Mosiah Garvey was born August 17, 1887 in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica. The
organization he founded, the Universal Negro Improvement Association,
in Kingston, Jamaica, 1914, was one of the greatest organizations that
facilitated mass action of African people worldwide in the 1920s and
30s. In this present era of economic and educational onslaught against
the African Community in America, it is important that we understand
that the rise of the African Centered Education Movement should be
linked to our quest for economic independence.
We must free the “African mind” through African Centered Educational
activities so that we might better understand the importance of
One model that we draw strength from in pursuing economic and
educational liberation is the model established by the Honorable Marcus
Mosiah Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in
The more I read and study about Marcus Garvey, the more I am amazed at
the great contributions he made to African people to become a
self-reliant and self-sufficient people. At the core of Marcus Garvey’s
program was his urging of African people to acquire education and
economic power. As he always started, “A race without power is a race
When we examine the economic condition of Africans in America, and
throughout the world, we find one glaring problem - African people do
not control our economic resources at the level we should. This is
primarily due to our miseducation as a people. In a disproportionate
manner, African people depend on the European and Asian world for food,
clothing, and shelter. More often than not, the European and Asian
worlds are the producers, processors, distributors, and wholesalers.
African people are the consumers.
This was one of the major problems that the Honorable Marcus Mosiah
Garvey addressed during his lifetime and that Minister Louis Farrakhan
continues to address.
As our ancestor, Dr. Tony Martin writes in his book Race First, which
is one of the best books written on the works of Marcus Garvey, “Marcus
Garvey, unlike his major rivals in the United States, built a mass
organization that went beyond civil-rights agitation and protest and
based itself upon a definite, well thought out program that he believed
would lead to the total emancipation of the race from white dominion.”
To implement his program, Garvey set up the Negro Factories Corporation
(NFC). Its objective was to build and operate factories in the big
industrial centers of the United States, Central America, the
Caribbean, and Africa. The NFC established a chain of cooperative
grocery stores, a restaurant, a steam laundry, tailor and dressmaking
shop, a millinery store, and a publishing house.
Mr. Garvey also established a steamship company, The Black Star Line.
He envisioned a fleet of steamers carrying passengers and establishing
trade among African people of the United States, Central America, the
Caribbean, and Africa.
In the summer of 1920, Garvey launched his full blown program at the
First Annual Convention of the Universal Negro Improvement Association
(UNIA) of which he was the founder and first President General.
On August 2, 1920, after a massive parade of thousands of well drilled,
uniformed ranks of the UNIA, 35,000 delegates from allover the United
States and some twenty-five countries convened at Madison Square
Garden, in New York City. It was, according to the New York Times, one
of the largest gatherings in the history of the hall.
Dr. Martin explains that, “Central to the ideological basis
underpinning Garvey’s program was the question of race. For Garvey, the
Black man was universally oppressed on racial grounds, and no matter
how much people try to shy away from this issue, the fact is, this is
still true today.”
As Malcolm X used to say, it was our Blackness “which caused so much
hell not our identity as Elks, Masons, Baptists or Methodists.” If we
are ever to become a liberated people this idea must be deeply rooted
in the day to day organizing and mobilizing of our people as we seek
economic and educational liberation. Far too many Africans in America
have abandoned this idea in their organizing projects.
Mr. Garvey understood that the foundation of our liberation was
economic and educational independence based on racial solidarity. There
are numerous lessons we can learn from the legacy of the Honorable
Marcus Mosiah Garvey. Without economic independence tied to the
acquisition of political power, African people in America and African
people everywhere will continue to be the subjects of the whims of
In this regard, Garvey said, “...you can be educated in soul, vision
and feeling, as well as in mind. To see your enemy and know him is a
part of the complete education of man... Develop yours and you become
as great and full of knowledge as the other fellow without entering the
The 58th International Convention of the Universal Negro Improvement
Association and African Communities League will be held in Chicago,
Illinois, August 19-23, 2015. For further information email Clyde Banks
at [email protected].
BlackCommentator.com Columnist, Conrad W. Worrill, PhD, is the National Chairman Emeritus of the National Black United Front (NBUF). Contact Dr. Worrill and BC.
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David A. Love, JD
Nancy Littlefield, MBA