Marcus Mosiah Garvey: Why We Honor Him


Marcus Mosiah Garvey was named Jamaica’s first National Hero. He was born in St. Ann’s Bay on August 17, 1887. Garvey’s legacy can be summed up in the philosophy he taught - race pride, the need for African unity; self-reliance; the need for Black people to be organized and for rulers to govern on behalf of the working classes.

   The name Marcus Mosiah Garvey:  visionary, ahead of his time, self belief, positive self esteem and self-image, liberation, racial equality and the development of Africa. Marcus Garvey devoted his life to the liberation and holistic development of Black peoples across the world and the advancement of Africa. 

     In 1914 Garvey started the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), in Jamaica. The UNIA, which grew into an international organization, encouraged self-government for black people worldwide; self-help economic projects and protest against racial discrimination. He was the organization’s first President General.

     On May 9, 1916, Marcus Mosiah Garvey went to the USA where he held his first public lecture in New York City at St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, and preached his doctrine of freedom to the oppressed Blacks through a 38-State speaking tour around the country.

  In May 1917, Garvey and thirteen others formed the first UNIA division outside Jamaica and began advancing ideas to promote social, political, and economic freedom for Blacks.

     *On August 17, 1918, publication of the widely distributed Negro World newspaper began.

      *By June 1919 the membership of the UNIA had grown to over three million. On October 14 of that same year, Marcus Garvey survived an assassination attempt. That same month, the International Convention of the UNIA was held. 

       *With delegates from all over the world in attendance, over 25,000 people filled Madison Square Gardens on August 1 to hear Garvey speak.

      *On June 27, 1919, the Black Star Line of Delaware was incorporated by the members of the UNIA with Garvey as President. By September, it obtained its first ship. Much fanfare surrounded the inspection of the S.S. Yarmouth and its rechristening as the S.S. Frederick Douglass, on September 14, 1919. Such a rapid accomplishment garnered attention from many.

       *November 1919 the Bureau of Investigation or BOI (after 1935, the Federal Bureau of Investigation) starts an investigation into the activities of Garvey and the UNIA. A charge of mail fraud was brought against Garvey.

      *Convinced that Blacks should have a permanent homeland in Africa, Garvey sought to develop Liberia. The Liberia program, launched in 1920, was intended to build colleges, universities, industrial plants, and railroads, as part of an industrial base from which to operate. The Liberia Project was abandoned in the mid-1920s after much opposition from European powers with interests in Liberia.

         *On June 23, 1923, Marcus Mosiah Garvey was sentenced to five years in prison, in what his supporters describe as a miscarriage of justice. He initially spent three months in the Tombs Jail awaiting approval of bail. While on bail, he continued to maintain his innocence, travel, speak and organize the UNIA. After numerous attempts at appeal were unsuccessful, he was taken into custody and began serving his sentence at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary on February 8, 1925.

     Garvey’s sentence was eventually commuted by President Calvin Coolidge. Upon his release in November 1927, Marcus Garvey was deported via New Orleans to Jamaica, where a large crowd met him at Orrett’s Wharf in Kingston. A huge procession and band converged on UNIA headquarters. Back in Jamaica in 1927, he continued his political activity. In 1928, Garvey traveled to Geneva to present the Petition of the Negro Race, which outlined the worldwide abuse of Africans, to the League of Nations.

   In September 1929, Marcus Mosiah Garvey founded the People’s Political Party (PPP), Jamaica’s first modern political party, which focused on workers’ rights, education and aid to the poor. On June 10, 1940, Marcus Mosiah Garvey died after two strokes, putatively after reading a mistaken, and negative, obituary of himself in the Chicago Defender. Because of travel conditions during World War II, he was interred at Kensal Green Cemetery in London.

     In 1964, his remains were exhumed and taken to Jamaica. On November 15, 1964, the Government of Jamaica, having proclaimed him Jamaica’s first National Hero, ceremoniously re-interred him at a shrine in National Heroes Park. 

        This is where he was given Jamaica’s highest honor - The Order of National Hero.So today we refer to him as the Right Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey.



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