27 June 2020, marks 101 years since the incorporation of the Black Star Line by Marcus Garvey and members of the UNIA – Universal Negro Improvement Association.
The Black Star Line was created to facilitate the transportation of goods and eventually African Americans throughout the African global economy. It derived its name from the White Star Line, a line whose success Garvey thought he could duplicate. Black Star Line became a key part of Garvey’s contribution to the Back-to-Africa movement. It was one among many businesses which the UNIA originated, such as the Universal Printing House, Negro Factories Corporation, and the widely distributed and highly successful Negro World weekly newspaper.
The Black Star Line surprised all its critics when, only three months after being incorporated, the first of four ships, the SS Yarmouth was purchased with the intention of it being rechristened the SS Frederick Douglass. The Yarmouth was a coal boat during the First World War, and was in poor condition when purchased by the Black Star Line. Once reconditioned, the Yarmouth proceeded to sail for three years between the U.S. and the West Indies as the first Black Star Line ship with an all-black crew and a black captain.
The Black Star Line and its successor, the Black Cross Navigation and Trading Company, operated between 1919 and 1922. It stands today as a major symbol for Garvey followers and African Americans in search of a way to get back to their homeland.
The initial authorized capital of the Black Star Line was $500,000. The initial shares were only 100,000 selling for $5 each. In six months the Market Capitalization of the Black Star Line was increased to $10,000,000 at a Board of Directors meeting held on November 14, 1919.
The first directors of the Black Star Line were :
President — Marcus Garvey
First Vice President — Jeremiah Certain
Second Vice President — Henrietta Vinton Davis
Treasurer — George Tobias
Secretary — Richard E. Warner
Assistant Secretary — Edgar M. Grey
Assistant Treasurer — Janie Jenkins