Tag Archives: Pan-Africanism

The pen is mightier than the sword, but the tongue is mightier than both put together

A new profile has been added to the Black Atlantic Resource which explores the life of Marcus Garvey and the UNIA.

Marcus Garvey was a prominent black nationalist leader in the early twentieth century. In the space of ten years this unknown Jamaican, from a poor background, moved to America and lead a phenomenal political and social movement based in Harlem, New York. He remains a prominent and contentious figure in black history and was an important inspiration for later black power movements. ‘Garveyism’ was popular globally precisely because it confronted issues of ‘race’ in a new way.

Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) which promoted black pride and separatism. Charismatic and controversial, he was also an orator, writer, publisher and entrepreneur. He encouraged the black community to become economically independent so as not to rely on white America. However, there were many issues surrounding both the man and the movement. Although initially on good terms with other black leaders, his relationships deteriorated as he became more radical. A. Philip Randolph was said to be ‘embarrassed by him’ and W.E.B Du Bois called him “a grand distraction” and “the most dangerous enemy of the black race”.

Garvey is particularly significant for being a black leader in America with a more global agenda. In the 1920’s he was arguably the most loved and hated black man in the world. The UNIA eventually had 500 branches in 22 countries with millions of members, and ‘The Negro World’, the newspaper of the UNIA, at its peak had 200,000 subscriptions worldwide. He created a global African nation and left a legacy of Pan-Africanism and liberation ideology. He has had a profound impact of African nationalist movements, inspired the Rastafarian movement based in the West Indies and in the U.S. the Black Panthers, the Nation of Islam, and Black Power reflected elements of Garveyism.

Whilst Garvey’s leadership was short-lived, at his peak he led the largest black movement in history constituting a vital part of black Atlantic awakening. However the debates surrounding this somewhat contradictory figure have certainly not been short-lived. They continue in current scholarship often consider questions such as; Was Garveyism racist, supremacist or liberationist? Was Garvey himself misguided, romantic, or a merely a bunglar? Even though it did not always achieve its aims practically the efforts of the UNIA were still significant in terms of black pride and consciousness.

Click here to read the full profile for Garvey and continue the debate by commenting below.


Battersea’s First Black Mayor: John Archer

New! John Archer profile at the Black Atlantic Resource. This profile details the life and political career of John Archer one of Britain’s earliest black mayors.

John Richard Archer (1863-1932) born and raised in Liverpool, was elected Mayor of Battersea in 1913. A self-styled ‘race man’ John was elected as a representative to the first Pan-African Conference at Westminster in July 1900. Also a life-long socialist, John travelled at least three times around the world in his youth, living for a while in the West Indies and North America.

When John was nominated for Progressive candidate for Mayor in Battersea in November, 1913. the black vote was very small indeed. The newspapers made something of a fuss, as the first Catholic mayor T. P. Brogan, had been John Archer’s mentor prior to his election. When John was elected on 10 November, the Black American activist, W. E. B. Dubois, wrote in his journal, the Crisis, that he “…fears no man, and brooks no insult because of the race to which he is proud to belong.”

This profile has been contributed to the Black Atlantic Resource by historian Dr. Ray Costello from his publication Liverpool Black Pioneers to find out more about this publication click here.

Read more about John Archer… and leave your comments here.