The Jamaican government is moving to clear all criminal charges filed against freedom fighter Marcus Garvey, a man who dedicated his life to the message that “a people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”
Jamaica's Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia Grange stated that a bill is being prepared to absolve Mr. Garvey, as well as a number of other iconic Jamaicans, who engaged in “acts of liberation” — not illegal activities.
“We continue to argue that Garvey’s actions were not criminal, but were acts of liberation with moral justification. The Bill should be brought to the House (Parliament) in October to absolve national heroes, including Garvey, and other freedom fighters of criminal liabilities arising from their acts of liberation and connected matters,” Grange stated.
She emphasized that despite failed attempts by the Jamaican government to clear Garvey's name of criminal charges in the United States, Garvey's “record will be totally cleared” by the new bill.
In the last presidential days of Barack Obama, Garvey's family unsuccessfully appealed to the U.S. president for a pardon.
Born in 1887, in St. Ann's Bay, Jamaica, Garvey was a leading figure of the Black liberation movement.
In 1914, he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League, UNIA-ACL, a Pan-African organization that amassed approximately 1 million members worldwide.
He advocated for African descendants across the diaspora to embark on a return — physical, spiritual, cultural and political — to their African roots via the Black Star Line Steamship Corporation. The shipping line was envisioned by Garvey as a way to help African American return to their homeland and to boost the African global economy.
Justin Hansford, an associate professor of law at St. Louis University, said that the Black Star Line Steamship Corporation “was designed to create a means for economic trade between Blacks in the U.S. and those on the African continent, so that they could create a mechanism for economic development that didn't depend on Jim Crow segregation and the economy that was based on it in the 1920s.”
He described the initiative as a “revolutionary idea” that “caught on like wildfire.”
Garvey also established The Negro World publication which spread the message of freedom to Black people worldwide. The paper grew to a weekly circulation of 200,000 across the Americas, Africa and Europe.
His movement was a precursor to Black Liberation movements and the core message expressed in Reggae.
Martin Luther King Jr. referred to Garvey as “the first man, on a mass scale, to give millions of Negroes a sense of dignity and destiny.”
El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, more popularly known as Malcolm X, also praised the activist for his achievements.
“Every time you see another nation on the African continent become independent you know that Marcus Garvey is alive,” he said, adding that “the freedom movement that is taking place right here in America today was initiated by the work and teachings of Marcus Garvey.”