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Marcus Garvey: a symbol for black nationalism

07.10.08 | Emblog | In historic

My first kid’s father named my son Marcus after legendary Marcus Garvey. Which made me curious to know more about who Marcus Garvey actually was…

“Up You Mighty Race, Accomplish What You Will…” (Marcus Garvey)

The following text is dedicated to my eldest son Marcus.

Marcus Mosiah Garvey was born on August the 17, 1887, in St Ann’s Bay, Jamaica as the youngest of 11 children.

Marcus Garvey was known as a journalist, entrepreneur, publisher and a crusader for black nationalism. During his whole life, he has fought for racial equality.

Childhood years

In St Ann’s Bay, young Marcus attended grammar school. Alfred Burrowes, his godfather, also gave him some private instruction. Alfred Burrowes hired Marcus at the age of 14 as an apprentice in order to learn the printing trade.

Garvey’s father, who was the owner of a private library, encouraged young Marcus’ love for books.

During his apprentice period, Marcus used to discuss politics and social affairs at his uncle’s place.

In 1906, Garvey moved from St Ann to Kingston.

In 1908, Marcus Garvey participated in Jamaica’s first Printers’ Union strike. The strike was unsuccessful and as a consequence, Marcus Garvey lost his job.

Luckily, he was employed by the Government Printing Office.

Visiting the world

Around 1910, Marcus Garvey left Jamaica for Costa Rica. There, he worked as a time keeper at a panana plantation. Then he went to Central America, visited the Panama Central Zone. He observed Blacks and Indians hard working conditions. He also traveled to Equador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Columbia and Venezuela.

Very sensitive about discrimination and racial prejudice, Marcus Garvey always had the will to make things change. That’s why he appealed to his government in order to improve West Indians working conditions. But the government just wouldn’t listen to his complaint.

Garvey, the publisher

Marcus Garvey’s first publications started during his Central American travels.

In 1910, Garvey started his first newspaper, The Watcher, that was followed by several other short lived newspapers

He was also associated with several publications:

- The African Times and Orient Review, The Daily Negro Times, Harlem, 1922-1924

-The Blackman, Kingston, Jamaica, 1929-1931

-The New Jamaican, Kingston, 1932-33

Marcus Garvey started The Black Man Magazine in 1933 in Kingston. His magazine was continued in England until 1939.

Black militantism: the creation of the UNIA-ACL

Marcus Garvey was very conscious that improving black folks conditions was a long term work. It had better chances to work if Africans united. That’s why he created the the Universal Negro Improvement and Conservation Association and African Communities League (UNIA). As the President of the UNIA, he defined its goal to unite « all the people of African ancestry of the world into one great body to establish a country and Government absolutely their own. » very precisely. The UNIA’s flag is red, black and green.

In 1916, Marcus Garvey went to the USA and gave a lecture tour.

In 1920, Garvey set up branches of the UNIA in more than 40 countries.

Garvey’s ideas

Marcus Garvey fought for social, political and economic freedom for Black people.

He founded several companies like Black Star Line and Black Cross Navigation and Trading Company.

He also created the Negro Factories Corporation, which helped to created more marketable black businesses. Garvey was commercially very active: he started chains of groceries and restaurants and many other kind of businesses.

“Africa for the Africans…At Home and Abroad!”

Marcus Garvey wanted Blacks to consider Africa as their permanent homeland:

« I have no desire to take all black people back to Africa, there are blacks who are no good here and will likewise be no good there. 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 ».

In 1920, he worked on the ambitious project to develop African state Liberia by building colleges and industries , but he had to stop it, because of many European countries’ political and economic interest in Liberia.

Mail fraud charges

Marcus Garvey was confronted by mail fraud charges in 1925 and sentenced to jail in 1925. He was jailed at Atlanta Federal prison. After his release in 1927, he was deported from New Orleans to Kingston, Jamaica, where a huge crowd welcomed him.

Defending Blacks till his death

Marcus Garvey has never stopped fighting for the cause he found right.

In 1928, he went to Geneva. He presented the “Petition of the Negro Race” to the League of Nations, which was strongly against black people’s abuse around the world.

In 1929, he founded the PPP (People’s Political Party), which became Jamaica’s first political party. This political party was all about helping poor people, education and workers’ rights.

In 1929, Garvey was elected Councillor for the Allman Town division of the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC).

He was reelected in 1930.

In 1931, Marcus Garvey created Edelweiss Amusement Company, a company that was supposed to help artists to make a living out of their work and to give them an opportunity to get known better- at least locally.

In 1935, Marcus Garvey moved to London. He kept being involved in his activism till his death. Garvey died in London in 1940. He is considered as Jamaica’s first national hero.

It is a known fact that Marcus Garvey was nicknamed « Black Moses »…

Don’t search so many saints in the Holy Bible when you have a pretty good example in real life.

Copyright©2005 by Isabelle Esling

All Rights Reserved

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