Marcus Garvey, born on August 17, 1887, in St. Annas Bay, Jamaica, is widely considered one of the most influential African Americans in history. He achieved remarkable feats that spanned different areas. Notably, he established a global Black political organization known as The United Negro Improvement Association and created the first and largest multinational business owned by Black individuals – the Black Star Lines.
Despite facing criticism for some unsuccessful projects, Marcus Garvey’s ability to attract followers to his beliefs remains truly inspiring. Growing up in Jamaica within a financially disadvantaged family as the youngest of 11 children, Marcus was raised with a strong sense of pride in his unmixed African heritage by his father – who reputedly descended from maroons defending their freedom during slavery.
Although he had limited education while living in Jamaica, Marcus became mostly self-taught and began working at a print shop at just 14 years old to support his family. His involvement in the printers’ strike of 1907 led him to question the value of trade unions after witnessing mistreatment towards African workers and encountering an indifferent response from British authorities. This experience left him skeptical about any hope for justice from white people.In 1912, Marcus Garvey went to London to study (Rogoff 72). After writing for African publications and becoming a strong supporter of African independence, Marcus Garvey’s mission for African freedom and equality changed significantly when he read Booker T. Washington’s book, “Up From Slavery.” Embracing the book’s message of black self-help (Kranz, Koslow 86), Garvey was inspired to go back to Jamaica in 1914 with a firm resolution to initiate change.
Marcus was known for multiple accomplishments throughout his lifetime. Upon returning to Jamaica, he reunited with a group of friends and established the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). The UNIA aimed to facilitate black emigration to Africa and promote racial pride, education, and black business activity. Despite not achieving the following he had hoped for in Jamaica, Garvey shifted his focus to the United States in 1916. By 1919, the UNIA had reached its peak with approximately 2,000,000 members and numerous branches worldwide. Additionally, Marcus founded the Negro Factories Corporation (NFC) to support black economic independence by providing funding and labor to black business owners. The NFC also helped establish factories in the United States, Africa, Central America, and the West Indies. Furthermore, Garvey established the Black Star Line (BSL), which remains the largest black-owned multinational business to this day. The BSL focused on acquiring ships and operating an international shipping route that facilitated the repatriation of black individuals to Africa. This shipping triangle centered around the United States, West Indies, and Africa. In 1918, Marcus also founded the Negro World, a prominent black weekly publication that quickly gained 50,000 readers across the United States, Latin America, the West Indies, and Africa.The British and French colonies in Africa prohibited a particular content, as it promoted black equality and freedom. Despite disagreeing with Garvey’s ideas, leaders acknowledged his contributions in cultivating black pride and seeking political independence (Kranz, Koslow 86).
Marcus Garvey’s accomplishments and setbacks have left a lasting impression on society. The impact of his achievements and disappointments can still be felt today. The UNIA, which he was a part of, has had a remarkable influence that spans both the past and present. By 1920, the UNIA had gained a significant following and established itself as an important organization. During the inaugural UNIA convention in that same year, Marcus Garvey was elected as the president of the Republic of Africa by representatives from different nations, including the United States. Some historians have raised concerns about this election because Garvey is of West Indian descent and Africa is not a unified country where African individuals could vote for their leader. However, this only serves to emphasize Garvey’s profound impact within a relatively short period of time. It is worth acknowledging that his influence continues to resonate with people even now.
During the 1960s and early 1970s, political and social movements had a strong presence in the United States, particularly among African Americans. These movements can be traced back to Marcus Garvey’s UNIA (Universal Negro Improvement Association) in the 1920s. The UNIA aimed to empower blacks economically and foster a sense of community, using slogans like “back to Africa,” “Africa for Africans,” and “Black is Beautiful” as rallying cries. Similar themes of pride emerged later with slogans such as “Black Power” and “Black is Beautiful.” Black nationalists sought to maintain a distinct identity for people of black ancestry, following in Garvey’s footsteps. Despite facing numerous setbacks, Marcus Garvey significantly raised expectations for success among blacks. A valuable source that delves into his life and teachings is the book titled “Marcus Garvey: Life and Lessons” by Robert A. Hill, published by the University of California Press in 1987 – an essential resource for further study on how Garvey overcame obstacles and achieved his goal of advancing black equality in business.”The Biographical Dictionary of African Americans” by Rachel Kranz and Philip J. Koslow, published in 1999 by Checkmark Books, is another book that warrants more attention. It delves into Marcus Garvey’s triumphs and setbacks while emphasizing his courage as an advocate for the Black community in our society.
For further study, “Black Moses: The Story of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association” by E. David Cronon, published in 1969 by the University of Wisconsin Press, is recommended. This book primarily focuses on Marcus Garvey’s pivotal role in advancing Black equality in business and examines his societal impact.
Additionally, it provides profiles of approximately 250 accomplished African Americans from various fields. The book showcases Garvey’s success in organizing the UNIA and illustrates how he emerged as a role model and leader despite facing failures.
Collectively, these books reinforce the message that anyone can attain greatness if they possess unwavering belief in their cause (source: “Black Nationalism” Encyclopedia Britannica Online).
According to Robert A. Hill’s book, “Marcus Garvey: Life and Lessons,” published in 1987 by the University of California Press, Marcus Garvey’s life and teachings are explored in depth.
Krans, Rachel and Philip J. Koslow authored The Biographical Dictionary Of African Americans (1999) in New York, published by Checkmark Books.
According to the Journal of Small Business Management, Rogoff, Edward G., John Trinkus, and Alvin Puryear suggest that Marcus Garvey, an early supporter of Ethnic Entrepreneurship, may have been ahead of his time.