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Amy Jacques Garvey Biography: Trail Blazing Feminist and Civil Rights Leader

Amy Jacques Garvey (December 31, 1895 July 25, 1973), Poet, activist, leader, feminist, civil rights leader. Those are just a sample of titles Amy Jacques Garvey earned though out her life. Everything she got in her life she earned herself. She was a self-made woman. Despite her famous husband she continued his legacy but she is noteworthy in her own right. The second wife of Marcus Garvey: she is the Co-Founder and First President-General of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (U.N.I.A). She is credited for saving Marcus Garvey's philosophy from ruin by telling youth about it for years after his death. She published 3 books.

Amy's life long commitment Civil Rights and challenging the prevailing ideas and practices of racism are the hallmarks of her life. Today the world acknowledges the singular contribution which she made to advancing freedom for all. As a child she was known to be very intellectual, more interested in her books than playing like other children. And her father would hold regular discussions with her on politics and international affairs. She attended ST. Patrick's school, Deaconess High School and then Wolmer Girls Schools in Jamaica. After graduating from school, she became a legal secretary to the family of Solicitor. TR McMillan. It was this job that gave her the basics of secretary and office work that she would take with her throughout her career. She grew up fairly middle class in Jamaica and learned the value of hard work at a young age. She came to America (Harlem, New York) with her family in 1917. One day in Harlem, Amy became curious and attended on of the public meetings at Liberty Hall where Marcus Garvey was holding a gathering where we was speaking out about racial inequality in the America. Amy was impressed with his speech so much that she went up to Marcus Garvey and asked how she would help his movement. Her personal meeting with Marcus Garvey the next day ended with her taking a job one of Marcus many businesses.

Marcus Garvey had many businesses and Amy helped in almost every aspect of all his businesses. She was the secretary to the Negro Factories Corporation, a subsidiary with encouraged manufacturing. She was office manager of the U.N.I.A where she regularized their affairs. She was personal secretary to Marcus Garvey and editor of his Negro World Newspaper, which by the way was the worlds largest Black-owned Newspaper. In 1919, she became the Secretary General of the UNIA, a post she held for over half a century proselytizing and educating people about Garvey's philosophy of black consciousness, self-help and economic independence. From 1924 to 1933, she was the associate editor of the U.N.I.A's newspaper, The Negro World, which was the largest Black-owned Newspaper in the world at the time, where she advanced her feminist/equality ideas with the column section entitled "Our Women and What They Think." Amy chided the men to assert their manhood or else the women would have to pick up the struggle. She warned that “... 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." As editor to the Negro world she gave a job to Dorothy Height during the early 1930s. They were friends and exchanged views on advancing women rights and civil rights. Amy poured her heart and soul in her work she was an effective platform speaker and fundraiser for her beliefs of equality. She and Marcus grew closer and got married in 1922. She was his second wife and remained a tower of strength to him, especially during times of crises. She and Marcus had two sons, Marcus Jr. and Julius.

Many consider her greatest contribution to the Garvey moment to be her editing The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey (Volumes I, II, and III) These books contain selections of Garvey Speeches and writings and were published between 1923-1940 without this publication the beliefs of Garvey most likely would be lost to history forever. But now anyone can learn about the beliefs of the early civil rights movement pre-1940. Nearly 20 years after Marcus death Amy wrote Garvey and Garveyism which was her personal account of the life of Marcus Garvey, the movement he led and the part she played in it. She also published a book titled Black Power and the Garvey Moment She remained up to the time of her death a major source of reference for researches and anyone seeking information about Garveyism and the civil rights moment in the early 20th century. After Marcus Garvey's death in 1940, she continued the struggle for Black Nationalism, becoming contributing editor to The African, a journal published in Harlem in the 1940s, and founding the African Study Circle of the World in Jamaica toward the end of the decade. In 1944, she wrote her outstanding piece, "A Memorandum Correlative of Africa, West Indies and the Americas", which she sent to representatives of the UN pressing them to adopt an African Freedom Charter. She gave talks, symposiums and round table discussions discussing the need to advance rights to all people. She cared about the youth and realized that the youth are the future. Because of her tireless work on behalf of Garvey it is said that Garveyism doesn't refer to just Marcus but to Amy Jacques as well, because of her work to advance the principals of Garveyism which were: equality for all, economic advancement, education, entrepreneurship, awareness of political activities around oneself and responsibility for one's own condition. On July 25, 1973, Amy Jacques Garvey died, in Jamaica, as she lived, active in the struggle for black empowerment and liberation. In Jamaica she is celebrated as a National Hero. Today the Amy Jacques Garvey Institute continues her work by talking to the youth of Washington, D.C about the issues she fought so hard to advance for youth.