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Marcus Garvey

Political Leader

Born: 17 August 1887
Died: 10 June 1940 (cerebral hemorrhage)
Birthplace: St. Ann's Bay, Jamaica
Best known as:

Founder of the "back to Africa" movement

Through his public speeches and his newspaper Negro World, Marcus Garvey became one of the most influential black leaders of the early 20th century. Born and raised in Jamaica, Garvey travelled in Central and South America, then moved to England to continue his education. In 1914 he started the Universal Negro Improvement Association and began speaking out publicly in favor of worldwide black unity and an end to colonialism. He moved to the United States in 1916 and helped start a steamship company, the Black Star Line. It was both a business venture and a part of his "back to Africa" plan for Americans of African descent -- the notion that African-Americans should return to Africa and set up their own new country there. Garvey was always a controversial figure: he favored fiery rhetoric and elaborate uniforms, and was considered a dangerous character by some established politicians. Marcus Garvey was jailed in 1925 after being convicted of mail fraud (related to the sale of stock in the Black Star line), but his sentence was reduced and he was deported to Jamaica two years later. Garvey eventually moved back to London, England, where he died in 1940. His body was returned to Jamaica in 1964.

Extra credit:

The name of the Black Star Line was a riff on the White Star Line, the famous British shipping company who owned ships including the Titanic.

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