Marcus Garvey and the Back to Africa Movement


English 102


May 19, 2003


Marcus Garvey was born on August 17, 1887 to Marcus Sr. and Sarah Garvey in Isle Springs, Jamaica. As a child, says Adam Larclough in his book, Better Day Coming; Blacks Equality, Garvey grew up in St Ann Bay where he taught morals and respect by his mother and father. At the age of eighteen Marcus went to Kingston to work at Benjamin’s printery where he experienced his first strike. The strike failed because the treasurer ran away with the money, but it was a beginning for Garvey, because he went on to work at the Government’s printery and later sent for his parents. Two years later his mother passed away and ten years later his father followed( Laurclough 101).



Clarke tells in his book of Garvey’s quest for equality and how he tried to organize the West Indian immigrants, but he needed a lot of help, so he called on the British Consul. The British Consul was unable to help so through his efforts he was able to form the Universal Negro Improvement Association. The U.N.I.A was comprised of the upper and middle class migrants of Jamaica(Clarke 105). The U.N.I.A. would soon join Garvey to begin the Back to Africa Movement. Clarke writes, "Mr. Garvey believes with frenzied fanaticism in the continent of Africa as the destined end and way of all the scattered fragments of the black race who are sojourning among whiter nations of the earth"(Clarke 244). The Back to Africa Movement was lead by Marcus Garvey in the 1920\'s in order to empower blacks by espousing black nationalism and black economic empowerment; although the movement had a major impact on the African American Community, pressure from the U.S. government resulted in its decline.


Garvey believed that if he went to England he would be able to get help for West Indians working in foreign lands. Raymond Wolters states in his biography of Garvey that the only problem for Garvey was getting to England, so he called on his only surviving sister, Indiana, who worked and lived in England as a child’s nurse to help pay for his trip(Wolters 104). Soon after arriving to England he worked around the docks of London, Cardiff and Liverpool where he began to gain information from African and West Indian seamen. Wolters write that Garvey concluded that suffering was usually based on race not where someone lived. During his journey he met Duse Mohammed Ali, who was an Egyptian Nationalist, and he wanted to spread nationalism beyond Egypt(Wolters 105).


In early 1914, Garvey returned to Jamaica because of the threat of war and also to set up the Universal Negro Improvement Association for members of the black race. Clarke states that the U.N.I.A. did not have any money to finance programs, so they established a trade school. Consequently, the U.N.I.A. used the trade school to acquire skills to earn better wages. Influenced and encouraged by Booker T. Washington, Garvey raised money for a trip to Washington, D.C., but by that time Dr. Washington died(Clarke 125).


In 1919, Garvey returned to the U.S. in order to gain the support of African Americans for his movement. In Laurclough’s book, he tells of how Garvey gave speeches that focused on black empowerment with emphasis on black pride, black trade, and black nationalism (Laurclough 103). Most of Garvey’s speeches and parades were centered in Harlem because during the early 1900\'s African Americans migrated Harlem to experience freedom and get out of the south. Clarke states that Garvey’s parades through Harlem attracted the attention of lots of African Americans which helped Garvey gain support for his movement (Clarke 131). In one of the speeches that Garvey delivered in Harlem, he included a hymn which read:


Save us, World Spirit, from our lesser selves,


Grant us that war and hatred cease,


Reveal our souls in every race and hue;


Help us, O Human God, in this Thy truce,


To make Humanity divine. (Clarke 5)


The first meeting of the U.N.I.A.’s International Convention of the Negro Peoples of the World was at Madison Square Garden in 1920 and the motto for this convention was "Africa for Africans"(Wolters 121). Out of this convention the Declaration of the Rights of Negro