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Wed, 07.15.1914

The UNIA-ACL is Formed

*On this date in 1914, The Universal Negro Improvement Association was formed, and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL).  This is an African American nationalist fraternal organization founded by Marcus Mosiah Garvey.  

The organization was founded to advance people of African ancestry around the world. Its motto is "One God! One Aim! One Destiny!" Its slogan was "Africa for the Africans, at home and abroad!" The broad mission of the UNIA-ACL led to the establishment of numerous auxiliary components, among them the African Legion (a paramilitary group), the Black Cross Nurses, plus businesses such as the African American Star Steamship Line and the Negro Factories Corporation.  

By 1920, the association had over 1,900 divisions in more than 40 countries. Most of the divisions were located in the United States, which had become the UNIA's base of operations. There were, however, offices in several Caribbean countries, with Cuba having the most. Divisions also existed in Central and South America: Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Venezuela; in Africa: Gold Coast (now Ghana), Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, South West Africa (now Namibia), and the Union of South Africa; and in India and Australia.   

The Pan-African organization enjoyed its greatest strength in the 1920s and was influential before Garvey's deportation to Jamaica in 1927. After that, its prestige and influence declined, but it strongly influenced African American history and development. Honor Ford-Smith said the UNIA was "unquestionably the most influential anti-colonial organization in Jamaica before 1938."

During an emergency commissioners' conference in June 1940, James R. Stewart, a commissioner from Ohio and graduate of the course of African philosophy, was named the successor. In the following months, the Parent Body of the UNIA was moved from New York to Cleveland. In October 1940, the New Negro World started publishing out of Cleveland. After the 1942 International Convention in Cleveland, a rehabilitating committee of disgruntled members was held in New York.  In 1949, Stewart moved to Monrovia, Liberia, took Liberian citizenship, and moved the Parent Body of the UNIA there.  Stewart and his entire family relocated deeper into the country's interior, establishing themselves in Gbandela, Liberia, where they established a hospital, school, and farm.  He continued to lead the Association as President-General until he died in 1964.  

After Stewart died from cancer, the UNIA Parent Body was moved from Monrovia to Youngstown, Ohio, where James A. Bennett took the lead. In 1968, Bennett was succeeded by Vernon Wilson.  After President-General Wilson died in 1975, Mason Hargrave became the next President General. Hargrave testified during United States congressional hearings in August 1987 about the proposed exoneration of Marcus Garvey on charges of mail fraud. The findings of the Judiciary Committee were Garvey was innocent of the charges against him.

Although the Committee determined he had been found guilty earlier due to the social climate of America at the time, they had no legal basis upon which to exonerate a person who had died.  After President General Hargrave died in 1988, all his papers and other Parent Body material were returned to the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, Ohio. From 1988 until now, Cleo Miller, Jr. has held the title of President General.  


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