Empowering Blacks Through African Pride: Remembering Marcus Garvey

By: Justin Chan

One aspect is quite evident when strolling the streets of Harlem, it's the respect and admiration the neighborhood has for Marcus Garvey. With a park named after him and his face on various murals, to the day-long celebrations throughout Harlem on his birthday, Marcus Garvey and his accomplishments in empowering Blacks are not long forgotten.

Born in Jamaica, Garvey worked as a printer's apprentice before becoming heavily involved in unions. He took part in a failed printer's strike, but it encouraged him to engage in political activism. He traveled across Central America and documented the struggles of migration workers as a newspaper editor before enrolling at Birkbeck College in London. During his stay abroad, he also wrote for the African Times and Orient Review, where he promoted Pan-African nationalism.

Garvey soon returned to Jamaica with a determination to unite the African diaspora. In 1912, he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association with the hope that the diaspora would create a government of its own. In 1916, he formed a chapter in Harlem, New York, where he often promoted Black separatism. Two years later, he published Negro World, a newspaper that reached the masses. After securing funds for his initiative, Garvey established the Black Star Line shipping company, which was primarily responsible for facilitating trade between Africans in the Americas, Africa and the Caribbean.

By 1920, the UNIA had approximately 4 million members. The organization had its first convention at Madison Square Garden, where Garvey spoke about African history and the pride he had in his culture. Though his views were welcomed by many, several of his notable critics included W.E.B. Du Bois, who alleged that Garvey was "the most dangerous enemy of the Negro race in America."

Things took a turn for the worst when authorities discovered that Garvey's Black Star Line was involved in mail fraud. Garvey, along with three others, were indicted. Garvey himself was sentenced to five years in prison after the company's books revealed several irregularities. After his release in 1927, he was deported to Jamaica, where he continued to promote his agenda. He even went so far as to collaborate with white supremacist Mississippian Senator Theodore Bilbo to work on getting reparations. Though he began to lose support among the Black community, Garvey left an everlasting impression. Since his passing, he has been honored by the Organization of American States and the Ghanaian government, which named its shipping line after his.

Photo: ecarmen2020

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