Marcus Garvey Movement: Up You Mighty Race
Marcus Garvey led the first mass black movement of the twentieth century. The Garvey movement called upon Africans everywhere to work reclaim Africa, struggle to reclaim their better selves, and strive to restore their history and humanity. Marcus Garvey believed in the primacy of race as the starting point for the liberation of all African people. He believed that the oppressed African people throughout the world should have as their primary objective the emancipation of themselves as a race. Central to Garvey’s “race first” philosophy was the doctrine self-reliance and self determination. All subsequent Black Power organizations and Black Nationalist leaders, including the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X, would draw from Garvey’s “race first” focus and owe a debt to his example and philosophy. Using race as an organizing principle, the Garvey Movement pushed for blacks to unify, organize, and control their own institutions and daily lives. Through the establishment of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), the Garvey Movement inspired African people to dream again, constantly reminding them that they had once been kings and queens and rulers of great nations, and would again be rulers of themselves and Africa. Moreover, the Garvey Movement awakened in black people a desire to be masters of their own destiny. The Garvey Movement sought to build a nation within a nation, adopting the motto, “One God, One Aim, and One Destiny. The UNIA established chapters in the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Panama, Australia, and on the continent of Africa.
The central focus of the Garvey Movement was the idea of nation building-the building of strong independent black nations, which would take its rightful place among the communities of nations. The reclaiming and restoring Africa was the linchpin Garvey’s nation building strategy. The starting point for the nation building efforts was the creation of an African centric culture which would reinforce a positive black self-image and a can-do ethos of nation building. A great many of the activities of the UNIA were designed to serve this purpose. “Nation building is our program, not building apartment houses or churches, that too small a job for us”, thundered Marcus Garvey’s wife, Amy Jacques Garvey.
In the United States, the UNIA had a profound effect on the cultural and political development of the Harlem Renaissance, spurring the establishment of black cultural and economic institutions. The UNIA news organ, “The Black World,” had an international reach and circulation. Reference: C. Boyd James,Garvey Garveyism and the Antinomies in Black Redemption.