Developmental and homeostatic remodeling of cellular organelles is mediated by a complex process termed autophagy. The cohort of proteins that constitute the autophagy machinery functions in a multistep biochemical pathway. Though components of the autophagy machinery are broadly expressed, autophagy can occur in specialized cellular contexts, and mechanisms underlying cell-type-specific autophagy are poorly understood. We demonstrate that the master regulator of hematopoiesis, GATA-1, directly activates transcription of genes encoding the essential autophagy component microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3B (LC3B) and its homologs (MAP1LC3A, GABARAP, GABARAPL1, and GATE-16). In addition, GATA-1 directly activates genes involved in the biogenesis/function of lysosomes, which mediate autophagic protein turnover. We demonstrate that GATA-1 utilizes the forkhead protein FoxO3 to activate select autophagy genes. GATA-1-dependent LC3B induction is tightly coupled to accumulation of the active form of LC3B and autophagosomes, which mediate mitochondrial clearance as a critical step in erythropoiesis. These results illustrate a novel mechanism by which a master regulator of development establishes a genetic network to instigate cell-type-specific autophagy.