The Right Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey dedicated his life to the upliftment of people of African descent. He believed that self-reliance was a major means by which the oppressed could attain their freedom. As the anniversary of Garvey’s birth, August 17, approaches, we take a look at Garvey’s thoughts on self-reliance.
Garvey called for his followers to establish businesses and acquire education and skills that would enable them to develop these enterprises.
Garvey led the charge by setting up several ventures, namely:
• The Black Star Line (BSL) – The BSL was established in 1919 in New York in the United States of America (USA). Three ships comprised the line and they were used as an efficient means of transportation, communication, and trade among people of African ancestry worldwide. The BSL operated until 1922, when it was discontinued due to a lack of funds and deterioration of the vessels.
• The Negro Factories Corporation (NFC) – The NFC was established in Harlem, New York, USA, in 1920. Several businesses, such as tailoring and dressmaking shops, grocery stores and printeries operated under its umbrella. The NFC also comprised restaurants, an employment agency, a cooperative bank, a hotel, and a doll factory.
• The Black Cross Navigation and Trading Company – This shipping company was established in 1919 and its sole vessel, a ship called the SS Booker T. Washington, was purchased in 1924 and refitted to prevent deterioration. This company was considered a sounder venture than its predecessor, the BSL. The SS Booker T. Washington was also used to transport goods between companies owned by people of African descent.
Acquiring Education and Skills
Garvey urged people of African descent to learn new skills, improve existing skills and seek continuous academic advancement to strengthen their businesses. To that end, the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), founded by Garvey, operated several schools that provided education and training. These included:
• The Smallwood-Corey Industrial Institute, located in Virginia, USA, which was opened in 1922 and offered technical instruction.
• The Booker T. Washington University, opened in 1926 in New York, USA, which provided training opportunities.
As a result of this emphasis on education, the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) was established in April 1944 in the USA. It provides students of African descent with financial assistance to pay tuition for tertiary education. The UNFC has also spurred several initiatives that help students to access education and training.
For additional information, contact:
Liberty Hall: The Legacy of Marcus Garvey
76 King Street
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