The purpose of this essay is to explain why the Garvey Movement can be considered an anticipation of the Black Nationalist movement of the 1960s. It will cover GarveyÆs life and the history of the UNIA, and will discuss how the more recent movement both resembled and differed from GarveyÆs.
Marcus Garvey was born in 1887 in a small town in Jamaica, and his early years gave no hint of his later prominence and controversial ideas. His search for a career sent him to Central America, England, and, in 1916, the United States. In the course of this trip he discovered that his own frustrated ambitions were not his alone, but were part of the problem facing the entire African race. He conceived the idea that these problems could be solved by means of Pan-African politics, and accordingly founded the UNIA in Jamaica. It was extended to other West Indies islands and to Africa, but became strongest in the U.S.
In the years during and after the First World War, Marcus Garvey led the largest international movement of African-related people in the twentieth century. Garvey and other UNIA leaders were part of an international elite of African-Americans who applauded the triumph of capitalism, although they denounced racial discrimination, which denied people like themselves places of prestige in the capitalist system. Their response to exclusion from the mainstream Western economic world was to construct African-American institutions modeled on those of white elites. From 1919-1923, he and his organization, the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), built a steamship line, the Black Star line, sponsored expeditions to Liberia, staged annual international conventions, inspired many African-American business enterprises, endorsed African-American political candidates, fostered the study of African-American history and culture, and organized thousands.
The Black Star line, which was a modern economic enterprise blueprinted...