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12 things that you may not know about Marcus Garvey


“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” 

Marcus Garvey

marcus_garvey_page-bg_27771)Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jnr was born on 17 August 1887 in St Ann’s Bay, Jamaica. His parents were Malcus Mosiah Garvey Snr, a stone mason and Sarah Jane Richards, a domestic worker. The Garvey’s had 11 children, nine of whom died in early childhood. Only Marcus Garvey and his eldest sister Indiana lived to adulthood.

2)His first wife was Amy Ashwood Garvey (1897-1969).They married in New York in 1919 but divorced in 1922. Amy Ashwood was a very active Pan-Africanist, social worker and activist for women’s rights.

 3) His second wife was Amy Jacques Garvey (1895-1973).They married in New York in 1922 after his divorce. She was his personal secretary. Amy Jacques played key organisational roles in the UNIA and was instrumental in teaching people about Marcus Garvey after he died. She and Garvey had 2 sons Marcus Garvey Jnr and Julius Winston Garvey.

4)Education was at the heart of Garvey’s redemptive movement and in 1916 when Garvey decided to travel to the United States, his sole mission was to secure funds for schools to be built in Jamaica and would be modeled on Booker T. Washington’s “Tuskegee Institute.

5)The first UNIA division was formed in New York in May 1917. Within a month, the organisation had 2 million members all over the United States. By 1920, the U.N.I.A. had 1,100 chapters in 40 countries around the world such as UK, Cuba, Panama, Costa Rica, Ghana. By 1926, the membership of the U.N.I.A. had grown to over 11 million members. Marcus Garvey built the largest Black organization in history.
6)The convention adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World which was one of the earliest and most complete document advocating human rights and detailing the abuses against Black people worldwide. The document made demands such as:a. The freedom of Africa for the Negro people of the world. The condemnation of the term ‘nigger’ and stipulation that ‘Negro’ be spelled with a capital N. No taxation without representation. Equal treatment before the law. The condemnation of segregation and lynching.
7) In 1919, Hoover hired the FBI’s first Black agent in order to infiltrate the UNIA. The agent James Wormley Jones was referred to as code number 800. One of Garvey close confidantes Herbert Boulin was a spy for the FBI known as agent P-138.
8) In 1920, Garvey established the Negro Factories Corporation and offered stock for African Americans to buy. He raised one million dollars for the project. He wanted to produce everything that a nation needed so that African Americans could completely rely on their own efforts. It generated income and provided jobs by its numerous enterprises, including a chain of grocery stores and restaurants, steam laundry, tailor shop, dress making shop, millinery store (clothing, fashion, hats, accessories, etc.), publishing house and doll factory.In New York City alone, he owned several buildings, owned a fleet of trucks and had over 1,000 Black people working in his businesses. Marcus Garvey’s U.N.I.A. also operated the Phyllis Wheatley Hotel (3-13 West 136th Street, New York, NY).
9)Garvey’s greatest achievement was the Black Star Line, which was capitalized at a maximum of $500,000.Incorporated in Delaware, the Black Star Line bought several maritime vessels: SS Yarmouth,(intended to be renamed the SS Frederick Douglass), SS Shadyside, and Kanawha (renamed the SS Antonio Maceo”).
10) In 1923, when his steamship company went bankrupt, Garvey was convicted of mail fraud by using the United States mail to fraudulently collect money for investment in a ship that was never acquired. He went to jail for two years. His sentence was commuted by President Coolidge before Garvey was deported to Jamaica.
11) Garvey’s ultimate dream was for the independence of all African Countries and the creation of a United States of Africa. The UNIA embarked on a plan to repatriate some Blacks from the United States and other parts of the African Diaspora back to Africa.
12) He died on 10 June 1940 in London at age 53 without having set foot in Africa. His life has inspired other Black leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah, Kwame Toure, Jomo Kenyatta, Nelson Mandela, Patrice Lumumba, Julius Nyerere, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr, who said that Garvey was “the first man, on a mass scale, to give millions of Negroes a sense of dignity and destiny … He gave us a sense of personhood, a sense of manhood, a sense of somebodiness.”