Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr., was a Jamaican political leader, publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, and orator who was a proponent of the Pan-Africanism movement
Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr., ONH (17 August 1887 – 10 June 1940), was a Jamaican political leader, publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, and orator who was a proponent of the Pan-Africanism movement, to which end he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL). He also founded the Black Star Line, a shipping and passenger line which promoted the return of the African diaspora to their ancestral lands. Prior to the 20th century, leaders such as Prince Hall, Martin Delany, Edward Wilmot Blyden, and Henry Highland Garnet advocated the involvement of the African diaspora in African affairs. Garvey was unique in advancing a Pan-African philosophy to inspire a global mass movement and economic empowerment focusing on Africa known as Garveyism. Promoted by the UNIA as a movement of African Redemption, Garveyism would eventually inspire others, ranging from the Nation of Islam to the Rastafari movement (some sects of which proclaim Garvey as a prophet. Garveyism intended persons of African ancestry in the diaspora to "redeem" the nations of Africa and for the European colonial powers to leave the continent. His essential ideas about Africa were stated in an editorial in Negro World entitled "African Fundamentalism", where he wrote: "Our union must know no clime, boundary, or nationality… to let us hold together under all climes and in every country…" Early yearsMarcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr. was born as the youngest of eleven children in St. Ann's Bay, Jamaica, to Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Sr., mason, and Sarah Jane Richards, a domestic worker. Only his sister Indiana along with Marcus survived to adulthood.
His family was financially stable given the circumstances of this time period. Garvey's father had a large library, and it was from his father that Marcus gained his love for reading. He also attended elementary schools in St. Ann's Bay during his youth. While attending these schools, Garvey first began to experience racism. In 1907, he took part in an unsuccessful printer's strike and the experience kindled in him a passion for political activism. In 1910 Garvey left Jamaica and began traveling throughout the Central American region. His first stop was Costa Rica, where he had a maternal uncle. He lived in Costa Rica for several months and worked as a time keeper on a banana plantation. He began work as editor for a daily newspaper called La Nacionale in 1911. Later that year, he moved to Colón, Panama, where he edited a biweekly newspaper, before returning to Jamaica in 1912. Over time, Marcus Garvey became influenced by many civil rights activists of his time. He ultimately combined the economic nationalist ideas of Booker T. Washingtonand Pan-Africanists with the political possibilities and urban style of men and women living outside of plantation and colonial societies.
After years of working in the Caribbean, Garvey left Jamaica to live in London from 1912 to 1914, where he attended Birkbeck College, taking classes in law and philosophy. He also worked for the African Times and Orient Review, published by Dusé Mohamed Ali, who was a considerable influence on the young man. Garvey sometimes spoke at Hyde Park's Speakers' Corner. Organization of UNIAIn 1914, Garvey returned to Jamaica, where he organized the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). In an article titled "The Negro's Greatest Enemy", published in Current History (September 1923), Garvey explained the origin of the organization's name: Where did the name of the organization come from? It was while speaking to a West Indian Negro who was a passenger with me from Southampton, who was returning home to the West Indies from Basutoland with his Basuto wife, I further learned of the horrors of native life in Africa. He related to me in conversation such horrible and pitiable tales that my heart bled within me. Retiring from the conversation to my cabin, all day and the following night I pondered over the subject matter of that conversation, and at midnight, lying flat on my back, the vision and thought came to me that I should name the organization the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities (Imperial) League. Such a name I thought would embrace the purpose of all black humanity.
Thus to the world a name was born, a movement created, and a man became known. After corresponding with Booker T. Washington, head of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and a national African-American leader in the United States, Garvey traveled by ship to the U.S., arriving on 23 March 1916 aboard the SS Tallac. He intended to make a lecture tour and to raise funds to establish a school in Jamaica modeled after Washington's Institute. Garvey visited Tuskegee, and afterwards, visited with a number of black leaders. After moving to New York, he found work as a printer by day. He was influenced by Hubert Harrison. At night he would speak on street corners, much as he did in London's Hyde Park. Garvey thought there was a leadership vacuum among African Americans.
On 9 May 1916, he held his first public lecture in New York City at St Mark's Church in-the-Bowery and undertook a 38-state speaking tour. The next year in May 1917, Garvey and thirteen others formed the first UNIA division outside Jamaica. They began advancing ideas to promote social, political, and economic freedom for black people. On 2 July, the East St. Louis riots broke out. On 8 July, Garvey delivered an address, entitled "The Conspiracy of the East St. Louis Riots", at Lafayette Hall in Harlem. During the speech, he declared the riot was "one of the bloodiest outrages against mankind", condemning America's claims to represent democracy when black people were victimized "for no other reason than they are black people seeking an industrial chance in a country that they have laboured for three hundred years to make great". It is "a time to lift one's voice against the savagery of a people who claim to be the dispensers of democracy". By October, rancor within the UNIA had begun to set in. A split occurred in the Harlem division, with Garvey enlisted to become its leader; although he technically held the same position in Jamaica. Garvey worked to develop a program to improve the conditions of ethnic Africans "at home and abroad" under UNIA auspices. On 17 August 1918, he began publishing the Negro World newspaper in New York, which was widely distributed. Garvey worked as an editor without pay until November 1920. He used Negro World as a platform for his views to encourage growth of the UNIA.
By June 1919, the membership of the organization had grown to over two million, according to its records. On 27 June 1919, the UNIA set up its first business, incorporating the Black Star Line of Delaware, with Garvey as President. By September, it acquired its first ship. Much fanfare surrounded the inspection of the S.S. Yarmouth and its rechristening as the S.S. Frederick Douglass on 14 September 1919. Such a rapid accomplishment garnered attention from many. The Black Star Line also formed a fine winery, using grapes harvested only in Ethiopia. During the first year, the Black Star Line's stock sales brought in $600,000. This caused it to be successful during that year. It had numerous problems during the next two years: mechanical breakdowns on its ships, what it said were incompetent workers, and poor record keeping.
The officers were eventually accused of mail fraud. Edwin P. Kilroe, Assistant District Attorney in the District Attorney's office of the County of New York, began an investigation into the activities of the UNIA. He never filed charges against Garvey or other officers. After being called to Kilroe's office numerous times for questioning, Garvey wrote an editorial on the assistant DA's activities for the Negro World. Kilroe had Garvey arrested and indicted for criminal libel but dismissed the charges after Garvey published a retraction. On 14 October 1919, Garvey received a visit in his Harlem office from George Tyler, who claimed Kilroe "had sent him" to get the leader. Tyler pulled a .38-caliber revolver and fired four shots, wounding Garvey in the right leg and scalp. Garvey's secretary Amy quickly arranged to get Garvey taken to the hospital for treatment, and Tyler was arrested. The next day, Tyler committed suicide by leaping from the third tier of the Harlem jail as he was being taken to his arraignment. By August 1920, the UNIA claimed four million members. The number has been questioned because of the organization's poor record keeping.
That month, the International Convention of the UNIA was held. With delegates from all over the world attending, 25,000 people filled Madison Square Garden on 1 August 1920 to hear Garvey speak. Over the next couple of years, Garvey's movement was able to attract an enormous number of followers. Reasons for this included the cultural revolution of the Harlem Renaissance, the large number of West Indians who immigrated to New York, and the appeal of the slogan "One God, One Aim, One Destiny," to black veterans of the first World War. Garvey also established the business, the Negro Factories Corporation. He planned to develop the businesses to manufacture every marketable commodity in every big U.S. industrial center, as well as in Central America, the West Indies, and Africa. Related endeavors included a grocery chain, restaurant, publishing house, and other businesses. "Explanation of the Objects of the Universal Negro Improvement Association" MENU 0:00 Complete 1921 speech Problems playing this file?
See media help. Convinced that black people should have a permanent homeland in Africa, Garvey sought to develop Liberia. It had been founded by the American Colonization Society in the 19th century as a colony to free blacks from the United States. Garvey launched the Liberia program in 1920, intended to build colleges, industrial plants, and railroads as part of an industrial base from which to operate. He abandoned the program in the mid-1920s after much opposition from European powers with interests in Liberia. In response to American suggestions that he wanted to take all ethnic Africans of the Diaspora back to Africa, he wrote, "We do not want all the Negroes in Africa. Some are no good here, and naturally will be no good there." The UNIA held an international convention in 1921 at New York City's Madison Square Garden. Also represented at the convention were organizations such as the Universal Black Cross Nurses, the Black Eagle Flying Corps, and the Universal African Legion.
Garvey attracted more than 50,000 people to the event and in his cause. The UNIA had 65,000 to 75,000 members paying dues to his support and funding. The national level of support in Jamaica helped Garvey to become one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century on the island. Marriage and familyAt the age of 32 in 1919, Garvey married his first wife, Amy Ashwood Garvey. Amy Ashwood Garvey was also a founder of The UNIA-ACL. She had saved Garvey in the Tyler assassination by quickly getting medical help. After four months of marriage, Garvey separated from her. In 1922, he married again, to Amy Jacques Garvey, who was working as his secretary general. They had two sons together, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, III, who was born 17 September 1930, and Julius Winston (born 1933 on the same date), Also had a son named Derrick H. Clowers (Born march 22, 1937). Amy Jacques Garvey played an important role in his career, and would become a lead worker in Garvey's movement.
Political career"Fundamentally what racial difference is there between a white Communist, Republican or Democrat?" —Marcus Garvey Garvey is known as a leading political figure because of his determination to fight for the unity of African Americans by creating the Universal Negro Improvement Association and rallying to gather supporters to fight. With this group he touched upon many topics such as education, the economy, and independence. An important aspect of his career was his thoughts on communism. Garvey felt that communism would be more beneficial for whites by solving their own political and economic problems, but would further limit the success of blacks rising together. He believed that the Communist Party wanted to use the African-American vote "to smash and overthrow" the capitalistic white majority to "put their majority group or race still in power, not only as communists but as white men" (Jacques-Garvey, 1969). The Communist Party wanted to have as many supporters as possible, even if it meant having blacks, but Garvey discouraged this.
He had the idea that communists were only white men who wanted to manipulate blacks so they could continue to have control over them. Garvey said, "It is a dangerous theory of economic and political reformation because it seeks to put government in the hands of an ignorant white mass who have not been able to destroy their natural prejudices towards Negroes and other non-white people. While it may be a good thing for them, it will be a bad thing for the Negroes who will fall under the government of the most ignorant, prejudiced class of the white race". Conflicts with Du Bois and othersOn 4 October 1916, the Daily Gleaner in Kingston published a letter written by Raphael Morgan, a Jamaican-American priest of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, together with over a dozen other like-minded Jamaican Americans, who wrote in to protest against Garvey's lectures. Garvey's views on Jamaica, they felt, were damaging to both the reputation of their homeland and its people, enumerating several objections to Garvey's stated preference for the prejudice of the American whites over that of English whites. Garvey's response was published a month later: he called the letter a conspiratorial fabrication meant to undermine the success and favour he had gained while in Jamaica and in the United States. While W. E. B. Du Bois felt that the Black Star Line was "original and promising", he added that "Marcus Garvey is, without doubt, the most dangerous enemy of the Negro race in America and in the world. He is either a lunatic or a traitor." Du Bois considered Garvey's program of complete separation a capitulation to white supremacy; a tacit admission that Blacks could never be equal to Whites. Noting how popular the idea was with racist thinkers and politicians, Du Bois feared that Garvey threatened the gains made by his own movement.
Garvey suspected that Du Bois was prejudiced against him because he was a Caribbean native with darker skin. Du Bois once described Garvey as "a little, fat black man; ugly, but with intelligent eyes and a big head". Garvey called Du Bois "purely and simply a white man's nigger" and "a little Dutch, a little French, a little Negro … a mulatto … a monstrosity". This led to an acrimonious relationship between Garvey and the NAACP. In addition, Garvey accused Du Bois of paying conspirators to sabotage the Black Star Line in order to destroy his reputation. Garvey recognized the influence of the Ku Klux Klan and, after the Black Star Line was closed, sought to engage the South in his activism, since the UNIA now lacked a specific program. In early 1922, he went to Atlanta for a conference with KKK imperial giant Edward Young Clarke, seeking to advance his organization in the South. Garvey made a number of incendiary speeches in the months leading up to that meeting; in some, he thanked the whites for Jim Crow. Garvey once stated: "I regard the Klan, the Anglo-Saxon clubs and White American societies, as far as the Negro is concerned, as better friends of the race than all other groups of hypocritical whites put together. I like honesty and fair play. You may call me a Klansman if you will, but, potentially, every white man is a Klansman as far as the Negro in competition with whites socially, economically and politically is concerned, and there is no use lying." After Garvey's entente with the Klan, a number of African-American leaders appealed to U.S. Attorney General Harry M. Daugherty to have Garvey incarcerated.
Charge of mail fraudIn a memorandum dated 11 October 1919, J. Edgar Hoover, special assistant to the Attorney General and head of the General Intelligence Division (or "anti-radical division") of The Bureau of Investigation or BOI (after 1935, the Federal Bureau of Investigation),wrote to Special Agent Ridgely regarding Garvey: "Unfortunately, however, he [Garvey] has not as yet violated any federal law whereby he could be proceeded against on the grounds of being an undesirable alien, from the point of view of deportation." Sometime around November 1919, the BOI began an investigation into the activities of Garvey and the UNIA. Toward this end, the BOI hired James Edward Amos, Arthur Lowell Brent, Thomas Leon Jefferson, James Wormley Jones, and Earl E. Titus as its first five African-American agents. Although initial efforts by the BOI were to find grounds upon which to deport Garvey as "an undesirable alien", a charge of mail fraud was brought against Garvey in connection with stock sales of the Black Star Line after the U.S. Post Office and the Attorney General joined the investigation. The accusation centered on the fact that the corporation had not yet purchased a ship, which had appeared in a BSL brochure emblazoned with the name "Phyllis Wheatley" (after the African-American poet) on its bow. The prosecution stated that a ship pictured with that name had not actually been purchased by the BSL and still had the name "Orion" at the time; thus the misrepresentation of the ship as a BSL-owned vessel constituted fraud. The brochure had been produced in anticipation of the purchase of the ship, which appeared to be on the verge of completion at the time. However, "registration of the Phyllis Wheatley to the Black Star Line was thrown into abeyance as there were still some clauses in the contract that needed to be agreed."
In the end, the ship was never registered to the BSL. Assistant District Attorney, Leo Healy, who had been, before becoming District Attorney, an attorney with Harris McGill and Co., the sellers of the first ship, the S.S. Yarmouth, to the Black Star Line Inc., was a key witness for the government during the trial. Garvey chose to defend himself. In the opinion of his biographer Colin Grant, Garvey's "belligerent" manner alienated the jury. "In Garvey’s interminable three-hour-long closing address, he portrayed himself as an unfortunate and selfless leader, surrounded by incompetents and thieves....Garvey was belligerent where perhaps grace, humility and even humour were called for". The lawyer defending one of the other charged men took a different approach, emphasising that the so-called fraud was nothing more than a naive mistake, and that no criminal conspiracy existed. "The truth is there is no such thing as any conspiracy. If the indictment had been framed against the defendants for discourtesy, mismanagement or display of bad judgement they would have pleaded guilty." Of the four Black Star Line officers charged in connection with the enterprise, only Garvey was found guilty of using the mail service to defraud. His supporters called the trial fraudulent.
Garvey suspected that Du Bois was prejudiced against him because he was a Caribbean native with darker skin.
Du Bois once described Garvey as "a little, fat black man; ugly, but with intelligent eyes and a big head"
At the National Conference of the Universal Negro Improvement Association in 1921, a Los Angeles delegate named Noah Thompson spoke on the floor complaining about the lack of transparency in the group's financial accounts. When accounts were prepared Thompson highlighted several sections with what he felt were irregularities. But while there were serious accounting irregularities within the Black Star Line and the claims he used to sell Black Star Line stock could be considered misleading, Garvey's supporters contend that the prosecution was a politically motivated miscarriage of justice. When the trial ended on 23 June 1923, Garvey had been sentenced to five years in prison. Garvey blamed Jewish jurors and a Jewish federal judge, Julian Mack, for his conviction.
He felt that they had been biased because of their political objections to his meeting with the acting imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan the year before. In 1928, Garvey told a journalist: "When they wanted to get me they had a Jewish judge try me, and a Jewish prosecutor. I would have been freed but two Jews on the jury held out against me ten hours and succeeded in convicting me, whereupon the Jewish judge gave me the maximum penalty." He initially spent three months in the Tombs Jail awaiting approval of bail. While on bail, he continued to maintain his innocence, travel, speak and organize the UNIA. After numerous attempts at appeal were unsuccessful, he was taken into custody and began serving his sentence at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary on 8 February 1925.
Two days later, he penned his well known "First Message to the Negroes of the World From Atlanta Prison", wherein he made his famous proclamation: "Look for me in the whirlwind or the storm, look for me all around you, for, with God's grace, I shall come and bring with me countless millions of black slaves who have died in America and the West Indies and the millions in Africa to aid you in the fight for Liberty, Freedom and Life." Professor Judith Stein has stated, "his politics were on trial." Garvey's sentence was eventually commuted by President Calvin Coolidge. Upon his release in November 1927, Garvey was deported via New Orleans to Jamaica, where a large crowd met him at Orrett's Wharf in Kingston. Though the popularity of the UNIA diminished greatly following Garvey's expulsion, he nevertheless remained committed to his political ideals.