The Marcus Garvey Story

The Marcus Garvey Story

Marcus Garvey, Pan Africanist and Black Nationalist leader was born in Jamaica.

His legacy would inspire Black self-determination throughout the diaspora and his ideas would reverberate and influence African Nationalists like Kwame Nkrumah the first President of Ghana, Africa’s first independent Republic.

In addition, the African State of Liberia would also come to fruition as a result of Garvey’s ‘Back To Africa’ Black self-reliance ideals.

Marcus Garvey was born on on August 17, 1887 in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica to Marcus Garvey Sr. and Sarah Jane Richards.

His parents had a total of 11 Children and his Mother worked as a Maid whilst his Father worked as a stonemason.

At fourteen he left for Kingston to take up an apprenticeship in a Print Shop where he joined the Print Tradesman Union. From Kingston he went to London where he studied Philosophy and Law for 2 years before returning to Jamaica to start the Universal Negro Improvement Association.

At this time, he made contact with Booker T Washington in America, and influenced by his accomplishments he boarded a Ship to the United States in 1916.

He settled in New York and went on a Lecture tour culminating in the “Declaration of Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World”.

Garvey then founded the first Chapter of the Universal Negro Improvement Association in 1917 in Harlem, and started publishing the Negro World newspaper. 

By 1919, his organisation had created a business called Black Star Line under the banner of the Universal Negro Improvement Association which soon acquired its 1st Ship with the idea of setting up a Black Nation for African Americans in Liberia.

At this time Garvey drew the attention of J. Edgar Hoover at the Bureau of Investigation (BOI), the predecessor of the FBI.

An investigation was initiated which resulted in Garvey’s arrest and conviction for Mail Fraud because he had issued a brochure for the Black Star Line which showed a picture of a ship before the Black Star Line had actually purchased a ship.

He was imprisoned from 1925-1928 and upon his release he continued his activism both in his Native Jamaica and internationally.

In 1935, Garvey returned to London where he lived and worked until  his death at age fifty two.

Despite his complicated legacy, Garvey will always be remembered for his message of Black self- determination, and self-reliance as well as the coining the phrase “Black is beautiful.”