"It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have." ~ James Baldwin
"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Marcus Garvey

"Look for me in the whirlwind or the storm, look for me all around you, for, with God's grace, I shall come and bring with me countless millions of black slaves who have died in America and the West Indies and the millions in Africa to aid you in the fight for Liberty, Freedom and Life." ~ Marcus Garvey, First Message to the Negroes of the World from Atlanta Prison

Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr. was born August 17, 1887 in St. Ann's Bay, Jamaica. He became a printer's apprentice at the age of 14, and leading a labor strike for higher wages in 1907 was the beginning of a lifetime of activism. He traveled throughout Central America and Europe working as an editor and printer, and was greatly influenced by Pan-Africanist Duse Mohamed Ali in England. Upon returning to Jamaica he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association.

After reading Up From Slavery Garvey began correspondence with Booker T. Washington and came to the United States to visit Tuskegee Institute, planning to create a similar school in Jamaica. He settled in Harlem where he met Hubert Harrison and began speaking on street corners, much as he had done at Hyde Park Speakers' Corner in London. He established a branch of the UNIA in New York, promoting social, political and economic freedom for those of African descent, and the next year began publication of Negro World, a weekly newspaper.
"The Universal Improvement Association represents the hopes and aspirations of the awakened Negro. Our desire is for a place in the world, not to disturb the tranquility of other men, but to lay down our burden and rest our weary backs and feet by the banks of the Niger and sing our songs and chant our hymns to the God of Ethiopia."
The UNIA grew rapidly, and within two years claimed over two million members. The Black Star Line was incorporated, purchasing a ship rechristened SS Frederick Douglass as part of Garvey's vision of promoting trade with Africa and transporting to Liberia those who wanted to leave the white-dominated American countries. UNIA's first International Convention was held in 1920, with 25,000 present at Madison Square Garden to hear Garvey speak. Total membership at that time was said to be four million.

J. Edgar Hoover's General Intelligence Division of the Bureau of Investigation (known as the FBI after 1935) began investigating Garvey, first in search of evidence for charges as an undesirable alien and then for mail fraud, bringing in the U. S. Attorney General and the U. S. Post Office. Pamphlets promoting the Black Star Line picturing a second ship, the Phillis Wheatley, which had not been purchased were used as evidence, and in June 1923 Garvey was sentenced to five years in federal prison. His sentence was commuted by President Coolidge in 1927, and he was deported to Jamaica.

Garvey became involved in local politics, founding the People's Political Party, and continued to publish the Negro World, but the UNIA declined without his efforts in the United States.

In 1935 he returned to London, again working as a printer and editor. He stayed involved with events in the Caribbean as well as those unfolding in Ethiopia with the invasion of Italian forces. He died in London on June 10, 1940 at the age of 52. In 1964 his remains were reinterred in Jamaica's National Heroes Park and he was proclaimed Jamaica's first national hero.

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