Tribute to Miss Beverly Hamilton, Garveyite and Historian

Ms. Beverly Hamilton, who died on July 17, 2013, spent her life as a freelance journalist, civil servant and a Garvey scholar. She specialised in investigating the cultural initiatives of the Garvey movement in Jamaica in the 1930s and its impact on the island’s cultural development. No one else knew as much about this subject as she did. She wrote articles highlighting Garvey’s plays, the mass choirs, the sporting programmes at Edelweiss Park and the role of his Jamaican newspapers, the Blackman (1929-1931) and the New Jamaican (1932-1933). She is among a small group of people who have read these newspapers and others from the 1930s which are housed at the National Library of Jamaica.  Her last essay, which is due to be published in the next issue of Jamaica Journal, was on the young Ranny Williams’ artistic work in the Garvey movement. Hamilton’s knowledge was highly regarded and she has been consulted by many scholars but her main concern was with the dissemination of her research to the Jamaican people.

As a young woman in the 1960s Beverly Hamilton made it her duty to seek out and interview many elderly Garveyites who constituted the foot soldiers of the movement.  Among her informants were  Z. Munroe Scarlett who was President of the Whitfield division of the UNIA in the  1940s, Roy Carson who worked at Edelweiss Park,  and acted in Garvey’s plays,  Daisy Greenidge an actress at Edelweiss Park,  and manager of the Blackman printery; Vivian Durham, Garvey’s campaign manager for the KSAC elections in 1930. Durham, a close friend of Garvey, was a founding member of the BITU and JLP, and worked  as a secretary to Minister Isaac Barrant in Bustamante’s government.  Ms Hamilton  interviewed  Iris Lucille Patterson, contralto and elocutionist at Edelweiss Park. She knew Ruth Prescott Garvey’s niece, and  Garvey’s second wife, Amy Jacques Garvey.  Hamilton spent time with St. William Grant who was a Garveyite and one of the outstanding leaders of the 1938 labour revolt and with Stennet Kerr Coombs who had been one of the editors of the Jamaica Labour Weekly in 1938.

   Ms Hamilton was a close associate of Roderick Francis and his Pan-African secretariat and the independent trade union movement headquartered at 2 Wildman St. Kingston.  As a result of these connections she built up a valuable collection of reminiscences but tragically her archives were destroyed in a fire at her home in December 2011 and she never recovered from the impact of this event.

Ms. Hamilton was a member of the African Studies Association of the West Indies  at UWI in the 1960s and 1970s and she participated in the  conference marking the centenary of Garvey’s birth  and presented a paper entitled “Garvey and Cultural Development in Jamaica”.  She  later found the African Liberation Day Committee which organized an annual  public activity on May 25th, African Liberation Day. The ALDC held many discussions on the anti-apartheid struggle and liberation movements in Southern Africa. She gave talks on Africa in schools and in communities and engaged in many public discussions concerning Jamaica’s cultural heritage. She supported the programmes of the African-Caribbean Institute of Jamaica and Jamaica Memory Bank of the Institute of Jamaica and was a resource person.

She was an advocate for the teaching of Garvey’s work in schools and was a founding member of the Friends of Liberty Hall. She worked to make Liberty Hall, 76 King St, a fitting tribute to the legacy of the Garvey movement.

Professor Rupert Lewis, Chairman of the Friends of Liberty Hall