The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow A Century of Segregation
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Jim Crow Stories

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Marcus Garvey (1887 - 1942)
Marcus Garvey Marcus Garvey was an ardent black nationalist who advocated self-help and unity among black people everywhere. Although born and raised in Jamaica, his greatest influence was in the United States. Before he came to America, Garvey had learned the printing trade, traveled extensively throughout Central America, and lived and studied in England for several years. He learned about African culture and the negative impact of colonialism on blacks. Convinced that the only way blacks could escape white exploitation and domination was through unity, Garvey launched, the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League -- which became known as the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) -- in August of 1914 in Jamaica. With the motto "One God! One Aim! One Destiny!," the association sought to unite blacks around the world.
"Be not deceived, wealth is strength, wealth is power, wealth is influence, wealth is justice, is liberty, is real human rights." Garvey left for the United States in 1916, and while in New York gained a following for his movement as an orator, which led him to embark on a national speaking tour. He then established a branch of the UNIA in Harlem. The organization grew rapidly with the end of World War I and with dozens of chapters worldwide, it became the largest black organization in history.

In Harlem he published his most successful and important weekly newspaper, THE NEGRO WORLD, from 1918 to 1933. Its attack on colonialism led the British government to suppress the paper in the West Indies. THE NEGRO WORLD promoted Garvey's nationalist ideals and encouraged blacks to return to Africa. Millions of African Americans idolized him for praising the greatness of blacks. "Up You Mighty Race!" was one of his famous exhortations.

Garvey established the Black Star Line, a shipping company that raised more than $600,000 before collapsing in 1922, and the Negro Factories Corporation, which developed grocery stores, a restaurant, a laundry, a moving van fleet, and a publishing house. His brand of nationalism also led to bitter feuds with other black leaders, including African Americans and West Indians. The most notable of Garvey's rivals, W.E.B. Du Bois, described him as "dictatorial, domineering, inordinately vain and very suspicious." At one meeting he invited the Ku Klux Klan to share the platform with him in order to communicate to his followers that as whites take pride in their race, so too should blacks. In 1923, the U.S. authorities successfully prosecuted and convicted Garvey for mail fraud in connection with stock sales for the Black Star Line. Garvey served a two-year sentence and was then immediately deported.

--Richard Wormser

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Garvey gained a following by speaking nightly as a soapbox orator on a Harlem street corner.
Related Pages
Harlem Renaissance
W.E.B. Du Bois
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