The Story of Marcus Garvey A Documentary –
Childhood: 1887–1904 –
Marcus Mosiah Garvey was born on 17 August 1887 in Saint Ann’s Bay, a town in the Colony of Jamaica. In the context of colonial Jamaican society, which had a colourist social hierarchy, Garvey was considered at the lowest end, being a black child who believed he was of full African ancestry.
However, later genetic research nevertheless revealed that he had some Iberian ancestors. Garvey’s paternal great-grandfather had been born into slavery prior to its abolition in the British Empire.
His surname, which was of Irish origin, had been inherited from his family’s former enslavers.
His father, Malchus Garvey, was a stonemason; his mother, Sarah Richards, was a domestic servant and the daughter of peasant farmers. Malchus had had two previous partners before Sarah, having six children between them.
Sarah bore him four additional children, of whom Marcus was the youngest, although two died in infancy. Because of his profession, Malchus’ family were wealthier than many of their peasant neighbours; they were petty bourgeoise.
Malchus was however reckless with his money and over the course of his life lost most of the land he owned to meet payments. Malchus had a book collection and was self-educated; he also served as an occasional layman at a local Wesleyan church.
Malchus was an intolerant and punitive father and husband; he never had a close relationship with his son.
Up to the age of 14, Garvey attended a local church school; further education was unaffordable for the family.
When not in school, Garvey worked on his maternal uncle’s tenant farm.