Marcus Garvey

"We declare to the world that Africa must be free, that the Negro race must be emancipated (p. 137 Altman, Susan. Extraordinary Black Americans.)" are the famous words delivered by Marcus Mosiah Garvey. Born a West Indian, he later became a powerful revolutionary who led the nation into the Civil Rights Movement. Garvey dedicated his life to the "uplifting" of the Negro and to millions of Black people everywhere, he represented dignity and self-respect. Like Malcolm X of a later generation, he believed that Negroes could never achieve equality unless they became independent-founding their own nations and governments, businesses and industrial enterprises, and their own military establishments which are the same institutions by which other peoples of the world have risen to power.
Marcus Gravey was the eleventh child of Marcus and Sarah Gravey. He was born in 1887 in St. Ann?s Bay, a rural town on the north coast of Jamaica in the British West Indies. Garvey learnd at a young age about the differences between the races. Being one of the few Blacks on the island, Garvey often played with the children of his white neighbors. The little girl who lived next to the Garvey?s home informed Marcus that she was being sent away to school in Scotland and that she was instructed by her parents "never to write or try to get in touch with me, for I was a ?nigger.?" Although he was a good student, financial problems forced him to leave school at fourteen and become an apprentice. After helping organize a strike, Gravey was fired from his job. Garvey?s mind was clearly on politics and the need for organization rather than on his vocation.
In 1910 Garvey helped to found a political organization named the Nation Club. He created the Watchman, the first of his many newspapers. The failure of both ventures made evident the need for money to fun his political activities and Garvey joined the stream of West Indian workers migrating to Central and South America in search of better opportunities. He worked briefly on a banana plantation in Costa Rica and for a newspaper in Panama and then went to London, England. While there, he worked for an Egyptian scholar, and learned much of the history of Africa, particularly with reference to the exploitation of black peoples by colonial powers. After reading "Up From Slavery," by Booker T. Washington, Marcus Gravey asked himself, "Where is the Black man?s Government? (p. 107 Franklin, John H. Black Leaders of the Twentieth Century)" He could not find them and declared he would help them.
Marcus Garvey returned to Jamaica in 1914 after finding no success in England. He founded the organization to which he was to devote his life, the Universal Negro Improvement and Conservation Association and African Communities League (UNIA), with the intention of making Africa "the defender of Negroes the world over. (p.110 Black Leaders of the Twentieth Century")
Intending to open a school in Jamaica similar to the one organized by Booker T. Washington in the United States, he accepted an invitation to visit Washington?s school at Tuskegee, Alabama. When he arrived in the United States, however, he found that Booker T. Washington had died. Throughout the following years, Garvey toured the United States, speaking about the UNIA and the promise of a glorious Black future in Africa. It was a message that attracted thousands of followers. In a matter of months, he had founded over 30 branches of the UNIA
Marcus Garvey did more than talk. In 1918 he began publishing the Negro World, which soon became one of the most popular Black newspaper in the United States. He established the Black Star Line Steamship Company, the Negro Factories Corporation, the Black Cross Nurses, the African Legion, and the Black Eagle Flying Corps. Within two years, he raised more than ten million dollars. He formulated what he called the "Back to Africa" program for the resettlement of the Negro in his ancestral homeland.
In August 1920, Garvey staged a month-long convention in Harlem, New York, featuring band, receptions, rallies, and parades. They presented a policy statement on the "Back to Africa" program, and proclaimed a formal "Declaration of Rights" for Negroes all over the world. Thousands attended from twenty-five countries and all forty-eight states. Before it ended, the delegates voted to create an African government with Marcus Garvey at its head and