4 Million Followers, how?!

Well, Marcus Garvey incorporated The Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA)  as a business corporation in New York City on July 2nd 1918. Three years later in 1921, Marcus Garvey’s UNIA following grew to 4 million stock investors worldwide. These followers were actually investors who bought the UNIA’s corporate stock to contribute to the 100% Black-Owned business Corporation.African people all around the globe invested their hard on money into the UNIA  because the Garveyite movement differed from other Black organizations who only seemed to explain the problems that prevailed in the black community. The Garvey Movement was about executing actionable businesses to serve as the foundation of a self-reliant community. The UNIA had an assortment of businesses such as  the Black Star Line steam ship company, newspaper publication, a manufacturing business, millinery store, restaurants, grocery stores, laundromats, black doll factory, printing press, tailoring business, and even a hotel. It has been recorded that by 1922 UNIA businesses were doing so well that The UNIA received over 40 visits from Harlem business people who wanted the UNIA to bail them out.


Marcus Garvey believed the world made it a crime to be black and that self-love was the key to instilling self-pride and inspiring  the black race into action. Marcus Garvey’s UNIA launched a black doll company so little black girls could see beauty reflected in the toys that they played with.  Marcus Garvey was also a poet. He was a prolific political playwright who created plays such as the coordination of the African King performed in Jamaica in 1930. The UNIA also coordinated black beauty pageants for black women of every shade. Marcus Garvey believed in Black Love and was married to Black woman such as Amy Jacques Garvey.


Zora Neale Hurston

The UNIA became a training ground for future Freedom Fighters of Black Liberation. The Garveyite movement became a global force 1920s Harlem Renaissance period. During the Harlem Renaissance, Garvey and The UNIA had over 4 million followers, and 996 chapters in countries around the world.  Some of the most important leaders of the Harlem Renaissance were associated with the UNIA. Let’s take and find out more. Zora Neale Hurston, famous author, anthropologist, and researcher was a columnist writer for the The Negro World a UNIA media publication.



The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam, was a Corporal official in the UNIA’s  in Chicago chapter and also an active member of the Detroit UNIA chapter. Let’s not forget that Malcolm X father, Earl Little, was an active member and official in the UNIA which would have a significant impact on the future Freedom Fighter Malcolm X. Earl Little was a Garveyite and a preacher who would host UNIA meetings at his house.  Earl Little’s UNIA ideals of a separate and self-reliant black community was seen as a threat to those in power. On September 28, 1931 Earl Little was murdered and found run over by a streetcar in Lansing, Michigan. Earl Little lived through the excruciating pain and was found barely alive on the streets Lansing. He was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. Malcolm’s father was allegedly murdered by the Black Legion, which was a racist terrorist group that was located in Michigan. It should be noted that Malcolm X home was burnt down to the ground by racist groups such as The Black Legion. Earl Little’s involvement in the UNIA  are deep rooted in Malcolm X’s ancestry and the The Black Power Movement of the 1960s and 1970s.







The explosive growth UNIA in the Marcus Garvey movement sparked fear among those with power, specifically whites with power.  In 1920 the Key West Florida UNIA division intimidated racist whites so much that the KKK created another branch in Key West as a countermeasure. The local UNIA leader, Mr. T C Glashen, was threatened by the KKK and given 24 hours to leave the town. When he refused he was arrested and jailed. The UNIA intervened and a Harlem judge visited TC Glashen in jail and begged him to leave town, in order to avoid a racial clash between the UNIA and the white mobs.  T C Glashen finally left from New York to Havana Cuba.

Incidents like these cause Garvey to initially threatened to whoop the KKK in the north if they touched any black people. A banner at the 1921 Convention Parade proclaimed “The New Negro is ready for the Ku Klux Klan!”  Surprisingly in June 1922 Garvey stops in Atlanta Georgia for a conference with Edward Young Clark, the acting Imperial wizard for the KKK. Clarke invited Garvey by contacting a local UNIA.  Garvey accepted the invitation because he considered it in the best interest of his organization given the history of conflict between the UNIA and white segregationists. The meeting lasted two hours, Clarke outlined The White Man’s philosophy. He emphasized that America was a white man’s country and that his organization pursued racial Purity and denied that the Klan was responsible for all the incidents of racial intolerance.  Garvey said afterwards “I was speaking to a man who was brutally a white man, and I was speaking to him as a man who is  brutally a Negro”. Garvey concluded that it would be more worthwhile to push forward with the UNIA program to build a strong government in Africa which would redound the benefit for black people everywhere rather than waste time attacking the clan. Black integrationist such as W E B Dubois, A Philip Randolph, and Robert Miner had a field day. The taunted Garvey and his movement and called him “Chief defender of the Klan”. This sparked The Federal government to investigate, infiltrate, sabotage, the UNIA and Marcus Garvey. The Federal Government persecuted Garvey for  mail fraud in New York. Garvey proclaimed that this was an attempt to further prejudice his case dealings with the clans were irrelevant to the charges against him.

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by Shantel Nubia


Little, M., Haley, A., Shabazz, A., Handler, M. S., & Davis, O. (1999). The autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Ballantine Books.

Martin, T. (1986). Race first the ideological and organizational struggles of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Dover, MA, U.S.A.: Majority Press.


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