Marcus Garvey was a fascinating man, and an intriguing “topic” to write about for this course. In reviewing Stephen Castles theories of migration, it was tricky to find one which perfectly fit “Garveyism” but the one I kept coming back to was
Return Migrants: “People who return to their country of origin after a period in another country. Return migrants are often looked on favorably as they may bring with them capital skills, and experience useful for economic development. Many countries have special schemes to make use of this “development potential.” However some governments view returnees with suspicion since they may act as agents of cultural or political change.”
Marcus Garvey’s dream was to have African Americans leave America, and return to Africa and create an African Empire. And while that dream never materialized, he did give black people in America something they never had before, especially in the early part of the 20th century: hope.
From what I have read, and the images I’ve researched, Garvey was a larger than life character, a flamboyant man who loved to wear showy hats! He was an inspirational speaker; as E. David Cronon described him in his book Black Moses, “Garvey’s gift of oratory was a combination of bombast and stirring heroics.” Cronon wrote that Garvey “awakened fires of black nationalism that have yet to be extinguished.” His speeches made African Americans feel for the first time that having black skin wasn’t a badge of shame but a symbol of national greatness. When Garvey gave a speech African Americans forgot for a little while the pain of discrimination and were inspired to unite and fight for equality.
I liken Garveyism to Castles theory of return migrants because that was the Garvey dream—that African Americans would return to Africa and bring skills learned in America in order to achieve economic growth. Garvey started the New York chapter of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and the Black Star Shipping Line, a shipping line he hoped to transport goods and eventually people to Africa.
If I had more time to study Mr. Garvey, I would love to find old films and actually view some of his speeches, because from the descriptions, I have read, he was extremely charismatic. I would also love to interview people who knew him—friends, employees or perhaps even his children (he had a very large family.) I would like to know exactly why he failed—Garvey was not a well-educated man. Did he fail because he made foolish business choices, or was he too prideful to ask for help when he needed it? Or were his plans not totally honest and admirable? During the first year, Garvey’s Black Star Line stock sales brought in $600,000, making it successful. However, the next two years were horrendous, the ships broke down, the workers were incompetent, and Garvey and other officers were eventually accused of mail fraud.
But even with his failures and broken dreams, Marcus Garvey is absolutely a hero to African Americans. If you look up “Marcus Garvey, inspirational quotes,” you will find many wonderful quotes such as the following: “God and Nature first made us what we are, and then out of our own created genius we make ourselves what we want to be. Follow always that great law. Let the sky and God be our limit and Eternity our measurement. ”
While Mr. Garvey never brought African Americans back to Africa (in fact, most surprisingly, he never traveled to Africa himself), he infused black Americans with self-esteem and self-worth, qualities more valuable than diamonds or gold.