In 1916 Marcus Garvey immigrated to Harlem, where he recruited working-class blacks and West Indian immigrants to his cause of racial pride and the liberation of the African continent. His Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) thrived during the nadir of American race relations. By the early 1920s Garvey, a skilled writer and powerful orator, had increased UNIA membership to 75,000 in thirty American cities, the West Indies, Latin America, and Africa. Although he could not sustain the UNIA, partly due to disorganization and malfeasance-for which he served a five-year jail term-Garvey can be credited with creating the first African American mass movement. His emphasis on black pride, separatism, and self-reliance influenced such later leaders as Malcolm X and Louis Farrakhan.
In 1924, Garvey hired James VanDerZee to photograph the activities of the UNIA; this inscribed photograph was one of the results.