This Day in Black History: June 10, 1940

Social activist Marcus Garvey died in London at age 52.

Posted: 06/10/2012 07:00 AM EDT

Marcus Garvey, the leader of the Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism movements that inspired many leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, died in London after suffering from several strokes. He was 52.

Born in St. Ann's Bay, Jamaica, on Aug.  17, 1887, Garvey credited his father, a stone mason, for ingraining him with his passion for reading and attitude of self-determination.  His interest in activism game at age 14, when he left school to become a printer’s assistant and later became involved in union activities in Kingston, Jamaica. Garvey eventually traveled through South America as a writer and newspaper editor before he returned to Jamaica in 1912 and founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), which had the goal of uniting all of African diaspora to "establish a country and absolute government of their own," Biography.com writes.  By 1916, UNIA’s membership has swelled to 4 million, and Garvey traveled to the United States and delivered an address to 25,000 people the UNIA’s International Convention at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Garvey’s influence would wane in 1923 when he was convicted of mail fraud and continued to decline in the 1930s.

His ideas of Black self-determination and support that all Blacks should make a pilgrimage back to Africa divided many Black scholars of the time, including W.E.B. DuBois, who famously called Garvey "the most dangerous enemy of the Negro race in America." However, Garvey’s legacy would later inspire the formation of the National of Islam and notable civil rights leaders including Malcolm X in the 1950s and 60s.


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(Photo: Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

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