Nearly 100 years ago, Marcus Garvey was the central figure in a black self-help movement though the Universal Negro Improvement Association. He would champion “Back to Africa”, and actually start a steamship line. Unquestionably, Garvey was an early target of J. Edgar Hoover’s racism.
Julius Garvey, the son of black nationalist Marcus Garvey, is pacing the lobby of a Washington hotel. His collar is starched. His glasses polished. He holds a stack of fliers displaying photos of his famous father under a headline that reads, “The Exoneration of Marcus Garvey.”
Julius Garvey, an 83-year-old vascular surgeon, is on a mission to clear his father’s name, tarnished by a 1923 federal mail-fraud conviction that he believes was bogus. He wants the country’s first African American president to pardon the fiery founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Marcus Garvey, who died in 1940, led a “back to Africa” campaign that made him a seminal figure in the push for racial and economic justice for black people.
“My father was central to the civil rights movement in the early 20th century,” said Julius Garvey, who lives on Long Island. “His organization was the dominant civil rights organization. It shaped the thinking of that part of the century. It gave birth to the Harlem Renaissance. Black is beautiful — my father was the basis for that ideology.”
Marcus Garvey’s activism is chronicled in the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture. His son was among the 7,000 dignitaries, celebrities and elected officials who were invited to the museum’s opening, where President Obama spoke about the nation’s history of racial oppression.
The Obama administration rejected a posthumous pardon for Marcus Garvey five years ago. And Julius Garvey says he knows that time is running out, both for him and for Obama’s tenure in the White House.
“It’s urgent from the point of view of this president, because his term is up,” Garvey says. “The point is the injustice has been allowed to sit for [almost] 100 years. It is a continuing injustice that needs to be corrected.”
Marcus Mosiah Garvey was an immigrant from Jamaica who had already foundedthe Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) when he arrived in the United States in 1916. Eventually, the UNIA claimed millions of members around the world — although those figures remain in dispute.
In 1918, Garvey established the Negro World newspaper and a year later bought an auditorium in Harlem. He called it Liberty Hall, where thousands flocked to hear him speak.
“Black people are subjects of ostracism,” Garvey said in 1921 to thunderous applause. “It is sad that our humanity has shown us no more love — no greater sympathy than we are experiencing. Wheresoever you go throughout the world, the black man is discarded as ostracized, as relegated to the lowest of things — social, political and economical.”
Garvey preached that the problem could be solved only through black pride and self-reliance.
In 1921, the UNIA elected Garvey “President of Africa.” In an iconic photo, Garvey and UNIA members marched through the streets of Harlem in military uniforms, carrying banners that read “We Want a Black Civilization.”
To ferry black people and cargo to Africa, Garvey launched a steamship line, which he called the Black Star Line. The company sold stock for $5 a share, allowing black people to own a piece of the steamship.
This sale, along with Garvey’s rhetoric and following, attracted government attention. Soon after World War I, Garvey was targeted by future FBI director J. Edgar Hoover — as part of a “lifelong obsession to neutralize the rise of a black liberator,” Julius Garvey said.
In documents released later, the FBI acknowledged that it began investigating Garvey to find reasons to “deport him as an undesirable alien.”…Read the Rest Here…