With the establishment of the National Honours and Awards Act on July 18, 1969, persons can be formally recognized for their service to Jamaica and her citizens through the conferment of the Honour of one of the Orders of the six Societies of Honour established under the provisions of the Act. These Societies are as follows:

  • The Order of National Hero
  • The Order of the Nation (ON)
  • The Order of Excellence (OE)
  • The Order of Merit (OM)
  • The Order of Jamaica (OJ)
  • The Order of Distinction which has two (2) ranks:
  • Commander (CD), and
  • Officer (OD)

Persons may also be awarded the Badge of Honour or the Medal of Honour.

The Order of National Hero is the most senior Order. The Honour may be conferred upon any Jamaican national, or anyone who is, or was at the time of their death, a citizen of Jamaica and rendered to Jamaica service of a most distinguished nature. A member of the Order is entitled to be styled “Right Excellent” and the motto of the Order is “He built a city which hath foundations”. 

Marcus Garvey has the distinction of being named Jamaica’s first National Hero. He is the embodiment of the motto of the Order. Garvey built a “city” with a firm foundation through his work and the Universal Negro Improvement Association-African Communities League (UNIA-ACL). The man and his philosophy provided the foundation for many social, political and cultural movements, not only in Jamaica, but globally. The late, the Most Honourable Edward Seaga reiterated this point when he said, “Marcus Garvey was one of the enlightened men whose unremitting work helped to shatter the last and toughest layers of that shell of intolerance, which has shackled, burdened and retarded our society for generations. But Marcus Garvey stood on a pedestal of his own, which made his influence felt not only here, and in this region, but in many other places across the world”.  

Garvey is highly regarded as a standard-bearer of early 20th century Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism. In fact, there are those who say he was the most influential Black Nationalist and Pan-African leader to have ever walked the Earth. Though Garvey did not play a role in the process that lead to Emancipation in 1838 as this event preceded his birth, his message sought to empower Blacks across the world to remove the invisible shackles that made them victims to mental slavery. It is for this reason that Mr. Seaga further explained that, “Garvey shattered the mental prison that developed in his part of the world over some 400 years, to let in the fresh winds of liberty and equality which we now breathe today. For this, we made him the first National Hero of Jamaica”.

Garvey’s philosophies are still relevant and as such, his legacy and impact have outlived him. Through these philosophies, blacks today are still charged to expand on the foundation built by this Hero. 

Remembering Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah

Wednesday, September 21, 2022 marked the 113th anniversary of the birth of Ghanaian nationalist leader, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Founder and First President of Ghana. Born, Francis Nwie Nkrumah in the village of Nkroful, he led the Gold Coast’s push for independence from Britain and presided over its emergence as the new nation of Ghana after attaining independence on March 6, 1957. He led the country from independence in 1957 until he was overthrown by a coup in 1966. Nkrumah was highly revered in Ghana for his role in liberating the country from colonial rule. This earned him the title “osagyefo” which is a Twi word that translates to “redeemer” in English because he was viewed by many in Ghana as their saviour. Many Ghanaians also admired him for his pan-African beliefs and policies.

It is no secret that Nkrumah was greatly influenced by Marcus Garvey. He, himself, stated that he would never forget his own humble beginnings and the intellectual debt he owed to Marcus Garvey. He also credited Garvey for some of his political views. At the closing session of the All-African People’s Conference in Accra, Ghana, December 13, 1958, Nkrumah said, “Long before many of us were even conscious of our own degradation. Marcus Garvey fought for African national and racial equality”. Nkrumah also said, “I think that of all the literature I studied, the book that did more than any other to fire my enthusiasm was the Philosophy [and Opinions] of Marcus Garvey published by his wife”.

Garvey’s impact on Nkrumah was manifested in several ways. One such way is the fact that Nkrumah adopted Garvey’s ideology of a united Africa, not just on the continent but also in the Diaspora. John Henrik Clarke posited that Garvey’s “Back to Africa” teaching was consistent with Nkrumah’s call for the creation of an independent African nation. Both recognized that the lack of racial unity would significantly hamper the growth of the race. So, both were relentless in forging this unity amongst all Africans. Other evidence of Garvey’s impact on Nkrumah was in the design of the flag for Ghana; Nkrumah ensured that a Black Star was featured in its centre. He also established Ghana’s Black Star Shipping Line in 1958 “…to break the hold which the monopoly interests, including foreign shippers, have upon our trade”. Both initiatives were in tribute to Garvey.  

So, in recognition of the 113th birthday of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Liberty Hall: The Legacy of Marcus Garvey acknowledges the indelible contribution of this great son of Ghana to the Pan-African movement. Below is a poem which encapsulates the essence of this great leader, written by G. McLean Amissah, journalist, writer, poet and author from Cape Coast, on the first anniversary of Nkrumah’s death, April 27, 1973.

Kwame Nkrumah: Founder & First President of Ghana

Kwame Nkrumah, First President of Ghana

Who that won Ghana’s Independence and Sovereignty

And stirred the Spirit of Freedom in All Africa

Made Ghana great, a nation proud, one in Unity

Enthused Ghanaians with pride in their African Ancestry

Nkrumah, Creator of African Personality

Keen fighter for Freedom, Independence and Unity

Resolute foe of imperialism and racism

Undoubted great Leader of Pan-Africanism

Monarch of Fame, rest peacefully in eternity

And, thank God, your Life and work what priceless heritage

Hail, KWAME, your name fonder shall grow from age to age


Liberty Hall: The Legacy of Marcus Garvey (LH) has been a beacon in its community since its inception in 2003. In an effort to maintain the original purpose of the Liberty Hall established by Garvey, to be a shrine of ‘Negro inspiration and the cradle of Negro Liberation’, whilst remaining true to its primary mission to “inform the public about the work of Jamaica’s First National Hero and to use his philosophy and opinions to inspire, excite and positively affect the self-identity of Jamaican people, while creating social and economic wealth, LH has used various media and tools to convey Garvey’s message, instill and reinforce Garvey’s philosophies and develop and nurture the intellectual capacity and creative skills of students and adults.

Thanks to the collaborative efforts of a group of committed and influential individuals who formed the Friends of Liberty Hall, funds were raised locally and internationally to begin the extensive restoration of Liberty Hall in 2002. The actualization of the restoration is credited to efforts from Friends of Liberty Hall, Ministry of Entertainment, Youth and Culture, the Jamaica National Heritage Trust, and the Government of Jamaica. Consequently, LH has risen from the ashes to honour the memory and work of Marcus Garvey. It is now a living monument to Marcus Garvey which facilitates education, entertainment and empowerment of all Black people. Situated within the volatile Downtown, Kingston area, LH has also been a safe haven for persons. Boasting a welcoming garden to the front of the building, persons can escape the hustle and bustle outside the gates of LH and come enjoy the serene atmosphere provided by nature.

LH forms part of the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ) family as it is a project of the African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica/Jamaica Memory Bank, a division of IOJ, an agency of the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport. So, in commemoration of Jamaica 60, LH has mounted a display on the history of LH in the Garvey Great Hall at LH, entitled, LIBERTY HALL: A BEACON IN THE COMMUNITY – THEN AND NOW. Members of the public are invited to come view the display, whether as part of the tour of the Marcus Mosiah Garvey Multimedia Museum, or if you just have an interest to learn more about Liberty Hall. The display will be up until October 2022.

Garvey’s New Jamaica

In 1964, when Prof. Rupert Lewis was Deputy Head Boy at Calabar High School, he wrote an article entitled, “Marcus Garvey, He Opened the Minds of Negroes” which was published in the school’s magazine where he described Garvey as being, “… one of the architects of our new Jamaica.” Garvey had often spoken about a new Jamaica in his writings and speeches, but do we know what was idea of a ‘new Jamaica’? What was his vision for Jamaica? On the eve of our Emancipendence celebrations, we ought to take time out to reflect on what we have achieved since gaining independence and if this was what Garvey had envisioned. However, we must first know what he desired. As such, below is an excerpt from a speech entitled, “The New Jamaica and how we can build it” that Garvey had delivered at Edelweiss Park in Jamaica on July 10, 1932.

“Just at this time the whole world is undergoing a campaign of national inspiration in the respective countries, because the different peoples of the world’s national groups realize that if they do not take interest in themselves, no other group will, and so whether it is Germany, France, China, Japan and England or Russia or America you will find at this time the strong keynote of national preparedness …

You will see that the American group is seeing only from America’s point of view, Germany, from Germany’s point of view, the English group from England’s point of view, and so, those of us who love our country cannot but interest ourselves in this desire to see our country taking a place and standing second to none in the world. When I say second to none, I mean it only in a limited sense, because our country is small, our country is not independent. I mean it from an economical, industrial, social, educational point of view…

There is no reason why any country, whether it is subject to another or not, cannot be self-sustaining in itself, but it rests entirely upon the people who live in it to feel and act. As Jamaicans we claim Jamaica for our native home, we should therefore have the same feeling of love for Jamaica and interest in all things Jamaican as Englishmen have for things concerning England, as the Americans have for all things concerning America and are always on the look out to do everything for the development of their country.

There is no reason why we should not do everything for the development of our country to make Jamaicans the happiest people in the world … Jamaica should be second to none in the world – in the establishing of happy homes, in the contact of smiling people, self-satisfied and contented. Nature has blessed us with everything conducive to this, but by wrong education we have not taken advantage of these natural opportunities.

We have been submitting ourselves to the thought that we can do nothing by ourselves, which is wrong. As soon as we get rid of that thought and become self-reliant, we will be able to build a country sufficiently satisfactory to us and we will not have to leave the country for places abroad, for there is no other country (I can safely say) outside of Ireland where there has been such a continuous flow of depopulation as Jamaica. I hold that there is no other country, within three-quarters of a century, that has driven its citizens abroad more than Jamaica.

As regards pride of country, the Jamaican has none, and that is why his country is in such a terrible state and he himself is subordinate to everybody. It insults the pride of the proud Jamaican who would like to see his country standing alongside of others, and that is why I, along with others, have selected to do the things we know, are right …

Arise Jamaicans and do! The Americans have built up a great commonwealth, the envy of the whole modern world. How long are you going to keep your country back? Jamaica is as old as America, Jamaica is as old as France, Jamaica is as old as England, the Creator made it the same time with all things, animate and inanimate. How long are you going to let your country lie in ruinate while other countries make use of the things around them? How long are you going to be in your lethargic state?”

Garvey’s vision of self-government has since been realized through Jamaica gaining independence from colonial rule. However, we seemed to have failed to realize his dream of a better Jamaica through comradeship as he said, “We want the spirit of national comradeship, let us unite to accomplish this, and Jamaica will indeed become a better place for all of us.” We still have a far way to go, but let us all commit to trying. This is the only way we can reignite our nation for greatness as the theme for Jamaica 60 charges us to do.

The Influence of Maroon Heritage on Garvey

The Maroon culture in Jamaica has long been recognized locally and internationally for being able to outsmart the English and eventually force them to sign peace treaties. Consequently, several events/activities have been planned over the years “to honour and draw national and international attention to the unique history, cultural heritage and practices of Maroon communities in Jamaica”.  Two such popular events are the Accompong Maroon Festival in St. Elizabeth held annually on January 6 and the International Charles Town Maroon Conference and Festival in Portland held annually around June 23.

The story of the Maroons in Jamaica is often shrouded with controversy. However, one cannot deny or ignore the impact of this exclusive set of persons on the history, and politics, to some extent, of Jamaica, thereby making Jamaica’s Maroons, arguably, the most popular and recognized Maroons in the English-speaking Americas. It is this distinction that has resulted in many persons claiming Maroon heritage. They want to be a part of this rich legacy and embrace this unique ethnic identity. Personalities such as Vivian Crawford, Executive Director of the Institute of Jamaica, Buju Banton, internationally-acclaimed singer and songwriter, and Dr. Harcourt Fuller, Assistant Professor of History in the Department of History at Georgia State University are examples of proud descendants of Maroons. Marcus Garvey is said to have been a descendant of Maroons as his father, Malchus, proudly claimed Maroon heritage. However, if Garvey was in fact a Maroon descendant, to what extent did his Maroon heritage help to shape his ideology?

According to Dr. Fuller, a part of the Maroon legacy is the feeling of never being subdued and always seeking justice. We could say that Garvey’s entire life was spent seeking justice. From seeking justice for his co-workers at P.A. Benjamin’s in his early life, to his global push for equality and justice for Black people. Other characteristics of Maroon legacy are said to include ingenuity, fortitude and mysticism.  These are all qualities that Garvey displayed. He showed ingenuity or initiative in forming a movement that sought to represent Black people and ensure their welfare at a time when this would have faced much resistance. He showed resilience over and over again in his fight for justice for his fellow Blacks and, in order to accomplish all he did, he often had to draw on his spirituality. 

Other aspects of Maroon culture that seemed to have shaped Garvey’s ideology are the concepts of self-rule and self-reliance. Just as how the Maroons continue to govern themselves by making their own laws, so did Garvey advocate for Black people to choose who should lead them. Here in Jamaica, he pushed for the right of the citizenry to elect its own government. Garvey also strongly believed that Black people should be self-reliant. This meant not just forming part of the labour force but also to own enterprises. Through the UNIA, Garvey either established or encouraged the setting up of various black-owned businesses in the United States and here in Jamaica. These included the Edelweiss Amusement Company in Jamaica, the newspaper companies: Negro World, The Blackman and New Jamaican, as well as the Negro Factories Corporation. Of note, is that Black people were not allowed to own their own businesses here in Jamaica at the time that Garvey established these enterprises. So, again, he showed initiative and was a pioneer.

Whilst we could draw other similarities between Garvey and maroon heritage, the final one that will be discussed here is the tenet of Anti-colonialism. Garvey spoke extensively about the exploitative nature of colonialism. Consequently, he supported nationalists’ movements that opposed colonial systems. So, without a doubt, Garvey would have supported the enslaved Africans who had fled their European masters and set up their own communities. It is important to note however, that while he criticized imperialism, Garvey did point out that he was respectful of the colonial constitutional authority and lobbied for changes under the colonial system while at the same time, supporting eventual self-government.  

So, it could be argued that Garvey’s Maroon heritage may have had some influence on his tenets of Garveyism. Whatever your take on the matter though, it is undeniable that both Garvey and the Maroons in Jamaica have helped to shape our history and have allowed us to be able to enjoy some of the privileges we do in present times.   

The Garvey and Manley Face-off

The Right Excellencies Marcus Mosiah Garvey and Norman Washington Manley are arguably two of the most popular of Jamaica’s National Heroes. That may probably be because both shared certain qualities such as eloquence and charisma. In addition, both men fought for the rights of their fellow countrymen; though Garvey took his fight globally for all persons of African descent. They both also entered politics as a means to press for the rights for the people they represented and to be a part of the decision-making process in governing the country. So, with all these like qualities, one would expect that both men would be friends. Often times, persons with shared qualities become friends, or as Jamaicans would say, “Birds of a feather, flock together.” However, this was not the case for Garvey and Manley. These two seemed to have had a long standing feud. In fact, the two came close to having a fist fight in 1932.

The feud between Garvey and Manley seems to have stemmed from the time Amy Ashwood, Garvey’s first wife, retained Manley for their divorce/adultery case. Ashwood alleged that Garvey’s marriage to Amy Jacques was not legal because he and she were not legally divorced. They had a series of court battles in the United States which continued in Jamaica after Garvey’s deportation in 1927. It is during this case in Jamaica that Manley accused Garvey of being a bigamist. From there, the two seemed to always be on the opposite side of the fence.   

Skip forward to 1932, when businessman and land proprietor, Mr. George Penso, obtained a permit from the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC) to build a gas station at the corner of Oxford Road and Old Hope Road. The problem was, this area was deemed an upscale residential area, and, with classism being very prevalent at the time, this decision was met with much resistance from the well-to-do, especially Dr. Godfrey, who resided across the road from the construction site. Dr. Godfrey alleged that the gas station would depreciate the value of surrounding properties. Though the building was near completion, Mr. Penso was asked to reapply for a permit as the meeting at which the first approval was granted was not “properly” constituted. Mr. Penso, under the instruction of his lawyer, refused to reapply and the matter became a hot topic for discussion in the society.

Garvey held a public meeting at the Old Wolmer’s Yard which was located next to the Kingston Parish Church. He sought to get public opinion on the matter and put forward that Mr. Penso had done nothing wrong. As the matter became more heated, the Mayor at the time, Mr. George Seymour, sought legal assistance and hired the firm, Manton & Hart, which in turn retained Norman Manley, who was the most sought after lawyer of the time. A meeting was requested with all parties involved, including the committee that had initially issued the permit.

Things took a turn for the worse when the Mayor disallowed Garvey from voting at the meeting as he accused him of being biased.  Not only was Garvey and Penso friends, but the Mayor alleged that the hosting of the public meeting might have prejudiced the case. Garvey fired back by emphatically denying any conflict of interest. However, the Mayor insisted that Garvey was not qualified to vote as he had solicited the public’s opinion on voting to keep the gas station. To that, Garvey responded: “Well, I know the legal mind and I know there are always subterfuges … I am going to bow to your ruling only, but I am going to differ from your counsel who does not seem to know that an elected representative always possesses the right to consult the people who elected him on any matter; and I am sorry for the legal intelligence, the political intelligence of counsel, if he does not know that that could not disqualify one dealing with a public matter representing the people. But I bow to your ruling.”

Apparently, Mr. Manley took offense to Garvey’s statement and quickly rose to his feet and stated that he was not going to stay and listen to Garvey’s offensive statements. He went further to say that Garvey knew nothing about law. The war of words continued as follows:

Garvey:            I know as much as you about this matter.

Manley:          I have not been invited here to listen to any impertinence from Mr Garvey

Garvey:           Neither from you, too.

Manley:          I have given my opinion and he has not the decency and intelligence …

Garvey:           You are most irresponsible.

Manley:          And you are a positive disgrace.

Garvey:            Look here, Manley, I don’t care about you. You fellows seem to assume some right that is not justifiable.

At this point, the Mayor tried to intervene and quell the argument. However, Garvey was so upset, he continued to lash out.

Garvey:           How dare him call me impertinent, Sir, when I have only exercised my right to say what I understand about the matter. You must be one of the socially drunk people who think that.

Manley:           Look here, you are a loud-voiced person and I am not going to answer you in any way. If you insist on being rude and impertinent …

Garvey:           You are not physically well enough to be loud-voiced.

Manley:          Do you really think so? Then step outside.

Garvey:           I would be sorry for what would happen to you.

Manley again invited Garvey to step outside, but the latter remained seated. However, the argument continued.

The extent of the feud between Marcus Garvey and Norman Manley was so far-reaching that there was a legend of Garvey placing a curse on Manley. The story is told that both men had a run in with each other at another court case where Manley was representing one of Garvey’s foes. While on the witness stand, the judge had asked Garvey if he sails a flag and if an emblem was on it, to which he responded yes. When the judge asked Manley if he saw a flag, Manley responded that he had only seen a dirty piece of cloth. So, Garvey is said to have placed the curse on Manley by saying, “That same piece of cloth, you shall use it when you roll up your shirt sleeve and fight for the same people you are fighting against. But you shall be ten years late!” The curse is said to have been manifested when Bustamante won a landslide victory in the 1944 elections and it was not until 1955 that Manley came to power, approximately 10 years later.

Such a pity two of Jamaica’s son’s were at odds for so long. Can you imagine what a formidable force they would have been working together?