Marcus Garvey: Biography, Speeches & Books

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Explore the life and accomplishments of the African rights leader Marcus Garvey and test your understanding about pan-African movements, civil rights, and global African history.

Go Back to Africa

This subtitle is not an insult. It is, however, a widely popular philosophy embraced by millions during the twentieth century.

Marcus Garvey
Marcus Garvey

Marcus Garvey was an African-Jamaican cultural and political leader for African communities across the world. Not only did he support an African identity and cultural movement that spanned across nations, he fervently embraced the idea of all people of African ancestry returning to Africa. Garvey's cultural movement was a major moment in African and African-American causes that echoed throughout the civil rights movement and African identity projects.


Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jr. was the youngest of eleven children. He was born in Jamaica. His family was relatively stable. He quickly learned firsthand about racism as his white childhood friends grew up and stopped associating with him. In 1910, Garvey left Jamaica and traveled around Central America, before moving to London in 1912 to attend Birkbeck College and study law. He was heavily influenced by African-American leaders and developed his own philosophies.

Marcus Garvey and the UNIA

In 1914, Garvey returned to Jamaica and founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association, or UNIA, to promote African issues. He moved to New York in 1916 and established a UNIA branch there, the first outside of Jamaica. He started publishing a newspaper, 'Negro World,' to promote the efforts of UNIA and create a platform for people to discuss African rights and identity. Later, in 1919, the UNIA set up its own shipping business, the Black Star Line.

By 1920, he had 65,000 due-paying members and organized an international conference in New York City. Garvey's movement of African pride and cultural development coincided with other major African and African-American movements of the time. Notably, Garvey's movement coexisted with the Harlem Renaissance, a cultural movement of African-American expression and identity in the 1920s that included music, art, philosophy, and literature.

In 1922, Marcus Garvey and other leaders of UNIA were charged with committing mail fraud through the Black Star Line. He was sentenced to prison for five years but tried to appeal, claiming the charges were an excuse to undermine his political credibility. Garvey was deported to Jamaica in 1927, which resulted in a loss of many supporters. Around 1935, Garvey began working with a white supremacist senator from Mississippi, Theodore Bilbo, to pass a congressional act to deport 12 million African-Americans to Liberia. The act failed, and Garvey lost more support.

Marcus Garvey died in 1940 at 52 years old from strokes in London. His body was later returned to Jamaica where he was proclaimed Jamaica's first national hero. His life inspired many more, from the Hebrew-Ethiopian spiritual movement, Rastafari, to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who said that Garvey was the first 'man of color' to lead a mass movement.

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