“We meet in Liberty Hall, not as cringing sycophants, but as men and women standing erect and demanding our rights from all quarters…”
-Marcus Garvey New York, 1920
Kingston, Jamaica is the birthplace of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL) which was founded in 1914. The UNIA existed in several countries and its divisions were required to have Liberty Halls. Liberty Hall, at 76 King Street, was bought by the Kingston Division of the UNIA and opened in 1923. It was Garvey’s headquarters for a short while, following his deportation to Jamaica from the United States in 1927. By 1929 Garvey acquired much larger premises named EdelweissPark at 67 Slipe Road. This became the international headquarters of the UNIA until Garvey migrated to England. Edelweiss Park was the venue of the UNIA’s large international conventions in 1929 and 1934.
The Kingston UNIA was one of several divisions in Jamaica. Some of the others were at Bog Walk, MorantBay and Golden Grove in St. Thomas, Montego Bay in St. James, SpanishTown in St. Catherine, SwiftRiver and Port Antonio in Portland, Resource in Manchester, and Crossroads St. Andrew.
In Garvey’s time Liberty Hall, Kingston was the venue for UNIA general meetings, as well as meetings of the Black Cross Nurses, the African Legion and the Juveniles. It had its own bands, choirs and drama groups, and hosted spectacular cultural and intellectual programmes. Several small businesses, such as an employment agency, laundromat and cooperative bank also operated there. For decades Liberty Hall was a major entertainment centre even after it passed out of the UNIA’s hands. In the 1970s it was the venue of a popular boxing gym, which hosted numerous Caribbean professional boxers such as Jamaica’s Bunny Grant.
“We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind.”
-Marcus Garvey, Nova Scotia, Canada October, 1937