Custom Search 1

25 interesting facts about Jamaican hero Marcus Garvey

TO COMMEMORATE the birthday (Aug 17) of Jamaica’s first national hero Marcus Garvey, we've rounded up 25 interested facts about the celebrated political icon:

1. Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jr was born on August 17, 1887 in St Ann's Bay, Jamaica. His parents were Malcus Mosiah Garvey Sr, a stone mason and Sarah Jane Richards, a domestic worker. The Garvey's had 11 children, nine of whom died in early childhood. Only Marcus Garvey and his eldest sister Indiana lived to adulthood.

Garvey's first wife was Amy Ashwood Garvey (1897-1969). They married in New York in 1919 but divorced in 1922. Ashwood was a very active Pan-Africanist, social worker and activist for women's rights.

3. Garvey's second wife was Amy Jacques Garvey (1895-1973). They married in New York in 1922 after his divorce. She was his personal secretary. Jacques played key organisational roles in the UNIA and was instrumental in teaching people about Marcus Garvey after he died. She and Garvey had two sons, Marcus Garvey Jr and Julius Winston Garvey.

4. Garvey came to England in 1912. He worked at the offices of the African Times and Orient Review journal under the leadership of Duse Mohammed Ali, the famous black nationalist and journalist. The African Times and Orient Review was the first political journal produced by and for black people ever published in Britain. It was produced during 1912-1913 and 1917-1918 on a monthly basis and was printed in Fleet Street, London.

Garvey returned to Jamaica from England in July 1914. With the help of an associate Enos J. Sloly and about four others, he created the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and African Communities League (ACL) and launched it on August 1, 1914 which is Emancipation Day in British-ruled Caribbean.

6. The first UNIA division was formed in New York in May 1917. Within a month, the organisation had two million members all over the United States. By 1920, the UNIA had 1,100 chapters in 40 countries around the world including UK, Cuba, Panama, Costa Rica, Ghana. By 1926, the membership of the UNIA had grown to more than 11 million members. Marcus Garvey had built the largest black organisation in history.

7. In 1918, nine years after the failure of his first newspaper, The Watchman, Garvey and the UNIA created the Negro World. It quickly grew from being a weekly into a worldwide phenomenon with a peak circulation of 200, 000. It featured reports from UNIA chapter, poetry, literary excerpts, a women's page and commentary on global events significant to black people. It had sections in Spanish and French. Colonial authorities feared the Negro World and it was banned in many countries including Belize, Trinidad, Guyana, Jamaica and several African countries.

Garvey and other activists were partly inspired by the Irish movement for independence from English rule and thus named the UNIA headquarters Liberty Hall after Liberty Hall in Dublin, Ireland, which was the symbolic seat of the Irish Revolution. Located at 114 West 138th Street in New York City, the New York City Liberty Hall had a seating capacity of six thousand. It was dedicated on July 27, 1919. Garvey held nightly meetings at Liberty Hall that drew up to six thousand people at a time.

9. For the entire month of August 1920, Marcus Garvey's UNIA and ACL organisations held their first international convention in New York City. Most events were held at the New York Liberty Hall. The biggest events were held at New York City's world-famous Madison Square Garden. An estimated 25,000 black people attended the convention from all around the world. Delegations from 25 African countries were in attendances as well.

10. The convention adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World which was one of the earliest and most complete document advocating human rights and detailing the abuses against Black people worldwide. The document made demands including: the freedom of Africa for the Negro people of the world, the condemnation of the term ‘nigger' and stipulation that ‘Negro' be spelled with a capital N, no taxation without representation, equal treatment before the law and the condemnation of segregation and lynching.

11. Garvey launched the UNIA's first major commercial venture, the Black Star Line Steamship Corporation in New York in 1919. The goals of the corporation were to establish an efficient mode of transportation, communication and trade among black people worldwide and to enhance the stature, self-image and pride of these communities. The public invested in the corporation by purchasing stock shares at five dollars each.

12. The corporation purchased its first ship the SS Yarmouth in September 1919. It was later unofficially renamed the SS Frederick Douglass after the African American abolitionist. The Yarmouth proceeded to sail for three years between the US and the West Indies as the first Black Star Line ship with an all-black crew and a black captain.

13. In 1920, Garvey established the Negro Factories Corporation and offered stock for African Americans to buy. He raised one million dollars for the project. He wanted to produce everything that a nation needed so that African Americans could completely rely on their own efforts. It generated income and provided jobs by its numerous enterprises, including a chain of grocery stores and restaurants, steam laundry, tailor shop, dress making shop, millinery store (clothing, fashion, hats, accessories, etc.), publishing house and doll factory.

14. In New York City alone, Garvey owned several buildings, owned a fleet of trucks and had over 1,000 black people working in his businesses. Hs UNIA also operated the Phyllis Wheatley Hotel in New York.

15. Garvey's ultimate dream was for the independence of all African countries and the creation of a United States of Africa. The UNIA embarked on a plan to repatriate some black people from the United States and other parts of the African diaspora back to Africa. Liberia, a country established in 1822 by the American Colonisation Society was the intended geographical base of the UNIA's African colonisation venture.

16. Garvey had enemies, including J. Edgar Hoover, and, ironically, W.E.B. Du Bois. Du Bois was an integrationist who did not support a separate black state and repatriation. Du Bois was also opposed to Garvey's association with the Ku Klux Klan, his criticism of "mulatto" leadership, and his belief in black racial purity. Du Bois along with other NAACP members organised the ‘Garvey Must Go' campaign and colluded with the US government to have him deported.

17. The FBI established a special counter-intelligence program called COINTELPRO, to neutralize political dissidents. Between the years 1956 and 1971, the FBI used the COINTELPRO program to investigate "radical" national political groups for intelligence that would lead to involvement of foreign enemies with these groups. According to FBI documents, one of the purposes of the COINTELPRO program was to "expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralise the activities of the Black nationalists". They wanted to prevent the rise of a black "messiah".

18. In 1919, President Hoover hired the FBI's first black agent in order to infiltrate the UNIA. The agent, James Wormley Jones ,was referred to as code number 800. One of Garvey's close confidantes Herbert Boulin was also a spy for the FBI known as agent P-138.

19. In 1923, when his steamship company went bankrupt, Garvey was convicted of mail fraud by using the United States mail to fraudulently collect money for investment in a ship that was never acquired. He went to jail for two years. His sentence was commuted by President Coolidge before Garvey was deported to Jamaica.

20. Garvey arrived in Kingston Jamaica on 10 December, 1927. During this period, Garvey became a father when Amy Jacques Garvey gave birth to two sons.

21. In 1928, Garvey created the People's Political Party (PPP) which was Jamaica first modern political party and the first to defend the interests of the black majority. The party's manifesto called for official representation in the British parliament, a minimum wage, land reform, a Jamaican university, judicial reform, a government-run electrical system, public high schools and libraries and a national opera house.

22. In an effort to rebuild the international influence of the UNIA, Marcus Garvey moved to London in March 1935. In London, Garvey continued to speak extensively, appearing frequently at Speaker's Corner Hyde Park.

23. Garvey had a stroke in January 1940 which left him partially paralysed. In May 1940, George Padmore wrote an article stating that Garvey had died which upset Garvey and he suffered a second fatal stroke or heart attack.

24. Garvey died on 10 June 1940 in London at age 53 without having set foot in Africa.

25. Some of Garvey's most famous quotes are:

- "If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life."

- "A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots."

- "With confidence, you have won before you have started."

- "There shall be no solution to this race problem until you, yourselves, strike the blow for liberty."

[Source: Black History Studies]

Subscribe to The Voice database!

We'd like to keep in touch with you regarding our daily newsletter, Voice competitions, promotions and marketing material and to further increase our reach with The Voice readers.

If interested, please click the below button to complete the subscription form.

We will never sell your data and will keep it safe and secure.

For further details visit our privacy policy.

You have the right to withdraw at any time, by clicking 'Unsubscribe'.