Marcus Garvey

Feb. 5, 2005, midnight | By Jonah Gold | 15 years, 7 months ago

Photo: Marcus Garvey, black leader famous for his views on re-colonizing Africa.

Marcus Garvey was one of the premier black leaders of the earlier twentieth century and became famous for his radicals views on the re-colonization of Africa. Garvey was born in a small town in Jamaica in 1887 but soon moved to a city on the island, Kingston. Before he turned 20, Garvey had started a printer's union strike and helped to set up a new independent newspaper in Jamaica. He soon became more ambitious and moved to England in 1912 to establish funds for a black rights group. Two years later, he established the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in New York City.

Garvey's group began to grow in popularity internationally soon after its conception. In 1920, when the association held its first convention in New York City, 25,000 came to hear Garvey outline his plans of building an African nation-state. The UNIA enticed more and more individuals with Garvey's radical ideas and within a short period, had 1,100 branches in 40 different countries. Garvey began to publish a newspaper called The Negro World and tried to open the Black Star Shipping Line to transport blacks back to their homeland. Garvey's plans were soon cut short for several reasons. Garvey was at first not able to attain any new land for colonization; he had hoped to attain territories lost by Germany in World War I, but his wishes were denied by the League of Nations. In addition, the association experienced financial betrayal from trusted leaders, a loss that severely depleted the already stretched reserves of the UNIA. Legal troubles soon haunted Garvey, too, as he was sentenced to five years in jail for fraud.

After being released, Garvey returned to Jamaica and tried to reform the politics in his home country but was defeated soundly at the polls. After the demoralizing results, Garvey moved to England where he died in 1944 with little recognition for the beliefs he had tried to spread.

Garvey was to many the first Black Nationalist and stressed the idea that blacks were equal to whites, and if they were not treated as such, they should leave. These ideas of equality were vital to the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. While Garvey did not have an immediate impact during his lifetime because he was unable to gain enough economic support for his revolutionary plans, he still had a large effect on the black psyche of the time and raised awareness of the world's oppression of minorities.

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