Marcus Mosiah Garvey (1887-1940) was born in the St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica and become one of the Western-world’s first great African leaders. At a young age he moved to the capital city of Kingston and began working as a printing apprentice. He would spend a large amount of his time developing free press for his African people.
Garvey had the opportunity to travel throughout Central America, witnessing the plight of the Black race. From that moment forward he would dedicate his life’s work to the progression and prosperity of his people. His Greatest achievements came in Harlem, New York where he built up a large following (Garveyites) and organized his United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA – 1918). At one point he had amassed more than two million followers with UNIA meetings held at Madison Square Garden and Carnegie Hall.
By the year 1924 Garvey was achieving huge success in uniting his people, but had exhausted his funds in the idea of a physical Repatriation of the African race. He even went so far as to purchase land in Nigeria and a fleet of ships known as the Black Star Liner. Garvey was not an experienced yachtsman and his investments turned out to be losses with very few sea worthy vessels. Rallying the African people of the world who were recently freed from slavery (JA 1866 / USA 1863) into the magnitude of their heritage and rights was dangerous to the white ruling population. In 1925 Marcus Garvey was put in prison for mail fraud; this was a deadly blow to the not yet born Civil Rights movement.
After numerous appeals to the higher courts, more than two and a half years into his sentence Marcus Garvey was released by President Coolidge (November 18, 1927.) The UNIA leader was subject to immediate deportation. It was back home in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica that Garvey would deliver his proclamation (1928) of the new king to come and later the movement of Rastafari was born.
In Jamaica Garvey continued his political activity, forming the People’s Political Party in 1929. He was unsuccessful in national elections but won a seat on the Kingston and St. Andrew Council (KSAC).
The world of the 1930s was not ready for Garvey’s progressive ideas. He left Jamaica again, this time for England where he died in 1940. His body was brought back to Jamaica in 1964 and buried in the National Heroes Park in Kingston.
Garvey’s legacy can be summed up in the philosophy he taught – race pride, the need for African unity.