Marcus Garvey

Marcus Garvey
Marcus Garvey

The list of players involved in the 20th-century social empowerment and civil rights movements for blacks could not be complete without the story of Marcus better conditions. By the time Garvey was a teenager he had become cognizant of the lines dividing blacks and whites.

Garvey supplemented his schooling with time spent reading from his father's library, fueling his own curiosities about the outside world. At 15 he began to learn the printer's trade, and in 1905 he moved to Kingston, Jamaica's capital city, where he eventually became a master printer. This knowledge of the printing business proved invaluable when he started his own newspapers and journals as a part of the organizations he founded.

By 1909 when he was 22, Garvey had learned that residents of Kingston liked to argue the sociopolitical ideas of the time. He found himself getting involved in these political and intellectual debates that dealt with the betterment of blacks in Jamaica and addressed the problems associated with imperialistic colonial rule.

Seeking other work in 1910, Garvey traveled to Costa Rica to work for the giant American-owned United Fruit Company. He was arrested for agitating for better working conditions, left Costa Rica, and began traveling around Latin America, noticing the generally oppressed state of black workers.

In 1912 Garvey went to England hoping to address Britain's colonial rule and its promotion of disparity between blacks and whites in the Caribbean and Central America. In London he got a job working for the Africa Times and Orient Review, one of the foremost Pan-African publications of the day.

Garvey returned to Jamaica in 1914 and immediately began the UNIA. His intent was to develop a separatist, nationalistic movement of international scope, meaning that it would allow the blacks of the world to eventually achieve a unified culture separate from the whites, including a separate country that would become a sovereign central nation for the world's blacks. These goals were the hallmark of "Garveyism."

Garvey came to America in 1916 to solicit the support of American blacks. In 1917 New York City's Harlem district was virtually the world's capital of black culture, and Garvey chose this as his temporary base. By 1918 Garvey was publishing Negro World, the internationally distributed paper that would be the voice of the UNIA, and he decided to stay in Harlem and run the UNIA headquarters from there.

Garvey's promotion of totally separate cultural spheres through his separatist ideals went so far as the conducting of (unsuccessful) negotiations between the UNIA and the African country of Liberia between 1922 and 1924 to allow establishment of settlements of black Americans. This caused considerable consternation among both blacks and whites in America and abroad.

Other prominent black-rights groups such as the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), led by the widely respected W. E. B. DuBois, increasingly criticized Garvey for hurting the cause of black unity and advancement. Garvey had his followers but was also criticized for his pursuit of racial separation, which was deemed counterproductive to the racial cooperation being sought by the NAACP.

Almost since his arrival in America, Garvey had been the object of scrutiny by governmental and corporate agencies that viewed his ideologies as subversive. Garvey was accused of fraud on several occasions because he attempted to start new businesses that would allegedly benefit the members of the UNIA but that proved to be financial fiascos.

The bestknown one was the 1919 venture known as the Black Star Line Steamship Corporation, which involved the purchase of obsolete ships using hopeful investors' money to start international freight and passenger shipping lines.

The end of Garvey's hopes for operating his organization from America came in 1922 when he and the top officials of the Black Star Line were indicted for mail fraud concerning the Black Star Line's business practices. Garvey's trial ended with a conviction in 1923, which he appealed. The appeal was rejected in 1925, and Garvey was sent to prison in Atlanta until 1927, when his five-year sentence was commuted. Upon his release, Garvey was deported back to Jamaica.

Garvey went back to England in 1928, where he unsuccessfully attempted to revive interest in the UNIA's goals. He died in London of complications from a stroke on June 10, 1940.