Marcus Mosiah Garvey: A Pan African History

Marcus Mosiah Garvey (b. 8/17/1887 – d. 6/10/1940)
Marcus Mosiah Garvey was born in Jamaica's St. Ann's Bay parish on August 17, 1887. His parents were Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Sr., a mason, and Sarah Jane (nee Richards), keeper of the family's farm. Garvey was the youngest of 11 children. He inherited his father's love of reading and the family's extensive library was his refuge in youth.

At 14 years old, Garvey became a printer's apprentice. In 1907, Garvey, though a part of management, led a strike among the printer for higher wages. Garvey's uncompromising negotiations with management on the behalf of workers led to his being fired and ostracized by Kingston's private printing companies. It was this early training that subsequently led Garvey to published his first newspaper, The Watchman, as a forum for his emerging political views about oppression within society.

Photo: Do you know who the two men are with Marcus Mosiah Garvey? 
Please help us identify through comments.

Marcus Garvey Travels the Americas, Goes to London, and Starts UNIA

Garvey left Jamaica between the years 1910 and 1912 to travel. He travelled to countries in South and Central America. This included Costa Rica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Columbia, and Venezuela. He moved to England in 1911 to study briefly at Birkbeck College. It was while in England, in 1911 at the Hyde Park Speaker’s Corner, that he began to speak publicly about the condition of Africans. An important encounter for Garvey while in London was meeting Duse Mohammed Ali, editor of the African Times and Orient Review.

He returned to Jamaica in 1914 and founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). On March 16, 1916, Garvey moved to Harlem in New York where UNIA thrived. Garvey spoke across America and gained thousands of supporters. He urged African-Americans to be proud of their race and return to Africa. His biggest critic of his time was W.E.B. Dubois, who publicly criticized the 'Back to Africa' movement.

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Marcus Garvey married the Jamaican-born Amy Jacques Garvey. Mrs. Garvey did not obtain her legitimacy just from the status of her husband as she was a powerful Pan-Africanist and Black Nationalist journalist. In 1919, Amy Jacques became the Secretary General of the UNIA, a position she held for more than half a century. From 1924 to 1927, Mrs. Garvey was the associate editor of The Negro World, an UNIA newspaper, where she wrote a column titled "Our Women and What They Think."

Marcus Garvey with his wife Amy Jacques Garvey

The Black Star Line and the Rise of Black Nationalism in the Americas

By 1919, Garvey also founded the Black Star Line, a trans-Atlantic ship he aimed to use as transportation to and from Africa. Garvey's attemps to pursuade the government of Liberia to grant land settlements were unsuccessful. That same year, Garvey founded the Negro Factories Corporation to encourage economic independence. In 1922, Garvey was arrested by U.S. marshalls on allegation of mail fraud through use of the federal mail system. The case was in connection with Garvey's sale of ship stock in the Black Star Line.

Many commentators suggest that the prosecution was politically motivated, as Garvey's popularity in the U.S. among Black communities had attracted government attention. U.S. Congressman Charles Range, 15th District, notes in a February 22, 2002 OP-EDS, that a New York Times' study of J. Edgar Hoover's role in the Garvey prosecution: “Hoover saw the [B]lacks and the Reds as a larger conspiracy. The new Negro movement, which Garvey symbolized, Hoover saw as a terrible threat to the American way.”

Many of the members of his early Garveyism or Garveyite movement would become part of the later established Nation of Islam in the U.S. Garvey's call for a United States of Africa was heard not only in the Caribbean and U.S., but in West Africa and Southern Africa. Garvey believed a pan-African state was needed to provide stability and wealth to Africa.

The Poem 'Hail, United States of Africa' was written by Marcus Garvey in 1924.

Hail! United States of Africa!
Hail! United States of Africa-free! Hail! Motherland most bright, divinely fair! State in perfect sisterhood united, Born of truth; mighty thou shalt ever be. Hail! Sweet land of our father’s noble kin! Let joy within thy bounds be ever known; Friend of the wandering poor, and helpless, thou, Light to all, such as freedom’s reigns within.

From Liberia’s peaceful western coast To the foaming Cape at the southern end, There’s but one law and sentiment sublime, One flag, and its emblem of which we boast. The Nigerians are all united now, Sierra Leone and the Gold Coast, too. Gambia, Senegal, not divided, But in one union happily bow. 
The treason of the centuries is dead, All alien whites are forever gone; The glad home of Sheba is once more free, As o’er the world the black n-tan raised his head. Bechuanaland, a State with Kenya, Members of the Federal Union grand, Send their greetings to sister Zanzibar, And so does laughing Tanganyika.

Over in Grand Mother Mozambique, The pretty Union Flag floats in the air, She is sister to good Somaliland, Smiling with the children of Dahomey. Three lusty cheers for old Basutoland, Timbuctoo, Tunis and Algeria, Uganda, Kamerun, all together Are in the Union with Nyasaland. We waited long for fiery Morocco, Now with Guinea and Togo she has come, All free and equal in the sisterhood, Like Swazi, Zululand and the Congo.

There is no state left out of the Union- The East, West, North, South, including Central, Are in the nation, strong forever, Over blacks in glorious dominion. Hail! United States of Africa-free! Country of the brave black man’s liberty; State of greater nationhood thou hast won, A new life for the race is just begun.
~ Poem by Marcus Mosiah Garvey

Photo: Marcus Mosiah Garvey (1914)
In 1925, despite an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Garvey was sent to the Atlanta penitentiary. His The Garvey Letter From an Atlanta Prison is dated February 10, 1925, and excerpted below as follows:
Fellow Men of the Negro Race Greetings
I am delighted to inform you, that your humble servant is as happy in suffering for you and our cause as is possible under the circumstances of being viciously outraged by a group of plotters who have connived to do their worst to humiliate you through me, in fight for real emancipation and African Redemption.
I do not want at this time to write anything that would make it difficult for you to meet the opposition of your enemy without my assistance. Suffice to say that the history of the outrage shall form a splendid chapter in the history of Africa redeemed. When black man will no longer be under the heels of others, but have a civilization and culture of their own.
The whole affair is a disgrace, and the whole black world knows it. We shall not forget. Our day may be fifty, a hundred or two hundred years ahead, let us watch, work, and pray, for the civilization of injustice is bound to crumble and bring destruction down upon the heads of the unjust.
My work is just begun, and when the history of my suffering is complete, then the future generations of the Negro will have in their hands the guide by which they shall know the “sins” of the twentieth century. I, and I know you, too, believe in time, and we shall wait patiently for two hundred years, if need be, to face our enemies through our prosperity.
All I have I have given you. I have sacrificed my home and my loving wife for you. I entrust her to your charge, to protect and defend her in my absence. She is the bravest little woman I know. She has suffered and sacrificed with me for you, therefore, please do not desert her at this dismal hour, when she stands alone. I left her penniless and helpless to face the world, because I gave you all, but her courage is great, and I know she will hold up for you and me.
After my enemies are satisfied, in life or death I shall come back to you to serve even as I have served before. In life I shall be the same; in death I shall be a terror to the foes of Negro liberty. If death has power, then count on me in death to be the real Marcus Garvey I would like to be. If I may come in an earthquake, or a cyclone, or a plague, or pestilence, or as God would have me, then be assure that I would never desert you and make your enemies triumph over you.
Would I not go to hell a million times for you? Would I not like Macbeth’s ghost, walk the earth forever for you? Would I not lose the whole world and eternity for you? Would I not cry forever before the footstool of the Lord Omnipotent for you? Would I not die a million deaths for you? Then, why be sad? Cheer up, and be assure that if it takes a million years the sins of our enemies shall visit the millionth generation of those that hinder and oppress us.
If I die in Atlanta my work shall then only begin, but I shall live, in the physical or spiritual to see the day of Africa’s glory. When I am dead wrap the mantle of the Red, Black and Green around me, for in the new life I shall rise with God’s grace and blessing to lead the millions up the heights of triumph with the colors that you well know. Look for me in the whirlwind or the storm, look for me all around you, for, with God’s grace I shall come and bring with me countless millions of black slaves who have died in America and the West Indies and the millions in Africa to aid you in the fight for liberty, freedom and life.
The civilization of today as gone drunk and crazy with its power and by such it seeks through injustice, fraud and lies to crush the unfortunate. But if I am apparently crushed by the system of influence and misdirected power, my cause shall rise again to plague the conscience of the corrupt. For this again I am satisfied, and for you, I repeat, I am glad to suffer and even die. Again, I say cheer up, for better days are ahead. I shall write the history that will inspire the millions that are coming and leave the posterity of our enemies to reckon with the host for the deeds of their fathers.

With God’s dearest blessings, I leave you for a while.
~ From The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey, edited by Amy Jacques Garvey, p 237-239


Ultimately, Garvey was deported from the U.S. to Jamaica. See Marcus Garvey v. United States, no. 8317, Ct. App., 2d Cir., 2 February 1925, p. 1,699. In 1935, Garvey moved permanently to London where he died on June 10, 1940. In 1964, his body was returned to Jamaica where he was declared a  national hero.


  1. Greetings!

    Please join us in our noble cause. We are petitioning President Barack Obama to exonerate the Right Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey.

    One Love,
    Geoffrey Philp

  2. Great article. However, I believe Marcus Garvey arrived in the UK in 1912, not 1911

  3. "My Name is Marcus Garvey" A bite-sized introduction to e-book (available on Amazon)

  4. The two men on the picture with Garvey are Leonard Percival Howell and his son Hope Howell. Date unknown.

  5. George O. Marke (left), Prince Kojo Tovalou-Houenou of Dahomey, and Marcus Garvey is at right. photo by James Van Der Zee 1924.

  6. GREAT BLACK-MAN....your memory will never die
    by the POWER oF the ...9 I will leave my foot print by your size 9
    in history and the sands of TIME...... (Master-9).


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