Saturday, April 9, 2011

Marcus Garvey: Negro Separation, Self-Improvement & Self-Sufficiency

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A man who wanted to be a King


Marcus Garvey (1887 –  1940)

  Marcus Garvey was born in Jamaica in 1887. According to Garvey, his father, a freed slave, earnestly counseled him on the necessity of getting an education. Whether inspired by his father or his own innate desire to learn, Marcus Garvey became a very well-read man by his early 20s. He was intelligent, a great orator, and also a very eloquent writer, though he never did finish high school. Oddly enough, Garvey’s lack of a high school diploma did not stop him from attending (or visiting?) colleges in England.  In 1914, Garvey decided to turn his attention and God-given abilities to help his people (people of African descent) achieve a sense of dignity and power over their lives … that he believed the European males were conspiring to deny them. To that end, in 1914 Marcus Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), which he believed could be an instrument to unite all peoples of African descent, including the African continent and those in the Western Hemisphere.

        In 1916, Garvey arrived in the U.S. to promote his new ideology of African unification to America‘s Negroes.  Among Marcus Garvey’s concerns were the European powers that had colonized Africa, and by so doing, Garvey believed, deprived its native people of operating as their own rulers; and thereby denying them the right to determine their own destiny. However, as vexed as he was at European powers seizing land in Africa, Garvey’s more important concern, which he would dedicate the next decade to, was the plight of the American Negro. Garvey believed the Negro in America could never achieve equality (i.e. integration rights). He believed the white man would not allow this. Over the course of the next eight years he would give hundreds of passionate speeches
to Negro audiences in almost all of the major cites of North, Mid-West, and even the South. His speeches to America’s Negroes were very well-honed diatribes on the Negro's state of affairs in America.

      It should be noted, though, that Marcus Garvey was not an integration-ist. He was rather a black nationalist ... who wanted America’s Negroes to move back to
their ancestral homeland (Africa). His stated destination for them was the state of Liberia. With that goal in mind, Garvey launched a shipping line called the Black Star Line in 1919.  In this same year, he was also able to convince a sufficient number of his people to loan him enough money to actually purchase a ship. However, the short of it is, this line, managed and run entirely by Negroes, was continually plagued by internal corruption, as well as Garvey’s own mismanagement. Not surprisingly, it ran up massive debts in a very brief time and subsequently failed in 1922. It also never made a single voyage to Africa.  Garvey’s fault was not that he was corrupt. He just didn’t have the wherewithal to manage a company the size of Black Star - at least there is no evidence he was running a scam.  His shipping line, though, was actually quite a fanciful idea, and not because he wanted to use it to transport people of African descent back to their ancestral homeland. Rather, because it was so grandiose and so audacious,  even the biggest financial tycoons of the day would have scoffed at the possibility of launching such an endeavor.  Yet, Garvey actually did get his shipping line up and going. It took a man of extraordinary talents to get as far as he did, even though, in truth, his enterprise was certainly doomed from the beginning. Garvey being a terrible businessman simply accelerated the inevitable.

     As for Garvey’s inspiration to reunite the American Negroes with their ancestral homeland, he was up against two formidable challenges, which, unfortunately for him, he simply could not overcome: 1) the economic boom of the 1920s; 2) the NAACP.  With regard to America’s economy in the 1920s, American Negroes were not in that bad of shape in urban America. At least most were working. And those that were unemployed, all Negroes certainly knew - for the evidence was all around them - it was only a matter of finding remunerable work to end their indigence.

    And regarding the NAACP at this time, it had become at least a known organization among the Negro community. However, and most importantly, its agenda was in direct conflict to what Garvey was preaching. Garvey was telling the Negro that it was his fault for his present predicament because he was failing to recognize his true home (Africa), and failing to do what was necessary to get there. The NAACP, however, was telling the Negro to seek integration into America’s Anglo power base; and that his present state of affairs was entirely the white man’s fault - for failing to provide the Negro integration and race-nullification.  Obviously, Garvey and the NAACP could not exist side by side in America, for one would simply be canceling out the message of the other.  

     Finally, regarding Garvey's organization, he claimed a membership of 4 million members worldwide in 1920. The NAACP's membership stood at about 62,000 (the book Chronological History Of The Negro reports that the NAACP had 85,000 members in 1919 - pg. 387).

     Garvey's Conviction:: Other than rumors,  there is no concrete evidence - that I could find - that exists today that the NAACP applied pressure (or money?) to U.S. government officials to pursue a fraud charge against Garvey.  Regarding the evidence presented against Garvey, and ultimately used to convict him, it was shockingly flimsy. Garvey received a five year prison sentence. However, President Calvin Coolidge, perhaps perusing the evidence and wanting to do the right thing,  did intervene after two years of Garvey's sentence and commuted his  term. Upon Garvery release, he was deported back to his native Jamacia (1927).    

Garvey's Conviction: "Garvey blamed Jewish jurors and a Jewish federal judge, Julian Mack, for his conviction.  He felt 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.""   Wikipedia

>>>Garvey forgot to mention two other Jewish males, and prominent members of the NAACP's Executive Committee at this time:: Arthur and Joel Spingarn.  Jewish conspiracy? Possibly. There is one absolute certainty here: the NAACP, still a fledgling organization and economically destitute at this time, benefited the most when Garvey was deported.<<<

      Marcus Garvey remains the only man of African descent prior to 1964 that gained a substantial following among American Negroes … advocating for black separation, self-improvement and self-sufficiency. 

          Garvey: “At maturity the black and white boys separated, and took
                          different courses in life. I grew up then to see the
                          difference between the races more and more….” “I
                          asked, "Where is the black man's Government?" "Where
                          is his King and his kingdom?" "Where is his President, his
                         country, and his ambassador, his army, his navy, his men
                         of big affairs?" I could not find them, and then I declared,
                         "I will help to make them.””

1 comment:

  1. Looking at the state of Africa today I wonder if the rumors were correct that Marcus Garvey was working with white rascist americans to ship African Americans back to Africa. It makes more since to make it in this land called America because that is the land that we were brought to in slavery and President Lincoln made it possible for us to be free regardless to his reasons why we are free. Jim Crow took over but we over came that also Liberia is a country that is and appears as if it will always be plagued by filth, corruption civil war and disease. So I ask what was Marcus Garvey really up to?

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