Marcus Garvey is one of the most contradictory and enigmatic figures in American history, both visionary and manipulative, a brilliant orator and a pompous autocrat. He was a strong advocate of black self-help and unity among people of African descent, yet was willing to collaborate with the Ku Klux Klan. He inspired African Americans to support his economic enterprises with their hard-earned money, yet lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in the mismanagement of those schemes.
Marcus Garvey: Look For Me in the Whirlwind, the first comprehensive documentary to tell the life story of this controversial leader, uses a wealth of material from the Garvey movement-written documents, film and photographs-to reveal what motivated a poor Jamaican to set up an international organization for the African diaspora, what led to his early successes, and why he died lonely and forgotten. Among the most powerful sequences in the film are articulate, fiery interviews with the men and women whose parents joined the Garvey movement more than 80 years ago. Together they reveal how revolutionary Garvey’s ideas were to a new generation of African Americans,West Indians and Africans and how he invested hundreds of thousands of black men and women with a new-found sense of racial pride.
The film begins in 1887 in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica, where Garvey was born. It covers his discovery of racism as a schoolboy and his travels through Central and South America in his 20s. The terrible exploitation of black workers Garvey witnessed on that journey angered him. He returned to Jamaica after a two year sojourn in England and Europe, determined to change black people’s place in the world. “Where is the black man’s government?” he asked. “Where is his president, his country, his men of big affairs? I could not find them.”. In August 1914 he established the Universal Negro Improvement Association (U.N.I.A.) and African Community’s League (A.C.L.). The organization’s goals were ambitious – racial unity, economic independence, educational achievement, and moral reform — but in just two years financial woes forced Garvey to move to the United States.
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