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Marcus Garvey: A Man who Built a Nation

A Brief Look at Marcus Garvey’s Life and Times

Many times, while listening to Reggae songs, you may recurrently hear the name Marcus Garvey. This is because, in the Rastafari movement, Garvey is regarded as a prophet. According to the adherents to Rastafarianism, all the prophecies of Garvey have achieved fulfilment. My firm belief is that all black people must give some honor to this great man. Let’s meet him in the following article and try to say a bit about his life and thoughts.

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Marcus Garvey was a pioneer of Black Nationalism and The Pan Africanism Movement, to which end, he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and the African Communities League. Garvey advanced a Pan African philosophy which inspired a global mass Movement known as Garveyism. Garveyism would eventually inspire others, from the Nation of Islam to the Rastafari Movement.

Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jr. was born on August 17, 1887 in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica. Self-educated, Garvey founded the UNIA, dedicated to promoting the resettlement of African-Americans in Africa. In the USA, he launched several businesses to promote a separate Black Nation.

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Garvey was the last of 11 children born to Marcus Garvey Sr. and Sarah Jane Richards. His father was a stonemason and his mother, a domestic worker and farmer. Marcus Sr. was a great influence on Garvey who once described him as ” severe, firm, determined, bold and strong, refusing to yield even to superior forces if he believed he was right.” His father was known to have a large library, where young Garvey first learned to read.

At age 14, Garvey became a printer’s apprentice. In 1903, he traveled to Kingston, Jamaica and soon became involved in Union activities. 3 years later, he traveled throughout Central America, working as a newspaper editor and writing about the exploitation of migrant workers on the plantations.

He later traveled to London, where he attended Birkbeck College (University of London) and worked for the “African Times” and “Orient Review.” These publications both advocated Pan African Nationalism. Garvey’s daily struggles were motivated by a need to improvement of Black people’s living conditions.

So, in 1912,he returned to Jamaica and founded the UNIA aiming at uniting the entire African Diaspora to establish a country and absolute government of their own. In 1916, he traveled to the USA to raise funds for his numerous projects. He settled in NYC and formed a UNIA chapter in Harlem. Garvey began publishing the widely distributed newspaper “Negro World’ to convey his message.

Garvey’s determination and sense of affairs afforded him a great deal of success in many different areas of business. By 1919, Garvey and The UNIA had launched the Black Star Line, a shipping company that would establish trade and commerce between Africans in America, the Caribbean, South and Central America, Canada and Africa.

He also started the “Negro Factories Association, a series of companies that would manufacture marketable commodities in every big industrial center in the Western Hemisphere and Africa. In August 1920, The UNIA claimed 4 Million members and held its first International Convention at Madison Square Garden in NYC.

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Before a crowd of 25,000 people, Garvey said how much he was proud of African History and Culture. Garvey’s growing popularity was viewed as a threat by the director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, who even hired the first black FBI agent in 1919 to infiltrate Garvey’s ranks and spy on him. In 1922, Garvey was charged with “mail fraud” involving the Black Star Line. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison. He was released from prison and deported to Jamaica in 1927.

Later, Garvey traveled to London, where he died in 1940, as a result of several strokes. His body was interred in London, due to Travel restrictions during WWII. But in 1964, his remains were exhumed and taken back to Jamaica. Garvey’s philosophy and thoughts inspired and are still inspiring many black movements. He paved the way for the Civil Rights Movements in the 1950s and the 1960s. In tribute to his many contributions, the country of Ghana has named its Shipping Line Black Star Line and its National Soccer Team, the “Black Stars’, both in honor of Marcus Garvey.

Sources : – Marcus Garvey : Civil Rights activist ( – Hill, RA ” Marcus Garvey, The Negro Moses : N Y Public Library -Friedman, J. (2018) “From Jamaica’s Marcus Garvey Came an African vision of Freedom. – Wikipedia

Article by Kofaye from Dakar, Senegal

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