1914, the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African
Communities League, was founded under the leadership of the Honorable
Marcus Mosiah Garvey. This August represents the centennial of the
UNIA/ACL and major commemoratory events are being planned around the
preparation for these celebrations, we are reminded that Garvey made
his transition on June 10, 1940. This is a time to begin remembering
the contributions of the UNIA/ACL and Garvey as we honor this 100th
year celebration in August.
Garvey was born August 17, 1887 in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica to
Marcus and Sarah Garvey. Marcus Sr., his father, was a descendent of
the Maroons. The Maroons were Africans who managed to escape slavery
when they reached western shores by jumping from slave ships, or by
fleeing slave plantations and establishing well fortified communities
deep in the Jamaican interior. Garvey’s mother, Sarah was said
to be of extraordinary beauty and possessed a gentle personality. She
was also said to have been a deeply religious person.
left school at the age of 14 and became an apprentice printer in
Kingston. He worked for a private company and eventually became a
foreman. At the age of 20, in 1907, although he was a member of
management, Garvey led a newly formed printer’s union strike.
The company promised Garvey big rewards and benefits if he would
discontinue his union organizing. Garvey refused, was fired, and
“blacklisted” by the private printing companies of
Kingston. This experience intensified Garvey’s political
curiosity concerning the condition of African people. It was at this
point in 1909, that he formed the National Club and its publication
Our Own. From this point forward, Garvey decided to devote his life
to the uplifting of the African race. He published his first
newspaper, The Watchman, which gave him an opportunity to
express his emerging political views on the plight of African people.
unable to gain support for his organization, Garvey began to travel.
He spent time in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Columbia,
and Venezuela. These travels gave Garvey an opportunity to observe,
that whenever African people and whites were in close proximity,
African people were on the bottom.
continued to travel and in 1911 he went to London. He was able to
test out his public speaking ability on the condition of African
people worldwide at the famous Hyde Park Speaker’s Corner.
While in London, Garvey met the editor of the African Times and
Orient Review,. Ali, an Egyptian
scholar, introduced Garvey to many ideas that played an important
role in his future thinking. Duse Mohammed Ali
background gave Garvey the tools he needed to become one of our true
twentieth century freedom fighters. Garvey arrived in Harlem, New
York on March 16, 1916. By 1919, Garvey was established as the
President General of the UNIA/ACL, which had a membership of over
three million people with more than 300 branches throughout the
African World Community.
Garvey’s greatest contribution to the uplifting of our people
was his ability to find a formula for organizing African people
around the African principle: the greatest good for the greatest
number. This was reflected in the First International Convention of
Negro Peoples of the World in Madison Square Garden, in New York in
1920. Over twenty-five thousand African people from all over the
world witnessed the selection of Red, Black and Green as the colors
of the Provisional Government. In this context, Garvey and the
UNIA/ACL had established an economic arm, the Negro Factories
Corporation, with cooperative stores, restaurants, steam laundry
shops, tailor shops, dressmaking shops, millinery stores, a doll
factory to manufacture African dolls, and a publishing house. Garvey
also formed a Steamship Corporation. The goals and objectives of the
UNIA had now become clear to the world. As Shawna Maglangbayan points
out, “…the Garvey movement and UNIA had become a threat
to the white world,”
the cooperation of anti-Garvey, “Negro leaders,” Garvey
was eventually charged and convicted of mail fraud for selling stock
in the African Star Lines. On February 8, 1925, Marcus Garvey was
arrested and convicted for mail fraud and imprisoned in Atlanta,
Georgia. With a great movement of support by his followers, Garvey
was released from prison in 1927. Immediately following his release
he was deported from the United States and was sent back to Jamaica
to continue his work. He continued to travel and while in London, on
June 10, 1940, Garvey lapsed into a coma and made his transition into
Garvey Movement was one of the greatest mass movements of African
people in the world. Although the external and internal forces and
enemies of Garvey caused his demise, the ideas of Garvey and the
UNIA/ACL are still alive. We need to revitalize and resurrect the
spirit of Marcus Mosiah Garvey at every opportunity.
Luta Continua / The Struggle Continues!