As we approach the 135th anniversary of the birth of National Hero, The Right Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey on August 17, we reflect on his life’s work and its impact. Garvey founded the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in 1914 to highlight the issues faced by people of African descent and the threats posed to their development. Through the UNIA, Garvey publicised his messages of racial pride, self-reliance and African nationalism. This article explores Garvey’s thoughts on racial pride.
Racism toward people of African descent was a common issue in Garvey’s day. He advocated for racial pride by:
1. Celebrating African history
Garvey highlighted accomplishments of educated African people in UNIA periodicals and speeches delivered to his followers.
2. Accepting and celebrating African physical features
Garvey encouraged people to:
- reject images and ideas that portrayed the African race negatively
- honour people of African descent who contributed positively to their history
- teach children of African descent to love their physical features
Garvey’s message of racial pride continues to impact people of African descent today. For example, the Rastafarian movement in Jamaica embraces this tenet of Garveyism. One major aspect of this group’s philosophy is the celebration of African heritage, particularly through avoiding any alteration of natural features, such as hair straightening and skin lightening.
In 2012, the Ministry of Education made the teachings of Garveyism a mandatory part of the New Civics Programme taught in schools. This is being done to encourage students’ self-pride, as well as awareness of their worth and right to dignity.
For additional information, contact:
Liberty Hall: The Legacy of Marcus Garvey
76 King Street
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