The Veiled Garvey: The Life & Times of Amy Jacques Garvey

The Veiled Garvey: The Life & Times of Amy Jacques Garvey

The Veiled Garvey: The Life & Times of Amy Jacques Garvey

The Veiled Garvey: The Life & Times of Amy Jacques Garvey

Synopsis

In this biography, Ula Taylor explores the life and ideas of one of the most important, if largely unsung, Pan-African freedom fighters of the twentieth century: Amy Jacques Garvey (1895-1973).

Born in Jamaica, Amy Jacques moved in 1917 to Harlem, where she became involved in the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), the largest Pan-African organization of its time. She served as the private secretary of UNIA leader Marcus Garvey; in 1922, they married. Soon after, she began to give speeches and to publish editorials urging black women to participate in the Pan-African movement and addressing issues that affected people of African descent across the globe. After her husband's death in 1940, Jacques Garvey emerged as a gifted organizer for the Pan-African cause. Although she faced considerable male chauvinism, she persisted in creating a distinctive feminist voice within the movement. In her final decades, Jacques Garvey constructed a thriving network of Pan-African contacts, including Nnamdi Azikiwe, Kwame Nkrumah, George Padmore, and W. E. B. Du Bois.

Taylor examines the many roles Jacques Garvey played throughout her life, as feminist, black nationalist, journalist, daughter, mother, and wife. Tracing her political and intellectual evolution, the book illuminates the leadership and enduring influence of this remarkable activist.

Excerpt

The life and times of Amy Jacques Garvey challenge our understanding of Marcus Garvey and Garveyism and unveil the complicated reality of a black radical. Although Jacques Garvey was born in Jamaica on 31 December 1895, empowered by her father’s teachings, she assumed her political identity in earnest in 1919, when she affiliated herself with the Universal Negro Improvement Association (unia) in Harlem, New York, as a private secretary to its leader, Marcus Garvey. As Garvey’s personal secretary, confidante, and later second wife, she worked closely with him to keep the movement afloat, and as the archivist for the organization, she kept meticulous records of his speeches and the efforts of other activists determined to empower Africans at “home” and throughout the diaspora. Moreover, when Amy and Marcus married in 1922, she fully embraced the endeavor “to be conversant with subjects that would help in his career, and [to] try to make home a haven of rest and comfort for him.” This view of herself as a helpmate to Garvey would be transformed. As Jacques Garvey grew beyond the color and class boundaries that had permeated her world during her formative years, she became an independent PanAfrican intellectual of stellar proportions.

As a political journalist, Jacques Garvey unfailingly wrote about the shortcomings of Jim Crow America, while simultaneously presenting the unia as a viable alternative, creating a refined discourse on the politics of race in the United States. In addition, her editorials on the woman’s page in the unia’s newspaper, the Negro World, destabilized masculinist discourse, offering a glimpse into the range and scope of feminism possible during the 1920s and a model of women as political beings who could change the world. In fact, Jacques Garvey’s writings were a key component of early black feminism. She was adamant that men fulfill certain gender-specific roles; nor did she question the prevailing ideology that women should be self-sacrificing wives. Jacques Garvey did, however, challenge myopic gender politics. Her politically diverse articles encour-

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