Jump to main content

Marcus Garvey Day

Marcus Garvey Header

August 11, 2022

Today commemorates Marcus Moziah Garvey, a Jamaican-born Black political activist, publisher, and journalist (to name a few). Garvey was probably the most charismatic Afro-American leader until Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He established a chain of businesses including factories, hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, and laundries and was the founder of the Negro World newspaper, Black Star Line, and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Garvey popularized, and is credited for, the phrase “Black Is Beautiful”, giving his followers and supporters a sense of hope and power.

Born August 17, 1887, Marcus Garvey was the youngest of 11 children to a stonemason father and domestic servant mother. Being a descendant of African slaves (the Irish last name Garvey had been inherited by his ancestors from their former owners), he was at the lowest level of the Jamaican social hierarchy. At the age of 14, Garvey left for Kingston and joined the labor union for a local print shop in Kingston, which set the stage for his activism work.

In 1914, Garvey started the first UNIA in Jamaica and three years later established the first in Harlem, NY. By 1919, UNIA membership grew to more than four million members. Later, Marcus Garvey became targeted by the then Bureau of Investigation due to his outspoken activism and Black nationalism. This would eventually lead to his imprisonment for five years in Atlanta where he would write his famous paper First Message to the Negroes of the World from Atlanta Prison.After his release, he traveled to speak to the League of Nations to speak of racial issues and the worldwide abuse of people of color and later established the People’s Political Party in Jamaica to support worker’s rights and the poor. Garvey lived and worked in London from 1935 until his death in 1940.

Though not embraced by many of his peers for his separatists/nationalist views, Garvey’s legacy as a leader, speaker, and activist continues worldwide.

“We must canonize our own saints, create our own martyrs, and elevate to positions of fame and honor Black men and women who have made their distinct contributions to our racial history … I am the equal of any white man; I want you to feel the same way.”

Take Action:

For additional education and personal development related to diversity, equity and inclusion, the following resources are available: DEI Education and Resources, DEI and Antiracism Resources from the UNC Libraries, the Education Equity Toolkit from the Colorado Department of Higher Education, and the UNITE workshops for faculty, staff, and students.