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Wed, 08.17.1887

Marcus Garvey, mainstay of the “Back to Africa” movement

Marcus Garvey

*This date marks the birth of Marcus Garvey in 1887. He was a Black Nationalist leader, who was a proponent of the "Back to Africa" movement in the United States.

Garvey was the youngest of 11 children from Saint Ann's Bay, Jamaica. He left school at the age of 14 to serve as a printer's apprentice. A few years later, he took a job at a printing company in Kingston, where in 1907 he led a printers' strike for higher wages.  Garvey then traveled to South America and Central America. In 1912, he went to England, where he became interested in African history and culture. He returned to Jamaica in 1914 and shortly thereafter founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and the African Communities League.  In 1916 he moved to the United States and settled in New York City. There he incorporated the UNIA and started a weekly newspaper, the Negro World.

A persuasive orator and author, Garvey urged American Blacks to be proud of their race and preached their return to their ancestral homeland, Africa. To this end, he founded the Black Star Line in 1919 to provide steamship transportation, and the Negro Factories Corporation to encourage Black economic independence.  Garvey attracted thousands of supporters and claimed two million members for the UNIA.  He Married Amy Jaques in 1922.  Garvey suffered a series of economic disasters, however, and in 1922 he was arrested for mail fraud. Garvey served as his own defense attorney at his trial, was convicted, and went to prison in 1925.

His sentence was commuted two years later, but he was immediately deported to Jamaica. Unable to resurrect the UNIA or regain his influence, Marcus Garvey moved to London,

In January 1940, Garvey suffered a stroke which left him largely paralysed. His secretary, Daisy Whyte, took on responsibility for his care.  At this point, Padmore spread rumors of Garvey's death; this led to many newspapers publishing premature obituaries, many of which he read.   Garvey then suffered a second stroke and died at the age of 52 on June 10 1940.  His body was interred in a vault in the catacombs of St Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Kensal Green Cemetery, West London. 

Reference:
The African American Atlas
Black History & Culture an Illustrated Reference
by Molefi K. Asanta and Mark T. Mattson
Macmillam USA, Simon & Schuster, New York
ISBN 0-02-864984-2

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