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Marcus Garvey
Marcus Garvey sitting at a desk, taken August 5, 1924.
Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr.

(1887-08-17)August 17, 1887
St. Ann's Bay, Jamaica
DiedJune 10, 1940(1940-06-10) (aged 52)
Cause of deathStroke
OrganizationUniversal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities (Imperial) League (UNIA-ACL)
Spouse(s)Amy Ashwood (1919–1922)
Amy Jacques (1922–1940)
ChildrenMarcus III, Julius

Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr., ONH (17 August 1887 – 10 June 1940)[1] was a Afrikan revolutionary, publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, and orator who was a staunch proponent of the Black nationalism and Pan-Africanism movements. He founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL).[2] He founded the Black Star Line, part of the Back-to-Africa movement, which promoted the return of the Afrikan diaspora to their ancestral lands.

Prior to the twentieth century, leaders such as Prince Hall, Martin Delany, Edward Wilmot Blyden, and Henry Highland Garnet advocated the involvement of the African diaspora in African affairs. Garvey was unique in advancing a Pan-African philosophy to inspire a global mass movement and economic empowerment focusing on Africa known as Garveyism.[2] Promoted by the UNIA as a movement of African Redemption, Garveyism would eventually inspire others, ranging from the Nation of Islam to the Rastafari movement (which proclaims Garvey as a prophet). The intent of the movement was for those of African ancestry to "redeem" Africa and for the European colonial powers to leave it. His essential ideas about Africa were stated in an editorial in the Negro World titled "African Fundamentalism" where he wrote:

"Our union must know no clime, boundary, or nationality… to let us hold together under all climes and in every country…"[3]

Early years

Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr. was born in St. Ann's Bay, Jamaica to Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Sr., a mason, and Sarah Jane Richards, a domestic worker. Of eleven siblings, only Marcus and his sister Indiana survived until maturity.[4] Garvey's father was known to have a large library, and it was from his father that Marcus gained his love for reading. He also attended the elementary schools in St. Ann's Bay during his youth.[2][5] In the early 1900's, Garvey entered into an apprenticeship with his uncle, Alfred Burrowes, who also had an extensive library, of which young Marcus made good use.[6][7]

In 1910 Garvey left Jamaica and began traveling throughout the Central American region. He lived in Costa Rica for several months, where he worked as a time-keeper on a banana plantation. He began work as editor for a daily newspaper titled La Nacionale in 1911. Later that year, he moved to Colón, Panama, where he edited a biweekly newspaper before returning to Jamaica in 1912. After years of working in the Caribbean, Garvey left Jamaica to live in London from 1912 to 1914, where he attended Birkbeck College taking classes in Law and Philosophy, worked for the African Times and Orient Review, published by Dusé Mohamed Ali, and sometimes spoke at Hyde Park's Speakers' Corner. Garvey's philosophy was influenced by Booker T. Washington, Martin Delany, and Henry McNeal Turner.[8] It is said that Dusé Mohamed Ali influence shaped Garvey's speeches, and led him to organize the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in Jamaica in 1914 (Vincent, 1971). It has been suggested that the UNIA motto, "One God, One Aim, One Destiny", originated from Dusé Ali's Islamic influence on Garvey (Rashid, 2002).[9][10] Garvey named the organization the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities (Imperial) League.[11]

After corresponding with Booker T. Washington, Garvey arrived in the U.S. on 23 March 1916 aboard the S.S. Tallac to give a lecture tour and to raise funds to establish a school in Jamaica modeled after Washington's Tuskegee Institute. Garvey visited Tuskegee, and afterward, visited with a number of black leaders. After moving to New York, he found work as a printer by day. He was influenced by Hubert Harrison[12]. At night he would speak on street corners, much like he did in London's Hyde Park. It was then that Garvey perceived a leadership vacuum among people of African ancestry. On 9 May 1916, he held his first public lecture in New York City at St Mark's Church in-the-Bowery and undertook a 38-state speaking tour. In May 1917, Garvey and thirteen others formed the first UNIA division outside Jamaica and began advancing ideas to promote social, political, and economic freedom for Afrikans. On 2 July, the East St. Louis riots broke out. On 8 July, Garvey delivered an address, titled "The Conspiracy of the East St. Louis Riots", at Lafayette Hall in Harlem. During the speech, he declared the riot was "one of the bloodiest outrages against mankind". By October, rancor within the UNIA had begun to set in. A split occurred in the Harlem division, with Garvey enlisted to become its leader; although he technically held the same position in Jamaica.

Garvey next set about the business of developing a program to improve the conditions of those of African ancestry "at home and abroad" under UNIA auspices. On 17 August 1918, publication of the widely distributed Negro World newspaper began. Garvey worked as an editor without pay until November 1920. By June 1919 the membership of the organization had grown to over two million. On 27 June 1919, the Black Star Line of Delaware was incorporated by the members of the UNIA, with Garvey as President. By September, it obtained its first ship. Much fanfare surrounded the inspection of the S.S. Yarmouth and its rechristening as the S.S. Frederick Douglass on 14 September 1919. Such a rapid accomplishment garnered attention from many.

Edwin P. Kilroe, Assistant District Attorney in the District Attorney's office of the County of New York, began an investigation into the activities of the UNIA, but apparently didn't find any evidence of wrongdoing or mismanagement. After being called to Kilroe's office numerous times, Garvey wrote an editorial on Kilroe's activities for the Negro World. Garvey was arrested and indicted for criminal libel in relation to the article, but charges were dismissed after Garvey published a retraction. While in his Harlem office at 56 West 156th Street on 14 October 1919, Garvey received a visit from George Tyler, who told him that Kilroe "had sent him" to get Garvey. Tyler then pulled a .38-caliber revolver and fired four shots, wounding Garvey in the right leg and scalp. Garvey was taken to the hospital and Tyler arrested. The next day, it was let out that Tyler had committed suicide by leaping from the third tier of the Harlem jail as he was being taken to his arraignment. By August 1920, the UNIA claimed four million members. That month, the International Convention of the UNIA was held. With delegates from all over the world in attendance, over 25,000 people filled Madison Square Garden on 1 August 1920 to hear Garvey speak.

Another of Garvey's ventures was the Negro Factories Corporation. His plan called for creating the infrastructure to manufacture every marketable commodity in every big U.S. industrial center, as well as in Central America, the West Indies, and Africa. Related endeavors included a grocery chain, restaurant, publishing house, and other businesses.

Convinced that blacks should have a permanent homeland in Africa, Garvey sought to develop Liberia. The Liberia program, launched in 1920, was intended to build colleges, universities, industrial plants, and railroads as part of an industrial base from which to operate. An area of around 500,000 square miles, on the banks of the Cavalla River in southern Liberia was selected as the site of the first Garveyite immigrant settlement[13]

Personal life

Marcus Garvey was married twice: to Jamaican Pan-African activist Amy Ashwood (married 1919, divorced 1922), who worked with him in the early years of UNIA; then to the Jamaican journalist and publisher Amy Jacques (married 1922). The latter was mother to his two sons, Marcus III (born 17 September 1930) and Julius.


The UNIA flag uses three colors: red, black and green.

Schools, colleges, highways, and buildings in Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, and the United States have been named in his honor. The UNIA red, black, and green flag has been adopted as the Black Liberation Flag. Since 1980, Garvey's bust has been housed in the Organization of American States' Hall of Heroes in Washington, D.C.

Malcolm X's parents, Earl and Louise Little, met at a UNIA convention in Montreal. Earl was the president of the UNIA division in Omaha, Nebraska and sold the Negro World newspaper, for which Louise covered UNIA activities.[14]

Kwame Nkrumah named the national shipping line of Ghana the Black Star Line in honor of Garvey and the UNIA. Nkrumah also named the national soccer team the Black Stars as well. The black star at the center of Ghana's flag is also inspired by the Black Star.[citation needed]

Flag of Ghana

During a trip to Jamaica, Martin Luther King and his wife Coretta Scott King visited the shrine of Marcus Garvey on 20 June 1965 and laid a wreath.[15] In a speech he told the audience that Garvey "was the first man of color to lead and develop a mass movement. He was the first man on a mass scale and level to give millions of Negroes a sense of dignity and destiny. And make the Negro feel he was somebody."[16]

Dr. King was a posthumous recipient of the first Marcus Garvey Prize for Human Rights on 10 December 1968 issued by the Jamaican Government and presented to King's widow. In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Marcus Garvey on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.[17]

The Obama Administration declined to pardon Garvey in 2011, writing that its policy is not to consider requests for posthumous pardons.[18]

Rastafari and Garvey

Rastafari movement
Flag of Ethiopia (1897-1936; 1941-1974).svg

Main doctrines
Jah · Afrocentrism · Ital · Zion · Cannabis use
Central figures
Haile Selassie I · Jesus · Itege Menen · Marcus Garvey
Key scriptures
Bible · Kebra Nagast · The Promise Key · Holy Piby · My Life and Ethiopia's Progress · Royal Parchment Scroll of Black Supremacy
Branches and festivals
Mansions · in United States · Shashamane · Grounation Day · Reasoning
Notable individuals
Leonard Howell · Joseph Hibbert · Mortimer Planno · Vernon Carrington · Charles Edwards · Bob Marley · Midnite · Mutabaruka
See also:
Vocabulary · Persecution · Dreadlocks · Reggae · Ethiopian Christianity · Index of Rastafari articles

Rastafarians consider Garvey a religious prophet, and sometimes even the reincarnation of Saint John the Baptist. This is partly because of his frequent statements uttered in speeches throughout the 1920s, usually along the lines of "Look to Africa, when a black king shall be crowned for the day of deliverance is at hand!"[19]

His beliefs deeply influenced the Rastafari, who took his statements as a prophecy of the crowning of Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia. Early Rastas were associated with his Back-to-Africa movement in Jamaica. This early Rastafari movement was also influenced by a separate, proto-Rasta movement known as the Afro-Athlican Church that was outlined in a religious text known as the Holy Piby — where Garvey was proclaimed to be a prophet as well. Garvey himself never identified with the Rastafari movement,[20] and was, in fact, raised as a Methodist who went on to become a Roman Catholic.[citation needed]


There are a number of memorials worldwide which honor Marcus Garvey. Most of them are in Jamaica, England and the United States; others are in Canada and several nations in Africa.

A Jamaican 20 dollar coin shows Garvey on its face.
Mosiah Garvey with his trusted court - a council of Presidents of the most powerful UNIA divisions in the USA aboard the Samarca right before his deportation December 2, 1927.
  • A marker in front of the house of his birth at 32 Market Street, St. Ann's Bay, Jamaica.[21]
  • A major street in his name in Nairobi, Kenya.
  • Likeness on the Jamaican 50 cent note, 50 cent coin, 20 dollar coin and 25 cent coin.
  • A building in his name housing the Jamaican Ministry of Foreign Affairs located in New Kingston.
  • A Marcus Garvey statue at National Heroes Park in Kingston, Jamaica.
  • A major highway in his name in Kingston.
  • A street named after him in Enugu, Nigeria.
  • Marcus Garvey Way in Brixton, London
  • A neighborhood bearing his name in the township of Khayelitsha, Cape Town, South Africa.
  • A Marcus Garvey Library inside the Tottenham Green Leisure Centre building in North London
  • A major street in his name in the historically African American Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York.
  • Park in his name and a New York Public Library branch dedicated to him in New York City's Harlem.
  • Blue plaque at 53 Talgarth Road, Hammersmith, London

    GARVEY, Marcus (1887-1940) Pan-Africanist Leader, lived and died here, 53 Talgarth Road, W14. [Hammersmith and Fulham 2005]

  • A bust was created and is on display at a park in the central region in Ghana, along with one of Dr. Martin Luther King.
  • Marcus Garvey statue in Willesden Green Library, Brent, London.
  • A Marcus Garvey Cultural Center, University of Northern Colorado (Greeley, Colorado).
  • Marcus Garvey Centre for Unity, Edmonton, Alberta.
  • Marcus Garvey Centre for Leadership and Education in the Jane-Finch area of Toronto.
  • Marcus Garvey Centre in Lenton, Nottingham, England.
  • A library named after him in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, Nigeria.
  • A Marcus Garvey Library inside the Tottenham Green Leisure Centre building in North London.
  • Mentioned in the song "So Much Things To Say" off of Bob Marley's Exodus album: Time magazine's best album of the 20th century.

    "I'll never forget, no way. They sold Marcus Garvey for rights."

  • The album Marcus Garvey and Garvey's Ghost (a dub version of the "Marcus Garvey" album by reggae legend Burning Spear.
  • Reggae band The Gladiators recorded the song "Marcus Garvey Time", proclaiming him as a prophet with lyrics like, "Every thing he has said has come to pass".
  • Deejay/Producer Mikey Dread acknowledges him as an inspiration and calls him a national hero on the 1982 track "In Memory (Jacob, Marcus & Marley)".
  • Song by Reggae artist Anthony B titled "Honour to Marcus".
  • Boston indie band Piebald wrote a song, "If Marcus Garvey Dies, Then Marcus Garvey Lives", for their 1999 release "If It Weren't For Venetian Blinds, It Would Be Curtains for us All"
  • Ska band Hepcat recorded the song "Marcus Garvey" on their album Scientific.
  • Rapper Jay-Z references Marcus Garvey as a "Martyr" in the song "Mr. Carter" by Lil Wayne
  • Referenced in rapper Kendrick Lamar's 2011 song "HiiiPower"
  • The National Association of Jamaican And Supportive Organizations Inc. (NAJASO) founded 4 July 1977 in Washington DC), based in the United States, named Annual Scholarship tenable at the University of the West Indies since 1988,the Marcus Garvey Scholarship.
  • Marcus Garvey Scholarship tenable at the University of the West Indies sponsored by The National Association of Jamaican And Supportive Organizations, Inc (NAJASO) since 1988.
  • Marcus Garvey Festival every year on the third weekend of August at Basu Natural Farms, in Pembroke Township, Illinois.
  • The Universal Hip Hop Parade held annually in Brooklyn on the Saturday before his birthday to carry on his use of popular culture as a tool of empowerment and to encourage the growth of Black institutions.
  • Marcus Garvey Day, held annually 17 August in Toronto.

See also


  1. Encyclopædia Britannica Online Marcus Garvey profile. Retrieved 20 February 2008.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "The "Back to Africa" Myth". UNIA-ACL website. 14 July 2005. Archived from the original on 30 December 2006. Retrieved 2007-04-01.
  3. Lua error in ...ribunto/includes/engines/LuaCommon/lualib/mwInit.lua at line 17: bad argument #1 to 'old_pairs' (table expected, got nil).
  4. Crowder, Ralph L. (1 January 2003). Grand old man of the movement: "John Edward Bruce, Marcus Garvey, and the UNIA". African-Americans in New York Life and History. Retrieved through on 2008-02-17.
  5. UNIA-ACL website from, The "Back to Africa" Myth., Accessed 19 November 2007.
  6. UNIA ACL Website Historical Facts about Marcus Garvey and the UNIA [1]. Published 28 January 2005 by UNIA-ACL. Accessed 2007-04-01.
  7. Historical Facts about Marcus Garvey and the UNIA From Accessed 19 November 2007.
  8. Skyers, Sophia Teresa (1982). Marcus Garvey and the philosophy of black pride (M.A. thesis) Wilfrid Laurier University
  9. Garvey and Dusé
  10. "The Economics of Marcus Garvey"
  11. "The Negro's Greatest Enemy" by Marcus Garvey, Posted/Revised: 28 May 2002, Last Accessed 31 October 2007
  12. Vincent, Theodore G. (1972). Marcus Garvey and the Black Power Movement. San Francisco: Ramparts Press Inc. pp. 43–45. ISBN 1574780409. Retrieved September 18, 2012.
  13. Vincent, Theodore G. (1972). Marcus Garvey and the Black Power Movement. San Francisco: Ramparts Press Inc. p. 185. ISBN 1574780409. Retrieved September 18, 2012.
  14. "People & Events: Earl and Louise Little". PBS Online. 1999. Retrieved 2010-06-15.
  15. "Martin Luther King Jr. visits Jamaica", 20 June 1965
  16. "The Black 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential African-Americans, Past and Present" by Columbus Salley, p. 82, 1999, Citadel Press.
  17. Asante, Molefi Kete (2002). 100 Greatest African Americans: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books; ISBN 1-57392-963-8
  18. Karyl Walker, "No Pardon for Garvey", Jamaica Observer, 21 August 2011.
  19. M.G. Smith, Roy Augier and Rex Nettleford, The Rastafari Movement in Kingston, Jamaica, Kingston: 1960, p. 5
  20. Martin, Tony (21 October 2009). "Marcus Garvey". BBC. Retrieved 18 October 2010.
  21. 32 Market Street, 25 January 2008

Further reading

Works by Marcus Garvey

  • The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey. Edited by Amy Jacques Garvey. 412 pages. Majority Press; Centennial edition, 1 November 1986. ISBN 0-912469-24-2. Avery edition. ISBN 0-405-01873-8.
  • Message to the People: The Course of African Philosophy by Marcus Garvey. Edited by Tony Martin. Foreword by Hon. Charles L. James, president- general, Universal Negro Improvement Association. 212 pages. Majority Press, 1 March 1986. ISBN 0-912469-19-6.
  • The Poetical Works of Marcus Garvey. Compiled and edited by Tony Martin. 123 pages. Majority Press, 1 June 1983. ISBN 0-912469-02-1.
  • Hill, Robert A., editor. The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers. Vols. I-VII, IX. University of California Press, ca. 1983- (ongoing). 1146 pages. University of California Press, 1 May 1991. ISBN 0-520-07208-1.
  • Hill, Robert A., editor. The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers: Africa for the Africans 1921-1922. 740 pages. University of California Press, 1 February 1996. ISBN 0-520-20211-2.


  • Burkett, Randall K. Garveyism as a Religious Movement: The Institutionalization of a Black Civil Religion. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press and American Theological Library Association, 1978.
  • Campbell, Horace. Rasta and Resistance: From Marcus Garvey to Walter Rodney. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 1987.
  • Clarke, John Henrik, editor. Marcus Garvey and the Vision of Africa. With assistance from Amy Jacques Garvey. New York: Vintage Books, 1974.
  • Cronon, Edmund David. Black Moses: The Story of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1955, reprinted 1969 and 2007.
  • Garvey, Amy Jacques, Garvey and Garveyism. London: Collier-MacMillan, 1963, 1968.
  • Grant, Colin. Negro with a Hat, The Rise and Fall of Marcus Garvey and his Dream of Mother Africa., London: Jonathan Cape, 2008.
  • Hill, Robert A., editor. Marcus Garvey, Life and Lessons: A Centennial Companion to the Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987.
  • Hill, Robert A. The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers. Vols. I–VII, IX. University of California Press, ca. 1983– (ongoing).
  • James, Winston. Holding Aloft the Banner of Ethiopia: Caribbean Radicalism in Early Twentieth-Century America. London: Verso, 1998.
  • Kornweibel Jr., Theodore. Seeing Red: Federal Campaigns Against Black Militancy 1919-1925. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1998.
  • Lemelle, Sidney, and Robin D. G. Kelley. Imagining Home: Class, Culture, and Nationalism in the African Diaspora. London: Verso, 1994.
  • Lewis, Rupert. Marcus Garvey: Anti-Colonial Champion. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 1988.
  • Lewis, Rupert, and Bryan, Patrick, eds. Garvey: His Work and Impact. Mona, Jamaica: Institute of Social and Economic Research, 1988.
  • Lewis, Rupert, and Maureen Warner-Lewis. Garvey: Africa, Europe, The Americas. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 1986, 1994.
  • Manoedi, M. Korete. Garvey and Africa. New York: New York Age Press, 1922.
  • Martin, Tony. Race First: The Ideological and Organizational Struggle of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1976.
  • Martin, Tony. Literary Garveyism: Garvey, Black Arts, and the Harlem Renaissance. Dover, Mass.: Majority Press, 1983.
  • Martin, Tony. African Fundamentalism: A Literary and Cultural Anthology of Garvey's Harlem Renaissance. Dover, Mass.: Majority Press, 1983, 1991.
  • Martin, Tony. Marcus Garvey: Hero. Dover, Mass.: Majority Press, 1983.
  • Martin, Tony. The Pan-African Connection: From Slavery to Garvey and Beyond. Dover, Mass.: Majority Press, 1983.
  • Martin, Tony. The Poetical Works of Marcus Garvey. Dover, Mass.: Majority Press, 1983.
  • Smith-Irvin, Jeannette. Marcus Garvey's Footsoldiers of the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 1989.
  • Solomon, Mark. The Cry Was Unity: Communists and African-Americans, 1917–1936. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 1998.
  • Stein, Judith. The World of Marcus Garvey: Race and Class in Modern Society. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1986.
  • Tolbert, Emory J. The UNIA and Black Los Angeles. Los Angeles: Center of Afro-American Studies, University of California, 1980.
  • Vincent, Theodore. Black Power and the Garvey Movement. Berkeley, Calif.: Ramparts Press, 1971.
  • Marcus Garvey: A Controversial Figure in the History of Pan-Africanism by Jérémie Kroubo Dagnini for the Journal of Pan African Studies