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Marcus Garvey’s Life and Cultural Revolution

Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jr. was a Jamaican-born activist and the champion of the Pan-African and Black Nationalist movements in Jamaica and the United States of America. Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in Jamaica in 1914 and established the US branch of the movement after his move to Harlem, New York, in 1917 (Kratz, 2019). Under Garvey’s leadership, UNIA established the Black Star Line corporation, a steamship company operated exclusively by people of African descent and dedicated to transporting patrons back and forth to Africa (National Archives, 2020). In addition, Garvey supported other Black-owned businesses and encouraged economic independence of the African people, as he believed in radical racial separatism and racial sovereignty (National Archives, 2020). The Black Star Line company was costly to maintain, and corruption in the company led to its bankruptcy. Subsequently, Garvey was arrested on fraud charges concerning the corporation and sentenced to 5 years in jail (Kratz, 2019). After his release in 1927, Garvey was deported to Jamaica, moving to London in 1935.

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It can be argued that Marcus Garvey significantly contributed to the African communities in the Caribbean and the United States. Garvey organized the first Black movement in several countries and contributed to African communities being more accepting of their identities and African descent (National Archives, 2020). The activist believed that true Black nationalism could be achieved by celebrating African history and culture and argued against Black people adopting customs and traditions of other cultures (National Archives, 2020). Garvey underlined the importance for the Black people to “think in terms of race first,” specifically, the Black race (Malisa & Nhengeze, 2018, p. 4). This ideology was reflected in the UNIA association that actively promoted the Black community to embrace their African descent and African customs. He also encouraged many Black citizens of the United States and the Caribbean to return to their countries of origin (Davidson, 2021). Thus, Garvey set the example for future civil rights movements by calling for people of African descent to unite and form a separate African nation/

Furthermore, Garveyism led to a cultural revolution and the rise of social and intellectual thought. For example, Garvey and the Black nationalist movement are believed to be the inspiration behind the Caribbean and Jamaican reggae (Egharevba & Egharevba, 2021). In addition, he encouraged people of African descent in the Caribbean to identify as Black and promoted unity, self-determinism, self-sufficiency, and economic independence. He also highlighted the importance of political activism for the prosperity of the Black community.

Certain aspects of Garveyism can be adopted by contemporary society, in particular, the members of the African American community. Garvey encouraged respect and knowledge of one’s culture and descent. It can be argued that the celebration of one’s culture is essential in the modern world. The knowledge of the history of one’s people can contribute to a better understanding of their current standing in the world. Moreover, Garveyism is an ideology that highlights the importance of unity and collaboration. The modern civil rights movement can consider Garvey to be their spiritual predecessor and should acknowledge his contribution to the structure of contemporary political organizations. In addition, his philosophy of collaboration should be embraced more in the modern world, as the variety of political issues today continues to contribute to the growing disconnection between different communities. In summary, Garveyism can find potential applications in the modern world as Marcus Garvey celebrated the African culture and African communities around the world.


Davidson, J. P. (2021). Dub, utopia and the ruins of the Caribbean. Theory, Culture & Society, 39(1), 3–22.

Egharevba, C., & Egharevba, K. (2021). Postcolonial minscapes and contemporary Caribbean reggae. European Journal of Literature, Language and Linguistics Studies, 4(4), 156–167.

Kratz, J. (2019). Caribbean American heritage month: Marcus Garvey. National Archives.

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Malisa, M., & Nhengeze, P. (2018). Pan-Africanism: A quest for liberation and the pursuit of a United Africa. Genealogy, 2(28), 1–15.

National Archives. (2020). Marcus Garvey (August 17, 1887 – June 10, 1940).

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