Marcus Garvey was born August 17, 1887 in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica to Marcus and Sarah Garvey. Marcus Sr., his father, was a descendent of the Maroons. The Maroons were Africans who managed to escape slavery when they reached western shores by jumping from slave ships, or by fleeing slave plantations and establishing well fortified communities deep in the Jamaican interior.
Garvey was one of our true twentieth century freedom fighters. Garvey arrived in Harlem, New York on March 16, 1916. By 1919, Garvey was established as the President General of the UNIA/ACL, which had a membership of over three million people with more than 300 branches throughout the African World Community.
Perhaps Garvey’s greatest contribution to the uplifting of our people was his ability to find a formula for organizing African people around the African principle: the greatest good for the greatest number. This was reflected in the First International Convention of Negro Peoples of the World in Madison Square Garden, in New York in 1920. Over twenty-five thousand African people from all over the world witnessed the selection of Red, Black and Green as the colors of the Provisional Government. In this context,
Marcus Garvey and the UNIA/ACL had established an economic arm, the Negro Factories Corporation, with cooperative stores, restaurants, steam laundry shops, tailor shops, dressmaking shops, millinery stores, a doll factory to manufacture African dolls, and a publishing house. Garvey also formed a Steamship Corporation. The goals and objectives of the UNIA had now become clear to the world. As Shawna Maglangbayan points out, “…the Garvey movement and UNIA had become a threat to the white world,”
With the cooperation of anti-Garvey, “Negro leaders,” Garvey was eventually charged and convicted of mail fraud for selling stock in the African Star Lines. On February 8, 1925, Marcus Garvey was arrested and convicted for mail fraud and imprisoned in Atlanta, Georgia. With a great movement of support by his followers, Garvey was released from prison in 1927. Immediately following his release, he was deported from the United States and was sent back to Jamaica to continue his work. He continued to travel and while in London, on June 10, 1940, Garvey lapsed into a coma and made his transition into eternity.
The Garvey Movement was one of the greatest mass movements of African people in the world. Although the external and internal forces and enemies of Garvey caused his demise, the ideas of Garvey and the UNIA/ACL are still alive. We need to revitalize and resurrect the spirit of Marcus Mosiah Garvey at every opportunity. One special way to honor the memory of Marcus Garvey is for you to proudly display your Red, Black and Green Flag on his birthday, August 17th in remembrance. The spirit of the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey’s is needed now, more than ever before.
-Dr. Conrad Worrill