Who’s Amy Jacques Garvey?

By Sainey Faye



“The doll-baby type of woman is a thing of the past, and the wide-awake woman is forging ahead prepared for all emergencies, and ready to answer any call, even if it be to face the cannons on the battlefield.”
—– Amy Jacques Garvey

Seldom do we honor our women for their heroic deeds and sacrifices, they rendered in the African liberation or Black liberation struggle. Amy Jacques Garvey is one of many in our worldwide African liberation struggle, who deserves admiration, honor, and respect for her positive contributions to our cause.She was a staunch Black nationalist and Pan-Africanist in the twentieth century, and a militant activist for freedom and justice for Blacks/African people. She was born in Jamaica, and moved to the U.S.A. in 1917, at the age of 21.Few years later, she met and married Marcus Garvey. Together, they worked to build the (UNIA) ‘The United Negro Improvement Association.” She made the world know who the real Marcus Mosiah Garvey was;through her writings and militancy of advocacy of the worldwide African conditions.

The UNIA became popular amongst the oppressed discriminated, Africans in Harlem, U.S.A. and elsewhere, that the membership rose to several millions.It later spread to South Africa, North and South America, and the Caribbean, where political awakening and resistance to oppression, colonialism, and apartheid, was on the rise; and many joined. No Black/African organization had claimed more members than the UNIA in the U.S. at this time after World War 1.The Back to Africa cries and liberation were the things that took center stage. She was right in the midst of the fight.

She became the Secretary General of the UNIA in 1919, and from then on; helped guide the organization for over 50 years.All along she helped also propagate and develop Garvey’s philosophy of African Consciousness, Self-help, and above all economic independence.She also became a leading spokesman for the organization, and was associate editor of the organizations paper ‘The Negro  World.’ As a journalist, she was a prolific writer and speaker, and minced no words in her editorials or columns.One of her columns was said to be so popular ‘Our Women And What They Think’ that it was said to be enlightening and liberating.Others were known to call her a fearless and revolutionary educator.

On the role of Black men joining the struggle to free themselves and their women and children, her messages were said to be loud and clear; that is they must – “join and assert your manhood, or get out of the way and  let the sisters/women take over. A no nonsense woman when it came to issues of the liberation struggle of the Black race, and men who were passive and uncommited to the struggle.

One of her well known quotes to the Black men was …  ” … Negroes everywhere must be independent, God being our guide. Mr. Black man, watch your step! Ethiopia’s queens will reign again, and her Amazons protect her shores and people. Strengthen your shaking knees, and move forward, or we will displace you and lead on to victory and glory.”

The story of this  great African woman is so immense, we can only highlight few of the things she did for our cause and liberation.The saying “that behind every great man,  is a woman is true, and Amy had shown that Marcus Garvey couldn’t have done many things without her.  She fought hard to get the U.N. to adopt at a time when Africans had no voice at all; a Freedom Charter exclusively For Africa and Africans worldwide.She fearlessly engaged reps. of all nationalities to Africa’s plight, and miserable conditions; at a time when less than a handful had political independence and sovereignty.The African Freedom Charter also helped the world see better; the predicament of Africans in a world in need of decolonization.

Below is short summary of her works, and to know more about her life and struggle, read the book ‘The Veiled Garvey; The Life And Times of Amy Jacques Garvey’ by Ula Yvette Taylor.

She wrote :-
“In 1923, Jacques edited and published Volume One of The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey. She released Volume Two in 1925. She also edited the UNIA’s newspaper, The Negro World. After Garvey was sent to prison on charges of mail fraud in connection with the Black Star Line, Jacques acted as his personal representative, rallying to his defense, making speeches to the branches of UNIA and even using the two publications to raise funds for his legal defense.

After Garvey’s release and deportation from the United States, Jacques returned to Jamaica with Garvey and their two children, Marcus Garvey, Jr. and Julius Garvey. As they toured England, France and Germany, Jacques still contributed as an editor to The Negro World.

After Garvey’s death in 1940, Jacques continued the struggle for black nationalism and African independence. In 1944 she wrote “A Memorandum Correlative of Africa, West Indies and the Americas,” which she used to convince U.N. representatives to adopt an African Freedom Charter. By 1963, she published her own book, Garvey and Garveyism and later published two collections of essays, “Black Power in America” and “The Impact of Garvey in Africa and Jamaica.” Amy Jacques died on July 25, 1973, in her birthplace of Kingston, Jamaica.”

Finally, before she died she saw nominal or political independence of all but a handful of African states; and attended many of them. As one of those who mentored Dr. Kwame Nkrumah (1st President of Ghana), and was an invited guest to Ghana’s Independence Day  celebration; she visited often the great old man W.E.B. Du Bois who passed his last days in Ghana.

She co-chaired the 5th Pan-African Conference of 1945 in Manchester, England; where she met many like Jomo Kenyatta and others; who later became Heads of States, Prime Ministers and Presidents in Africa. Marcus Garvey, her husband would have wished he witness what Amy J. Garvey had witnessed; that is to travel and see the seeds they sowed germinate on the continent of Africa, the Caribbean and elsewhere. What a great woman !!!


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