Today, on every Ghanaian flag sits a black star, a symbol of Pan-Africanism and Black pride born from the Black Star Line. The Black Star Line began in 1919 by prolific activist and publisher, Marcus Garvey, who founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in 1914 with the motto, “One Aim. One God. One Destiny.”
The organization promoted a strong brotherhood among Black Americans within the United States and the Caribbean, reaching a peak of four million members. Garvey’s sanguine messages such as, “Black is Beautiful” and “Black Pride,” were heavily punctuated by instilling the use of capitalism to achieve independence. These messages would not become popular again until the 1960’s. Garvey was also a staunch pan-Africanist and Back to Africa supporter. He founded and incorporated the Black Star Line to promote trade through the Caribbean and Africa and transport passengers to Africa. The shipping company aimed to be the counterpart of the White Star Line by promoting itself as for African-Americans, by African-Americans. Buying stock in BSL for $5 a share, the UNIA quickly raised $800,000 to purchase the first of three ships.
The Black Star Line successfully transported people on the Hudson River, and also made symbolic port visits to cities in Latin America. However, they never made it to Africa. The line was plagued with unreliable ships, poor management, and even sabotage. The company had to cease operations in 1922 due to an investigation by the FBI. Though the company failed the Black Star lives on as a beacon of unity and economic potential to Africans and people of African descent.