Marcus Garvey’s Contributions to History

Subject: History
Pages: 3
Words: 849
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Study level: Bachelor

Marcus Garvey was a political activist and theorist who made significant contributions to history. Garvey was born in 1887 and died in 1940; his goal was to establish an autonomous state that would safeguard and enhance the lives of black people worldwide (Ledgister, 2019; Jagmohan, 2020). Before decolonization, his transnational organization, the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), had sparked one of the most significant global and indigenous movements in history by the 1920s (Jagmohan, 2020). Jagmohan (2020) emphasizes that from the cotton fields of Mississippi to the sugarcane plantations of Montego Bay, hundreds of thousands of black people proclaimed themselves ‘Garveyites’ and vowed to fight for self-determination and independence. Therefore, Marcus Garvey may be regarded as the heart and spirit of the phenomenally successful UNIA.

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Early life and the Establishment of UNIA

Essentially, Garvey’s childhood significantly impacted his perceptions and ideas. Garvey was not an American native, born and raised in Jamaica under British authority (Hangleberger, 2018). According to Jagmohan (2020), Garvey was born in 1887 in Jamaica’s St. Ann’s Bay to a stonemason and a domestic servant; Marcus and one sister are the sole survivors of his parents eleven children. James (2018) states that Garvey’s formative experience with the British empire affected his development due to the Black struggle for emancipation and self-actualization. Though his connection with his father was strained, Garvey Sr.’s passion and love for books left an indelible mark on his son. The revelation that Garvey’s childhood playmate, the daughter of Rev. Lightbourn, the Methodist preacher, was being sent back to Britain with orders not to approach Garvey again because he was Black was an unpleasant shock (James, 2018). Thus, Garvey grew increasingly conscious of the difficulty of being Black; he felt upset with the injustices faced by his race just because it was Black.

Garvey’s enlightenment process culminated, and he made a crucial intervention into the authoritarian regime. Jagmohan (2020) informs that Garvey temporarily studied law at Birkbeck College before spending over a year in the British Museum devouring books on history, politics, and sociology. Essentially, in the capital of the British Empire, he developed a profoundly nationalist worldview, attributing Africa’s and all its successors’ troubles to a lack of governance (Hanglberger, 2018). Garvey moved to Jamaica, where he created the Universal Negro Improvement Association and the African Communities League (Jagmohan, 2020). He realized that black people worldwide experienced a shared type of oppression.

Contributions to History: The Garveyite Movement

Marcus Garvey believed that the earth was initially and primarily separated into races. Hanglberger (2018) argues that Garvey thought that the primary determinant of the human situation was race, not the complexities of an economic system. Essentially, Marcus Garvey arrived in the United States in 1916, following an itinerant period of labor in Central and South America and a formative year in London between 1912 and 1914 (Hanglberger, 2018). After World War I, Garvey recognized that Black soldiers had paid with their lives on European battlefields in the hope of being compensated with equality and freedom within a democratic polity (James, 2018). Nonetheless, the Black question was avoided, and nothing was done to improve the situation. These experiences and thoughts impacted Garvey’s desire to unite Black people and fight injustice.

Consequently, Garvey established the UNIA, laying the groundwork for his incredible success story. According to Hanglberger (2018), the New York section was registered in 1918 and swiftly blossomed. The political activist held his First International Convention of the Negro Peoples of the World in August 1920, which drew hundreds of Black leaders from throughout the globe and thousands of observers. The committee prepared the most significant text of the conference, “the Declaration of the Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World” (Hanglberger, 2018, p. 209).

James (2018) claims that the fundamental objective of the UNIA was to unite all of the world’s Black people into one large body to build their government. Garvey became the centerpiece of the UNIA’s vision of Black salvation as he honed his argumentative abilities (James, 2018). Against the stream, which was filled with anti-Black prejudices, Garvey launched a revolutionary movement in the Black community. Hence, he altered the foundation of the Black experience, imagining liberation as a moral, mental, and physical return to Africa.

Garvey successfully conveyed his message to Black people everywhere, as well as the rest of the world. James (2018) acknowledges that Garvey’s impassioned idea was that Africa is the birthplace of a once-great civilization that would rise again. Therefore, he made the cause of people of African ancestry a part of the global political conscience in less than five years. The Garveyite movement left a body of thinking in Garvey’s philosophy that defined the original perspective, as well as an action plan in Garvey’s principles that confronted the situation of the Black person on the broader picture (James, 2018). Moreover, Garvey’s plan of action aimed for a radical transformation of Black consciousness toward advancing the interests of people of African descent. To conclude, Marcus Garvey may be viewed as a historical reflection of societal development, the abolition of slavery, and greater recognition of rights.

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Hanglberger, D. (2018). Marcus Garvey and his relation to (Black) socialism and communism. American Communist History, 17(2), 200–219. Web.

Jagmohan, D. (2020). Between race and nation: Marcus Garvey and the politics of self-determination. Political Theory, 1-32. Web.

James, L. R. (2018). Caribbean icons in uniform: A comparative analysis of Toussaint L’Ouverture, Marcus Garvey, and Fidel Castro. Black Theology, 16(2), 110–124. Web.

Ledgister, F. S. J. (2019). Marcus Garvey. Caribbean Quarterly, 65(3), 451-453. Web.