February 18 Marcus Garvey



This Black History Month I’m Grateful for Marcus Garvey



“I regard the Klan, the Anglo-Saxon clubs and
White American societies, as far as the Negro is concerned, as better friends
of the race than all other groups of hypocritical whites put together.” 


-Marcus Garvey



Marcus Garvey could certainly be counted among the most
influential Blacks in American history yet he is generally little more than a
footnote in today’s textbooks.  Garvey
was born in Jamaica and his experiences both there and in the US helped
convince him that Blacks throughout the African diaspora had a great deal in
common. Today, this vision is referred to as pan-African and Garvey’s legacy is
a global one. 



In an attempt to share his message, Garvey founded the
Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). By most accounts, the UNIA was
the largest Black organization in history. In its very name, the UNIA marked
itself as different than groups like the Urban League and NAACP (National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People). Garvey intended to convert
his pan-African vision into a literal experience. He worked for decades to develop
a permanent homeland for Blacks, in the vein of Zionism. Garvey was convinced
that the most likely method for achieving this goal was by reverse colonizing
Liberia with Blacks emigrating from the New World.


While Garvey had no affection for the Ku Klux Klan, he
agreed with them that America was permanently going to be a White man’s country
and accepted their offers of assistance. The Klan reinforced Garvey’s
conviction that Whites in America were entirely uninterested in viewing Blacks
as equals in their society. Garvey was willing to work with virtually anyone
interested in making his Back to Africa movement a reality.



In his reverence for Africa and desire for Black
self-control, Garvey’s perspectives gained adherents well after his own life
and career ended. Today, Garvey is often viewed as an ideological ancestor to
the religious concepts of the Nation of Islam and Rastafarianism as well as the
anti-colonial, Black Power and Afrocentrism movements. The contemporary Black
American tradition of Kwanzaa is nearly unimaginable without the work of Marcus



While Garvey’s great dream of an African homeland was never
fulfilled, Garvey gifted Africans throughout the world with a new sense of
self-appreciation and importance. For that and many other reasons, today, I am
grateful for Marcus Garvey. You should be too.








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