Amy Garvey, businesswoman and front-line activist

Amy A. Garvey
Thu, 1897-10-28

The birth of Amy Ashwood Garvey in 1897 is celebrated on this date. She was an African American activist and the first wife of Marcus Garvey.

Born in Port Antonio, Jamaica, Ashwood spent part of her childhood years in Panama with her businessman father. Returning to Jamaica, she attended Westwood High School in Trelawny. While still a teenager, she began her political activities with the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), where she played a central role in its founding and organization. She also organized the women's auxiliary of the UNIA.

Ashwood came to America in 1918 and played an important role in the UNIA branches as Marcus Garvey's chief aide and as secretary of its New York Branch. On Christmas Day in 1919, she married Marcus Garvey in the presence of several thousand friends. Not long after, she was made a director of the Black Star Line, a shipping line Marcus Garvey incorporated. The Black Star Line derived its name from the White Star Line, a line whose success Garvey felt he could duplicate.

Amy Garvey also helped to establish the newspaper Negro World and sold it on the streets to help promote its readership. After she was divorced in 1922, she traveled extensively, but continued to take a keen interest in social welfare, politics, and the cultural life in the countries in which she lived.

In 1924, Garvey worked with many prominent West Africans in founding a Nigerian Progress Union. Between 1935 and 1938, she owned a restaurant in London. She remained a strong pan-Africanist and feminist and lectured on these issues during her tours of various countries, including Trinidad and Tobago. Garvey lived in West Africa from 1946 to 1949. Amy Garvey died in 1969.

Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia
Volumes 1 and 2, edited by Darlene Clark Hine
Copyright 1993, Carlson Publishing Inc., Brooklyn, New York
ISBN 0-926019-61-9

Person / name: 

Garvey, Amy