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The Honorable Marcus Moziah Garvey: "Black Moses"

By Dr. Josef Ben Levi

Presented by Omni-University

The Honorable Marcus Moziah Garvey

As the social relations between black and white are impossible, and as the whites are too prejudiced against the black to treat him as an equal either socially, politically, or industrially, therefore the black man’s only hope of redemption is the creation of a distinct type of civilization in his motherland.” Marcus Garvey.

Marcus Moziah Garvey was born the youngest of 11 children on August 17, 1887 at St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica. He was exposed to Jamaica's social hierarchy at a very early age. Jamaican society was structured along the lines of a caste system: Whites- who classified themselves as superior- were the dominant class. Mulattos served as the middle, i.e., "buffer" class while Blacks, who were deemed to be inferior to both, were consigned to the lowest subordinate class.

As a youth, Marcus Garvey had friends who were White. He could have chosen to prioritize those relationships and become one of the "black- whites" in Jamaica who dreamed of a "reasonable level of prosperity". OR, he could choose to assert his Black African identity and, thereby, share the social, political, and economic lot of his people. Garvey’s mantra remains a testament to his decision to choose the latter:

One God! One Aim! One Destiny!

When Garvey moved to the United States and settled in New York City, in 1916, he had already become a Black nationalist leader- the founder of the "Universal Negro Improvement Association" (UNIA) in Jamaica, in 1914. The aims of this organization were to promote the improvement of and the living conditions for Black Africans and people of Black African descent in North and South America, the Caribbean, and Europe as well.

Garvey's stated philosophy was "Africa for the Africans, those at home and those abroad!" His bold actions attracted more than his share of detractors who were relentless in their efforts to limit the scope of his all- encompassing vision. Because it included a "Repatriation Plan", it was erroneously termed the "Back to Africa" Movement".

Garvey raised questions of the first order: "Where is the Black man's government? Where is his king and kingdom? Where is his president,his country,and his Ambassadors, his army his navy, his men of big affairs? I could not find them and then I decided , I will help to make them."

His emphasis was on building and maintaining a strong African homeland. The Movement that he founded was international in scope. His newspaper, the Negro World, achieved wide distribution. Branches of UNIA were organized all over the Americas, as well as in Europe, Australia, and South Africa. By 1919, Garvey’s following had reached two million!

In response to his clarion call: "Up you mighty race! You can accomplish what you will!", Garvey's followers united with him to establish a shipping company, the Black Star Line, as well as the Negro Factories Corporation. They also launched a printing press and opened a chain of restaurants, grocery stores, laundries, and a hotel to buttress Black economic independence.

The progress of the Garvey Movement was derailed by the incessant efforts - from within and without- to destroy both the Man and the Movement. In 1925, Garvey was arrested and imprisoned on fabricated charges of mail fraud related to the operation of the Black Star Line. Unfortunately, his vision was blind-sided by the misconception that he could obtain justice in the American criminal justice system. This rare, but fatal, lapse of judgement contributed not only to the decline of the Movement but to his own demise as well.

The impact of The Honorable Marcus M. Garvey on Pan-Africanism continues to be significant. Garvey founded the first political party in Jamaica in 1929 (People’s Political Party). His Manifesto called for a greater measure of self-government; an eight-hour day; a minimum wage; workmen’s compensation; rent control; land reform; rural electrification; industrialization and educational reforms.

The Rastafarian Movement, a Black- consciousness movement, was influenced by the ideas of Garveyism. Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Tony Rebel, et al., used Reggae music to amplify the message of freedom for Africans. The Trade Union movement was influenced by Garveyism. It stimulated the liberation movements in the region and the revival and inspiration of Black pride.

The Honorable Marcus M. Garvey's reputation as the "Black Moses" was applied to him because of his idea that Black people needed to return to their homeland, Africa, and help to overthrow European colonialism and rebuild the continent. He envisioned this through the creation of the Black Star Line. Not long after the Black Star Line had purchased its first ship, the S.S. Yarmouth, and re-christened it the S.S. Frederick Douglass, the company began its “African Redemption” Liberia program, with the idea of establishing a nation on the west coast of Africa for those African Americans, who were born into "slavery" or were the descendants of enslaved people.

The Honorable Marcus Moziah Garvey joined the Ancestors on June 10, 1940.

One Love!

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Recommended Reading

"Declaration of the Rights of the Negro People of the World" ( Ratified at the 1920 UNIA Conference, Madison Square Garden) "Garvey and Garveyism" by Amy Jacques Garvey "The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey" Edited by Amy Jacques Garvey "Emancipation From Mental Slavery: Selected Sayings of Marcus Garvey" by Marcus Garvey "Selected Speeches of Marcus Garvey" by Marcus Garvey "The Poetical Works of Marcus Garvey" by Marcus Garvey "Race First" by Tony Martin "Marcus Garvey and the Vision of Africa" by Ancestor Dr. John Henrik Clarke

"Black Moses: The Story of Marcus Garvey and The Universal Negro Improvement Association" by Edmund David Cronon

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