No Marcus Garvey biography would be complete without defining the radical views that made him a threat to the status quo. The life story of the Jamaican-born activist starts well before he came to the United States following World War I, when Harlem was an exciting place for African-American culture. Poets like Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen as well as novelists like Nella Larsen and Zora Neale Hurston created a vibrant literature that captured the black experience.
Musicians such as Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday, playing and singing in Harlem nightclubs, invented what has been called Americas classical music -- jazz.
In the midst of this renaissance of African-American culture in New York (known as the Harlem Renaissance), Garvey, seized the attention of both white and black Americans with his powerful oratory and ideas about separatism. During the 1920s, the UNIA, the foundation of Garveys movement, became what historian Lawrence Levine has called the broadest mass movement in African-American history.
Garvey was born in Jamaica in 1887, which was then part of the British West Indies. As a teenager, Garvey moved from his small coastal village to Kingston, where political speakers and preachers entranced him with their public speaking skills. He began studying oratory and practicing on his own.
Garvey became a foreman for a large printing business, but a strike in 1907 during which he sided with the workers instead of management, derailed his career.
The realization that politics was his true passion prompted Garvey to begin organizing and writing on behalf of workers. He traveled to Central and South America, where he spoke out on behalf of West Indian expatriate workers.
Garvey went to London in 1912 where he met a group of black intellectuals who gathered to discuss ideas like anti-colonialism and African unity.
Returning to Jamaica in 1914, Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association, or UNIA. Among the UNIAs goals were the founding of colleges for general and vocational