Marcus Garvey

Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr. was born on the 17th of August 1887 as the youngest of eleven children in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica, to Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Sr. who was a mason, and Sarah Jane Richards, a domestic worker. Only his sister Indiana and Marcus survived to adulthood. His family was financially stable given the circumstances of this time period. At age 14, Marcus became a printer’s apprentice. In 1903, he travelled 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. Marcus Garvey was a politician, journalist and an entrepreneur among other things. After years of working in the Caribbean, Garvey left Jamaica to live in London from 1912 to 1914, where he attended Birkbeck College, taking classes in law and philosophy.


In 1914 Garvey returned to Jamaica, where he organized the UNIA. Historian Rashid suggests that the UNIA motto, “One God, One Aim, One Destiny”, Garvey named the organization the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities (Imperial) League.


In 1919 at 32 years old, Garvey married his first wife, Amy Ashwood. His former secretary, she had saved Garvey in the Tyler assassination attempt by quickly getting medical help. Garvey separated from her just four months after being married. He later marry again to Amy Jacques, they had two sons together.


He is known as a leading political figure because of his determination to fight for the unity of African Americans by creating the Universal Negro Improvement Association and rallying to gather supporters to fight. With this group he touched upon many topics such as education, the economy and independence.


In 1922, Marcus Garvey and some of his UNIA associates were charged with mail fraud involving the Black Star Line. On June 23, 1923, Garvey was convicted and sentenced to prison for five years. Claiming to be a victim of a politically motivated miscarriage of justice, Garvey appealed his conviction, but was denied.


In 1927 he was released from prison and deported to Jamaica.His message of pride and dignity inspired many in the early days of the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. In tribute to his many contributions, Garvey’s bust has been displayed in the Organization of American States’ Hall of Heroes in Washington, D.C.


Garvey died in London on June 10, 1940, at age 52 after suffering two strokes. Twenty years later, his body was removed from the shelves of the lower crypt 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.


He also had a tremendous affect on the creation of Rastafarianism. Even though he could not find enough support for his movement to succeed in Jamaica, Garvey gave Rasta’s the guidance they needed to rise above their oppressors which led them to create a movement for the black race in Jamaica.


When Marcus Mosiah Garvey passed away his words were not forgotten. His message is still alive in reggae music and his actions have greatly impacted the black race.


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