Long before Bob Marley wrote of redemption, there was Marcus Garvey. 

For some, Marcus Garvey is a controversial figure, but in Jamaica he is one of the country’s most important national heroes; monuments in his honour can be found all over the island. He played a major role in the country’s early independence efforts and is considered to be a founding voice of the Black Nationalist / Pan Africanist movements and a Rastafarian prophet.

In honour of his birthday (today, August 17), there is a renewed push for a posthumous presidential pardon for Garvey’s conviction of mail fraud. In today’s racial climate, Garvey’s legacy resonates strongly with many. It is incredible to imagine what might have been if he had been able to continue his civil rights efforts in the United States…

Did you know that Garvey has a nice Canadian connection too? In 1938, he traveled to Sydney, Nova Scotia and delivered a speech eventually made even more famous by Bob Marley, “We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind.” It is no wonder he was a source of inspiration for many black rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Nelson Mandela.