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Economic Self-Sufficiency

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  • Economic Self-Sufficiency

    On March 23, 1916, after corresponding with Booker T. Washington, Garvey arrived in the United States to connect his movement to Washington's movement in Tuskegee, Alabama (Stein, 1986). However, Washington died before Garvey arrived. Stein (1986) noted that Garvey came to the U.S. at a time when a new economic order was anchored to American prosperity. A sweeping increase in technological innovations of mass production techniques and new machinery increased American output 13 percent while consequently reducing the workforce 8 percent. Profits were soaring as a 29 percent increase in worker productivity was complemented by only a 4.5 percent increase in real wages. Organized African American unions were suffering as the power of the American capitalists increased.
    Garvey had admired Washington's business ownership approach toward self-reliance. He agreed that other forms of advancement would follow economic development. However, he saw a flaw in Washington's approach. Specifically, he believed that focusing primarily on individual entrepreneurial advancement would fail to promote community development because individual profit motives would impede group advancement. In order to promote the collective interests of African Americans, Garvey sought to use collective decision making and group profit sharing. Thus, Garvey created a Nationalist version of Washington's economic program that resulted in mass organization supported by millions of African Americans (Allen, 1969).
    Garvey believed that African Americans were universally oppressed and any program of emancipation would have to be built around the question of race. In his mind, African Americans would aspire to positions of influence if they had educational opportunities, and this would bring them into direct competition with the white power structure. However, he believed that within 100 years, such a position would lead to racial strife which would be disastrous for them (Sertima, 1988). Hence, his theory of racial separation was born. It was a stratagem to ensure self-reliance and equality for the downtrodden African race, but it did not stress racial superiority. Garvey stated:
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