Marcus Garvey – “One God, One Aim, One Destiny”

Garvey was born in Jamaica and immigrated to Harlem in 1916 at the age of 28. In his homeland he had been an admirer of Booker T. Washington‘s philosophy of self-improvement for people of African descent and had formed the Jamaica Improvement Association. When he arrived in America his ideas expanded and he became a Black Nationalist. For him, Africa was the ancestral home and spiritual base for all people of African descent. His political goal was to take Africa back from European domination and build a free and United Black Africa. He advocated the Back-to-Africa Movement and organized a shipping company called the Black Star Line which was part of his program to conduct international trade between black Africans and the rest of the world in order to “uplift the race” and eventually return to Africa.

Garvey studied all of the literature he could find on African history and culture and decided to launch the Universal Negro Improvement Association with the goal of unifying “all the Negro peoples of the world into one great body and to establish a country and government absolutely on their own”. The motto of the U.N.I.A. was “One God! One Aim! One Destiny.” The Negro World was the U.N.I.A. weekly newspaper founded in 1918. It was published in French and Spanish as well as English. In it African history and heroes were glorified.

The ranks of the U.N.I.A. were comprised of African “nobility” – knights of the Nile, dukes of the Niger and Uganda; knights of Ethiopia, duchesses, etc. Garvey himself was the “Provisional President of Africa” and he and the members of his empire paraded in elaborate military uniforms. Harlem loved parades and street ceremonies, and the U.N.I.A. gave the grandest. During their annual conventions, thousands of delegates from all over the United States, the Caribbean, Central America and Africa marched up and down the streets of Harlem with their banners, uniforms and colorfully decorated cars. Garvey travelled throughout the United States speaking and meeting with African-American leaders. In the post World War I economic crisis and with racial discrimination, lynching and poor housing, the masses of Black people were ready for a leader who was aggressive and had a plan to “uplift the race”. The U.N.I.A. grew quickly. By 1919 there were over 30 branches throughout the United States, the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa. Garvey claimed over a million people had .joined his organization in 3 years.

In nine years Garvey built the largest mass movement of people of African descent in this country’s history. It began to fail after he was convicted of mail fraud and was deported from the U.S. The Black Star Line failed because of purported mismanagement and lack of sufficient funds. However, the U.N.I.A. still survives today and Garvey left a legacy of racial pride and identification with a glorious African heritage for African Americans.

 

11 thoughts on “Marcus Garvey – “One God, One Aim, One Destiny”

  1. I listened to one of his speeches one day, after stumbling on to a quote of his in a compilation of clips of MLK and Malcolm. Malcolm has always been my favorite black leader, but Marcus Garvey is equally astounding in his brilliance. His words ring just as true today as they did when he spoke them. He was a visionary.

  2. As with all prophets, revolutionaries and truth sayers, the government found a way to silence him. Rightfully, he’s a national hero, such strength and pride. Thanks for these histories!

    1. Marcus Garvey made many mistakes, however if we consider the time and place in history, we can safely say that he was one of the greatest ever African leaders.

    1. JOOO I WAS INSPIRED BY MARCUS GARVEY TO GO BACK TO AFRICA AND THE LAST 38 YEARS IN YORUBALAND,NIGERIA HAVE BEEN BLACK FREEDOM AND RAISING MY BLACK CHILDREN TO BE PROUD TO BE BLACK WITH YORUBA CULTURE TO MAKE THEM GREAT! BACK TO AFRICA BLACK MAN! GET TRUE BLACK FREEDOM!

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