Marcus Garvey was a Jamaican poet and civil rights campaigner. He had a level of popularity in America during the early post-war years, from 1919-1922, wasn’t an academic, but had a keen eye for studiousness.
He was intelligent, talented and charismatic, but appears to have lacked consistent success because he lacked staying power.
Garvey clashed with intellectuals like W.E.B De Bois.
He had a flair for the flamboyant and not being an American, at times found himself outside the very communities he was seeking to raise up.
Because of this he is credited by some, as having a significant role in laying the early foundation for what would become the African American Civil Rights movement.
The decline in his popularity coincided with Garvey’s radical views on Africa, and the way forward for Americans, such as his support for Black Nationalism and pro-segregation.
His five year imprisonment in 1922, for mail fraud, sealed his, now inevitable, ultimate removal from public life. He served two years before being released and sent back to Jamaica.
Garvey was schooled and later self-taught. His radical racial views aside, Garvey’s short treatise called ‘Educate Yourself’ is a back to basics organic approach to education. The kind of stuff homeschoolers do daily.
It’s clear that some of the ideas on education presented by Garvey are not unique to Garvey. What is unique is the fact that Garvey saw these ideas as worth reflecting on from within his own experience.
Taking into consideration the racism of the era and the muddied struggle for equal educational opportunities, Garvey’s words here carry inspirational gravitas.
‘’Never stop learning. Never stop reading […] Make pencil or pen notes of the striking sentences and paragraphs that you should like to remember”
“You should also read the best poetry for inspiration. From a good line of poetry, you may get the inspiration for the career of a life time.”
“Read history incessantly until you master it. You can only make the best out of life by knowing and understanding it. To know, you must fall back on the intelligence of others who came before you and have left.’
“Never write or speak on a subject you know nothing about, for there is always somebody who knows that particular subject to laugh at you or to ask you embarrassing questions that may make others laugh at you. You can know about any subject under the sun by reading about it.”
“By reading good books you keep the company of the authors of the book or the subjects of the book when otherwise you could not meet them in the social contact of life.”
“You should learn the two sides to every story, so as to be able to properly debate a question and hold your grounds with the side that you support.”
“Always have a well equipped shelf of books.”
“In reading it is not necessary or compulsory that you agree with everything you read. You must always use or apply your own reasoning […]Pass judgement on what you read based upon these facts. When I say facts I mean things that cannot be disputed.”
“Don’t waste time. Any time you think you have to waste put it in reading something.”
“Never pass over a word without knowing its meaning.”
“Read a chapter from the Bible everyday, Old and New Testaments. The greatest wisdom of the age is to be found in the Scriptures.” [i]
“God gives you intelligence to do things intelligently for yourself. You will get no more out of life than you put in.” [ii]
[i] Garvey, M. The Ultimate Collection of Speeches and Poems.
[ii] Garvey, M. 1937, Speech (source) Hill, R.A. (Ed.)
[iii] Sandbrook, D. 2008 The Rise And Fall of Marcus Garvey, The Telegraph (source)