The father of African nationalism.
Garveyism is an aspect of Black Nationalism that refers to the social, economic and political policies of UNIA-ACL (Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League) founder Marcus Garvey. Garveyism intended for 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 (17 August 1887) 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. Garvey went on to be known as a leading political figure because of his determination to fight for the unity of the African diaspora. He is the father of African nationalism and his legacy for justice, humanity, economic independence and cultural enlightenment continues for Africans both on the motherland and the Diaspora descendants.
Upon his decline and fall from influence, there were serious efforts to silence his memory and marginalize his accomplishments. Nevertheless, his legacy is alive and well. Marcus Garvey was a visionary far beyond his time. This was reflected in the first International Convention of African Peoples of the World in Madison Square Garden, New York in 1920. There were over 25,000 African people from all over the world who witnessed the choosing of red, black, and green as the colors of the Provisional Government, a symbol of African nationalism. Africans around the globe acknowledge his greatness with celebrations, statues and monument’s built in his honor.
Marcus Garvey directed the largest mass- movement among African Americans in the history of the United States. With this group he touched upon many topics such as education, the economy and independence. Garvey put forward his dreams in response to the marginalization and discrimination of African Americans in the United States and the Caribbean with the hope of inspiring black Americans to proactively establish infrastructure, institutions and local economies rather than expecting such from the heavily prejudiced post-reconstruction American government. The movement had a major impact in stimulating and shaping black politics in the Caribbean and in parts of Africa.
Garvey believed that African Americans were universally oppressed and any program of emancipation would have to be built around the question of race. In his mind, African Americans would aspire to positions of influence if they had educational opportunities, and this would bring them into direct competition with the white power structure. However, he believed that within 100 years, such a position would lead to racial strife, which would be disastrous for them. Hence, his theory of racial separation was born. It was a strategy to ensure self-reliance and equality for the downtrodden African race, but it did not stress racial superiority.
Garvey likened the underdeveloped African American communities to underdeveloped countries. Both are often exploited with unfavorable terms of trade and high unemployment. After studying work by Dr. Robert Love, a spokesman who organized blacks in Jamaica, Garvey realized that tax dollars paid by African Americans often ended up supporting economic interests outside their communities. Consequently, he sought to use the tax dollars to make purchases from and support African American entrepreneurs. Monies spent by their schools, hospitals and urban services should go to African American entrepreneurs creating a guaranteed market where there would always be a demand for their goods and services. By directing tax revenue back to the economy, Garvey believed this would foster economic development without requiring large sums of private investment. Therefore, the communities would receive a maximum return for tax dollars.
Garvey was able to persuade African Americans to invest. He believed that protection against discrimination came through financial independence. Once a strong economic base was constructed, they could seek other political and social objectives. He believed that these material achievements by way of entrepreneurial effort would enable African Americans to be equally recognized.
Convinced that black people should have a permanent homeland in Africa, Garvey sought to develop Liberia. Garvey launched the Liberia program in 1920, intended to build colleges, industrial plants, and railroads as part of an industrial base from which to operate. Marcus Garvey regarded the Liberian Republic as an important staging ground for their concept of liberation; he had a clear understanding of the long-term strategic significance of Africa’s development. His objective was to purchase land in Liberia and build a model city and relocate the Harlem U.N.I.A. Headquarters there.
Garvey saw Africa, essentially as the only place where African people could launch a successful bid for equality with other races and nations. Africa was the African’s ancestral home, and the continent was rich in natural resources. U.N.I.A. would’ve built colleges, hospitals, industrial plants, and railroads together with other economic enterprises.
This would’ve been the showcase for African people around the world to recognize, and also, giving countries on the motherland the encouragement to strive for independence from the colonialist. And if Liberia became powerful in Africa this would raise U.N.I.A status all over the world. As a means of consolidating its protection for the scattered membersof the race, Garvey envisioned that such a strong African government should extend citizenship to African people everywhere. Liberian government, interested in trained manpower and capital, initially endorsed enthusiastically Garvey’s colonization project.
However, primarily because of pressure from the British, French and other colonial governments, who obviously wanted to maintain their dominance in their respective colonies. The Liberian government announced a ban on Garvey’s emigrants. In June 1924, the U.N.I.A technical experts sent out to Liberia were deported and thus the program was abandoned.
Garvey obviously failed to realize many of his objectives, such as the creation of a show case city in Liberia, or the establishment of a sovereign country in Africa. Numerous theoretical and conceptual flaws handicapped his ideas. Specifically, Garvey’s economic ideas did not meet the demands of twentieth-century development. Indeed, it was Garvey’s own personal economic ineptitude and his unwillingness to evolve his pro-capitalistic activities that led to his business failures. He failed to discover that there were economic theories applicable to the African American movement other than the accumulation of risk capital.
However, his legacy lives, for ideas that helped to advance the political, economic and cultural consciousness of Africans worldwide. And the legacy of the man and his movement remained a powerful source of inspiration to African nationalism, both in the New World and Africa.
His legacy is considerable, since Garvey never set foot in Africa, but implanted notions of economic self-sufficiency and African nationalism. His ideas, whether accepted or rejected, have played an important role in shaping our modern world. Garvey’s legacy has influenced the careers of leaders who pioneered African independence, ranging from Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana; Julius Nyerere of Tanzania; Sekou Toure of Guinea; Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Patrice Lumumba of the Congo; to Nelson Mandela of South Africa. Marcus Garvey is the father of African Nationalism.