Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League
Founded by Marcus Garvey in 1914, the UNIA remains one of the oldest African American fraternal organizations in American history. The organization reached its membership peak in the 1920s but continues to meet in Philadelphia and other major cities under the auspices of the UNIA-ACL.
Backstory and Context
Frequently Asked Questions about the UNIA-ACL from the national website:
Explain the U.N.I.A. and A.C.L.'s desire for a United States of Africa?
As U.N.I.A. and A.C.L. members, we are Garveyites. Garveyites realize that race and color play an important part in the world today. We realize that the coming into being of a powerful African nation will mean the easing of the color bar wherever African people live. The difference in the Garveyite and the African person who has "lost nothing in Africa" lies in their conception of freedom. Garveyites have been taught that freedom can only be firmly established in consecrated soil. It must be sown deep in belief in one's self, and in one's own ability to conquer adversity. Freedom is carved out of dreams of greatness, and a determination to turn those dreams into living realities. It is planted in a common longing to shape one's own fate.
The non-Garveyite is seeking freedom through others. They doubt their ability to establish it for themselves. The environment in which they live has robbed them of their faith in their own powers of creative endeavor, and their own human and moral worth. Having little confidence in their own ability to create and build, they feel that their future depends on begging others for privileges and opportunities, and eventually escaping from themselves by means of amalgamation.
We believe God created all women and men equal, that he gave us all the ingredients of greatness. What one race can do, all others may accomplish. This being true, our fight for recognition and equality will fall short of the goal so long as we are content to follow the initiative of others. Such a course will always leave us a step behind, until we prove to the world, that we too, are women and men capable of doing what other men and women have done, we will always be looked upon as a little less than other women and men. Only when we too have created states, built nations, and created the governments comparable to those of the modern men and women, will we be able to erase the stigma of inferiority.
Why does the UNIA still use the word Negro in its official title?
The answer is complex and one needs to know a little about the history of the melanin dominated peoples we call African, Black, Negro, etc. According to J.A. Rogers, the forefather of Black Anthropology, "Negro" is the oldest known and most ancient name to describe our family of the human race. During Marcus Garvey's era, Negro was indeed the name of our race that was most acceptable. Since Dr. ben Jochannan and other Black historians have given us so much insight and information on the history of Kemit and our race, we can no longer accept "NEGRO" as the sole description for us as a people. The Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League is very much aware of this situation today that provides "Africans" another excuse for not joining in with the Grandfather of Black Nationalist Organizations. To drop "NEGRO" from our official title could bring legal disaster to the UNIA. European governments, particularly the U.S. government, seized millions of dollars in property and assets and still has the UNIA in a legal bind due to the frame up of Mr. Garvey. This perhaps is the main reason for not changing "NEGRO" TO "AFRICAN". The bottom line is, until we establish ourselves a government and nation, we are still Negroes to some. We may call ourselves Blacks, Africans, African-American, Kemetian, Nubian or otherwise. It makes no difference in our eco-political status of the world as of now.