Marcus Garvey: A Black Hero


American Literature


March 29, 2004



When most people think of Black Nationalism they think of the Black Panthers or 2-Pac more recently. But what they don’t know is that a century ago the world had its first taste of African Americans need for unity. Marcus Garvey was born in Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr. in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica in 1887. Garvey had experience with politics when he was 20 he was an active trade unionist and was elected vice president of the compositors’ branch of the union of printers. This accomplishment at such a young age led him to become one of the greatest political figures of all time.


His Life


After going to school for only seven years, which was the standard amount of schooling at the time, Garvey started working as a printer. He was self taught and read insatiably from his father’s broad library. By 1910, at the age of 23 he was reputable as an orator due to his endless studying of the field. “Marcus Garvey even prior to leaving Jamaica in 1910 took part in debates and elocution contests and he trained himself in this area. He studied the speaking style of many ministers in Kingston; he spoke in public on many occasions in Costa Rica and Panama. He studied the speakers in London\'s Hyde Park, at Speaker\'s Corner. He participated himself. He also sat in the gallery of the House of Commons and studied the speakers there engaged in parliamentary debate.” (Julius Garvey, 6) Being an orator was the main characteristic of his memorable political career. For the next four years Garvey traveled throughout Europe, the West Indies and Central America, working mostly as an editor a printer. In 1911 he moved to England and studied briefly at Birbeck College. There he met other blacks who were involved in the struggle to gain independence from England. He came across the influence of Duse Muhammad when he worked at the prominent Africa Times and Orient Review.


His Work


Marcus Garvey quit school and returned to Jamaica inspired and established the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). He also printed the brochure The Negro Race and Its Problems. He was also greatly influenced by the thoughts of Booker T. Washington when he read his book “UP From Slavery” and wrote to the important man. Garvey even wanted to start a trade school similar to his Tuskegee Institute. Through the letter Garvey made preparations to visit America. Unfortunately Washington had died the year previous to his visit. On March 23rd 1916 when Garvey arrived in the U.S. he immediately started a year-long national tour. The first branch of the UNIA was organized in the month of June in 1917 and it took Garvey only a few years to place the organization only on the political map. The foundation of the UNIA began the publication of The Negro World which was a journal that promoted his ideas of uniting Africans and other blacks. The Negro World accompanied the UNIA along the ride to political stardom. The association and the journal went hand in hand. The UNIA was so popular by 1919 it had 30 branches and 2 million members. Very much like the other well known organization, the NAACP, Garvey campaigned against lynching, denying blacks voting, rights and racial discrimination and Jim Crow Laws. The way that Marcus Garvey’s organization differed from other civil rights organizations were on how the problem could be resolved. He doubted whether whites would ever grant the blacks in the country the full rights they deserved. Garvey thought “in the principle of Europe for the Europeans, and Asia for the Asiatics” and “Africa for the Africans at home and abroad”. (Schoolnet, 8) Africans being all blacks.


At the end of the First World War there were many African Americans who had militant feelings and Marcus Garvey used that to his advantage. He used those militant feelings and told them to join his army and they would combat for civil rights. He began to sign up people who were willing to go to Africa and “clear out the white invaders”. He made an Army and outfitted them with weapons and uniforms. In the year nineteen hundred and nineteen Garvey started the Black Cross