Through his affiliation with the Pan-Africanism movement, The Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA), and The Black Star Line, Marcus Garvey will forever be considered one of the most prominent reformers in Black History. It is difficult to make a difference in this world. You are just one person in a world of seven billion. With seven billion humans on this earth, one may ask themselves how one person can possibly make a difference. How is one person going to affect the lives of seven billion? Seems like the odds are not in your favor.
What if I told you that you are still that one in seven billion, but you also have no rights, no respect, heck, some people wouldn’t even include you in that “seven billion people” population because you are an African American. Some people wouldn’t even consider you a human. So now how are you going to make a difference in this world, when you can’t even learn in schools? You can’t even sit on the same side of the bus or train as whites, can’t even feel safe walking down the tree because you know the KKK is after people of your color. Who can think about making a difference then?
How can you focus on making a difference when you are trying to make it another day without getting lynched. Though it seems impossible, try to put yourself in this position. This is the position that Marcus Garvey was in. Remarkably, not only did he change thousands of lives for the better, but he did so in a time where black people could be killed for trying to make reforms. That takes courage. All in all, Marcus Garvey proved that making a difference isn’t about whether you are one in seven billion, it is about being the one who is willing to stand up for something that is bigger than yourself.
On August 17th, 1887 an African American hero was born. His name was Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jr. Marcus Garvey was the youngest in a family of eleven children. His father, Marcus Garvey Sr. , was a mason, and his mother, Sarah Jane Richards, was a domestic worker. Marcus’ father was an inspiring role model to him. His father was known for being very strong willed and passionate about fighting for what he believed was right. These are the attitudes that Garvey Sr. clearly passed down to Garvey Jr. At age fourteen, Marcus got his first job as a printer’s apprentice.
In 1903, at the age of sixteen, he traveled to Kingston, Jamaica, and soon became involved in union activities. Though he ultimately was an extreme success, Garvey did not always see great results in everything he did. For example, in 1907, Garvey was involved in a printer’s strike that did not work out as planned. Experiences and failures like these were ones that sparked the fire and passion within him for political activism. At the age of nineteen, Garvey traveled all through Central America working as an newspaper editor and writing about the exploitation of migrant workers in the plantations.
This was a topic that Garvey was very passionate about. After that, he traveled to London where he attended Birkbeck College (University of London) and got a job for the African Times and Orient Review, which advocated Pan-African nationalism. All of these early life experiences helped shaped Garvey to later become one of the most influential leaders in African American history. After realizing his passion for activism, Garvey returned to Jamaica. While he was there, he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Garvey believed that uniting the oppressed black community would be the only way to mprove their condition. He knew that in order to bring this association to his people he needed to give it some publicity somehow. This was where “The Negro World” came into play. “The Negro World” was a newspaper that was released each week. Within the articles, the main ideas of the UNIA were discussed.
Personally, Garvey wrote an editorial each week that was highlighted on the first page. His editorials would discuss particular issues that were relevant in the news. This newspaper caught fire and gained rapid popularity. Eventually. t was printed in several different languages so it could be accessible to multiple groups. This was just the start of the UNIA’s power. As the popularity of “The Negro World” grew, so did the UNIA. Its next big step was the purchase of the first of what became to be numerous Liberty Halls. Located in New York City, this first Liberty Hall was able to hold roughly six thousand people. On Sunday nights, UNIA meetings were held there. The UNIA went on to establish groups such as “The Black Star Line” “SS Yarmith” “SS Shadyside” and “The Negroes Factory Organization”.
These were organizations that created jobs and unified African Americans, all while making their livelihoods a tremendous amount easier to bare with. This was always the goal of the UNIA. As the UNIA grew and developed throughout the years, they were able to spread internationally by purchasing more Liberty Halls in the USA, Canada, Costa Rica, Belize, Panama, Java, and other countries. This was a step in the right direction for not only unifying America but the whole world. By 1920, the association had over 1,900 divisions in more than 40 countries.
In August of 1920 the UNIA held its first international convention where over 20,000 members attended the convention. The UNIA had their first official parade that August. It began outside the UNIA headquarters. This parade made a huge statement by making white neighborhoods part of their rout The parade was lead by four mounted policemen and the presidents of Black Star Line and Negro Factories Corporation. They were followed by cars carrying Garvey and Mayor of Monrovia, capital of Liberia, and other UNIA officials.
To top it off, Garvey was elected the “provisional president” of Africa. “One in seven billion” clearly meant nothing to Garvey. It is undeniable that Garvey was a main contributor to the PanAfricanism movement. “Garvey was unique in advancing a PanAfrican philosophy to inspire a global mass movement and economic empowerment focusing on Africa known as Garvevism. ” Garveyism is an aspect of black nationalism that focuses on the social, economic, and political policies of Marcus Garvey. At this movement’s peak of popularity, “Garveyists” (followers of Garveyism) numbered in the millions.
The ideology behind Garveyism is the unification and empowerment of people of African American extent. Pan Africanism may have never reached its peak without Marcus Garvey behind it. He was the one that really placed the idea of Pan Africanism in his fellow African Americans heads. By Garvey founding the UNIA and getting these thousands of African Americans together and unified, he allowed the push for Pan Africanism to exist. If Garvey never unified the African Americans and educated them on the importance of rallying against racism as a whole, Pan Africanism may have fell right on its face.
Garvey explains, “The thing to do is to get organized; keep separated and you will be exploited, you will be robbed, you will be killed. Get organized and you will compel the world to respect you. ” Garvey had the presence of mind to unify a black community. Garvey knew individually they were not powerful nor respected. But as a unit, they were a solid force to be reckoned with. To prove how influential Garvey was to the Pan African movement, the Pan Africanism movement adopted the flag from the UNIA which was Marcus Garvey’s movement. The flag was made up of three horizontal stripes of red black and green.
The meaning behind this flag is “ Red is the color of the blood which men must shed for their redemption and liberty; black is the color of the noble and distinguished race to which we belong; green is the color of the luxuriant vegetation of our Motherland. ” Another influential incorporation Marcus Garvey founded was the “Black Star Line”. The Black Star Line was a shipping line incorporate by Marcus Garvey. The Black Star Line became a key proponent of the “Back to Africa” movement. The Back to Africa movement was a movement that encouraged people of African American descent to return to their African homeland of their ancestors.
This movement was created when many of the freed slaves still were under racial discrimination in the south with Jim Crow Laws, and many people in the North still believed that Blacks did not belong in any place but slavery. Of course, the great Garvey had a resolution for this problem. The Black Star line was a line of ships that transported goods, and then people to the likes of Africa and other countries. This would become African Americans best opportunity to get out of the hardships of America and return to their homeland of Africa.
Along the way Garvey made history in not only helping bring people back to Africa, but by having the first all black crew on a boat in American history. The boat line was shut down a few years after d because it was losing tremendous amounts of money after the boats proved to be in poor condition. Although this did not last long, the Black Star Line was an important symbol of black potential and stands for major achievement. The Black Star Line still lives on today through Ghana’s flag who adopted a black star in the middle of its flag to pay tribute to Marcus Garvey and the Black Star Line.
All in all, through Marcus Garvey’s role in the Pan Africanism movement, the UNIA, and the Black Star Line, Garvey proves to be one of the greatest African American rights leaders that the World has ever seen. It is truly remarkable the things he accomplished. The amount of good he has done for African Americans, and society as a whole is difficult to put into words. Marcus Garvey once said, “The pen is mightier than the sword, but the tongue is mightier than them both put together. ” Without Marcus Garvey’s tongue the world might be a different place. He truly is a one and seven billion kind of man.