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Marcus Garvey and the UNIA

Marcus Mosiah Garvey Sr. ONH was a Jamaican political activist, publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, and orator. He was the founder and first President-General of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL, commonly known as UNIA), through which he declared himself Provisional President of Africa. Ideologically a black nationalist and Pan-Africanist, his ideas came to be known as Garveyism.





Forming UNIA: 1914–1916


"In July 1914, Garvey launched the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League, commonly abbreviated as UNIA. Adopting the motto of "One Aim. One God. One Destiny", it declared its commitment to "establish a brotherhood among the black race, to promote a spirit of race pride, to reclaim the fallen and to assist in civilizing the backward tribes of Africa."

Garvey became UNIA's president and travelling commissioner; it was initially based out of his hotel room in Orange Street, Kingston.[66] It portrayed itself not as a political organization but as a charitable club, focused on work to help the poor and to ultimately establish a vocational training college modeled on Washington's Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Garvey wrote to Washington and received a brief, if encouraging reply; Washington died shortly after. The group also sponsored musical and literary evenings as well as a February 1915 elocution contest, at which Garvey took first prize.



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UNIA grew rapidly and in just over 18 months it had branches in 25 U.S. states, as well as divisions in the West Indies, Central America, and West Africa. The exact membership is not known, although Garvey claimed that by June 1919 it had two million members. It remained smaller than the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), although there was some crossover in membership of the two groups. The NAACP and UNIA differed in their approach; while the NAACP was a multi-racial organization which promoted racial integration, UNIA had a black-only membership policy. The NAACP focused its attention on what it termed the "talented tenth" of the African-American population, such as doctors, lawyers, and teachers, whereas UNIA included many poorer people and Afro-Caribbean migrants in its ranks, seeking to project an image of itself as a mass organization. To promote his views to a wide audience, Garvey took to shouting slogans from a megaphone as he was driven through Harlem in a Cadillac.

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