Marcus Garvey was the founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and the African Communities League, or the UNIA ACL. Marcus Garvey's Pan African philosophy inspired a global mass movement and promoted economic empowerment focusing on Africa known as Garveyism. Promoted by the UNIA as a movement of African Redemption, Garveyism would eventually inspire others, ranging from the Nation of Islam, to the Rastafari movement. The intention of the movement was for those of African ancestry to "redeem" Africa and for the European colonial powers to leave it. His essential ideas about Africa were stated in an editorial in the Negro World titled “African Fundamentalism”
Marcus Mosiah Garvey was born in St. Ann's Bay, Jamaica on August 17, 1887, to Marcus Garvey, Sr., a mason, and Sarah Jane Richards, a domestic worker and farmer. Of eleven siblings, only Marcus and his sister Indiana reached maturity. Garvey's father was known to have a large library, and it was from his father that Marcus gained his love for reading. Always dreaming of doing great things, he read Plutarch and worshipped Napoleon. On Sundays he played the organ in the Wesleyan Methodist Church at St. Ann's Bay.
Leaving school at sixteen, he went to work as an apprentice in a printing plant Kingston. Six years later he was the foreman. In the meantime Marcus Garvey had been organizing the printers of the city and soon afterward led them in a successful strike for better pay. Inspired by this success, he began advocating for the political' rights of the blacks of the island, who, though in the majority, were of lower social caste than the mulattoes.
In 1910 Garvey left Jamaica and began traveling throughout the Central American region. He lived in Costa Rica for several months, where he worked as a time-keeper on a banana plantation. He began work as editor for the daily newspaper La Nacionale in 1911. Later that year, he moved to Colón, Panama, where he edited a biweekly newspaper before returning to Jamaica in 1912.
Restless, Marcus Garvey left Jamaica to live in London where he attended Birkbeck College taking classes in Law and Philosophy, and worked for the African Times and Orient Review. In London he met other blacks who were involved in the struggle to obtain independence from the British Empire. Inspired by what he heard Garvey returned to Jamaica and established the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and published the pamphlet, The Negro Race and Its Problems. Garvey was influenced by the ideas of Booker T. Washington and made plans to develop a trade school for the poor similar to the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.
Garvey arrived in the United States on March 23, 1916 and immediately launched a year-long tour of the country. He organized the first branch of UNIA in June 1917 and published the Negro World, a journal that promoted his African nationalist ideas. Garvey's organization was extremely popular and by 1919 UNIA had 30 branches and over 2 million members.
Like the NAACP, Marcus Garvey campaigned against lynching, Jim Crow laws, denial of black voting rights and racial discrimination. Where UNIA differed from other civil rights organizations was on how the problem could be solved. Garvey doubted whether whites in the United States would ever agree to African Americans being treated as equals and argued for segregation rather than integration. Garvey suggested that African Americans should go and live in Africa. He wrote that he believed "in the principle of Europe for the Europeans, and Asia for the Asiatics" and "Africa for the Africans at home and abroad".
In 1919 Marcus Garvey formed the Black Cross Navigation and Trading Company. With $10,000,000 invested by his supporters Garvey purchased two steamships, Shadyside and Kanawha, to take African Americans to Africa. At a UNIA conference in August, 1920, Garvey was elected provisional president of Africa. He also had talks with the Ku Klux Klan about his plans to repatriate African Americans and published the first volume of Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey.
While in his Harlem office on October 14, 1919, Garvey received a visit from a vigilante named George Tyler, who proceeded to pull out a .38-caliber revolver and fire four shots, wounding Garvey in the right leg and scalp. Garvey was taken to the hospital and Tyler arrested. The next day, Tyler committed suicide by leaping from the third floor of the Harlem jail as he was being taken to his arraignment.
After making a couple of journeys to Africa the Black Cross Navigation and Trading Company ran out of money. Garvey was a poor businessman and although he was probably honest himself, several people in his company had been involved in corruption. Garvey was arrested and charged with fraud and in 1925 was sentenced to five years imprisonment. He had served half of his sentence when President Calvin Coolidge commuted the rest of his prison term and had him deported to Jamaica. Marcus Garvey continued to hold UNIA conventions and to tour the world making speeches on civil rights until his death in London on June 10, 1940.