Marcus Garvey (1887–1940) was rejected by many black leaders because of his extreme views and his incarceration. He was a flawed—but important—black figure in the early twentieth century.
He had sympathy for a goal of the Ku Klux Klan. The KKK, a nemesis to the black people, wanted racial segregation. Garvey shared that view.
Garvey's main idea was to move blacks back to Africa. In Africa, they could be free. In America, whites would continue to stymie blacks. Garvey stressed that blacks on different continents should unite. He established the Black Star Line, a shipping company, to facilitate links between geographically disparate black communities.
Other black leaders did not embrace the radical solution of moving their race back to its ancestral homeland. W. E. B. Du Bois, leader of the NAACP, referred to Garvey as "the most dangerous enemy of the Negro race in America." A. Philip Randolph, an important black labor leader, also opposed Garvey. These men wanted to improve the lot of blacks in the United States, and they rejected Garvey's more global and extreme views.
In 1925, Garvey was sent to prison for mail fraud carried out in connection with the Black Star Line. After serving several years, he was released, but he never regained his stature as a black leader.
A decade later, Garvey worked with white supremacist Senator Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi. The plan was for the government to ship millions of blacks to Africa to help them escape the unemployment that accompanied the Great Depression. The plan was not approved, and Garvey fell further into obscurity.