Today in History: Political activist, Journalist, and Orator, Marcus Garvey Was Born  

Marcus Garvey

Marcus Mosiah Garvey Sr. ONH was a political activist, publisher, journalist, businessman, and public speaker from Jamaica. 

He founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL, also known as UNIA), and served as its first President-General. Through this organization, he proclaimed himself the Provisional President of Africa. His beliefs, which were black nationalist and pan-Africanist, known as Garveyism.  


Marcus Garvey was born into a moderately prosperous Afro-Jamaican family in Saint Ann’s Bay and he was apprenticed into the print trade as a teenager. Working in Kingston, he got involved in trade unionism before he briefly lived in Costa Rica, Panama, and England. After he returned to Jamaica, he founded the UNIA in 1914.  


He moved to the US in 1916 and opened a UNIA branch in the Harlem region of New York City.  

He also promoted the political unification of the continent while pushing for an end to European colonial control across Africa and emphasized solidarity between Africans and the African diaspora.  

In his mind, a united Africa would be a one-party state led by himself, with laws in place to guarantee the racial purity of the black population. He also supported the Back-to-Africa movement and advocated for some of the diasporas to go there despite never having been there. Garveyist theories gained popularity as the UNIA’s membership increased.  

However, his black separatist views—and his relationship with white racists like the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in the interest of advancing their shared goal of racial separatism—caused a division between Garvey and other prominent African-American civil rights activists such as W. E. B. Du Bois who promoted racial integration. 

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Believing that black people needed to be financially independent from white-dominated societies, Garvey launched various businesses in the U.S., including the Negro Factories Corporation and Negro World newspaper. 

In 1919, he became President of the Black Star Line shipping and passenger company, designed to forge a link between North America and Africa and facilitate African-American migration to Liberia.  

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In 1923 Garvey was also convicted of mail fraud for selling the company’s stock, and he was also imprisoned in the United States Penitentiary, Atlanta for nearly two years.  

Many commentators argued that the trial was politically motivated; Marcus Garvey blamed Jewish people, claiming that they were prejudiced against him because of his links to the KKK. After his sentence was commuted by U.S. President Calvin Coolidge, he was deported to Jamaica in 1927.  

Where Did Marcus Garvey Died 

Marcus Garvey founded the People’s Political Party in 1929 after moving to Kingston with his wife Amy Jacques and briefly holding the position of city councilor. He moved to London in 1935 as the UNIA faced mounting financial difficulties, but there his anti-socialist views separated him from many of the city’s black militants. 

He died in 1940, and his remains brought back to Jamaica in 1964 for a new burial in National Heroes Park in Kingston. 

Marcus Garvey was a controversial figure. Some in the African diasporic community regarded him as a pretentious demagogue and they were highly critical of his collaboration with white supremacists, his violent rhetoric, and his prejudice against mixed-race people and Jews.

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Nevertheless, he also received praise for encouraging a sense of pride and self-worth among Africans and the African diaspora amid widespread poverty, discrimination, and colonialism. 

In Jamaica he is widely a national hero. His ideas exerted a considerable influence on such movements as Rastafari, the Nation of Islam, and the Black Power Movement. 

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