When Jamaica gained independence in 1962, the idea of self-government was realized and guided by the Jamaican Constitution of 1962. This very important piece of legislation was the result of the hard work of many individuals; in fact, it was drafted by sixteen (16) men and one (1) woman who were members of a Joint Independence Constitution Committee. However, the foundation to the constitution which affords all citizens equal rights, responsibilities and liberties was laid long before its drafting. In an article entitled, “The Architects of the Jamaican Constitution 1962” Marcus Garvey was named as one of three National Heroes, the other two being Norman Manley and Alexander Bustamante, who helped to shape the foundation of the political landscape in Jamaica. This is understandable, as he made a significant impact on politics in Jamaica. One of his most notable achievements in this field was his forming of the first political party in the island, the Peoples Political Party (PPP), in 1929.

However, it can be argued that Garvey’s most notable achievement to the political landscape was his ideology of self-government. Self government refers to a government of a former colony that comprises its citizens.  When Garvey returned to Jamaica in 1927, it is documented that he had not intended to get involved in local politics. However, when he observed the inequality in the political system of colonial rule, he ventured to bring about a change. The first step was to create a political party so that persons who shared his ideology could come together and help in changing the political scenery. The PPP was formed with the aim to bring about a “better Jamaica under a happier populace”. Essentially, what Garvey was saying was that if citizens had a say in the governing of the country, it would make them more comfortable and as a result, the country would be better off. Forming the PPP fostered a sense of nationalism which aided the push for self-governance. His bold step to form the party served as a catalyst to the formation of other political parties, including the two major parties, the Jamaica Labour Party and the People’s National Party which were formed in the 1930s. It is this very action which eventually led to Jamaica gaining independence and being governed by her own.

Attaining self-government was a priority for Garvey. This was evident when the manifesto for his party was published. The first point on the manifesto read, “Representation to the Imperial Parliament for a larger modicum of self-government.” So, he saw that it was important for Jamaicans to have more say in how they were governed and have more representation in the Government. He reiterated his view through his newspapers The New Jamaican and The Blackman where he continually rallied Jamaicans to take an active role in politics, and more specifically, political reform. Garvey always urged national self-determination and comradeship which were vital to realizing self-governance.

So, we Jamaicans are truly indebted to our National Heroes for the privileges we now enjoy, and some take for granted. Garvey sowed the seed, and Manley and Bustamante nurtured this seed to maturity.

“Pride of Place” for Garvey on Jamaica’s Money

Since Jamaica started using dollars and cents as its currency, the designs of the notes and coins have included portraits of National Heroes and showcased Jamaican flora and fauna, scenery and people. Marcus Garvey has always been featured on Jamaican money ever since this shift to the decimal system of currency in 1969. In the initial minting, he appeared on the fifty cent (50¢) bill. He later appeared on the fifty cent (50¢) coin. Then, in the 1990s, when the value of the money began to depreciate and new notes were introduced, his image was placed on the twenty dollar ($20) as well as the twenty-five cent (25¢) coins. Please note the fact that Garvey’s image was the only one to appear twice on any Jamaican money in circulation at the same time and the fact that the twenty dollar coin bearing his image was the first bi-metallic coin to be produced by Jamaica.  

With the approach of the 60th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence, the Minister of Finance, Dr. Nigel Clarke, announced the upgrading of Jamaica’s banknotes. In his presentation in Parliament recently, he noted that Jamaica’s National Heroes no longer appeared on banknotes. Consequently, he stated, “In this 60th year of our Independence, this aspect of the national project must be restored. Our National Heroes must, once again, appear on our banknotes.” So, now, for the first time in Jamaica’s history, all seven heroes will be represented on our banknotes at the same time. The Right Excellencies Nanny of the Maroons and Sam Sharpe will both appear on the new $500 note; the Right Excellencies Paul Bogle and George William Gordon will both appear on the new $50 note and the Right Excellencies Sir Alexander Bustamante and Norman Manley will appear on the new $1,000 banknote.

Of note, is that the Right Excellent Marcus Garvey has been “upgraded” to the new $100 banknote, and, he appears by himself. For many, this raises the question, Why does Garvey’s image appear alone on the note when all the other heroes have to share space? Whilst no reason was given for this by the Minister (not sure if he was asked), one can only make assumptions as to why Garvey is the only hero who has “pride of place” on the new banknotes. It could be because Garvey is one of the most influential persons the world has ever seen, having lead an organization with over eleven million members, at its peak. Or it could be because he is the First National Hero of Jamaica, and as such, he is given prominence over the others. Or maybe it is a symbolic gesture in recognition of his push for economic independence for Black people. After all, the Jamaican currency is a symbol of economic independence for the country (though some may disagree) as it signalled our relinquishing the British currency and fortifying a “Jamaican” economy. In addition, him now being featured on the $100 note is also somewhat symbolic as, this note is arguably the most used of all the Jamaican monies. So, Garvey will be in the hands of all Jamaicans.  

Whatever the reason for the continued “pride of place” Garvey’s image enjoys on Jamaica’s banknotes or coins, the fact that he continues to be recognized is very commendable. Without a doubt, he is deserving of all the acknowledgement, appreciation and respect he gets. His contributions to Jamaica and the wider world have made an indelible impact on almost, if not all, aspects of society.    

The Exoneration of Marcus Garvey

Talks have begun once again about the exoneration of Marcus Garvey in the United States. In the past few weeks, a petition has been circulating, seeking the signatures of 100,000 supporters. This is not the first time such an effort has been attempted. Several other petitions have been circulated before, including one in 2016 lead by Dr. Julius Garvey seeking President Obama’s pardoning before he demitted office.

For those of you who don’t know, Marcus Garvey had been imprisoned in the U.S. for allegedly attempting to use the postal system to defraud persons. J. Edgar Hoover was an agent of the State who seemed to have been obsessed with taking down Garvey. So, he arranged for agents to infiltrate the UNIA to spy on Garvey. Eventually, one of them reported that the Negro World was going to run an advertisement offering shares in the Black Star Line for sale. The problem with that was, a picture of a ship that the UNIA had not finished paying for was used for the advertisement. So, this was considered false advertising, and the offer of sale of shares was construed as fraud through the use of the postal service.        

Garvey, along with three UNIA officers, was brought to trial in 1923. Despite the lack of credible evidence, Garvey was found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison, in addition to being fined $1,000 and having to pay legal costs. The three officers were acquitted of the charges.  Garvey filed an appeal, and for over a year, he fought the false allegations whilst the Immigration Department sought to deport him. His appeal was denied and so he was arrested again and taken to the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary in February 1925 to serve his original 5-year sentence.      

It is evident that Garvey’s arrest and subsequent imprisonment was in an effort to silence him. The authorities were afraid of how he was empowering Black people in the U.S. and of the power he had garnered. So, they began to track his activities until they came up with a plan that would discredit his legitimacy as a leader and visionary in the eyes of his supporters. President Coolidge recognized this, after he and his lawyer reviewed the case.  Consequently, he commuted Garvey’s sentence in November 1927, but ordered him deported back to Jamaica.

Garvey’s family and the wider Jamaica have always maintained Garvey’s innocence, and as such, have been seeking to clear the hero’s name by seeking exoneration. Of note, as stated by former Prime Minister of Jamaica, P.J. Patterson, pardoning is different from exonerating. “Pardons are to grant immunity or to remove any legal disabilities such as the right to vote, which convicted felons do not have. Exoneration is for the innocent, those who should have been acquitted at trial because there was no wrongdoing. It is my contention, there was no evidence given during the trial on which a conviction could be based.” Therefore, Garvey should be exonerated and this should be of great importance and priority, first and foremost, because it is the right thing to do as he was not guilty. In addition, being a National Hero of Jamaica, we would love if our hero did not have a criminal record. Garvey had a great impact on the world, especially Blacks worldwide, and for that, he should be honoured and his efforts lauded and not criminalized.

Recently, the Governor General of Jamaica, Sir Patrick Allen, announced that efforts to push for Garvey’s exoneration in the U.S would be stepped up. He said,  “The 60th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence and the establishment of diplomatic relations with the United States of America, provide a fitting context for advancing the process of clearing the name of the Right Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jamaica’s first National Hero.” He further added, “To that end, the Government will utilise the avenues available to intercede with the Government of the United States of America, building on past and existing efforts to lift this stain of his wrongful conviction.”

 It is admirable that our Government has decided to steer the push to clear Garvey’s name. This coincides with the most recent initiative by Dr. Julius Garvey to petition for his father’s exoneration. However, we should also push to have Garvey’s criminal record here expunged, as well, as he had not committed a crime when he was convicted for Contempt of Court, on two occasions in 1929. The first conviction resulted in him paying a fine of £25 because he had refused to turn over some records of the UNIA to the court during the case of Marke vs. The UNIA. However, he was convicted a second time because he called for the imprisonment of corrupt judges. This resulted in him being imprisoned, as well as being fined £100. Though his convictions were pardoned, on the 100th anniversary of his birth by then Governor General, Sir Florizel Glasspole, his records were never expunged. In 2018, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia, “Babsy” Grange, submitted a Bill to absolve National Heroes of criminal liability.  Whilst the Bill was approved by the Senate after some amendments were made, it is not certain what happened when it was returned to the Lower House as there has been no formal announcement that the Bill was carried through.

So, with 60 years of Independence upon us, let us assist every effort to clear the name of Marcus Garvey.   

Liberty Hall Remembers …

In the month of January, Liberty Hall (LH) remembers two very notable persons: Dr. Donna McFarlane and Prof. Tony Martin.

Dr. McFarlane was LH’s beloved Director/Curator for over 14 years who went to join her ancestors on January 25, 2018. She was a formidable Pan-Africanist who challenged the racial status quo that existed not only in Jamaica, but also worldwide. She was unrelenting in steering LH on a course that positioned it as one of the foremost educational institutions in the world, focused on Garvey. She achieved this by conceptualizing a community-based space that catered to the practical and educational needs of the persons in the surrounding communities.

Dr. McFarlane always championed “blackness” and often challenged how “blackness” was represented in museums. Consequently, she curated the Marcus Garvey: The Movement and Philosophy exhibition, the permanent exhibition of the Marcus Mosiah Garvey Multimedia Museum. For her, the Museum was a Black space that helped to provide a transformative narrative for members of the Pan-African community and post-colonial societies. She was also very passionate in her advocacy for equality for Blacks and an appreciation of African involvement in the world’s development.

Prof. Tony Martin was a scholar on Garvey, African History and Caribbean History who died on January 17, 2013. A Professor Emeritus of Africana Studies at Wellesley College, Massachusetts, Prof. Martin was also a prolific author. He authored, compiled or edited fourteen books including Literary Garveyism: Garvey, Black Arts and the Harlem Renaissance (1983), The Pan-African Connection: From Slavery to Garvey and Beyond (1983); The Progress of the African Race Since Emancipation and Prospects for the Future (1998) and the classic study of the Garvey Movement, Race First: the Ideological and Organizational Struggles of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (1976). He also published Amy Ashwood Garvey, Pan[1]Africanist, Feminist and Mrs. Marcus Garvey no. 1 or, A Tale of Two Amies.

Professor Martin was a continuous supporter of the growth and expansion of Liberty Hall and had donated copies of his publications to the Garvey Research/Reference Library at Liberty Hall. In August 2012, Professor Martin delivered the 3rd Annual Marcus Mosiah Garvey Lecture on the 125th anniversary of the birth of Marcus Garvey.  The presentation was entitled, “If Garvey Dies, Garvey Lives”. He also used the occasion to launch his latest work, Caribbean History: From Pre-Colonial Origins to the Present (2012).

The loss of these two Black activists has had a major impact on LH and the wider community. In addition, the cause to advance Black people and propagate accurate Black and Caribbean History has lost two large voices. However, their work and legacies remain as motivation to those left behind.    

EDWARD JORDON: The Untitled Ruler of A Ransomed Race

Jamaica has had a long history of persons lobbying for the rights of Black people, as this issue has always been of great concern from the time of Slavery. Consequently, over the centuries, there have been several activists in Jamaica who have made significant impacts both locally and internationally. Of course, one of the most popular of these was Marcus Garvey. However, there were activists in Jamaica before Garvey, some of whom may have influenced Garvey to follow that path. Persons like Robert Osborn, Richard Hill, and, the focus of this piece, Edward Jordon.

Jamaican, Edward Jordon, was a free coloured of mixed ancestry. He was born into the Jamaican slave society circa 1800. Though he was a free coloured and enjoyed certain privileges, he grew to realize that he, and those like him, did not enjoy the same privileges as their white counterparts. For example, free coloureds could not be hold any public office, be members of the jury or magistrate, in fact, they could not even give evidence under oath in court. In addition, they could not vote or put themselves up as candidates in any elections and could not hold any managerial positions on the plantations, not even their own. They were also restricted as to how much property they could acquire or even inherit.

At the age of twenty, Jordon joined the free-coloured campaign for civil rights so as to help in the fight to obtain full civil rights for people of his class. He quickly accepted the post of Secretary for the civil rights group. As word spread about the “secret society” formed by Jordon and a group of young men, like himself, there was much backlash. The ruling class saw the group as a threat and considered its efforts to be a conspiracy against authority. So, several strategies were employed to dismantle the group. However, Jordon and the others were relentless in their efforts and eventually filed a petition with the House of Assembly to have free coloureds participate fully in the political life of Jamaica. Not surprisingly, the petition was rejected, however, certain rights were eventually granted in 1824.       

 In 1828, Jordon and his close friend and political ally, Robert Osborn, established a newspaper called Watchman and Jamaica Free Press which they used to support the civil rights campaign and demand change. Jordon was arrested and charged with sedition and treason, as a result of an editorial published in the newspaper. Though he escaped the charges, he spent six months in lock up on a libel charge.    

After his incarceration, Jordon never stopped agitating for the oppressive laws and practices of the island to be repealed. In a bold move, following the Christmas Rebellion led by Sam Sharpe in 1831, Jordon penned a circular in which he demanded the instant repeal of the oppressive laws and practices and threatened that if the demands were not met, then the slave population would “rise arms, … until the streets of Kingston should run blood. ” Supposedly out of fear, the Legislature granted all the demands. This was a significant victory for Jordon and the civil rights society and as a result, his people called him, The Untitled Ruler of a Ransomed Race.

In 1835, Jordon ran for a seat in the Assembly and had a convincing win. He served in that capacity until 1864. Jordon held several positions, which were at one time exclusive to whites. He was appointed to the Legislative Council in 1852; he became the first non-white Mayor of Kingston in 1854 and Speaker of the Assembly in 1861. In 1864, he was appointed Receiver General and then in 1865, Island Secretary. Jordon was also bestowed the honour of Companion of the Bath by Queen Victoria in 1860.          

Edward Jordon died in 1869 and, in 1875, a statue was built in his honour at Victoria Park, now St. William Grant Park.


There seems to be a common thread among the stories of freedom fighters, regardless of their nationality, as they often share similar characteristics and experiences. Freedom fighters are synonymous with liberating an oppressed group, whether on a national or international level. The freedom fighter themselves usually face ridicule and abuse of all types. Consequently, aspects of the story of anti-apartheid activist, Steve Biko, seem to mirror aspects of Marcus Garvey’s life story.

Steve Biko was the founder of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) and was one of the main players in the fight against apartheid during the 1960s and 1970s. His involvement in the struggles began when he was in medical school where he founded the South African Student Organisation (SASO), a Blacks-only group, in 1968. Like Garvey, Biko saw the need to bring about awareness in his fellow Blacks that their race was equal to all. He founded the organisation to empower Black students and reinforce their economic and political power. Through this organisation, Biko reinforced the idea of “Black Consciousness” and self-empowerment, just as Garvey did with the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). He travelled all over South Africa spreading the notion of black consciousness through his speeches and his writings, similar to how Garvey promoted the ideologies of the UNIA when he toured the various states in the United States in 1916.

The tenets of the SASO resounded among Black students in tertiary institutions as they all shared the same experiences with segregation and racism. So, SASO provided a medium for them to organize themselves as a formidable force against the system of oppression, which was Apartheid. The organisation grew quickly and significantly. So, much so that it spread beyond the walls of the universities in South Africa, and into the general population. As a result, a new arm of the organisation was established in 1972, The Black People’s Convention (BPC). This new arm attracted persons from all walks of life, including labourers, church leaders, artists, and other prominent members of the Black community. In support of his ideology of self-reliance, Biko established several community projects that would motivate Blacks to be their own bosses and determine their own economic wealth. This was also what Garvey did when he established various enterprises through the UNIA.  

However, with the rapid growth of the BPC came increased attention from the very persons that they were opposing. Just as in the case of the UNIA’s development, the authorities in South Africa were wary of the collective power of the organized Blacks, and as such, they imposed bans which would restrict their movement and muzzle them. Biko was singled out. He was expelled from medical school in 1972 and banned in March 1973 from participating in any gatherings, over 2 persons, including social gatherings. He was also deported to his home town of King William’s Town and had to seek permission from the police to leave the area.

It was as a result of the violation of the latter restriction that caused him to be arrested on August 17, 1977, the 90th anniversary of Garvey’s birth. He was tortured and beaten while being interrogated for 22 hours and suffered severe brain damage from the blows he received to his head. The severity of his injuries resulted in his lapsing into a coma for about three weeks. He succumbed to his injuries on September 12, 1977. Biko is seen as a martyr for his cause, not only in South Africa, but globally. His death brought much attention to the situation in South Africa and resulted in much backlash against the South African government.

Biko and Garvey fought a similar battle and suffered similar fates. Though Garvey was not physically killed by his oppressors, he too was a victim of those who were not in support of his philosophies and opinions. Both men sought to uplift the members of the Black race through educational, social, economical and political liberation. They fought for racial equality and championed self-reliance of the Black people through the establishing of a Black identity, the building of Black value systems and the recognition of Black worth.

Though their paths never crossed, Biko and Garvey travelled similar paths and their impact on black conscious thought is far-reaching and should never be ignored or trivialized.

Garvey’s Interracial Involvement

This blog was initially going to explore the similarities between the two Amys in Garvey’s life; Amy Ashwood Garvey and Amy Jacques Garvey, his first and second wives, respectively. However, while doing some reading on these remarkable women who were both instrumental in the establishing and promoting of the UNIA, a rather interesting fact was stumbled upon. That is, that Marcus Garvey had first been engaged to a European. In a letter dated March 2, 1914, Garvey wrote to his godfather, Alfred Burrowes, the following, “I am now breaking the news to you as the only person in Jamaica, that I am engaged to a Spanish-Irish heiress whom I had the pleasure of meeting during my tour on the Continent.” No more details seem to be available about this fiancée.

Now this revelation would come as a shock to most, as Garvey was an ardent proponent of the purity of race. He stated, “I believe in a pure black race …” He went further to say that, “I am conscious of the fact that slavery brought upon us the curse of many colours within the Negro race, but that is no reason why we of ourselves should perpetuate the evil …” So, for Garvey to have been involved with a non-Black woman, so much so that he intended to marry her, would seem a deviation from his principle on race purity. One can only wonder what was going through his mind when he made that decision. Was there an ulterior motive to such a move? However, one can only imagine, because, the deviation was quite short-lived.

On Garvey’s return to Jamaica in July 1914, he met Amy Ashwood, and the rest, as we know it, is history. Though in his letter to his godfather, he had said, “I hardly think I can change my mind in marrying her [the Spanish-Irish heiress]”, after being smitten by Amy Ashwood, he penned a “Dear Jane letter” to his fiancée, with Amy’s full knowledge. In it he said, “Marriage between us is now impossible. You will be far happier with a member of your race; so will I be with one of mine. I have seen a girl, blood of my blood, and of my own race. Forgive me, but if I marry you now that you know the truth, I shall revert to my own kind every time the opportunity presents itself …”       

The break-up would seem inevitable because that union would not have been in keeping with Garvey’s push to create a truly pure Black race. He, himself, recognized this and had stated to his godfather that the relationship was somewhat destructive of his principle. He also seemed to fear that the Press may have portrayed him as a hypocrite and would have ridiculed his relationship as he had commented on how British press had often sensationalized interracial relationships between Black men and White women. This may have been the reason behind him hesitating to announce his engagement both to the British and Jamaican press.   

Marcus Garvey constantly condemned interracial relationships and did not encourage “bastardy”. However, for a brief moment, he stepped out of the race and contemplated marriage to a woman who was already biracial.   


A recent conversation with a client inspired this month’s blog. She was a bit upset that there were persons who credited Marcus Garvey for the quote, “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.” She was adamant that it was Bob Marley who had said those exact words. She contended that Garvey said something completely different. Truth be told, there has been a long standing debate as to who should be credited for the words. This debate has often thrusted “Garveyites” against “Marleyites”, with both sides claiming the win.

The fact is, both men expressed the thought. However, it was Marcus Garvey who had expressed the original thought. In a speech given in Nova Scotia, Sydney in 1937, Garvey said, “We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery, because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind. Now Marley, who was born some eight (8) years after Garvey made that speech, made the thought a popular adage, through his song, Redemption Song. In the song, he said, Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds. Now, the scholars who will read this will tell you that that Marley paraphrased what Garvey said. For the rest of us, this simply means that he reworded or summarized what Garvey said. So, if credit is to be given, in my opinion, it should be that Garvey should be credited for the original thought, and Marley should be credited for popularizing it.

Marley was influenced by Garvey. He himself, in an interview with Gil Noble, said that Garvey was his greatest influence. So it is no surprise that he would convey Garvey’s philosophies and opinions through his songs. Therefore, time spent on debating who should be credited for this popular quote would be better spent looking at why these two visionaries felt the need to express such a thought. It is evident that both men saw that members of the Black race were being self-debilitating. They were being hampered by society’s ideals and status quo, thereby hindering their development and progress in life. So, Garvey and Marley were simply saying that Black people should free themselves from the things that bind them, mentally. Whether it is depression, racism, financial issues, inferiority complexes, relationship struggles, job dissatisfaction, etc, we should let it go. When things like those weigh on our minds, it prevents us from having breakthrough ideas which could help us develop ourselves, individually, and as a race.

So, let’s take up the charge given by these two great philosophers. Let us free our minds from whatever bondage they have been held captive by.    

Garvey and the Rastafari Connection

There is clearly a strong connection between Marcus Garvey and the Rastafari faith which has spanned decades. Though Garvey died over 80 years ago, this connection is still evident. Many Rastafarians not only quote Garvey, but many live by his ideologies. His philosophies and opinions provide the foundation for their existence, their way of life. One of Garvey’s most popular quotes was in fact made popular by another equally prominent Jamaican who was Rastafarian, Bob Marley. That quote, “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery”, seems to embody a shared tenet of Garvey and the Rastafari faith which again highlights the connection. Another example of the Garvey-Rastafari connection is the fact that, every August 17, many Rastafarians make the trek to Liberty Hall on King Street, kind of like a pilgrimage, to commemorate Garvey’s birthday. There they have reasoning, chanting, drumming and sometimes showcase their wares. How did this connection come about though?

Garvey is thought of as the “father” of the Rastafari movement by some. Why? Maybe because it is believed that Garvey gave Rastafari their worldview and perspective on life. In addition, Garveyism was a major contributor to the rise of the Rastafari movement. According to I. Jabulani Tafari in his book, A Rastafari View of Marcus Mosiah Garvey: Patriarch – Prophet – Philosopher, Garveyism contributed to Rastafari on five levels.

  1. Spiritually – By Garvey’s controversial yet explicit statement that Black people should see the Divine Creator as Black. (Rastafari has Haile Selassie I as the Divine Head of the movement.)
  2. Historically – By Garvey’s constant and repeated references to ‘Ethiopia’ in place of ‘Africa’. (Rastafarians view themselves as exiled Hebrew Ethiopians (Israelites) in the West and see Ethiopia as the Holy Land.)
  3. Politically – By Garvey’s promotion of Pan-African unity and collaboration. Rastafari promotes international African cooperation.)
  4. Socially – By Garvey’s emphasis on physical repatriation ‘Back-to-Africa’. Rastafarians are strong advocates for repatriation to the motherland of Africa.)
  5. Culturally – By Garvey’s widespread use of the cultural arts as a primary tool for the re-education and re-socialization of the Black masses internationally. (Rastafarians use the cultural arts, particularly music, as the principal weapon in their struggle to liberate the minds and hearts of Black people worldwide.)      

  Another connection between Garvey and Rastafari is the fact that it is widely believed by many Rastafarians that Garvey predicted the rise of Ras Tafari Makonnen as Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia and subsequently, the divine head of Rastafari. The prediction is credited to Garvey saying, “Look to Africa, when a Black King shall be crowned, for the day of deliverance is near.” Consequently, Selassie’s coronation followed shortly after this prediction and seemed to be the fulfillment of Garvey’s doings and sayings in his mission to advance the Pan-African movement. For this, Garvey is highly respected by Rastafarians.

It should be noted, however, that not all Rastafarians admire Garvey. Firstly, there is a small number of them who condemn him for his criticisms of Haile Selassie I while the latter was exiled in England. Garvey questioned Selassie’s loyalty to Ethiopia because he had left when Italy invaded his country. There are others who criticized him for not accepting Selassie’s invitation to repatriate Black people to Ethiopia. Instead, Garvey sought to establish his “utopia” in Liberia. Others disapproved of his treatment of Garveyites who were Rastafari pioneers, such as Leonard P. Howell. It is said that Garvey presided over an alleged “unsympathetic hearing” for the supporters of the “new” Royalist doctrine. There are a few Rastafarians who are also upset that Garvey did not break from the colonial tradition of combing hair and did not grow dreadlocks.

Nevertheless, despite the few who harbour negative feelings towards Garvey, the majority of Rastafarians continue to revere Garvey and recognize his invaluable contribution to their movement. In fact, Rastafarians can be credited for being the main proponents of Garvey’s ideologies over the decades into present day. As a result, there will always be a connection between Garvey and Rastafari.           


“One may be a poet without versing, and a versifier without poetry.”

  • Sir Philip Sidney

Many would not refer to Marcus Garvey as a poet. Many do not even know that Garvey wrote poems; but he did. He used his poetry as a means to spread and promote his ideas, to document his struggles and to express his private emotions. While Garvey had been writing for a long time, it was not until he was an inmate in the Atlanta prison between 1925 and 1927 that he took on writing poetry seriously. His works were published mainly in his publications, Negro World and Black Man between 1927 and 1935.    

Whilst he himself questioned whether or not his poetical efforts were comparable to “real” poetry, his followers held his poetry in high esteem. In fact, many sought to follow in his footsteps and wrote poems too. Tony Martin, Garvey scholar, explained that “The writing of poetry was little short of an obsession with Garveyites. Everybody did it.” Many of the poems written by Garveyites were published in the Negro World. Eventually, poetry became a regular feature in the newspaper. 

Most of Garvey’s early poems were collated and published in two volumes by his wife, Amy Jacques Garvey. These publications were, The Tragedy of White Injustice and Selections from the Poetic Meditations of Marcus Garvey. The former got its name from a 70-verse poem written by Garvey which was described as “An Epic of Rare Beauty, with an Historical Theme”. The remaining poems in that first volume are Hail! United States of Africa! and Africa for the Africans.The second volume comprised poems of various themes. Some were autobiographical, such as The Start and My Trip to the West Indies. Other themes portrayed included, Religion, Family, Race and Politics.

Marcus Garvey was truly a renaissance man. He was not only a formidable political figure but was also an earnest cultural individual. He was unique in how he conveyed his philosophies and ideologies and poetry was one of the media he chose to do this. His poetry have proven to be of great importance to Garveyites and even now, for those who are aware of these works, there is still a sense of appreciation for the work of this prolific thinker.    

Tony Martin wrote two books which focused on Garvey’s poetry and other literary skills. So, for further reading, try and get a copy of The Poetical Works of Marcus Garvey or Literary Garveyism: Garvey, Black Arts and the Harlem Renaissance.