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The Role of Marcus Garvey

Marcus Mosiah Garvey lived from 17th August 1887 to10th June 1940. He was a Jamaican political leader. He was also a journalist, entrepreneur, orator, publisher, and a staunch supporter of Pan-Africanism and Black Nationalism movements. He was the founder of the Universal Negro Movement Association and the African Communities League. He also pioneered the return of the African Diaspora to their ancestral homes. This was by founding the Back Star Line, which was part of the Back-to Africa Movement.

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Roles of Marcus Garvey

Garvey started as a printer’s apprentice in Jamaica. He later travelled to Panama and Costa Rica as an editor and later to London where he studied law. His high interests in Black Nationalism and African history led him to having great concerns for black people. He founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in 1916 and later opened a Harlem branch after moving to New York. This association promoted the spirit of being proud as Africans and the black race in general. The association also promoted unity among all blacks worldwide. In addition, it assisted the black people in establishing the greatness of their heritage. The association soon spread over many parts of the world, such as the United States, Central America and the Caribbean, with thousands of members from the black community. It also encouraged economic independence of the black people. This led to emergence of many entrepreneurs and leaders from the black community (Garvey, 1986).

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His influence caused the establishment of a black state, Liberia, where Africans were not the minority community and enjoyed their rights without racism. The aim was to free the blacks from domination by the whites. His failure was after misuse of public funds and the conviction of mail fraud. He then went to London and stayed there till his death. His influence on the politics of 1920s was greater than of any other black leader. This influence is still evident in modern politics. Martin Luther King declared him as a man who gave Negros sense of destiny and dignity in 1965. His influence on the masses of black people led to their recognition to various leadership and executive positions. Many schools, colleges, buildings, and highways carry his name in Europe, Africa and even in the United States. Scholars, such as Molefi Kete Asante, have recognized Garvey as one of the greatest African Americans.

The importance of Marcus Garvey in the modern era has not diminished. Different activists tried to push for Garvey’s pardon from the Obama administration. This shows that people still recognize him as the pioneer of the black liberation. The Rastafari movement, which has great influence around the world, holds high Garvey’s reputation. They consider him a religious prophet and a reincarnation of John the Baptist from the Bible. They quote his speeches in their songs and teachings. Garvey’s quotes are also common in modern education and inspirational texts. People recognize him as an inspirational figure for the entire human race (Lawler, 1988).


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The philosophy and organization of Garvey’s movements present a rich religious component. He blended this with economic and political aspects. His role in the Harlem Renaissance and changing the attitude of the world towards black people cannot be overemphasized. His own country declared him a hero in 1964. They stated that he had played a major role in promoting the economic and political independence of black people. His attempts to create a free race from the previously enslaved one were not hopeless. He succeeded in changing the lives of the black people and helped them realize their indifference with other races. His efforts also assisted in bringing freedom to most African colonies. Marcus Garvey will remain a hero not only to the blacks but also to other races since he represents self-motivation and liberation.

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