The first person of African descent to galvanize black people throughout the world with the idea of returning to Africa, Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), which sought to deliver African Americans from injustice, encourage racial self-improvement, and promote a back-to-Africa movement. He also started the Black Star Line shipping company to help promote black economic independence and to provide transportation back to Africa.
Born in the British Caribbean colony of Jamaica in 1887, Marcus Garvey was the son of sharecroppers. At the age of fourteen, he moved to Jamaica’s capital city, Kingston, where he became a printer. There he learned the journalism trade, which would later enable him to set up newspapers that he would use to organize and address workers who were victims of racial injustice. He traveled throughout Central America, South America, and Europe and witnessed the living conditions of people of African descent around the world. Eventually, he returned home to Jamaica and started the UNIA, a racial uplift organization for all peoples of African descent.
Disappointed by the lack of support from the black community in Jamaica but determined to continue this path of liberating his people from oppression and inequality, he went to the United States, hoping to gain some financial support from the African American educator
As Garvey traveled throughout the United States, he witnessed the living conditions of African Americans and spoke and met with African American leaders. The economic disaster of World War I, racial discrimination, lynching, and the injustices faced by African Americans opened the door to a leader willing to speak up and support racial pride and economic independence. Over the next half dozen years, Garvey built the largest mass movement of black people in the world, finding his strongest support in the Caribbean, Central America, and the United States. However, his Black Star Line fell short of success as a result of negligence and the need for financial resources. In 1922,
Garvey was very influential at a time when there was a need for leadership for descendants of Africans. He was effective because he sought to improve the self-esteem and condition of black people all over the world. His published speeches and letters address issues of injustice and offer suggestions for the elevation of self-esteem based on racial pride and economic independence.
Cronon, Edmund David. The Black Moses: The Story of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969. Garvey, Marcus. Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey. Edited by Bob Blaisdell. New York: Dover, 2004. Grant, Colin. Negro with a Hat: The Rise and Fall of Marcus Garvey. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. Hill, Robert A., ed. The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers. 9 vols. Berkeley: University of Californa Press, 1983-1996.
African Americans and immigrants
Universal Negro Improvement Association
West Indian immigrants