Marcus Mosiah Garvey - Influential Black Leaders
Marcus Garvey was a proponent of the Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism movements, inspiring the Nation of Islam and the Rastafarian movement.
Born in Jamaica, Marcus Garvey was an orator for the Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism movements, to which end he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League. Garvey advanced a Pan-African philosophy which inspired a global mass movement, known as Garveyism. Garveyism would eventually inspire others, from the Nation of Islam to the Rastafari movement.
Social activist Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr. was born on August 17, 1887, in St. Ann's Bay, Jamaica. Self-educated, Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association, dedicated to promoting African-Americans and resettlement in Africa. In the United States he launched several businesses to promote a separate black nation. After he was convicted of mail fraud and deported back to Jamaica, he continued his work for black repatriation to Africa.
Marcus Mosiah Garvey was the last of 11 children born to Marcus Garvey, Sr. and Sarah Jane Richards. His father was a stone mason, and his mother a domestic worker and farmer. Garvey, Sr. was a great influence on Marcus, who once described him as "severe, firm, determined, bold, and strong, refusing to yield even to superior forces if he believed he was right." His father was known to have a large library, where young Garvey learned to read.
At age 14, Marcus became a printer's apprentice. In 1903, he traveled to Kingston, Jamaica, and soon became involved in union activities. In 1907, he took part in an unsuccessful printer's strike and the experience kindled in him a passion for political activism. Three years later, he traveled throughout Central America working as a newspaper editor and writing about the exploitation of migrant workers in the plantations. He later traveled to London where he attended Birkbeck College (University of London) and worked for the African Times and Orient Review, which advocated Pan-African nationalism.
Founding the United Negro Improvement Association
Inspired by these experiences, Marcus Garvey returned to Jamaica in 1912 and founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (U.N.I.A.) with the goal of uniting all of African diaspora to "establish a country and absolute government of their own." After corresponding with Booker T. Washington, the American educator who founded Tuskegee Institute, Garvey traveled to the United States in 1916 to raise funds for a similar venture in Jamaica. He settled in New York City and formed a U.N.I.A. chapter in Harlem to promote a separatist philosophy of social, political, and economic freedom for blacks. In 1918, Garvey began publishing the widely distributed newspaper Negro World to convey his message.
By 1919, Marcus Garvey and U.N.I.A. had launched the Black Star Line, a shipping company that would establish trade and commerce between Africans in America, the Caribbean, South and Central America, Canada and Africa. At the same time, Garvey started the Negros Factories Association, a series of companies that would manufacture marketable commodities in every big industrial center in the Western hemisphere and Africa.
In August 1920, U.N.I.A. claimed 4 million members and held its first International Convention at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Before a crowd of 25,000 people from all over world, Marcus Garvey spoke of having pride in African history and culture. Many found his words inspiring, but not all. Some established black leaders found his separatist philosophy ill-conceived. W.E.B. Du Bois, a prominent black leader and officer of the N.A.A.C.P. called Garvey, "the most dangerous enemy of the Negro race in America." Garvey felt Du Bois was an agent of the white elite.
But W.E.B Du Bois wasn't the worst adversary of Garvey; history would soon reveal F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover's fixation on ruining Garvey for his radical ideas. Hoover felt threatened by the black leader, fearing he was inciting blacks across the country to stand up in militant defiance.
Hoover referred to Garvey as a "notorious negro agitator" and for several years, desperately sought ways to find damning personal information on him, even going so far as to hire the first black F.B.I. agent in 1919 in order to infiltrate Garvey's ranks and spy on him.
"They placed spies in the U.N.I.A.," said historian Winston James. "They sabotaged the Black Star Line. The engines... of the ships were actually damaged by foreign matter being thrown into the fuel."
Hoover would use the same methods decades later to obtain information on black leaders like MLK and Malcolm X.
Death and Legacy
Marcus Garvey died in London in 1940 after several strokes. Due to travel restrictions during World War II, his body was interred in London. In 1964, his remains were exhumed and taken to Jamaica, where the government proclaimed him Jamaica's first national hero and re-interred him at a shrine in the National Heroes Park. But his memory and influence remain. His message of pride and dignity inspired many in the early days of the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. In tribute to his many contributions, Garvey's bust has been displayed in the Organization of American States' Hall of Heroes in Washington, D.C. The country of Ghana has named its shipping line the Black Star Line and its national soccer team the Black Stars, in honor of Garvey.
25 Facts on Macus Mosiah Garvey
1. Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jnr was born on 17 August 1887 in St Ann's Bay, Jamaica. His parents were Malcus Mosiah Garvey Snr, a stone mason and Sarah Jane Richards, a domestic worker. The Garvey's had 11 children, nine of whom died in early childhood. Only Marcus Garvey and his eldest sister Indiana lived to adulthood.
2. Marcus Mosiah Garvey's first wife was Amy Ashwood Garvey (1897-1969).They married in New York in 1919 but divorced in 1922. Amy Ashwood was a very active Pan-Africanist, social worker and activist for women's rights.
3. Marcus Mosiah Garvey's second wife was Amy Jacques Garvey (1895-1973).They married in New York in 1922 after his divorce. She was his personal secretary. Amy Jacques played key organisational roles in the UNIA and was instrumental in teaching people about Marcus Garvey after he died. She and Garvey had 2 sons Marcus Garvey Jnr and Julius Winston Garvey.
4. Garvey came to England in 1912. Marcus Garvey worked at the offices of the African Times and Orient Review journal under the leadership of Duse Mohammed Ali, the famous Black nationalist and journalist. The African Times and Orient Review was the first political journal produced by and for Black people ever published in Britain. It was produced during 1912-1913 and 1917-1918 on a monthly basis and was printed in Fleet Street in London.
5. Marcus Garvey returned to Jamaica from England in July 1914. With the help of an associate Enos J. Sloly and about four others, he created the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League and launched it on 1st August 1914 which is Emancipation Day in British-ruled Caribbean.
6. The first UNIA division was formed in New York in May 1917. Within a month, the organisation had 2 million members all over the United States. By 1920, the U.N.I.A. had 1,100 chapters in 40 countries around the world such as UK, Cuba, Panama, Costa Rica, Ghana. By 1926, the membership of the U.N.I.A. had grown to over 11 million members. Marcus Garvey built the largest Black organization in history.
7. In 1918, nine years after the failure of his first newspaper, The Watchman, Garvey and the UNIA created the Negro World. It quickly grew from being a weekly into a worldwide phenomenon with a peak circulation of 200, 000. It featured reports from UNIA chapter, poetry, literary excerpts, a women's page and commentary on global events significant to Black people. It had sections in Spanish and French. Colonial authorities feared the Negro World and it was banned in many countries such as Belize, Trinidad, Guyana, Jamaica and several African countries.
8. Garvey and other Black activists were partly inspired by the Irish movement for independence from English rule and thus named the UNIA headquarters Liberty Hall after Liberty Hall in Dublin, Ireland which was the symbolic seat of the Irish Revolution. Located at 114 West 138th Street in New York City, the New York City Liberty Hall had a seating capacity of six thousand. It was dedicated on July 27, 1919. Garvey held nightly meetings at Liberty Hall that drew up to six thousand people at a time.
9. For the entire month of August 1920, Marcus Garvey's U.N.I.A.-ACL organization held its first international convention in New York City. Most events were held at the New York Liberty Hall. It's biggest events were held at New York City's world-famous Madison Square Garden. An estimated 25,000 Black people attended the convention from all around the world. Delegations from 25 African countries were in attendances as well.
10. The convention adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World which was one of the earliest and most complete document advocating human rights and detailing the abuses against Black people worldwide. The document made demands such as:a. The freedom of Africa for the Negro people of the world. The condemnation of the term ‘nigger' and stipulation that ‘Negro' be spelled with a capital N. No taxation without representation. Equal treatment before the law. The condemnation of segregation and lynching.
11. Marcus Garvey launched the UNIA's first major commercial venture, the Black Star Line Steamship Corporation in New York in 1919. The goals of the corporation were to establish an efficient mode of transportation, communication and trade among Black people worldwide and to enhance the stature, self-image and pride of these communities. The public invested in the corporation by purchasing stock shares at five dollars each.
12. The corporation purchased its first ship the SS Yarmouth in September 1919. It was later unofficially renamed the SS Frederick Douglass after the African American abolitionist. The Yarmouth proceeded to sail for three years between the U.S. and the West Indies as the first Black Star Line ship with an all-black crew and a black captain.
13. In 1920, Garvey established the Negro Factories Corporation and offered stock for African Americans to buy. He raised one million dollars for the project. He wanted to produce everything that a nation needed so that African Americans could completely rely on their own efforts. It generated income and provided jobs by its numerous enterprises, including a chain of grocery stores and restaurants, steam laundry, tailor shop, dress making shop, millinery store (clothing, fashion, hats, accessories, etc.), publishing house and doll factory.
14. In New York City alone, Garvey owned several buildings, owned a fleet of trucks and had over 1,000 Black people working in his businesses. Marcus Garvey's U.N.I.A. also operated the Phyllis Wheatley Hotel (3-13 West 136th Street, New York, NY).
15. Garvey's ultimate dream was for the independence of all African Countries and the creation of a United States of Africa. The UNIA embarked on a plan to repatriate some Blacks from the United States and other parts of the African Diaspora back to Africa. Liberia, a country established in 1822 by the American Colonisation Society was the intended geographical base of the UNIA's African colonisation venture.
16. Garvey had enemies, including J. Edgar Hoover, and, ironically, W.E.B. Du Bois. Du Bois was an integrationist who did not support a separate Black state and repatriation. Du Bois was also opposed to Garvey's association with the Ku Klux Klan, his criticism of "mulatto" leadership, and his belief in Black racial purity. DuBois along with other NAACP members organised the ‘Garvey Must Go' campaign and collude with the US government to have him deported.
17. The FBI established a special counter-intelligence program called COINTELPRO, to neutralize political dissidents. Between the years 1956 and 1971, the FBI used the COINTELPRO program to investigate "radical" national political groups for intelligence that would lead to involvement of foreign enemies with these groups. According to FBI documents, one of the purposes of the COINTELPRO program was to "expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize the activities of the Black nationalists". They wanted to prevent the rise of a Black "messiah"
18. In 1919, Hoover hired the FBI's first Black agent in order to infiltrate the UNIA. The agent James Wormley Jones was referred to as code number 800. One of Garvey close confidantes Herbert Boulin was a spy for the FBI known as agent P-138.
19. In 1923, when his steamship company went bankrupt, Garvey was convicted of mail fraud by using the United States mail to fraudulently collect money for investment in a ship that was never acquired. He went to jail for two years. His sentence was commuted by President Coolidge before Garvey was deported to Jamaica.
20. Garvey arrived in Kingston Jamaica on 10 December 1927. During this period, Garvey became a father when Amy Jacques Garvey gave birth to two sons.
21. In 1928, Garvey created the People's Political Party (PPP) which was Jamaica first modern political party and the first to defend the interests of the Black majority. The party's manifesto called for official representation in the British Parliament, a minimum wage, land reform, a Jamaican university, judicial reform, a government-run electrical system, public high schools and libraries and a National Opera House.
22. In an effort to rebuild the international influence of the UNIA, Marcus Garvey moved to London in March 1935. In London, Garvey continued to speak extensively, appearing frequently at Speaker's Corner Hyde Park.
23. Garvey had a stroke in January 1940 which left him partially paralyzed. In May 1940, George Padmore wrote an article stating that Garvey had died which upset Garvey and he suffered a second fatal stroke or heart attack.
24. Garvey died on 10 June 1940 in London at age 53 without having set foot in Africa.
25. Marcus Garvey has inspired every major black movement of the 20th century, both in Africa and the Americas. Followers of Garvey's ideology include Hon Elijah Muhammad , Minister Louis Farrakhan, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. Also leaders of African Independent states such as Presidents Nnamdi Azikiwe, Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, Nelson Mandela, Patrice Lumumba and Julius Nyerere.
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