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Correcting 'facts' on Liberty Hall

Published:Wednesday | May 23, 2012 | 12:00 AM


The Gleaner has been carrying a number of feature articles about cultural sites and monuments which it obtained from the Jamaica National Heritage Trust.

On Sunday, April 8, there was an overall feature on the cultural life of the city of Kingston. Included was a description and history of Liberty Hall, which had a couple of errors which raised a number of questions. For example, I am not sure what the writer meant when he/she referred to Liberty Hall as a "meeting place for residents and visitors to Kingston".

Liberty Hall was the administrative office of the Kingston Division of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), the organisation founded by Marcus Garvey. It served different functions - as offices, a place where job seekers could go to find notices about employment, a venue for cultural activities, and as a place for political meetings. The article stated that in 1926, it became the headquarters of the UNIA. It is unclear whether the writer is referring to worldwide headquarters or the Jamaican headquarters.

Founded in Jamaica

The article stated that the UNIA was founded by Garvey, while he was living in America. This is not true. The UNIA was founded in Jamaica. I am surprised that someone, a Jamaican, writing for a government agency did not know that.

What is absolutely not true is that Liberty Hall was sold because of the collapse of UNIA businesses, including the Black Star Line! There is such a history surrounding the sale of Liberty Hall in 1929 - long after the Black Star Line had collapsed. Liberty Hall in Jamaica was sold when an officer of the UNIA parent body applied to the court in Jamaica to be given back payment. The court in Jamaica accepted his claim and ordered that Liberty Hall be sold in order to provide such funds.

What the article shows up is a defiency I have noticed in government agencies. There is not a strong culture of checking historical facts.


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