Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr., ONH (17 August 1887 – 10 June 1940), was a Jamaican political leader, publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, and orator who was a staunch proponent of the Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism movements, to which end he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL). He founded the Black Star Line, which promoted the return of the African diaspora to their ancestral lands.
Prior to the 20th century, leaders such as Prince Hall, Martin Delany, Edward Wilmot Blyden, and Henry Highland Garnet advocated the involvement of the African diaspora in African affairs. Garvey was unique in advancing a Pan-African philosophy to inspire a global mass movement and economic empowerment focusing on Africa known as Garveyism. Promoted by the UNIA as a movement of African Redemption, Garveyism would eventually inspire others, ranging from the Nation of Islam to the Rastafari movement (some sects of which proclaim Garvey as a prophet).
Garveyism intended persons of African ancestry in the diaspora to “redeem” the nations of Africa and for the European colonial powers to leave the continent. His essential ideas about Africa were stated in an editorial in the Negro World entitled “African Fundamentalism”, where he wrote: “Our union must know no clime, boundary, or nationality… to let us hold together under all climes and in every country.
Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr. was born as the youngest of eleven children in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica, to Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Sr., a mason, and Sarah Jane Richards, a domestic worker. Only his sister Indiana along with Marcus survived to adulthood. His family was financially stable given the circumstances of this time period. Garvey’s father had a large library, and it was from his father that Marcus gained his love for reading. He also attended elementary schools in St. Ann’s Bay during his youth. While attending these schools, Garvey first began to experience racism. In 1907, he took part in an unsuccessful printer’s strike and the experience kindled in him a passion for political activism. In 1910 Garvey left Jamaica and began traveling throughout the Central American region. His first stop was Costa Rica, where he had a maternal uncle. He lived in Costa Rica for several months and worked as a time keeper on a banana plantation. He began work as editor for a daily newspaper called La Nacionale in 1911. Later that year, he moved to Colón, Panama, where he edited a biweekly newspaper, before returning to Jamaica in 1912. Over time, Marcus Garvey became influenced by many civil rights activist of his time. He ultimately combined the economic nationalist ideas of Booker T. Washington and Pan-Africanists with the political possibilities and urban style of men and women living outside of plantation and colonial societies.
After years of working in the Caribbean, Garvey left Jamaica to live in London from 1912 to 1914, where he attended Birkbeck College, taking classes in law and philosophy. He also worked for the African Times and Orient Review, published by Dusé Mohamed Ali, who was a considerable influence on the young man. Garvey sometimes spoke at Hyde Park’s Speakers’ Corner.