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Global Politics

Similarities and Differences of W. E. B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey Political Ideas

In the early 1900s, African Americans were struggling to overcome racial barriers and inequality. A few influential African Americans rose up to speak and fight for the rights of all black people. W. E. B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey were two black political readers and civil rights activists who fought for African Americans in the 1920s

They came from different backgrounds, which brought about differences in their views and political ideas. More specifically, this paper discusses the similarities and differences of W. E. B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey’s political ideas.

Garvey and Du Bois established different political organizations and other movements to fight for the rights of black people. Their backgrounds influenced their life’s work and the people they were involved with. Du Bois was born into a powerful family. Therefore, he centered his work on improving the lives of African Americans. He formed the NAACP, where he worked with the liberal whites, and therefore, his movement mostly attracted intellectuals and other upper-class black folks. Additionally, his work was focused on the talented tenth, which included the most talented and educated African Americans, and this alienated the poor and uneducated blacks who turned to Marcus Garvey. Du Bois believed that the educated and the elite black people should lead the black community to fight for their rights. Conversely, Garvey grew up in a poor Jamaican community where he had little education. After traveling around the Caribbean countries, he moved to London in 1912, where he joined the Pan-African Movement. In 1914, he returned to Jamaica, where he formed the Universal Negro Improvement Association, which was based on the ideas from the Pan-African Movement[1]. Garvey’s movement attracted large masses, which included the poor and untitled blacks.

Du Bois and Garvey’s movement had a lot of influence even on later generations, who were encouraged to fight further for equal rights. Also, their ideas facilitated the creation of the civil rights movement. Despite their differences, Garvey and Du Bois’s organizations brought the blacks and other colored people together, enlightening them on their right to equality. Garvey formed a Back to Africa Movement, which was very popular. This movement advocated the African Americans to separate from the whites and return to Africa. Similarly, Du Bois NAACP, the most important black organization in the country at the time, brought all the colored people together to fight for their rights and higher opportunities. In 1910, he accepted a job as a Director of Publicity and Research, where his primary duty was to edit the NAACP’s monthly magazine, which he called The Crisis. He used the magazine to spread his message and ideas to as many blacks as possible across the country. Both Garvey and Du Bois opposed the Atlanta Exposition formed by Booker T. Washington. Washington’s ideas called for African Americans to accept themselves as second best to whites, but Garvey and Du Bois believed that all blacks were entitled to equal rights and higher opportunities, rather than submit to the discrimination and segregation of Washington’s Atlanta Compromise. Later on, Garvey came to realize that a little cooperation with the whites would create a headway for their movements.


Edwards, Janelle Marlena. “The Age of Garvey: How a Jamaican Activist Created a Mass Movement and Changed Global Black Politics by Adam Ewing.” Journal for the Study of Radicalism 10, no. 2 (2016): 153-155.



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