Garvey, Marcus (1887–1940)

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Garvey, Marcus (1887–1940)

Marcus Garvey (b. 17 August 1887; d. 10 June 1940), Pan-African nationalist. Garvey was born in Saint Ann's Bay, Jamaica, to a comfortable family, possibly descendants of maroons. He attended school until the age of fourteen, when a financial crisis in his family obliged him to go to work as a printer's apprentice.By the age of nineteen, he had mastered the skills of this trade, which he was able to use later in his career as a publicist and propagandist in the cause of black nationalism. Between 1910 and 1914 he traveled in the Caribbean and Central America and resided in London. It was during this period that his political ideas took shape. In 1914 he returned to Jamaica and founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), which was received with little enthusiasm. In 1916, Garvey decided to travel to the United States, where his ideas gave rise to an important mass movement for the dignity and independence of blacks. In 1918 he formed a branch of UNIA in New York City and began the publication of the weekly Negro World, which quickly attained a large, international circulation. With the hope of aiding communication between African Americans and Africans, and to help further his "Back to Africa" vision, he founded the Black Star shipping line in 1919.

In 1920 UNIA reached its high point when it held its first international convention in New York. As the organization grew in size and importance, it faced increasing repression from U.S. authorities and from the European colonial powers that controlled Africa and the West Indies. Moreover, problems within UNIA derailed Garvey's plans. By 1921 the Black Star Line was a fiasco, as were efforts to colonize Africa and other projects begun in the United States. In 1923 the U.S. government accused Garvey of fraud, and he was sent to prison in 1925. In 1927 his sentence was commuted and he was deported to Jamaica. Although he continued his fight there and in London, where he relocated in 1935, he never regained the international influence he had had at the beginning of the 1920s. By the time of his death in London, he was forgotten.

The importance of Garveyism is that it was the first movement of the black masses based on black pride and dignity. Its international character also was significant. UNIA had branches in the countries of the Caribbean and Central America and was well received by the migrant plantation workers of the West Indies and Jamaica. Garvey is remembered as the forerunner of black nationalism in Africa and in the United States.


David Cronon, Black Moses: The Story of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (1955).

Theodore G. Vincent, Black Power and the Garvey Movement (1971).

Judith Stein, The World of Marcus Garvey: Race and Class in Modern Society (1986).

Additional Bibliography

Conyers, James L. Reevaluating the Pan-Africanism of W. E. B. DuBois and Marcus Garvey: Escapist Fantasy or Relevant Reality. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2005.

Giovannetti, Jorge L., and Reinaldo L. Román. "Special Issue: Garveyism and the Universal Negro Association in the Hispanic Caribbean." Caribbean Studies 31 (2004).

Stephens, Michelle Ann. Black Empire: The Masculine Global Imaginary of Caribbean Intellectuals in the United States, 1914–1962. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005.

                                        VÍctor AcuÑa