At one time during the first half of the twentieth century, Marcus Mosiah Garvey was the most famous black man on the planet. In August 1920, he masterminded the first International Convention of the Negro Peoples of the World: a month-long event which opened with thousands of supporters marching from their Harlem headquarters to Madison Square Garden. An inspiring orator, Garvey captivated audiences with his audacious 'Back to Africa' programme and his Universal Negro Improvement Association soon boasted over 1,100 branches in more than forty countries. A decade later, the great liberator was shackled between US marshals and on his way to serve a conviction for mail fraud at the Atlanta penitentiary. "Negro with a Hat" is the dramatic story of a man hailed as the 'black Moses'. Born in poverty in rural Jamaica, Garvey was a man of contradictions: a self-educated, poetry-writing aesthete and naked propagandist, an admirer of Lenin and an ascetic dandy. He was a champion of the Harlem Renaissance, publishing Claude McKay and Langston Hughes in his newspaper the "Negro World".
Above all, he was a shrewd promoter whose use of pageantry evoked a lost African civilisation and articulated the submerged thoughts of a despised but awakening people. Beneath the pomp and rhetoric was an incisive mind with an astonishing ability to electrify the imagination and to alarm the authorities. Early in his career, unknown to him, Garvey made enemies of two powerful men, British Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill and the director Bureau of Investigation, J. Edgar Hoover. British spies and Bureau informants continually monitored his movement. His bitter rival, W.E.B. Dubois, believed Garvey to be merely an outlandish 'negro with a hat', but to his admirers, there was God and there was Garvey. With masterful skill, wit and compassion, Colin Grant chronicles Garvey's extraordinary life, the failed business ventures, his misguided negotiations with the Ku Klux Klan, the two wives (both named Amy) and the premature obituaries that contributed to his lonely, tragic death. This is a fascinating cautionary tale; both timeless and universal in its appeal.
Colin Grant is the son of Jamaican parents who came to Britain in the late 1950s. He grew up in Luton and spent five years failing to study medicine at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel before turning to the stage. He has written and produced numerous plays including The Clinic, based on the lives of the photojournalists, Don McCullin and Tim Page. He joined the BBC in 1989 and worked as a script editor and producer of arts programmes on BBC World Service before joining the BBC radio Science Unit. He lives in Brighton.