The Back to Africa Effect

The Back to Africa Effect

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What role did Marcus Garvey play in the Civil Rights movement?

When many people think about leaders during Black History Month (February) they think about people like Martin Luther King Jr., George Washington Carver, Harriet Tubman, and Booker T. Washington.. Now that is acceptable, but rarely does anyone remember the man who sparked the Civil Rights movement in America, my cousin, Marcus Garvey. I want to acknowledge my cousin on his achievements and also thank him for what he has done for the African-American race. Marcus Garvey may not have made the same kind of contributions that other Civil Rights leaders have made, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t fight for his people Marcus Garvey made one of the greatest contributions of the Civil Rights movement by trying to help out the Negro community all over the world, in a movement known as “Back to Africa.”
Marcus Garvey had two very different parents.’ Marcus’s mother was a gentle, slim, beautiful woman. “She was known for being kind and helpful woman to her neighbors and for working hard to bring up her family” (Lawler 15).Marcus’s father was different of another sort; he was hard, stern, and stubborn. “A skilled stonemason, he cut and shaped white rock for the walls of nearby plantation houses belonging to Jamaica’s wealthy estate owners. But he only worked when he felt like it.”(Lawler 16).Now although these were good qualities to have, in addition to “brilliant intellect and dashing courage,” his father’s bold, determined, strong, stubborn, and fearless attitude led to his downfall.
Marcus’s father liked to read and received a newspaper every week for 20 years and he thought it was a gift from the editor, yet when the publisher died, the executors of the estate sent Garvey Sr. a bill that he steadfastly ignored and as a result he was then taken to court and in a series of events his including property being sold to cover the debts and quarrels with neighbors over land boundaries the Garvey estate was soon down to the little land that their house stood on. Now Marcus Garvey’s father was stubborn but that runs deep in his blood lines as a Maroon. The Maroons were a group of escaped Jamaican slaves who fought British colonial rule during the 17th & 18th century.
Marcus Mosiah Garvey, named after his father, was born on April 17, 1881, to Sarah and Marcus Garvey.

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(Lawler 17)Garvey was their eleventh child. Marcus Jr. and his older sister, Indiana, were the only ones to reach adulthood out of all their siblings. All of the others died during childhood. He was born in St. Ann’s Bay, a small village on Jamaica’s northern coast.

-In the word of Marcus Garvey (Lawler, p.20)
This incident was the first bit of racism that Garvey experienced. After this incident Garvey realized the barriers in race. This was just the thing Garvey needed to see the reality of the world, and it also helped him realize his dream for leading his people to freedom.
Garvey’s struggle was influenced by his yearning for learning. He was educated in public schools, by private tutors, and by reading the volumes in his father’s library. Garvey’s first job, at age 15, was a printer’s apprentice in his godfather’s shop.Yet, this was not end of his education.Garvey’s godfather was an educated man, who continued to educate Garvey in the back room of his printing shop, which was full of old literature. At 18, Marcus moved to Kingston, Jamaica’s capital, and worked at his uncle’s rintery.Within two years he was a master printer and foreman at one of the islands largest firms’ (Lawler 21)This experience became useful to Garvey when he began his own series of newspapers and journals that became major parts of the organizations he started. Also his time and exposure in Kingston contributed to the shaping of his political ideas. (Lawler 21)
All of these events and many more led to Garvey setting up his own organization, the UNIA (Universal Negro Improvement Association).The UNIA’s Purpose was to improve the conditions for Negro's all over the world. Although Garvey wanted separation for blacks and whites, he also wanted peace, harmony, and equal rights and opportunities for both sides. The UNIA a non-profit organization, but there were still costs. For that reason, Garvey was forced to leave Jamaica and the Caribbean and move to New York City, where he could get the most help and improvements for his organization (Lawler 41)
Garvey established a New York UNIA, which he also decided to make his head quarters. Afterwards, he also established a United Negro Factories Corporation, Black Star Line. At this time there was a failed murder attempt on Garvey by former employee; George Tyler Garvey married his secretary, Amy Ashwood. Next, he oversaw the First International Convention of Negro Peoples of the World, and founded the African Orthodox Church. (Lawler 107) Garvey then travels to Latin America, and upon return, the U.S. government tries to prevent him from entering. Next, in personal issues, he divorced Amy Ashwood, and then marries Amy Jacques (downward spiral). Garvey was arrested, charged, and indicted for mail fraud in connection with Black Star Line. In another shocker, he met with KKK members to arrange some sort of agreement with their organization. He was then convicted in a mail fraud trial, sentenced to five years imprisonment, which he appealed and was released on bail. Afterwards, he established the Black Cross Navigation and Trading Company. Then in, 1925, his appeals of conviction are rejected and Garvey entered the Atlanta Penitentiary.
Eventually, Garvey’s sentence is commuted; he is deported to Jamaica.
Garvey went to London and established a European branch of the UNIA. Upon his return he presided, over the Sixth International Convention of the Negro Peoples of the World. After that he had his first son, Marcus Jr. Three years after that his son Julius Winston was born. Garvey then moves to UNIA Headquarters in London and on June 10, 1940 Marcus Mosiah Garvey died. (According to Lowler, p.107’Marcus Garvey)

In conclusion Garvey led an interesting life. The reason I say that is because no man like him had ever tried what he did. Also believe he made the biggest contribution by trying to help the entire African-American race.


Bayne John G. and Clarke John Henrik ‘Marcus Garvey’ The Afrocentric Experience

Gershoni, Yekutiel Common goals, different ways: The UNIA and the NCBWA in West Africa; Journal of Third World Studies; Volume 18, #2

Lawler, Mary; Marcus Garvey, New York, Chelsea House Publisher
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