Marcus Garvey was Jamaica’s first national hero who advocated for Black nationalism in Jamaica and particularly the United States.
Born on August 17, 1887, Garvey travelled around many countries observing the poor living conditions under which black people were working at the time. In 1914, he started the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), in Jamaica, which protested against racial discrimination and encouraged self-government for black people all over the world.
Garvey also founded the Black Star Line, a shipping and passenger line which promoted the return of the African diaspora to their ancestral lands.
Garvey went to the USA in 1916 where he preached his doctrine of freedom to the blacks who were being oppressed. His actions did not go down well with US officials, and he was imprisoned. He was later deported.
He came back to Jamaica but left again after being unsuccessful in national elections he contested under the People’s Political Party (PPP), Jamaica’s first modern political party he created.
He went to England and died in 1940 after a stroke which left him paralysed. Garvey, while alive, advanced a Pan-African philosophy which inspired a global mass movement known as Garveyism. Even though some black leaders condemned his methods and his support for racial segregation, Garvey still attracted a lot of people.
Schools, highways, and buildings in Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States have since been named in his honour.
But Garvey’s life was not without controversies. His followers saw him as a long-awaited saviour, but to his critics, he was an opportunist and a charlatan, due to the following: