News Releases

Sir Hilary Beckles Calls on Obama to Exonerate Marcus Garvey

For Release Upon Receipt - November 14, 2016


Regional Headquarters, Kingston, Jamaica, November 11, 2016 – Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies is calling on US President Barack Obama to grant a posthumous pardon to Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr., for his 1923 mail fraud conviction in the United States.   

Sir Hilary’s call comes in the wake of Jamaica’s National Heroes Week, the annual celebration of the country’s heroes and martyrs. It also comes at a time when countries and communities in the Caribbean and across the world are observing the United Nations’ declared ‘Decade for People of African Descent’.

“Marcus Garvey was the victim of trumped up charges orchestrated by the late J. Edgar Hoover, the famously anti-black director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation,” said Sir Hilary. “We are today calling on President Obama, himself the victim of racist campaigns to de-legitimize his presidency, to exonerate Garvey before he leaves office. It is the right and proper thing to do.” 

A global petition campaign demanding that Garvey’s federal record be expunged has generated tens of thousands of signatures. The campaign is supported by the Jamaican Government, the Caribbean Reparations Commission, the Institute of the Black World 21st Century and members of the Congressional Black Caucus in the US House of Representatives. 

“Garvey’s call for the upliftment of all Caribbean citizens through education and political engagement constitutes a critical part of the ideological and philosophical currents that gave birth to The University of the West Indies almost 70 years ago,” said Sir Hilary. “The UWI’s mission and mandate is a manifestation of Garvey’s struggles for quality education for the masses of Caribbean peoples, for self-respect, self-determination and cultural awareness in our region.” 

Born on August 17, 1887, in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica, Garvey was a civil and human rights activist, organizer and eloquent orator who led the largest mass movement of black people in the 20th Century. 

The founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), Garvey was a strong proponent of Black Nationalism, Pan-Africanism and self-reliance. He is Jamaica’s first national hero, and is revered by millions throughout the Caribbean, the United States, Canada, Central and South America and Africa. 

The late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in paying tribute to Garvey in the 1960s said he was “the first man on a mass scale and level to give millions of Negroes a sense of dignity and destiny.” 

Answering questions on April 9, 2015, following a speech at The University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica, President Obama said: “I think that all people want basic dignity and want basic freedom, and want to be able to worship as they please without being discriminated against, or they should be able to speak their mind about an important issue pertaining to their community without being arrested.” 

“That’s true today, but it was also true of Marcus Garvey in 1923,” said Sir Hilary. “The principles of reparatory justice on which the Caribbean Reparations Commission are founded, are the same principles that should be applied to repair and restore Garvey’s good name in the annals of US and world history.” 

The philosophy and teachings of Marcus Mosiah Garvey have long been internationally recognized for its strong and enduring influence on the independence movements in the Caribbean and Africa, on Rastafarianism and on the black liberation and Black Lives Matter Movements in North America. 


About The UWI

Since its inception in 1948, The University of the West Indies (UWI) has evolved from a fledgling college in Jamaica with 33 students to a fully-fledged, regional University with over 50,000 students. Today, The UWI is the largest, most longstanding higher education provider in the Commonwealth Caribbean, with three physical campuses in Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and an Open Campus. The UWI serves 17 English-speaking countries and territories in the Caribbean: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, The British Virgin Islands, The Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and Turks and Caicos. The UWI’s faculty and students come from more than 40 countries and The University has collaborative links with 160 universities globally; it offers undergraduate and postgraduate degree options in Food and Agriculture, Engineering, Humanities and Education, Law, Medical Sciences, Science and Technology and Social Sciences. The UWI’s seven priority focal areas are linked closely to the priorities identified by CARICOM and take into account such over-arching areas of concern to the region as environmental issues, health and wellness, gender equity and the critical importance of innovation.


(Please note that the proper name of the university is The University of the West Indies, inclusive of the “The”, hence The UWI.)