January 10 - Happy Birthday, Amy Ashwood Garvey

Posted on January 10, 2019

A director of the Black Star Line Steamship Corporation.

Co-founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association.

Co-founder of the Negro World newspaper.

Amy Ashwood Garvey, who was born in Jamaica on this date in 1897, married and worked with Marcus Garvey on all of the above. The two created a movement called Garveyism:

  • The idea that all African-American people (including black people in South and Central America, as well as black people in the U.S. and Canada), should unite together for their collective rights and in collective pride.
  • The idea that African slave descendants should go back to Africa, taking with them their intelligence and creativity and skills, and should re-connect with their roots as well as help African nations shake off colonialism and its ill effects.
  • The idea that African-American people who stay in the U.S. should build their own institutions and create their own local economies - rather than trying to infiltrate the institutions and economies of the racist and then-segregationist white societies.
Garveyism led to the Black Power movement of the 1960s, to black identity and black pride.

As you might imagine, there was push-back again the Garveys and their movement. I imagine many white people saw blunt (even bombastic) Marcus Garvey as threatening to the power structure of the status quo, but many black people, too, disliked some of the ideas of Garveyism. For example, many black people had no memory of or personal connection to Africa, and they did not want to leave the only homes they knew to go there. And some black people found the fact that Garvey seemed to be on the same side as super racist segregationists like the KKK (that is, the "go 'back' to Africa side, or the keep-races-separate side) to be appalling.

In 1922 Marcus and Amy divorced (and Marcus married one of Amy's former roommates and friends, also named Amy!), and Amy Ashwood Garvey moved on with her life:

She became a politician...

...a cultural feminist...

...and a speaker and lecturer.

She toured Western Africa, especially Dwaben, Ashanti (in Ghana), which is the part where her great grandmother said her own ancestors used to live. 

She lived and spoke in London, in the U.S., and in the Caribbean. 

She helped organize Pan-African Congress sessions.

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