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Marcus Garvey was born in 1887 on the Caribbean island of Jamaica. Not much is known about his younger years except that he went to school until the age of fourteen. Soon after he started a job as a printers apprentice in the year 1907. After leading an unsuccessful printers strike in Jamaica, he edited several newspapers in Costa Rica and Panama. After traveling to London in 1912 to spend some studying time there on African Colonization. He became interested in African history and Black Nationalism. He knew that in Jamaica blacks suffered under British Rule and also faced discrimination on the nearby islands. This made him wonder about the treatment of blacks all over the world.
In 1914 back in Jamaica, Garvey set up the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). The main goal of his plan was to lift the race (Straub 31). That meant to establish a politically and economically independent black action in Africa and to establish worldwide unity among blacks. He knew his ideas were needed all over so in 1916 he traveled to New York City to set up a branch of the UNIA there. Along with setting up this branch he started a newspaper call the Negro World. The main targets of Garvey s plan were the lowest classes of black society. He did not approve of any means of integration and wanted a back to Africa movement (Cronon). He said that back in Africa blacks could lead there own lives free from the domination of whites. His colorful parades and rallies attracted millions of followers who believed in his ideas of black unity. He tried to setup a steamship company called the Black Star line. This steamship company encouraged links to blacks worldwide. This idea was one of the downfalls of his plans. A money problem in setting up the Black Star Line led him to jail in 1925 and was deported back to Jamaica two years later. From this moment on his influence was minimal. He later died in 1940.
During his time of leadership of the UNIA, Garvey wrote many poems that demonstrated racial pride and strong family ties. This is strongly demonstrated in his poem The Black Mother. This poem was written about his mother to describe a love that never changes. He uses lines like she is a rock that never rifts asunder to describe this unconditional love. He cherishes his mother s love by saying she is a gift from God. Also he demonstrates racial pride by saying My mother is black loveliest of all. After evaluating several other poems written by Garvey it is noticeable that he likes to use an assonance rhyme scheme. In another of his poems titled The Battle Hymn of Africa he really brings out the pride he has in his people and his country. In the opening line of this poem he says, Africa s sun is shining above the horizon clear, the day for us is rising for black men far and near this line clearly demonstrates the pride he has in his country and people. He describes their lives as a battle that must be fought for the black man to gain justice.
Marcus Garvey s influence on the Harlem Renaissance was an important one. He stressed the point of racial pride and unity in all of his beliefs. This is something that blacks may not have had or thought about before listening to Garvey. He tried to influence blacks not to get along with whites but to come together in an effort to come back to Africa. Although he had a very strong influence for a long time, it kind of died down a little bit after a few legal problems and his ideas of black unity faded.
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