MARCUS GARVEY

MARCUS GARVEY

1887-1940

Marcus Garvey was considered a bril¬ liant black nationalist by many — and a dangerous enemy by W.E.B. Du Bois (see no. 32) and other African-American intel¬ lectuals. He was bom the youngest of 11 children in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica, where he quit school early and became a printer’s apprentice.

In 1907, he lost his job after helping to organize a company strike. First, he moved to Costa Rica, where he worked on a banana plantation. He then went to Panama, where he worked for a newspaper, and to London, where he met Duse Mohammed Ali and other Africans organiz¬ ing for independence.

He read the inspira¬ tional works of men like Booker T. Wash¬ ington (see no. 24) and embraced the idea that he was bom to lead the black race out of degradation and poverty.He returned to Jamaica in 1914 and founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association & African Communities League (UNIA).

With the desire to make the UNIA an African association that could protect blacks all over the world, Garvey built a school on the model of Washington’s Tuskegee Institute. Though it was unsuc¬ cessful, the attempt gained Garvey an invi¬ tation to visit the original university.

Coming to America in 1915, four months after Washington’s death, Garvey met with civil rights leaders of the day while recruit¬ ing members for the UNIA. Though he dis¬ agreed hotly with the intellectual community headed by Du Bois, Garvey stmck a chord with the rest of the American public.By 1919, Garvey had opened branches of the UNIA in 30 cities, and had enticed over two million members.

He had begun to pub¬ lish The Negro World, which went out weekly to the West Indies, Latin America, Africa and the US/He had raised money to support the concept of an African nation led by the purest African men, and had founded the Black Star Line, a three-ship company with only African-American stockholders^ The Black Star Line was not only a financial venture, but a way to bring African Ameri¬ cans back to “the African Motherland.”

Garvey’s popularity continued to soar as he opened the Negro Factories Corporation, which gave financial and technical assis¬ tance to small businesses, and in August 1920 held a month-long convention/festival in Harlem called the First International Convention of the Negro Peoples of the World/ The delegates of the convention were so enthused that they voted to build a free republic of Africa. Garvey was to be its leader.

Before he could realize his ideal, Gar¬ vey’s Black Star Line went bankrupt and he himself was tried for mail fraud. Convicted, Garvey went to jail in 1925, serving two years before US President Calvin Coolidge ordered him deported to Jamaica.Garvey went to London in 1935, and lived there until a stroke took his life in 1940.