Wednesday, July 4, 2007
Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr. (August 17, 1887–June 10, 1940), was a publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, Black nationalist, orator, black separatist, and founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL). Garvey was born in St. Ann's Bay, Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica to Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Sr., a mason, and Sarah Jane Richards, a domestic worker and farmer.
Marcus Garvey is best remembered as an important proponent of the Back-to-Africa movement, which encouraged those of African descent to return to their ancestral homelands. This movement would eventually inspire other movements, ranging from the Nation of Islam to the Rastafari movement, which proclaims Garvey to be a prophet. Garvey said he wanted those of African ancestry to "redeem" Africa and for the European colonial powers to leave it.
After corresponding with Booker T. Washington, Garvey arrived in the U.S. aboard the S.S. Tallac on March 23, 1916, for a lecture tour and to raise funds for establishment of a school in Jamaica modeled after Washington's Tuskegee Institute. Unfortunately, Washington had died in 1915 before Garvey reached the U.S., but he did visit Tuskegee and afterward, he visited a number of Black leaders. After moving to New York, Garvey found work as a printer by day, and at night he would speak on street corners. Garvey saw a leadership vacuum among people of African ancestry, and so on May 9, 1916, he held his first public lecture in New York City at St. Mark's Church Hall and undertook a 38-state speaking tour.
In May of 1917, Garvey and thirteen others formed the first UNIA division outside Jamaica and began advancing ideas promoting social, political, and economic freedom for Blacks. On July 2, the East St. Louis riots broke out. On July 8, Garvey delivered an address, entitled "The Conspiracy of the East St. Louis Riots," at Lafayette Hall in Harlem. During the speech he declared that the riot was "one of the bloodiest outrages against mankind."
Garvey next set about the business of developing a program to improve the conditions of those of African ancestry "at home and abroad" under UNIA auspices. On August 17, 1918, publication of the widely distributed Negro World newspaper began. Garvey worked for it as editor for free up until November 1920. By June of 1919 the membership of the organization had grown to over two million.
Convinced that Blacks should have a permanent homeland in Africa, Garvey sought to develop Liberia. "Our success educationally, industrially and politically is based upon the protection of a nation founded by ourselves. And the nation can be nowhere else but in Africa." The Liberia program, launched in 1920, was intended to build colleges, universities, industrial plants, and railroads as part of an industrial base from which to operate. However, it was abandoned in the mid-1920s after much opposition from European powers.
Garvey has been credited with creating the biggest movement of people of African descent. At its zenith, the UNIA claimed over a million members. This movement that took place in the 1920s is said to have had more participation from people of African descent than the Civil Rights Movement. The UNIA may have been the largest Pan-African movement ever.
Contemplating the deportation of Garvey from the United States, the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover in 1919 began an investigation of Garvey's activities. Garvey was later charged and convicted of mail fraud, imprisoned, and, in 1927, deported to Jamaica. Efforts continue to exonerate him on the criminal charges.