How Marcus Garvey Became The “Negro Moses”

Marcus Garvey Square/Mark Gstohl/Flickr/CC-2.0

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“The white man has succeeded in subduing the world by forcing everybody to think his way...The white man's propaganda has made him the master of the world, and all those who have come in contact with it and accepted it have become his slaves.” - Marcus Garvey

Born in Jamaica in 1887, Marcus Garvey has been called the “Negro Moses” for his triumphant efforts to fight for Black liberation and economic independence. Drawing heavily on the work of Booker T. Washington, Garvey encouraged complete social and political separation from whites and resettlement in Africa.

When Garvey moved to England at age 25, he became steeped in Pan-African philosophy and began formulating a plan for how to empower Black people. After three years of writing for the African Times and Orient Review, he founded the first chapter of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (U.N.I.A.).

The U.N.I.A. birthed several organizations aimed at helping Black people get to Liberia and start a new life as part of the “Back to Africa” movement.

Garvey believed that a people dislocated from their homeland are like a tree without roots. He supported Black nationalism and sought to separate socially, politically, and economically from whites.

As a powerful dynamic speaker, Garvey attracted massive attention from Black people across the world who bought into his ideas of racial uplift. Later, his followers, called “Garveyites,” named his compelling beliefs “Garveyism.”

In addition to public speeches, Garvey propagated his ideas through his newspaper Negro World, which reached a global audience spanning four continents and over 200,000 readers. This publication was the most widely-read Black publication of its time and held that record for many years.

Garvey realized that to see the change he wanted to see, he would have to take his efforts a step further. So he created the Black Star Steamship Line and Negro Factories Company.

He designed Black Star to provide affordable transportation to Black people worldwide and the Negro Factories Company encouraged economic independence by building factories, grocery stores, restaurants, and other businesses.

The American government took an anti-Garvey stance and the F.B.I. went on a mission to ruin his life and career. According to historian Winston James, “They placed spies in the U.N.I.A., they sabotaged the Black Star Line. The engines of the ships were actually damaged by foreign matter being thrown into the fuel.”

Eventually, the government charged Garvey with mail fraud, sentenced him to five years in prison, and deported him to Jamaica after his release. Despite legal woes, he remained politically active and continued his U.N.I.A. work abroad.

Hands down, Marcus Garvey holds a special place in our people’s history as one of the most influential Black activists of all-time. Even Rastafarianism, The Nation of Islam, and Black Power movements have drawn from Garveyism to ground themselves in Black nationalist principles.

Reading Garvey’s own words brings us enlightenment and empowerment as his revolutionary message still rings true today. Discover more about his powerful message here.

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