October 4, 2023

The Silent History of Marcus Garvey

Why is Marcus Garvey never brought up during Black History Month?

It would seem a ‘no-brainer’ to celebrate Marcus Garvey. After having arrived as an immigrant to America (from a family that were once slaves in the Caribbean islands), guided solely by his own gravitas, Garvey created the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA): an organization which had millions of Black supporters. He also opened a chain of Black-owned businesses including a Black-owned newspaper and even an all-Black-run steam ship under the title of the ‘Black Star Line’ (the first of its kind). Furthermore, unlike groups like the NAACP which were created with the backing of non-Black finance, Garvey’s organizations were built from the ground up largely by small donations from the Black community.

He was a gifted orator who could lead his audience into frenzy through his passion & rhetoric or through his military-like parades, lined with men & women of the UNIA dressed in blue uniform to embolden their sense of self-pride & potential… And this is why he is never brought up in Black History Month—or any other time for that matter.

The reason the BOI (Bureau of Investigation, later to become the FBI), the NAACP, the established Black Newspapers of the time, and the local DA all sought to sabotage and ruin Marcus Garvey (eventually succeeding), is the same reason he has been wiped from mainstream ‘Black history’ today…

That reason being: He did not want to adopt ‘White Liberalism’ but wanted his people to be Black Nationalists. He understood the Black race had been spread throughout the world due to slavery and were all different in one way or another due to their regional distinctions and cultural evolution, but he also knew they had come from the same root. That root (African) was what he thought should be used to forge a path forward for the black race, alongside the other races of man.  For that reason he did he did not want chase after the dream of becoming a ‘White man’. And that displeased, and even put fear in people like J. Edgar Hoover & W. E. B. Du Bois. Du Bois (head of NAACP & a name you’re likely to hear each Black History Month) simply (much like MLK) just wanted to be a ‘White man’, which was just the desired ‘economic status’ of the time. 

Garvey, to his credit, did not want to go through the process of becoming ‘White’ in America, simply to be able to partake in the materialism at an equal level; instead he wanted to organically build his people up by their own merit. Inspired by the Irish Sinn Feiners, Garvey encouraged in his people the possibility of a homeland under self-rule.  In a speech in August 1920, Garvey said:

 “If the Englishman claims England as his native habitat, and the Frenchman claims France, the time has come for 400 million Negroes to claim Africa as their native land”

Again in 1921 he stated:

“The world has reached a crossroads of humanity, when each race will travel in its own direction, when each national group will travel its own avenue. Let the Anglo-Saxon go the way he desires to go. Let the Frenchman go the way he desires; let the Teuton go the way he desires to go; we are now organizing the 400,000,000 Negroes so that they can go the way they desire to go.”

Perhaps more profound was that, in 1930, he even went as far as to mention (in an interview with Joel Rogers) that:

We were the first Fascists. … When we had 100,000 disciplined men, and were training children, Mussolini was still an unknown, [and] Mussolini copied our Fascism.”

Although his view towards Mussolini changed during the invasion of Abyssinia in 1935, he regarded Haile Selassie as being a messiah-figure in the same way Mussolini was.

Garvey dreamed of a day where his Black Star Line fleet would be able to take the dispersed Black-Africans from around the world and return them to Africa to create a nation by their own design. He felt this way because he wanted to be independent & equal, and not just dependent with equal access, and in the end, he was treated as a villain by American law and the pocket of well-trained, successful Blacks that thought Garvey was a cramp on their style.

Garvey was eventually imprisoned, exiled, and later to die of a stroke at the age of 52… The UNIA and the dreams it was found upon to follow him to the grave. Obviously the last thing the Capitalist Empire needed was a charismatic Black leader riling up Africans in a country that only has two independent states at the time (the rest being subjects of financial colonial conquest).

Garvey’s mentality was, as he iterated, that “we do not need to beg to be behind their walls when we can build our own castles”. And this is a dangerous mentality to have when the financial elite rather weaponize a people through victimhood-teaching and commodity consumption.

Because Marcus Garvey wanted that identity outside of the Capitalist Empire’s design to turn all peoples into rootless consumers, and refused to play the victim he will forever be a hero not only to Black people but Nationalists everywhere. For that reason, he will continue to go largely unheard of, and ignored on certain months dedicated to celebrating Black history.

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