Amy Ashwood was born January 10, 1897, in Port Antonio, Jamaica. Her father, who was a businessman, moved the family to Panama where she spent her childhood. During her teen years, she returned to Jamaica.
Upon her return to Jamaica, Ashwood enrolled at Westwood High School in Trelawney. There, she developed strong views about Black activism and she met her future husband, Marcus Garvey. She and Garvey soon became involved in political activities and were devising plans to liberate Jamaica, which was a British colony during that time.
In 1916, Ashwood and Garvey surreptitiously engaged. Once they became aware of the engagement, Ashwood’s parents vehemently opposed their union. Her father arranged for her to return to Panama. In 1918, she joined Garvey in New York City, New York where she began her important role in the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA).
In 1919 Ashwood became Garvey’s chief aide and general secretary. On Christmas Day of that year, Ashwood and Garvey solidified their union with one another at Liberty Hall, the UNIA headquarters in New York City. Following their marriage, Ashwood Garvey began taking on bigger roles within the UNIA.
Black Star Line
Ashwood Garvey became the director of the Black Star Line Shipping Co., which was a cruise line that was created by Garvey with the intent to take Black individuals from all over the world back to the Motherland. Ashwood Garvey also founded a ladies auxiliary of the UNIA and planned an industrial school which assisted in establishing the UNIA’s newspaper ‘The Negro World.’
In October of 1919, attempted-assassin George Tyler opened fire on the UNIA offices in Harlem. Ashwood Garvey shielded her husband from Tyler’s bullets. Although she protected Garvey, the incident led to their divorce in 1922. From there, Ashwood left the UNIA and began lobbying for African independence, establishing many organizations along the way.
Ashwood co-founded the Nigerian Progress Union and the International African Service Bureau (IASB). She moved to London in 1935 and established the Florence Mills Nightclub, providing a safe place for Black intellectuals to meet. In 1945, she organized the fifth Pan-African Congress in Manchester, England.
Ashwood lived in West Africa from 1946 to 1949. She then returned to her native land of Jamaica where she remained until the end of her life. There, she continued fighting for the liberation of the entire African continent and for the rights of African women. Amy Ashwood died May 3, 1969. She was 72 years old.
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