Marcus Garvey – Should Black People Just Go Back To Africa?

Marcus Garvey

It is an honor for me to talk and write about Marcus Garvey. After attending this awesome online class at Stanford University, I heard of this man who fought for a plethora of causes. So as to to help you find summarized, yet interesting information about his life and deeds, I have selected parts of different texts to share with you based on Bio and some of my early African-American History studies and research.

Marcus Garvey is a Jamaican man who became and icon on the struggle of blacks in the U.S. His deeds were of utmost importance. He was an orator for the Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism movements. Afterwards, he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League. Garvey advanced a Pan-African philosophy which inspired a global mass movement, known as Garveyism. Well, Garveyism would eventually inspire others, from the Nation of Islam to the Rastafari movement.

Extra Information:
PanAfricanism is an ideology and movement that encourages the solidarity of Africans worldwide. It is based on the belief that unity is vital to economic, social, and political progress and aims to “unify and uplift” people of African descent.

Social activist Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr. was born on August 17, 1887, in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica. Self-educated, Garvey dedicated to promoting African-Americans and resettlement in Africa. In the United States he launched several businesses to promote a separate black nation, which I personally think would not be the best way to fight against prejudice. Even though I believe he had his reasons to do so, I think the mindset was totally different than the one we are in now. After he was convicted of mail fraud and deported back to Jamaica, he continued his work for black repatriation to Africa.


Founding the United Negro Improvement Association

Inspired by these experiences, Marcus Garvey returned to Jamaica in 1912 and founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) with the goal of uniting all of African diaspora to “establish a country and absolute government of their own.” After corresponding with Booker T. Washington, the American educator who founded Tuskegee Institute, Garvey traveled to the United States in 1916 to raise funds for a similar venture in Jamaica. He settled in New York City and formed a UNIA chapter in Harlem to promote a separatist philosophy of social, political, and economic freedom for blacks. In 1918, Garvey began publishing the widely distributed newspaper Negro World to convey his message.


By 1919, Marcus Garvey and UNIA had launched the Black Star Line, a shipping company that would establish trade and commerce between Africans in America, the Caribbean, South and Central America, Canada and Africa. At the same time, Garvey started the Negros Factories Association, a series of companies that would manufacture marketable commodities in every big industrial center in the Western hemisphere and Africa.


In August 1920, UNIA claimed 4 million members and held its first International Convention at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Before a crowd of about 25,000 people from all over the world, Marcus Garvey spoke of having pride in African history, art, and culture. A number of those attendees found his words inspiring and motivating, but not all of them did. Some other black leaders found his separatist philosophy ill-conceived, By the way, Louis Farrakhan, the current leader of Nation of Islam tends to think similarly. Well, W.E.B. Du Bois, a prominent black leader, co-founder and officer of the NAACP ( National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) called Garvey, “the most dangerous enemy of the Negro race in America.” Garvey felt Du Bois was an agent of the white elite.

Du Bois                                        Marcus Garvey 1

W.E.B Du Bois                                                                                                   Marcus Garvey

Marcus Garvey died in London in 1940 after several strokes. Due to travel restrictions during World War II, his body was buried in London. However, in 1964, his remains were exhumed and taken to Jamaica, where the government proclaimed him Jamaica’s first national hero and re-interred him at a shrine in the National Heroes Park.

This video below will help you understand Marcus Garvey’s life and ideas:

But his memory and influence remain live. His message of pride and dignity inspired many in the early days of the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, mainly led by Martin Luther King, Jr.. and Malcom X. His deeds also influenced Nelson Mandela in South Africa. In tribute to his many contributions, Garvey’s bust (a sculpture of a person’s head, shoulders, and chest) has been displayed in the Organization of American States’ Hall of Heroes in Washington, D.C. In addition, the country of Ghana has named its shipping line the Black Star Line and its national soccer team the Black Stars, in honor of Garvey.

On this video down below, you are going to hear Garvey’s speech. It is a strong message! As a linguist, I really think his accent is as interesting as the speech itself.

He had this idea of taking black people back to Africa and, from what I can see, he would proclaim him the King of Africa. But do you think it would be the solution for the problems faced by black people? Maybe not today, but what about that in the beginning of the 19oo’s?

This material has been selected, adapted, and put together by Rodrigo P. Honorato

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