At the time that Ralph Ellison writes the novel The Invisible Man there were, as there are today, many ideas on how to improve the black mans status in a segregated nation. Marcus Garvey was a militant black nationalist leader who created a “Back to Africa” movement. On the other side was Booker T.
Washington who preached for racial uplift through educational attainments and economic advancement. A man who strayed more on the middle path was W.E.B.
Du Bois. He was less militant than Marcus Garvey but was more so than Booker T. Washington. Ellison uses characters from the novel to represent these men. Marcus Garvey is fictionalized as Ras the Exhorter. Booker T. Washington is given voice by the Reverend Barbee.
W.E.B. Du Bois is never directly mentioned in the novel. However, the actions and thoughts of W.E.
B. Du Bois are very similar to that of the narrator. While all three men were after the same dream they all went about making that dream reality in different ways. There are strengths and weakness that can be found in all three mens philosophies. The most militant and extreme of the three was Garvey. Marcus Garvey was born Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jr. on August 17 1887, at Saint Anns Bay, Jamaica. He was the youngest of eleven children.
His father, Malcus (Marcus) Mosiah Garvey, was a stonemason and his mother, Sarah Jane Richards, was a domestic servant and produce grower. He left school at the age of fourteen to serve as a printers apprentice. After completing his training he took a job with a printing company in Kingston. There he organized and led a strike for higher wages.
He then traveled to Central and South America. He moved to London in 1912 and became interested in African history and culture. He returned to Jamaica two years later and founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and the African Communities League. The UNIA helped found the Black Muslim movement. In 1916 Garvey moved to the United States.
He went to New York City and set up a branch of the UNIA and began a weekly newspaper called the Negro World. Garvey preached that blacks should be proud of who they are. He called for racial pride. Because of his persuasiveness and his eloquence people started to listen to Garvey. Blacks became proud of who they were.
Booker T. Washington said to bow down to the whites and accept being inferior. When they heard Garvey say he was proud of his race and his heritage they listened to him. The black community gathered around him and accepted his message. Here was a man who was happy to be black: not only happy but also proud. Garveys racial pride movement helped the Harlem Renaissance.
Blacks started to express their feelings and thoughts through art and music. This was a time when whites really took a look at black art and culture. Garveys most extreme movement was the “Back to Africa” movement. He called all blacks to return to their true homeland, Africa. To help make this possible Garvey created the Black Star Line in 1919 to provide transportation. He also started the Negro Factories Corporation to encourage black economic independence. Garvey attracted thousands of supporters and had two million members for the UNIA.
Garveys rise to fame was amazing; speaking to an audience in Colon, Panama in 1921 Garvey said “two years ago in New York nobody paid any attention to us. When I use to speak, even the policeman on the beat never noticed me.” Depending on whom you talked to Garvey was the new Moses of blacks or a complete madman. In “After Marcus Garvey—What?” an article in Contemporary Review, Kelly Miller writes that: Marcus Garvey came to the U.S.
less than ten years ago, unheralded, unfriended, without acquaintance, relationship, or means of livelihood. This Jamaican immigrant was thirty years old, partially educated, and 100 per cent black. He possessed neither comeliness of appearance nor attractive physical personality. Judged by external appraisement, there was nothing to distinguish him from thousands of West Indian black people who flock to our seaport cities. And yet this ungainly youth by sheer indomitability