Emmett Till James Baldwin Marcus Garvey Frederick Douglas Fanny Lou Hammer




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Marcus Garvey

Racial Education

Ethical and cultural instruction---the basis of virtue in Aristotle's ideal state---was one of the basic goals of the UNIA from its inception. Garvey believed in offering instruction both popularly and institutionally, with the dual goals of reaching a wide audience and of establishing educational facilities. The soapbox oratory, mass meetings, and large conventions that characterized the Garvey movement were all directed at instructing and organizing a large mass of people. Similarly, the dramatic performances, elocution contests, debates, and concerts that UNIA members participated in were forms not only of fund-raising and socializing, but of racial education as well. When Garvey purchased Edelweiss Park in Kingston, Jamaica, as a meeting center for the black community in the early 1930s, he continued the practices established in New York and throughout the local UNIA divisions---practices based on the nineteenth-century tradition of the Chautauqua circuit, where people would gather locally for popular education and enrichment combined with entertainment, often outdoors or beneath a tent. He advertised Edelweiss Park as a "great educational centre" and a "centre of people of intellect" in the pages of the New Jamaican.

Garvey's interest in founding educational facilities was also a lifelong one. He attended courses at Birkbeck College in England before he founded the UNIA in 1914, and one of the new organization's earliest goals was the creation of an industrial training institute for black people in Jamaica based on the Tuskegee model. Well before the turn of the century, the practical education in skilled crafts that industrial training offered had become one of the popular paths for artisans in their quest for self-culture. The 26 March 1915 Jamaican Daily Chronicle reported that Garvey listed the establishment of "educational and industrial colleges for the further education and culture of our boys and girls" as among the several benevolent goals of the UNIA. Garvey received support in this goal from Booker T. Washington, who, on 17 September 1914, wrote to invite the UNIA leader to "come to Tuskegee and see for yourself what we are striving to do," and promised again in April 1915 to help Garvey achieve his local aims.

Garvey's interest in education based on the principles of self-culture persisted after Washington's death in November 1915 and the relocation of the headquarters of the movement in the United States in 1916. UNIA meetings and programs continued to foster the ideal of self-improvement, and as the association grew, auxiliaries were created with their own educational standards for membership. These standards included examinations in the geography of Africa, mathematics, reading, writing, and other subjects for commissioned officers in the uniformed Universal African Legion; first aid and nutrition classes for the members of the Black Cross Nurses; automobile repair and operation instruction for the Universal African Motor Corps; and a curriculum of elementary courses, including instruction in black history, economics, and etiquette, for members of the Juvenile Divisions. In some areas, local Black Cross Nurse auxiliaries also contracted with community hospitals and clinics to provide members with more advanced practical training in nursing and maternity care.

In February 1918 Garvey invited Columbia University president Nicholas Murray Butler to address the members of the UNIA on the topic of "Education and What It Means" and in April of the same year he and the other officers appealed to Butler to contribute toward the purchase of a $200,000 building in Harlem for an organization headquarters, which they hoped would "be the source from which we will train and educate our people to those essentials that will make them a more cultured and better race."




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