Amy Jacques Garvey

This article is about the Jamaican-born writer and activist, who was Marcus Garvey's second wife. For Marcus Garvey's first wife, see Amy Ashwood Garvey.
Amy Jacques Garvey
Born Amy Euphemia Jacques
(1895-12-31)31 December 1895
Kingston, Jamaica
Died 25 July 1973(1973-07-25) (aged 77)
Kingston, Jamaica
Occupation Publisher, journalist
Known for Activism, black nationalism, Pan-Africanism
Spouse(s) Marcus Garvey (1922–1940; his death)

Amy Euphemia Jacques Garvey (31 December 1895[1] – 25 July 1973) was the Jamaican-born second wife of Marcus Garvey, and a journalist and activist in her own right. She was one of the pioneering Black women journalists and publishers of the 20th century.[2]


Garvey was a pioneering journalist and activist. She came to New York City in 1917 and soon after became involved with the publishing of the Negro World newspaper in Harlem from its inception in August 1918.[3][4]

Early life

Amy Euphemia Jacques Garvey was born on 31 December 1895 in Kingston, Jamaica.[5] As the eldest child of George Samuel and Charlotte Henrietta (née South) Jacques,[2] Garvey was raised in a middle-class home.[5] Yvette Taylor, in her account of the life of Amy Jacques Garvey, refers to Garvey as being “mulatta".[6] Charlotte Henrietta was half white, and her father was a dark-skinned black. Taylor goes on to explain that her mixed race heavily influenced her upbringing. At a young age, Garvey was taught to play the piano and took courses in music appreciation because music and music appreciation were believed to be considered the "cultural finishing to a girl's education." Garvey was a part of a small minority of Jamaican youth to attend high school. She attended Wolmer's Schools.[7] It was believed that at the time less than 2% of the youth in Jamaica attended high school. Her political ideologies were derived as a direct result of her father. He urged her to read periodicals and newspapers to “enhance” her knowledge of the world.

Garvey was a forward-thinking woman of her time; however, he father sought to confine her to a specific role in life. Garvey also derived political ideals from her environment. Garvey lived in a time when it was common for most black Jamaicans to be poor, and illiterate farmers. It is due to Europe’s colonization of African that many African-born Jamaicans developed a consciousness of Africa at this time. While George Samuel urged Garvey to become politically aware, he reinforced the ideals of society. Garvey was allowed to take shorthand classes in her later life, but only because he wished for her to become a nurse. Upon graduating school and receiving some of the highest honors of the time, Garvey was recruited to work at a law firm.[5] Her father initially said no, refusing to allow his daughter to work in an environment with males.[5] George Samuel coincidentally died that year, and the lawyer proceeding over his estate urged Charlotte Henrietta to allow Garvey to work in the clerical office so that she could control the estate. Charlotte agreed, and Garvey worked there for four years, ultimately gaining knowledge of the legal system.

After four years of working for this company, Garvey left for the United States in 1918. She promised her employer and mother that she would return in three months if conditions in the U.S. were not suitable to her; however, Garvey did not return. Garvey’s initial interest in the United States started as a child. She allegedly justified her trip to America by arguing that her father instilled this interest in her, and that she only wished to see “the land of opportunity and its limitations”. Karen Adler, in her piece chronicling Garvey’s life, argues that she did not return because she was enthralled by Garveyism.[8] He continues onward to say that she allegedly attended a conference being held by Marcus and was moved by his words. Garvey soon after assumed the role of Marcus Garvey's private secretary and worked alongside him and UNIA.

Marriage to Marcus Garvey

There were many contradictions in details surrounding their courtship. Many historians are confused about whether or not the two were having an affair. On one hand Marcus Garvey’s first wife, Amy Ashwood, claimed that he and Garvey were seeing each other behind her back. Ashwood speaks of infidelity and mistrust when describing the pain and humiliation that she felt. On the other hand, Marcus and Garvey claimed to have had no contact prior to the divorce with his first wife. They claim to have had a mutual respect for one another but said that their contact was limited strictly to work and friendly chatter. Ashwood makes the claim that she left Marcus for a period of separation in the summer of 1921, when she allegedly discovered that he and Amy Jacques were living together. Jacques alleges that any romantic contact that the two began strictly after his divorce. He divorced Ashwood while she was abroad in England in June 1922, and had the divorce approved in Kansas City without her knowledge; a month later on 27 July 1922, he married Garvey in Baltimore. Ashwood felt betrayed by her friend and her husband. Adler claims that Ashwood and Jacques were best friends. The two were said to have known each other as teenagers in Jamaica, and Jacques was said to have been Ashwood’s chief bridesmaid in her wedding to Garvey. Ashwood attempted to have the second marriage annulled upon returning from by filing a suit to deny the validity of her divorce to Garvey. In this later, Garvey was named the co-respondent. The effort to have this divorce nullified failed, leaving Amy Jacques as Garvey’s legitimate wife. Unfortunately this whole debacle led to the severance of this long-time friendship.

Assuming leadership of UNIA

At the beginning of their marriage, Garvey believed that her responsibility should be that of comfort to her husband. Just several months after marrying Marcus, Garvey began editing volume 1 of the Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey (a compilation of Marcus's writings and speeches). Her initial purpose in editing this journal was to provide a means for the general public to form their own opinion about Marcus Garvey and Garveyism without the stigma provided by biased sources of the time. Amy’s place in both the movement and the organization soon shifted. Instead taking a back seat to her husband and working in the shadow to strengthen his platform, Amy became a face of UNIA and a representation of the females of this organization. In her book Garvey and Garveyism, Amy alleges that a significant amount of Garvey’s speeches were a direct result of her own work; whether it be the crafting of specific lines or the research that went into it. In this book Amy describes how Marcus implored her to read through front page articles and other prominent new sources, and explain their importance to him. After gathering the information he needed he would then use it for his own speeches.

Garvey was said to have been an excellent speaker, having toured the country with and without her husband. After making a return from their western tour, Marcus was scheduled to speak in New York and Amy was not a part of the program. Adler alleges that the audience was so inspired by her previous speeches and published works that when Garvey went up to speak the crowd chanted: “We want Mrs. Garvey!” Even though she was not scheduled to speak at the event she was allowed to because of the mass outcry by the crowd. Marcus Garvey was said to have taken to the podium and say that he was grateful that his wife was his wife and not a rival. Adler believes that Marcus Garvey failed to show any appreciation for his wife despite her growing fame in the public forum. Adler continues on forward to say: “He expected self-sacrificing behavior from his wife and perhaps was threatened by her rival status, rendering him unable to acknowledge her capabilities and accomplishments.”[8] Amy, however, did not pose an initial threat to Garvey. Given her strong beliefs in her position as his wife, and the structure of the organization, Amy took a back seat, as did other women in the UNIA. UNIA presented itself as an equal-rights organization, but many women complained that they were given unfair positions. The grievances were made public at UNIA’s national convention in 1922. Sexism found a means to thrive even in spite of UNIA’s commitment to sexual equality. This being the case, women such as Amy Jacques Garvey found a way to become invaluable to the organization.

In light of unforeseen circumstances, Marcus was forced to assume a lead role in UNIA. Marcus was convicted of mail fraud on 21 June 1923, less than a year after marrying Garvey. After being convicted, he was sent to Tombs Prison in upstate New York, where he spent three months before being released on bond. While in prison, Marcus failed to win his appeals, and as a direct result was sentenced on 8 February 1925 to five years in Atlanta Federal Penitentiary. It is at this time that Garvey assumed leadership of UNIA. In addition to speaking all over the country to raise money for Garvey's defense fund, she edited and published volume 2 of the Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey, two volumes of his poetry, The Tragedy of White Injustice and Selections from the Poetic Meditations of Marcus Garvey. While doing this she worked tirelessly with lawyers to get her husband out of jail, and kept UNIA moving forward by delivering speeches and meeting with the leadership of the group occasionally. Despite the effort that Garvey put into keeping Marcus’s dream alive, Adler alleges that Marcus never showed any appreciation toward her.[8] Garvey never assumed official leadership of the organization because Marcus would not allow it.

After her husband was deported in 1927, Garvey went with him to Jamaica. They had two sons: Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jr. (b. 1930) and Julius Winston Garvey (b. 1933).[9] She remained with their children in Jamaica when Garvey moved to England in 1934.[9]

After his death in 1940, Garvey was a contributing editor to a journal called The African, published in Harlem,[3] and in the late 1940s she formed the African Study Circle of the World in Jamaica.[9]

In November 1963, Garvey visited Nigeria as a guest of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, who was being installed as that nation's first Governor-General. She published her own book, Garvey and Garveyism, in 1963, as well as a booklet, Black Power in America: The Power of the Human Spirit, in 1968. She also assisted John Henrik Clarke in editing Marcus Garvey and the Vision of Africa (1974). Her final work was the Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey volume III, written in conjunction with E. U. Essien-Udom.[10]

She was awarded the Musgrave Medal in 1971.[7]


Garvey died on 25 July 1973, in her native Kingston, Jamaica, and was interred in the churchyard of Saint Andrew's Parish Church.


  1. According to the African American National Biography, Volume 3, and PBS, her year of birth was 1896.
  2. 1 2 "Amy Jacques Garvey",
  3. 1 2 Honoree Amy Jacques Garvey, Institute for Gender and Development Studies, The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine.
  4. "Women and Garveyism", in Rosemary Skinner Keller, Rosemary Radford Ruether (eds), Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in North America: Women in North American, Indiana University Press, 2006, p. 1077.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Boyce Davies, Carole (2008). Encyclopedia of the African Diaspora: Origins, Experiences, and Culture, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO. p. 458. ISBN 9781851097005. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  6. Taylor, Yvette (October 2002). "Mrs. Garvey". New Crises. 109 (5): 1–34.
  7. 1 2 "Amy J. Garvey Stood On Her Principles", African American Registry.
  8. 1 2 3 Adler, Karen S. (January 2, 1992). "Always Leading Our Men in Service and Sacrifice': Amy Jacques Garvey, Feminist Black Nationalist". Gender and Society. 6 (3): 346–375. doi:10.1177/089124392006003002.
  9. 1 2 3 "People & Events: Amy Jacques, 1896-1973", website for Marcus Garvey: Look For Me in the Whirlwind, American Experience, PBS.
  10. Amy Jacques Garvey at website.

External links

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