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UNIA Blue Plaque Unveiling on Marcus Garvey’s 124th birthday

on Aug 26th, 2011 | Comments Off on Short Speech Given At The Unveiling of UNIA Blue Plaque

The re- interment of Marcus Garvey’s body in Jamaica in 1964 by Jamaica’s first independent government, and his elevation as Jamaica’s first national hero was, and remains of profound significance for the majority of Jamaicans at home and abroad.

Long before the civil rights, black power and anti-colonial movements, Garvey had achieved what none of his rivals could – neither WEB Du Bois, C L R James or George Padmore – namely, the founding of the largest mass movement of black people in the form of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, with branches in the USA, Canada, Britain, Africa, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

Today there is a substantial body of scholarship devoted to Garvey among which Robert Hill’s 10 volume ‘The Marcus Garvey And Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers is pre-eminent.

In his song ‘So Much Things To Say’, Bob Marley likens enmity against himself to the betrayal of Garvey in the lines, “I’ll never forget no way/how they sold Marcus Garvey for rice”; and in ‘Redemption Song’ Marley paraphrases Garvey with the lines, “emancipate yourselves from mental slavery/ none but ourselves can free our minds”.

In a recent essay, Professor Robert Hill, reveals that, although he has been a life long Garvey scholar, it was not until 2001 that he realised that the lines from Marley’s ‘Redemption Song’ were taken from Garvey’s 1937 speech when Professor Rex Nettleford, late vice Chancellor of UWI, pointed it out to him.

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