UCLA holds excerpts from some of Garvey’s speeches in their Sound Library.
Leader of the first movement of the black working class, Jamaican-born
Marcus Garvey galvanized African Americans with his inspiring speeches
and his newspaper, Negro World. When Garvey spoke at the Bethel
A.M.E. church in Harlem, 2,000 people raised the roof with shouts of
In 1914, Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association
(UNIA). Its goal: to promote self-reliance among African Americans and
solidarity among blacks worldwide. Five years later, Garvey set up UNIA
headquarters at Liberty Hall in Harlem. The message and the movement
spread like wildfire: By the early 1920s, the UNIA had opened 700 branches
across the country.
Garvey's "back to Africa" movement aimed to instill a sense
of black pride—and to empower those of African descent to defy European
domination and oppression. As contributions to his cause poured in
from around the country, Garvey founded several black-owned enterprises.
Foremost among them was the Black Star Line, a steamship company designed
to foster trade and transport among blacks living in the United States,
the Caribbean, and Africa.
In August 1920, hundreds of delegates from all over the globe packed
Liberty Hall for UNIA's first International Convention of the Negro
Peoples of the World. On August 3, some 25,000 people marched from
Harlem to Madison Square Garden for a rally led by Garvey.
Garvey was frustrated not only with white hegemony but with the racism
he encountered among fellow African Americans. He challenged the aristocratic
ideals of so-called Talented Tenth leaders such as W. E. B. Du Bois—who,
in Garvey's eyes, rejected their African heritage and discriminated
against dark-skinned blacks. Du Bois, for his part, considered Garvey
both a traitor and a dictator; the two leaders traded frequent rhetorical
barbs and blows in public.
Like Du Bois, the U.S. government eyed Garvey's growing popularity
with suspicion. In 1923, when the Justice Department convicted Garvey
of mail fraud, it did so with the help of his detractors. After being
imprisoned in 1925, Garvey was pardoned by President Calvin Coolidge
and deported to Jamaica in 1927.
E. B. Du Bois wrote editorials in The Crisis critiquing
Garvey and his movement.