In Jamaica in 1887, Marcus Garvey was born from his father who was a stone mason, and his mother a domestic worker and farmer. This social activist grew up teaching himself how to read and ultimately, educating himself through his father’s library. At age 14, Marcus became a printer’s apprentice. In 1903, he traveled to Kingston, Jamaica, and soon became involved in union activities. In 1907, he took part in an unsuccessful printer’s strike and the experience kindled in him a passion for political activism. Three years later, he traveled throughout Central America working as a newspaper editor and writing about the exploitation of migrant workers in the plantations. He later traveled to London where he attended Birkbeck College (University of London) and worked for the African Times and Orient Review, which advocated Pan-African nationalism. Inspired by these experiences, Marcus Garvey returned to Jamaica in 1912 and founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (U.N.I.A.) with the goal of uniting all of African diaspora to “establish a country and absolute government of their own.” In 1916, Garvey arrived in the United States for the first time. By the early 1920s, he built the largest and most influential Afro-American mass movement in American history. Before the decade ended, the movement he created and led, though it continued to exist both in the United States and abroad, was a weakened shadow of itself– internally divided and beret of mass support. Garvey invoked the ideas of uniting the black race and an independent Africa. He stressed that every Afro-American should embrace their cultural roots, and leave the racism they dealt with to move back to Africa. He stressed that black men should glorify their black queens and keep the black race pure. He may not have always worked for it wisely or even effectively, but he never ceased working for it and believing in it. Later in his life, Garvey got into trouble while in America and was forced to serve time before being deported back to Jamaica where he spends his last days.
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“The world has made being black a crime, I hope to make it a virtue.” – Marcus Garvey
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