The Honorable Marcus Garvey
Born: August 17, 1887 St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica
Died: June 10, 1940 London, England
Jamaican activist and African nationalist
Marcus Garvey, a black man from the West Indies, was the first to forcefully speak about the concept of African nationalism—of black people returning to Africa, the continent of their forefathers, in order to build a great nation of their own. His writings and ideas would inspire many leaders of the civil rights movement during the second half of the twentieth century.
Marcus Mosiah Garvey was born in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica, on August 17, 1887, the youngest child of a stonemason (one who prepares stones for building). He went to the local elementary school, and at the age of fourteen became an apprentice (working to gain experience) in the printing trade. In 1903 he went to the capital, Kingston, to work as a printer. He soon became involved in public activities and helped form the Printers Union, the first trade union in Jamaica. In 1907 he took part in the unsuccessful printers strike, where organized workers refused to work unless certain demands were met. This experience influenced the young Garvey in both his political and journalistic passions. He soon began publishing a periodical called the Watchman.
In 1910 Garvey began a series of travels that transformed him from an average person concerned about the problems of those with less opportunity, to an African nationalist determined to lift an entire race from bondage. He visited Costa Rica, Panama, and Ecuador, and worked as an editor for several radical newspapers. After briefly returning home, he proceeded to England, where contacts with African nationalists stimulated in him a keen interest in Africa and in black history. In each country he visited, he noted that the black man was in an inferior position, subject to the ever-changing ideals of stronger races. His reading of Booker T. Washington’s (1856–1915) “Up from Slavery” at this time had a great effect upon him. Also at this time Garvey met Duse Mohammed Ali, a Sudanese-Egyptian and strong supporter of African self-rule. Garvey began writing for Ali’s small magazines and was introduced to other black activists.
On his return to Jamaica in 1914 from England, Garvey formed the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL). These organizations were intended “to work for the general uplift of the Negro people’s of the world,” and would become the centerpiece for his life’s work.
Message in America
In 1916 Garvey went to the United States to raise funds to carry on the work of his Jamaican organizations. He was immediately caught up in the unrest of the times, and his voice thundered in the evenings on the streets of Harlem in New York City, New York. A New York branch of the UNIA was established, soon followed by branches in other cities in the United States, in Central and South America, and in the Caribbean. The expansion of the UNIA was publicized by its official voice, Negro World, a newspaper published in English, Spanish, and French. Published in New York City from 1918 to 1933, the magazine was succeeded by the monthly Black Man, which ran through the 1930s, published after 1934 in London.
Negro World reached out to black communities all over the world. It even penetrated into the interior of Africa, even though the white rulers there had banned it. Garvey stressed the need for blacks to return to Africa for the building of a great nation, but he realized that until this was accomplished, Africans needed to make themselves economically independent wherever they lived. He encouraged black people to start their own businesses—to take the business of their ghettos into their own hands.
Together with the American clergyman Archbishop George A. McGuire (1866–1934), Garvey formed the African Orthodox Church. This was in accordance with one of his basic principles, for he believed that each race must see God through its own racial eyes. The Black Christ and the Black Madonna were officially announced at the UNIA convention of 1924.
The movement stumbles
The Black Star Line shipping company and the Negro Factories Corporation were to be the commercial strengths of the Garvey movement. But it was the failure of the shipping venture that gave Garvey’s enemies the opportunity to destroy him. Investments in the shipping line were lost, and in 1925 Garvey was imprisoned in the United States for mail fraud. After serving two years and ten months of a five-year sentence, he was deported, or forced out of the country, to Jamaica.
Previously, his plans for colonization in Liberia had been ruined by the colonial powers that brought pressure to bear on the Liberian government. As a result, the land that had been granted to the Garvey organization for the settlement of overseas Africans was given to the white American industrialist Harvey Firestone (1863–1938). And the expensive equipment shipped to Liberia for the use of Garvey’s colonists was seized.
In Jamaica, Garvey attempted to enter local politics, but restrictions at the time did not allow the vote to the black masses. He went to England and continued his work of social protest and his call for the liberation (freeing) of Africa. He died in London on June 10, 1940. Marcus Garvey was married twice. His second wife, Amy Jacques, whom he married in 1922, bore him two sons. His body was returned to Jamaica in 1964, where he was named a national hero.
The Garvey legacy
The Garvey movement was the greatest international movement of African people’s in modern times. At its peak, from 1922 to 1924, the movement counted more than eight million followers. The youngest members of the movement were taken in at five years of age and, as they grew older, they graduated to the sections for older children.
Garvey emphasized the belief in the One God, the God of Africa, who should be visualized through black eyes. He preached to black people to become familiar with their ancient history and their rich cultural heritage. He called for pride in the black race—for example, he made black dolls for black children. His was the first voice to clearly demand black power. It was he who said, “A race without authority and power is a race without respect.”
In emphasizing the need to have separate black institutions under black leadership, Garvey anticipated the mood and thinking of the future black nationalists by nearly fifty years. He died, as he lived, an unbending leader of African nationalism. The symbols which he made famous, the black star of Africa and the red, black, and green flag of African liberation, continued to inspire younger generations of African nationalists
There is no future for a people who deny their past. My Foreparents, My Grandparents, My Mother, My Father did not suffer and die to give me an education to slight, oppress or discourage my people. Whatsoever education I acquired out of their sacrifice of over 300 years, I shall use for the salvation of the 400 million Black people of the world. And the DAY when I forsake my people; may GOD Almighty say, “there shall be no more life for you”.
I unequivocally rejected the racist assumption of much white American Christianity. Namely that God had created the black man inferior. And that he intended Negroes to be a Servant class, heavers of wood and drawers of water. Well I predicated my view of man on the doctrine of E Margo de E “all men regardless of color are created in the image of GOD”. From this premise come the equality of all men and brotherhood of all men. The Biblical injunction of Acts 17:26 reminds us that He created of one blood all nations of men to dwell on the face of the earth and is most interested in brotherhood than with ones own race. Because if Negroes are created in God’s image, and Negroes are Black then God must IN SOME SENSE be Black. If the White man has the Idea of a white God let him worship his God as he desires. We have found a new ideal. Because God has No color, and yet it is HUMAN to see everything through ones own spectacles, and since the white people have seen their god thru their white spectacles, we have only now started to see our God thru our own Spectacles.
But we believe in the God of Ethiopia, the everlasting God; God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy One, the one God of all the Ages; that is the God of whom we believe but we shall worship HIM thru the spectacles of Ethiopia. For two hundred and fifty years we have struggled under the burden and rigors of slavery. We were maimed, we were brutalized, we were ravaged in every way. We are men, we have hopes, we have passions, we have feelings, we have desires just like any other race. The cry of race all over the world, of Canada for the Canadians, of America for the Americans, Of England for the English, of France for the French or Germany for the Germans; do they think it unreasonable that we the Blacks of the world should raise our cry Africa for the Africans?
The Negro is a MAN; we represent the New Negro. His back is not yet against the wall, we do not want his back against the wall because that would be a peculiar and desperate position. We do not want him there. It is because of this we are asking for a fair compromise. Well the Belgians have control over the Belgian Congo, which they cannot use. They have not the resources to develop, nor the intelligence. The French have more territory than they can develop, there’s certain parts of Africa in which they cannot live at all. So it is for YOU to come together and give us a United States of Africa. We are not going to be a race without a country. God never intended it and we are not going to disappoint God’s confidence in us as Men. We are Men, human beings, capable of the same acts as any other race. Possessing under fair circumstances the same INTELLIGENCE as any other race. Now Africa’s been sleeping. Not dead, only sleeping. Today Africa is walking around not only on our feet but on our brains. You can enslave us for some 300 years, the bodies of men, you can shackle the hands of men, you can shackle the feet of men, you can imprison the bodies of men, BUT YOU CANNOT SHACKLE OR IMPRISON THE MINDS OF MEN.
Rise up Black Men, and take your stand. Reach up black men and women and pull all nature’s knowledge to you. Turn ye around and make a conquest of everything North and South, East and West. And then we you have wrought well, you will have merited God’s blessing, you will become God’s chosen people and naturally you’ll become leaders of the world. And as you bow down to the white man today, so will others bow down to you and call you a race of masters because of the intelligence of your mind and your achievements. No race has the last word on culture and civilization. They do not know what we’re capable of; they do not know what we’re thinking. They’re thinking in terms of dreadnaughts, battleships, airplanes and submarines. You know what we’re thinking about? That is our own private business. So give us credit for being able to use our minds. And once people are in concept of themselves; determined to use their minds you do not know to what extent they can go. Liberate the minds of men and ultimately you will liberate the bodies of men.
Let up the white race, not for social fellowship but for the common good of God and tell him he should live. What satisfaction can anyone get in being happy and see his brother wallowing in filth, death and disease? How can you be happy living in luxury and your brother is living in disease? Then when you try to help the one out of the disease, there are talks of a disloyalty. Black men of Carthage, Black men of Ethiopia, of Timbuktu to Alexandria gave the likes of civilization to this world. Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hands unto God and princes shall come out of Egypt. Those classes, nations, races have been quite quiet for over four centuries. Who have merely bore the view in self humiliation, whose forbearance can only be compared to the prophet Job as likewise lifted his bowed head and raised it up at God’s cries, and cried out “I am a man and demand a man’s chance and a man’s treatment in this world.”
As I shall teach the black man, I shall teach the black man to see beauty in his own kind and stop bleaching his skin and otherwise looking like what he’s not. Back in the days of slavery, Race mixture, Race miscegenation all occurred BECAUSE THE AFRICAN WOMAN HAD NO PROTECTION FROM THE SLAVE MASTER. Therefore there is no need today for black people themselves to freely continue a PRACTICE that SMACKS so much of slavery.
Our leaders say the race problem will be solved thru higher education. Thru better education, black and white will come together, that day will never happen until Africa is redeemed. Cause if those who like W.E.B Dubois believe that the race problem will be solved in America thru higher education, they will work between now and eternity and never see the problem solved. God made man lord of his creation; gave him possession and ownership of the world. And you have been so darned lazy that you’ve allowed the other brother to run away with the whole world. Now he’s bluffing you and telling you that the world belongs to him and that you have no part in it. I don’t have to apologize to anybody for being Black, because God Almighty knew exactly what he was doing when he made me Black. If black people knew their glorious past then they would be MORE inclined to respect themselves. Yes, you’ve heard of Johnny walker red, and black, well he had his adversities but he’s still going strong.
Well I intend with your help and God’s grace to continue, cause my work has only just begun. Future generations shall have in their hands the guide by which they shall know the sins of the 20th century. I know, and I know you to believe in time, but we shall wait patiently for 200 years if need be, to face our enemies for our prosperity. When mine enemies are satisfied, in life I shall come back or in death even to serve you as I served before. In life I shall be the same, in death I SHALL BE A TERROR to foes of African liberty. If death hath power then conquer me to be the real Marcus Garvey I would like to be. If I may come in an earthquake, or a plague, or a pestilence, or if God would have me, then be assured that I shall never desert you and make your enemies triumph over you. Will I not go to hell a million times for you? If I die, my work will only just then begin. For I shall live in a physical or spiritual to see the day of Africa’s Glory.
When I am dead, wrap the mantle of the Red, the Black and the Green around me for in a New Life I shall RISE UP with God’s grace and blessings to lead the millions to the heights of triumph, that you well know. Look for me in the whirlwind or a storm, look for me all around you, for with God’s grace I shall come back with countless millions of Black men and women who have died in America, those who have died in the West Indies and those who have died in Africa to aid You in fight for liberty, freedom and life.
Any leadership that teaches you to depend upon another race is a leadership that will enslave you. Any leadership that teaches you to depend upon another race is a leadership that will enslave you! They gave leadership to our Foreparents and that leadership made them slaves. But we have decided to find a leadership of our own, to make ourselves free men. Our great scholars have advanced thru the colleges, and universities have thrown away the blacken record. Babylon did it. Assyria did it. France under Napoleon did it. Germany under Prince Jon Bismarck did it. England did it. America under George Washington did it.
Africa with 400 million Black People can do it. If you cannot do it, if you are not prepared to do it then you will DIE. You race of cowards, you race of imbeciles, you race of good for-nothings, if you cannot do what other men have done, what other nations have done, what other races have done, THEN YOU HAD BETTER DIE. Can we do it? We can do it? We shall do it. We’ve prayed to God for vision and for leadership and he has given us a Universal vision. A vision that will not limit our possibilities to America, a vision that will not limit our possibilities to the West Indies but a vision that says that there must be a free and redeemed Africa.
Christ the crucified, Christ the despised, we appeal to you to help, for leadership. When you endeavored to carry your burden up the heights of Calvary, when white men spurned you, when white men scorned you, when white men spat upon you, when white men pierced your side and blood and water gushed forth, it was BLACK MAN in the name of Simon the Syrian who took your cross and bore it up the heights of Calvary. Now we are bearing our cross and the burden has been so heavy. Oh yes, the Cause is Grand, the Cause is Glory, surely we shall not turn back. Oh, Sail on! Sail on! Sail on! Oh Mighty Shepherd says Sail on! Sail on, until the Flag of the Red, the Black and the Green is perched upon the hilltops of Africa.
Because the time has come for the Black man to forget his hero worship of other races, and to create and emulate Heroes of his own. We must canonize our own Saints, create our own Martyrs, and elevate to positions of fame and honor black men and women who have made their distinct contributions to our racial history. Sojourner Truth is worthy of the place of Sainthood alongside Joan of Arc; Crispus Attucks and George William Gordon are entitled to the Halo of martyrdom with no less glory than that of the Martyrs of any other race. Toussaint L’Ouverture’s brilliancy as a soldier or a statesman outshine that of any other people: hence, He is entitled to the Highest place as a hero among men.
Africa has created millions, countless millions of black men and women in war and in peace, whose luster and bravery outshine that of any other people. Then why not see good and perfection in ourselves? We must inspire a literature and promulgate a doctrine of our own without any apologies to the powers that be. That right is Ours and God’s. Let sentiments and cross opinions go to the winds. We are entitled to our own opinion and are not obligated to or bound by the opinions of others. If others laugh at you, return the laughter to them; if they mimic you, return the compliment with equal force. They have no more right to dishonor, discredit you in Manhood than you have in dealing with them. Honor them when they honor you; disrespect and disregard them when they vilely treat you. Their arrogance is but skin deep, an assumption that has no foundation in morals or in law.
They have sprung from the same family tree of obscurity as we have. Their history is as rude in its primitiveness as ours; their ancestors were running wild and living in trees of branches like monkeys as ours; they made human sacrifices, ate the flesh of their own dead and wild meat from beasts for centuries even as they have accused us of doing; their cannibalism is more prolonged than ours. When we were embracing the banks of the Nile, they were still drinking blood out of the skulls of their conquered dead. After our civilization had reached the noonday of progress they were still living in holes with bats, rats and other insects and animals. After we had already unfathomed the mystery of the stars and reduced the heavenly constellations to minute and regular calculus they were still backwoodsmen, living in ignorance and in blatant darkness.
The world is indebted to us for the benefits of civilization. They stole our arts and sciences from Africa. Then why should we be ashamed of ourselves? Their modern improvements are but duplicates of a grander civilization that we reflected thousands of years ago, without the advantage of what is buried and still hidden, to be reflected and resurrected by our generation and our posterity. Why should we be discouraged if somebody laughs at us today? Who is to tell what tomorrow will bring forth? Did they not laugh at Christ, Moses, Muhammad? Was there not a Carthage, Greece and Rome? So we see and have changes every day. So pray, work, be steadfast and be not dismayed.
As the Jew is held together by his religion, the white racist by the assumption and the unwritten law of superiority, the Mongolian by the precious tie of blood, likewise the Black Man must unite in one grand racial hierarchy. Our union must know no clime, no nationality. But let us all hold together in every country and every clime, making a Racial Empire upon which “the sun shall never set.”
Let no voice but your own speak to you from the depths. Let no influence but your own rouse you in time of peace and time of war. Hear all, but attend only to that which concerns you. Your allegiance shall be to your God, your race, your country. Remember that the Jew in his political and economic urges is always first a Jew; the white man is first a white man under ALL CIRCUMSTANCES. So you can do no less, BE BLACK; BUY BLACK; THINK BLACK AND ALL ELSE WILL TAKE CARE OF ITSELF.
Let NO ONE inoculate you with evil doctrines to suit his own conveniences. “Charity begins at home.” So first to thyself be true and “thou canst not then be false to no man.”
God and Nature first made us first what we are, and out of our own creative Genius we make ourselves what we want to be. Follow always that great law. Let God and the sky be our limit, and eternity our measurement. There is no height to which you cannot climb without the active intelligence of your own mind. Mind creates, and as much as we desire in nature we can have through the creation of our own minds. And today being scientifically the weaker race, you shall treat others only as they treat you; but in your homes and everywhere possible, you must teach the higher development of science to your children; and make sure; and make sure that we have a race of scientists par excellence. For in religion and science lies our only hope to withstand the evil designs of modern materialism.
Never forget your God. Remember, that we live, work, and pray for a binding racial hierarchy, whose only natural, spiritual and political limits shall be God and “Africa, at home and abroad.” With God’s dearest blessings, I leave you for a while… ONE LOVE.