Robert Lallgie Pantheons
©Copyright 2002-2009 by "Limelight Magazine.org"· All Rights reserved
Marcus Mosiah Garvey There was nothing in his background or upbringing to prepare him for what he was to embark upon, yet his self-appointed mission was to make him the most respected man in every country where black people dwelled. As well as the most feared by white people, his name was Marcus Mosiah Garvey! Marcus Garvey was born on 17 August in 1887, in St. Ann's Bay, a small picturesque village on the north coast of Jamaica. St. Ann's was to be his home until he was eighteen years old, he and his older sister were the only two children in their family to survive childhood. Most black Jamaicans at that time lived in small thatched-roof houses and farmed small plots of land, the Garvey family was considered much better off as they owned large plots of land. Garvey's father was a skilled stonemason, who cut and shaped white rock to be used in the building of nearby plantation houses of the wealthy white estate owners. He could only find work sporadically and was hard and stern, he would spend hours locked in his study reading his collection of books and magazines. Known in St. Ann's as the village lawyer, due to the towns people often seeking him out for advise. Marcus Garvey wrote of him, "My father was a man of brilliant intellect, and dashing courage. He was unafraid of consequences...was severe, firm determined, bold and strong, refusing to yield even to superior forces if he believed he was right." Not surprisingly Marcus's father was a descendant of the Maroons, escaped Jamaican slaves known for their independent spirit. The virtual running of the Garvey's estate was left to his mother, a slim, hard working woman who was equally respected in the village for being kind and helpful to her neighbours. Marcus moved to Kingston, the capital, and went to work in his uncle's printers at the age of eighteen, where he proved an excellent worker. Within two years he became a master printer, and foreman at one of the largest printeries on the island. He was attracted by the noisy street debates that were a feature of Kingston life, where current issues and events were discussed. However, when he first tried to share his opinion at these debates, he was shouted down as a 'country boy'. Yet he was not deterred, and determined to master the art of public speaking, he decided to visit the local churches on Sundays to observe the oratorical skills of the most popular preachers. He would then practise at home in front of the mirror, often reading aloud, experimenting with what he thought were appropriate gestures. While in Kingston the observant Garvey, could not help but notice the disparity of the races, He said: "I started to take an interest in the politics of my country, there I saw the injustice's done to my race, because it was black, and I became dissatisfied on that account." Needing money to support his ambitions he went to Costa Rico in 1910 aged 23. The conditions he saw black workers in over here shocked him, as they were worse than in Jamaica. In 1912 he returned to Jamaica, worn out by malaria. He brought the attention of the Governor of Jamaica to the West Indian workers plight, but he was unsympathetic. Later in 1912, Garvey left Jamaica for England where he worked on the London docks, here he talked with black seamen from Africa, the West Indies, and the United States. These talks led him to understand that blacks everywhere, had to obey discriminatory laws and accept unfair and unjust working conditions. He attended Birbeck College, studying law, and philosophy, and spent long hours in the public libraries studying African history. He was happy to learn that advanced civilisations flourished in Africa before the arrival of Europeans. In 1913 Garvey met Duse Mohammed Ali, an Egyptian half-black publisher of the African Times and Oriental Review, who hired him as a messenger. He wrote one article for the paper. He then travelled to Europe. Upon his return to England, he read 'Up from Slavery' by Booker T. Washington, whose ideas had a profound affect on him. It was this book that awakened in Garvey his destiny! "My dream – if I may so call it – of being a race leader dawned on me.", it prompted him to ask himself, 'Where is the black man's government? Where is his President? His country? And his Ambassador, his army, his navy, his men of big affairs?' Marcus Mosiah Garvey promised himself that he would win these things for his people. "I was determined that the black man would not continue to be kicked about by all other races, and nations of the world. I could not remain in London anymore. My brain was afire". Garvey headed home and arrived in Jamaica on 15 July 1914, and began re-establishing his old contacts. Just 17days later he founded the Universal Negro Improvement and Conservation Association, and the African Communities League, which later became United Negro Improvement Association UNIA. He became president and chief recruiter, and here met his first wife Amy Ashwood, who served for many years as his secretary. Garvey went to the USA and toured Boston, Washington, Chicago and wherever else there was a large black population. Garvey displayed immense courage, telling an audience in 'red neck' North Carolina, "When I came down here, I had to get on a white man's railroad. I landed in a white man's town, came out here on a white man's car, and am now speaking on a white man's platform. Where do you Negroes come in? If I depended on getting here on anything that you have furnished, I would have been walking for six months." In Chicago he told listeners " I have seen Negro banks in Washington, and Chicago, stores, cafes, restaurants, theatres and real estate agencies, that fill my heart with joy to realise that the people of the race have sufficient pride to do things for themselves." He immediately began writing to black communities throughout the world, and in 1918 founded the Negro World, an internationally distributed UNIA newspaper. His paper paid tribute to great figures in black history, and carried his long editorials which were usually controversial and always pertinent to black people. It was at first free, later it sold for ten cents, and it penetrated vast regions reaching Canada, West Indies, Latin America, Europe and Africa, with a circulation of 60,000 at its peak. Its motto was 'One God, One Aim, One Destiny' Jomo Kenyatta, president of Kenya from 1974-78, said that when he was growing up. 'Kenyan nationalists, unable to read, would gather round a reader of Garvey's newspaper the Negro World and listen to an article two or three times. Then they would run various ways through the forest carefully relaying what they heard to others.' But Garvey's message was too much for American society to take, and it is strongly suspected that the FBI were instrumental in breaking his mission and having him imprisoned, and later deported from the United States. Garvey was later to die in London lonely, and neglected in 1940! Nevertheless in two millennia of human history, he stands unique in that he is the only person to uplift a race world-wide.