Marcus Garvey

Jamaica-born British political activist, Pan-Africanist, orator, and entrepreneur (1887-1940)

Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr., National Hero of Jamaica (17 August 188710 June 1940) was a publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, Black nationalist, orator, and founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL).

Marcus Garvey in 1924


  • Look for me in the whirlwind or the storm, look for me all around you, for, with God's grace, I shall come and bring with me countless millions of black slaves who have died in America and the West Indies and the millions in Africa to aid you in the fight for Liberty, Freedom and Life.
  • Our union must know no clime, boundary, or nationality… let us hold together under all climes and in every country…
    • The philosophy and opinions of Marcus Garvey or Africa for the Africans (Majority Press, 1986 ed.), p. 163. ISBN 0912469242.
  • Hungry men have no respect for law, authority or human life.
    • Reported in Ashton Applewhite, Tripp Evans, and Andrew Frothingham, And I Quote: The Definitive Collection of Quotes, Sayings, and Jokes for the Contemporary Speechmaker (St. Martin's Press, 2003), p. 84. ISBN 0312307446.
  • We were the first Fascists, when we had 100,000 disciplined men, and were training children, Mussolini was still an unknown. Mussolini copied our Fascism.
    • 1937 interview reported by Joel A. Rogers, "Marcus Garvey," in Negroes of New York series, New York Writers Program, 1939, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York.
  • We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind. Mind is your only ruler, sovereign. The man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind.
  • If you have no confidence in self you are twice defeated in the race of life. With confidence you have won even before you have started.
    • Philosophy and opinions of Marcus Garvey: or, Africa for the Africans‎ (Routledge, 1967), P. 10. ISBN 0714611433.
  • The Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities' League is a social, friendly, humanitarian, charitable, educational, institutional, constructive, and expansive society and is founded by persons, desiring to the utmost, to work for the general up lift of the Negro peoples of the world. And the members pledge themselves to do all in their power to conserve the rights of their noble race and to respect the rights of all mankind believing always in the Brotherhood of Man and the Fatherhood of God. The motto of the organization is: One God! One Aim! One Destiny! Therefore, let justice be done to all man kind, realizing that if the strong oppresses the weak confusion and discontent will ever mark the path of man, but with love, faith and charity toward all the reign of peace and plenty will be heralded into the world and the generations of men shall be called Blessed.
    • ‘The Spiritual Brotherhood of Man’, preamble to the constitution of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities' League, quoted in Amy Jacques Garvey, More Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey (2012), pp. 37–38
  • When the facts of history are written Haile Selassie of Abyssinia will go down as a great coward who ran away from his country to save his skin and left the millions of his countrymen to struggle through a terrible war that he brought upon them because of his political ignorance and his racial disloyalty.
    • "The Failure of Haile Selassie as Emperor" The Blackman, April, 1937.
  • When the war started in Abyssinia all Negro nationalists looked with hope to Haile Selassie. They spoke for him, they prayed for him, they sung for him, they did everything to hold up his hands, as Aaron did for Moses; but whilst the Negro peoples of the world were praying for the success of Abyssinia this little Emperor was undermining the fabric of his own kingdom by playing the fool with white men, having them advising him[,] having them telling him what to do, how to surrender, how to call off the successful thrusts of his [Race] against the Italian invaders. Yes, they were telling him how to prepare his flight, and like an imbecilic child he followed every advice and then ultimately ran away from his country to England, leaving his people to be massacred by the Italians, and leaving the serious white world to laugh at every Negro and repeat the charge and snare - "he is incompetent," "we told you so." Indeed Haile Selassie has proved the incompetence of the Negro for political authority, but thank God there are Negroes who realise that Haile Selassie did not represent the truest qualities of the Negro race. How could he, when he wanted to play white? How could he, when he surrounded himself with white influence? How could he, when in a modern world, and in a progressive civilization, he preferred a slave State of black men than a free democratic country where the black citizens could rise to the same opportunities as white citizens in their democracies?
    • "The Failure of Haile Selassie as Emperor" The Blackman, April, 1937.


  • A Race without the knowledge of its history is like a tree without roots.
    • Though often attributed to Garvey, this statement first appears in Charles Siefert's 1938 pamphlet, The Negro's or Ethiopian's Contribution to Art.

Quotes about Marcus Garvey

  • In the early 1950s-the Garvey movement-I went to Harlem and saw Black Ethiopia. These were my people and they didn't have accents, but they were Ethiopians. I mean, they didn't have African accents. Those that I listened to spoke just like everybody else and that broadened my light a great deal, my own understanding of our oneness... it must be remembered that in Garvey's heyday, there were not that many West Indians anywhere in the United States. His existence was used as a focal point for the West Indian community and they were able to stay together, but the Black American, without his charisma and his presence, went on into other things. But the tales of the Black American who didn't want to be connected with Africa can be recounted as the West Indians who didn't want to be connected either, who would say, 'I'm a British citizen'... The self loathing which is always part of oppression had its way with all of us.
  • Marcus ... maintained forcibly that although the Afro-American people were legally "free" as a people, something of the slave mentality was still characteristic of them. Mentally they were still in chains on account of the crippling effect of an inferiority complex. Somehow the sunlight must be allowed to flood the dark corners of their minds, so that they could be truly free and truly men, confident of holding their own with men of other races.
  • (What direction do you see the movement in the U.S. taking at this time?) I think it has become less domestic and more international. Marcus Garvey tried to articulate, after all, quite a long time ago, and even Frederick Douglass, that the situation of the black American slave was tied to the situation of the slaves all over the world.
    • 1973 interview in Conversations with James Baldwin edited by Louis H. Pratt and Fred L. Standley (1989)
  • Marcus Garvey believed that blacks should return to Africa and build up and accept Africa as their home. And he led a movement, here, in the United States, and he got caught up in a lot of scandal, and, eventually, it collapsed, and that was that...I read everything I could about Marcus Garvey, and my father was such an ardent Garveyite that he would talk about him all the time.
  • there arose early in this decade the case of Marcus Garvey. I heard of him first when I was in Jamaica in 1915 when he sent a letter "presenting his compliments" and giving me "a hearty welcome to Jamaica, on the part of the United Improvement and Conservation Association." Later he came to the United States. In his case, as in the case of others, I have repeatedly been accused of enmity and jealousy, which have been so far from my thought that the accusations have been a rather bitter experience. In 1920 when his movement was beginning to grow in America I said in The Crisis that he was "an extraordinary leader of men" and declared that he had "with singular success capitalized and made vocal the great and long suffering grievances and spirit of protest among the West Indian peasantry." On the other hand, I noted his difficulties of temperament and training, inability to get on with his fellow workers, and denied categorically that I had ever interfered in any way with his work. Later when he began to collect money for his steamship line I characterized him as a sincere and hard-working idealist but called his methods bombastic, wasteful, illogical and almost illegal and begged his friends not to allow him foolishly to overwhelm with bankruptcy and disaster one of the most interesting spiritual movements of the modern world. But he went ahead, wasted his money, got into trouble with the authorities and was deported. As I said at the time: "When Garvey was sent to Atlanta, no word or action of Ours accomplished the result. His release and deportation were a matter of law which no deed or wish of ours influenced in the slightest degree. We have today, no enmity against Marcus Garvey. He has a great and worthy dream. We wish him well. He is free; he has a following; he still has a chance to carry on his work in his own home and among his own people and to accomplish some of his ideas. Let him do it. We will be the first to applaud any success that he may have."
    • The Autobiography of W.E.B. Du Bois: A Soliloquy on Viewing My Life from the Last Decade of Its First Century (1968)
  • Marcus Garvey, Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael, Amiri Baraka and other black male leaders have righteously supported patriarchy. They have all argued that it is absolutely necessary for black men to relegate black women to a subordinate position both in the political sphere and in home life.
  • Marcus Garvey...roused the consciousness of the Negro from New York to British Guiana and from the Gold Coast (Ghana) to Kenya. Without ever setting foot in Africa he was able to kindle nationalism in the hearts of the young Kenyatta, Azikiwe and Nkrumah, giving them a purpose for dedicating their lives to their country.
    • 'Transcending insularity', The Times (7 February 1966), p. 22
  • In the course of his conversation Marcus Garvey said that ninety thousand of the people on the island of Jamaica were colored, and only fifteen thousand of them were white; yet the fifteen thousand white people possessed all the land, ruled the island, and kept the Negroes in subjection. I asked him what those ninety thousand Negroes were thinking about to be dominated in this way, and he said it was because they had no educational facilities outside of grammar-school work. He wanted to return to his native home to see if he could not help to change the situation there. Instead he went to New York, began to hold street meetings, and got many of his fellow countrymen as well as American Negroes interested in his program of worldwide Negro unity. For a time it seemed as if his program would go through. Undoubtedly Mr. Garvey made an impression on this country as no Negro before him had ever done. He has been able to solidify the masses of our people and endow them with racial consciousness and racial solidarity. Had Garvey had the support which his wonderful movement deserved, had he not become drunk with power too soon, there is no telling what the result would have been. Already the countries of the world were beginning to worry very much about the influence of his propaganda in Africa, in the West Indies, and in the United States. His month-long conference in New York City every August, bringing the dusky sons and daughters of Ham from all corners of the earth, attracted a great deal of attention... It may be that even though he has been banished to Jamaica the seed planted here will yet spring up and bring forth fruit which will mean the deliverance of the black race-that cause which was so dear to his heart.
    • Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells (1991)
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