Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Marcus Garvey in Borough High Street

A friend told me recently that the great Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey (1887-1940) once lived in Borough High Street, which sent me scurrying to the library to find out more

According to Colin Grant's biography, 'Negro with a Hat: the rise and fall of Marcus Garvey' (2008), Garvey first came to London from Jamaica in the Spring of 1912 and rented a room at 176 Borough High Street. He immersed himself in London life, starting his public speaking career at Speakers Corner in Hyde Park, and studying in the British Library.  He got casual work on the docks, and then worked for a while for the African Times and Orient Review 'a monthly devoted to the interests of the coloured races of the world'. Garvey traveled round Europe from December 1913, using his sisters address in Stamford Hill (14 Durley Road) for correspondence, before returning briefly to London.

In May 1914, Garvey was staying at the Argosy Hotel, 71 Borough High Street, from where he wrote a letter to the Colonial Office seeking financial help with the cost of returning to Jamaica (the letter is included in 'The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers', published by the University of California Press, 1983) . He did not receive funding from them, but did return to Jamaica in June 1914.

Garvey lived in London again in the 1930s. In 1936, when Ethopian monarch Haile Selassie arrived in London following the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, Garvey and others went to meet him at Waterloo Station, though they were ignored - Garvey later denounced Selassie as a 'feudal monarch who looks down upon his slaves and serfs with contempt'. In 1940 he died in his home at 53 Talgarth Road, Hammersmith

I believe 176 Borough High Street was on the site of what later became Brandon House, the Overseas Visitor Records Office - a leftover of the colonial system which Garvey fought against. The Argosy Hotel at 71 Borough High Street seems to have been on the site of the Lloyds Bank building next to the George Inn.

Borough High Street 1908 - the rooms above the Argosy Restaurant at no.71
was presumably where Garvey stayed in May 1914

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There is also a blue plaque for Garvey in West London, on a tall house they have there on one of the roads leading towards Wales.