Universal Negro Improvement Association Records, 1916, 1921-1989.


Collection Description

The Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA) was founded in Jamaica on August 1, 1914 by Marcus Garvey. The organization is also known as the UNIA-ACL or simply the UNIA. The motto of the organization is "One God! One Aim! One Destiny!"

After traveling throughout the United States in early 1916, Garvey established the New York Division of the UNIA in 1917. In August of 1918, the UNIA began publishing The Negro World, a weekly newspaper, which reported UNIA activities until it ceased publication in 1933. By 1920, the UNIA had over 1,000 divisions in more than 40 countries. That same year, it held its first international convention in New York, New York, which put forth a program based on "The Declaration of Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World."

After Garvey's conviction and imprisonment on mail fraud charges in 1925 and his deportation to Jamaica in 1927, the organization began to take on a different character and internal rivalries prevailed. As a result, the UNIA continued to be officially recognized as the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League, but a rival "UNIA-ACL August 1929 of the World" emerged, headed by Marcus Garvey himself after his deportation to Jamaica. From Jamaica, Garvey settled in England where he established and headed the UNIA 1929, until his death in 1940.

Upon Garvey's death, James R. Stewart, a commissioner from Ohio, was named the successor and in 1949 moved the parent body headquarters to Monrovia, Liberia. Unhappy with this development, a rehabilitating committee held a conference in Detroit, Michigan. The committee denounced the leadership of Stewart and the UNIA became fragmented once again. Former High Chancellor Thomas W. Harvey became President General of the new faction and an international UNIA headquarters was established in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1951. At the first International Convention held in August 1953, William LeVan Sherrill was elected President General and served until he resigned due to ill health in December 1958. Harvey stepped in to finish Sherrill's term and was then elected President General in August 1959, a post he held for nearly 20 years, until his death in June 1978.

Scope and Content Note

The collection contains records of the Universal Negro Improvement Association from 1916, 1921-1989. The papers include correspondence, administrative records, photographs, writings, printed...

To continue reading