American Series Introduction
Volume VII: December 1927--August 1940
With the United States government's deportation of Marcus Garvey in December 1927, the founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) entered upon the final phase of his extraordinary relationship with the international black movement he had organized in Harlem almost a decade before. This closing phase of Garvey's life coincides with a strategic time in larger world affairs, as the era of buoyant post-war optimism drew to a close and was superseded by the human tragedy of worldwide economic depression and, finally, by the violence of a second world war.
Garvey's first entry onto the world stage---as the militant herald of black self-determination---had been facilitated by opportunities presented by the crisis of World War I and the concomitant rise of national emancipation movements. Strategic alterations in the international system of colonial empires continued to be proposed throughout the interwar period, providing Garvey with further diplomatic opportunities in Pan-African affairs after his deportation. While he maintained an international presence as the UNIA's spokesman in the late 1920s and throughout the 1930s, the internal operation of the UNIA in those years was characterized by disruptions and challenges more difficult than Garvey had yet encountered.
The world that Garvey had known during the peak years of his political influence in America in the early 1920s had changed dramatically during his years in prison. When he was released in 1927, the UNIA was no longer the organization that it had once been; increasingly rent by internal division and bereft of resources, it was struggling for economic survival and suffering from competition with analogous movements. These circumstances took a heavy toll on the morale of the movement and its membership base. Yet many of his followers still saw Garvey as a hero. As UNIA activist Samuel Haynes wrote in the 14 January 1928 issue of the Negro World, "Garvey, living or dead, is our patron saint, our supreme leader and counsellor, and neither the cannon of hate nor the whip of prejudice can swerve us from our allegiance to him and the great ideal of African nationalism." The documents, speeches, correspondence, and editorials included in the present volume illustrate the ways Garvey and UNIA members responded to the rapidly changing socioeconomic circumstances that occurred following his departure from America and how they negotiated the many internal vicissitudes that were to emerge out of their changing relationship.
The enthusiastic crowds that greeted Garvey upon his arrival in his Jamaican homeland on 10 December 1927 represented a new facet in the complex development of the UNIA. During the previous decade the radical New Negro movement had risen explosively within the racially militant context of black Harlem, with Garvey and the UNIA emerging as internationally recognized symbols of the new black consciousness. The end of that New Negro era coincided with the waning of Garvey's influence in America---with the disintegration of his various UNIA enterprises, the ensuing factionalization and fratricidal struggles among his followers, and the long sought success on the part of federal and local officials to find grounds to deport him. After years of struggling to maintain an agenda focused on Pan-African unity and black economic independence and dealing with problems of internal dissent and external repression, Garvey encountered new difficulties in Jamaica, where he came face-to-face with the concrete challenge of building a national movement against colonial rule.
Garvey's itinerary upon his return to Jamaica reflected his reaction to freedom after almost three years of enforced silence. He addressed many large welcoming crowds in Kingston in late 1927 and almost immediately undertook a speaking tour of the rural parishes of the island. In January 1928, he set out on a six-week speaking tour of Central America but soon encountered familiar limitations. He had to alter his plans when denied admission into Costa Rica and was hampered by various other obstructions designed by American consular and Central American officials who considered him a threat to the security of colonial administrations.
Garvey's speeches throughout the late 1920s are evidence of the renewed dynamism he felt emerging from a period of involuntary activity. They reflect strong religious and metaphysical beliefs, revealing him to be even more of a proponent of optimistic New Thought philosophy than he had been in the past. They also show a level of political conservatism that was perhaps born of his previous experiences with political repression. Closely monitored by journalists and colonial police, he urged Jamaicans in his speeches to be peaceful and law-abiding in return for guarantees of protection by the English crown. In Garvey's words, Jamaicans should act as "useful citizens of the Empire and as British subjects" (4 April 1928). The observance of England's constitutional primacy was explicitly recognized at UNIA public meetings where the English national anthem was sung before the rendering of the UNIA's own Universal Ethiopian anthem. Garvey displayed his claims to full citizenship and privileges by purchasing a stately home that he called "Somali Court." The location of the home was socially symbolic; it was situated on Lady Musgrave Road, close to King's House, the English governor's official residence, in an elite area of suburban St. Andrew that was the preserve of the white upper class.
It is also significant that Garvey charged an admission fee for his public appearances, except for the few occasions when he spoke at Kingston's Liberty Hall. His audiences consisted of a nonrepresentative number of members of the professional middle class, artisans, and self-employed working class people. These paying, eminently respectable, audiences helped underscore Garvey's message of citizenship, cooperation, and reward.
The themes of Garvey's speeches---like those of his Negro World editorials, written in the period immediately following his deportation---thus show nuances and changes in his racial and political thought. Once back in Jamaica, Garvey began to see merit in the American practice of defining all persons with any African heritage as black. While in America he had virulently opposed the sociopolitical mandates of the "colored" or mulatto group; in Jamaica, he sought to affiliate himself with the more privileged, racially-mixed, sector of society. He promoted plans of interest to middle class people of color, including the ideas of establishing black-owned and operated department stores and the development of a scholarship fund for students of African descent.
In addition to addressing himself to Jamaican concerns, Garvey became immediately involved with UNIA business in the United States and abroad. After he returned from his extensive speaking tour, he called E. B. Knox, his personal representative in the United States, to come to Kingston to discuss UNIA affairs. Soon after Knox's visit, he left Henrietta Vinton Davis in charge of UNIA operations in Kingston and sailed for England with his wife, Amy Jacques Garvey, for a six-month stay. Knox soon joined the couple and a temporary headquarters was established in West Kensington, London. Garvey rented Royal Albert Hall and delivered an address on the national rights of Africans and of peoples of the African diaspora. From England, he traveled to France, Belgium, and Germany. Returning briefly to England, he then traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, where he presented a renewal of the UNIA's 1922 petition to the League of Nations. He concluded his tour with speeches in Paris before coming back to London.
In the autumn, Garvey left England for Canada, where he intended to tour local divisions and meet with UNIA officials to plan an international convention to be held in Canada in the following year. Soon after his arrival in Montreal, he was apprehended by Canadian immigration officials, who were responding to the fears of American diplomats who believed Garvey might use his proximity to the United States to urge his American followers to vote for the Democratic presidential challenger, Governor Alfred Smith of New York, in the upcoming presidential election. Garvey was questioned and released by the immigration authorities, who limited his stay to one week and stipulated that he make no public speeches. These restrictions induced Garvey to alter his plan to hold the next UNIA convention in Canada.
Garvey returned to Jamaica in December 1928, filled with new plans for redirection of the UNIA and for his own local possibilities. He issued a call for the next UNIA convention to be held in Jamaica and organized ceremonies to celebrate the opening of a new social and cultural enterprise based at Edelweiss Park, an elegant property situated at 67 Slipe Road, St. Andrew, that he had purchased to serve as the new international UNIA headquarters, as business offices of the local UNIA, and as the venue for mass entertainments, political convocations, and secular services. The park became a kind of local chautauqua, a novel phenomenon for Jamaicans. Garvey also announced plans to begin a new daily newspaper that he hoped would rival the Daily Gleaner, an established paper that represented the interests of the business and planter classes. Called the Blackman, Garvey's newspaper commenced publication in March 1929. Garvey established the Blackman Printing and Publishing Company, which produced the paper in addition to handling professional printing jobs, at 5--7 Peters Lane, Kingston, in April.
After months of promotion and preparation, the Sixth Annual UNIA Convention opened at Edelweiss Park in August 1929. A sizeable number of delegates from the United States were in attendance---proof that Garvey's influence remained strong among members of American divisions. A massive procession through the streets of Kingston attracted thousands of spectators; it was said to be the largest such display since the exhibition marking the celebration of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897. The spectacle of that opening parade, with Assistant International Organizer M. L. T. De Mena in the lead on a white charger with drawn sword, and the pageantry of the UNIA court reception that followed, provided Jamaicans with the kinds of exciting experiences most had previously only read about in newspaper accounts of former convention proceedings in Harlem.
Once convention sessions were under way, the mood shifted from exhilaration to contention, as Garvey used the opportunity to call to account colleagues who were in office during the period of his incarceration, many of whom had remained loyal leaders of the UNIA in the United States. UNIA Parent Body officer Fred A. Toote was singled out for particular criticism for his handling of UNIA finances from the headquarters in New York. Despite his attempts to justify his leadership decisions and explain the legal demands placed upon the organization by court orders, he was vilified by Garvey and effectively expelled from the proceedings.
Garvey's anger at the UNIA leaders who had managed organizational affairs from New York during his imprisonment turned out to be a precursor to his decision, announced at the end of the convention, to reorganize the association under the new name of the "UNIA, August 1929, of the World." Garvey announced that this new organization would be based with him and directed from his headquarters at Edelweiss Park; and that it would replace the administrative authority of what remained of the old parent body, or UNIA, Inc., in New York. Garvey did not intend to sever all ties with the members of the American divisions; rather, he wished to bring them under his direct political control. In thus trying to consolidate his power in Jamaica, he irrevocably split the movement, forcing a major realignment among American divisions, who either had to remain affiliated with the New York-based parent body, or choose to show their loyalty to Garvey by applying for new division charters from his unincorporated UNIA, August 1929, Of the World.
The dissension between the U.S.- and Jamaica-based wings of the movement was magnified by violent factional fights that erupted in various parts of the United States in 1928--1929. For example, the Tiger division, directed in paramilitary style by the street leader St. William Wellington Grant, clashed with the more staid Garvey Club in New York in June 1929. Violence also characterized the struggle between Garvey loyalists and the followers of Laura Adorkor Kofey in Florida. A former UNIA organizer and self-styled African prophetess, the charismatic Kofey was denounced by Garvey when she began to win her own following. She responded by forming her own organization, which soon rivaled, possibly even exceeded, the popularity of the local Miami UNIA division. The conflict between her followers and Garvey's reached its zenith when Kofey was assassinated during a meeting of her organization in March 1928. The angry crowd that had witnessed the killing beat to death a Garvey loyalist who they believed had been her assailant. Two more Garveyites, one a member of the local African Legion, were arrested for the crime but later were released for lack of evidence. No one was ever prosecuted for the murder but it was widely rumored to have been an ordered execution.
Garvey's decision to reorganize the movement was not only an attempt to gain greater personal control over unruly UNIA affairs; it was also a legal expedient forced upon him by the need to safeguard assets of the local Jamaican UNIA from the reach of American creditors, especially G. O. Marke. Marke was a former UNIA deputy potentate who, along with several other disgruntled former officers, successfully sued the UNIA, Inc., for nonpayment of salary. Faced with the bankruptcy of the American organization, which had lost most of its properties and closed all of its businesses except the Negro World, Marke turned to the Jamaican courts in the summer of 1929 to try to collect the judgment awarded him in America. His suit was upheld by the Jamaica Supreme Court, which ordered that UNIA property at the Kingston Liberty Hall and at Edelweiss Park be seized as partial satisfaction of the damages due him. The seizures were made during the 1929 UNIA convention, further disrupting what were already tumultuous proceedings. The court order was later revoked but much harm had already been done to the assets and reputation of the UNIA in Jamaica.
In addition to reorganizing the movement, Garvey used the 1929 convention to formally launch a new political party, the People's Political party or PPP. Conceived of after his return from Europe and Canada in late 1928, the PPP was formed to promote slates of reform candidates for local Jamaican political offices. The 1929 UNIA convention provided Garvey with the audiences and media attention to launch his own PPP campaign for the Jamaica Legislative Council elections of 1930. In a public speech given soon after the convention's close, he unveiled the political platform of the PPP, which called for public health measures, public housing, fair labor practices, educational opportunities, and legal reforms. In the course of this 9 September 1929 speech, fresh from his entanglements with the Marke case, Garvey criticized the Jamaican legal system and accused its justices of corruption. As a result, he was almost immediately charged with contempt of court by the Jamaica Supreme Court. In a trial that took place at the end of September 1929, he was required to apologize for his statements before the court; despite this recantation, he was found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment for three months and fined one-hundred pounds---a sentence that was generally considered excessive.
Garvey was incarcerated in St. Catherine District Prison. Even though he was unable to campaign for office, he received support from local voters in the October 1929 city elections and was elected to the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC), the local municipal council. Some KSAC members responded to his election by presenting a resolution declaring Garvey's seat vacant, since he was unable to attend council meetings while he was serving his term in jail. The effort was not successful and when Garvey was released in December 1929, he served briefly as councilor before Acting Governor A. S. Jelf disbanded the municipal council on corruption charges in early 1930.
Undaunted by his repeated conflicts with the justice system and with colonial officials, Garvey proceeded with his candidacy in the general election for the Jamaica Legislative Council. The council was an advisory body under crown colony rule whose members were chosen in ballots cast by an elite electorate who satisfied the property restrictions placed upon the franchise. Garvey's opponent from the St. Andrew district was George Seymour-Seymour, an established white politician and wealthy landowner. Seymour-Seymour won the election by a wide margin when the votes were tallied in January 1930.
Garvey's unsuccessful political campaign for the legislative council brought him into conflict with the courts once again. Two weeks before the legislative election, Garvey published an editorial in the Blackman entitled "The Vagabonds Again." The editorial attacked the members of the KSAC that had voted to deny Garvey his seat on the municipal council because of his imprisonment. The Kingston resident magistrate found Garvey guilty of seditious libel for his role in the publication of the editorial and sentenced him to six months imprisonment. Although the conviction was overturned on appeal in March 1930, this latest encounter with the courts, combined with his loss in the election, marked a turning point in Garvey's outlook. He began to abandon his focus on challenging the colonial monopoly on political power through the electoral process, and started to concentrate instead on serving as a kind of diplomatic mediator between the social classes. In June 1930 he organized PPP supporters into the Workers and Labourers Association. He arranged for a delegation from the group to meet with the governor and other British-appointed officials to discuss conditions faced by working-class people on the island and to lobby for the appointment of a royal commission of enquiry to examine the issue of poverty.
During the early 1930s, Garvey continued to develop his personal business enterprises, and he and Amy Jacques Garvey began a family. Their first son, Marcus Garvey, Jr., was born in September 1930; their second, Julius Winston Garvey, was born three years later.
The gulf between Garvey and UNIA leaders in America that had been codified at the 1929 UNIA convention continued to grow in the 1930s. After his expulsion from the convention in Jamaica, Fred A. Toote returned to New York, where he was elected president general of the competing UNIA, Inc. Garvey also became estranged from other UNIA officials whom he had once counted among his most trusted aides, including J. A. Craigen, E. B. Knox, J. J. Peters, and William Ware. Garvey denounced Knox and stripped him of all authority in June 1930, after Knox tried to convene a special meeting of local UNIA division presidents in Chicago. Garvey had not authorized the meeting and saw Knox's action as a challenge to his authority. He dismissed Knox and appointed M. L. T. De Mena to act in Knox's place as Garvey's personal representative in the American field.
Further strife within the UNIA occurred when William Ware broke ranks with Garvey in 1931--1932. Ware was the head of Cincinnati UNIA Division No. 146, a division affiliated with the UNIA, Inc. Claiming to represent that original incorporated body, Ware challenged Garvey's right to use the UNIA name through the Ohio courts. He also wrote a series of letters to U.S. Department of State and postal officials charging Garvey with fraud in his operation of Edelweiss Park and in the fundraising solicitations he distributed through the American mails. Prompted by evidence presented by Ware, including lottery tickets that Garvey had attempted to sell through the mail, U.S. postal officials began an investigation. Earlier, in February 1929, U.S. postal inspectors had put an end to what Garvey called "a world census of the entire Negro race," a scheme that was actually a means of soliciting contributions. The outcome of the 1932 investigation was more serious than the earlier one: between June 1932 and April 1934, U.S. postal authorities maintained a fraud order barring the transmission of postal money orders and all correspondence from America to Garvey and the UNIA in Jamaica. Ware continued to lobby against Garvey even after this postal ban was imposed. When M. L. T. De Mena traveled to the United States in July--August 1932 in order to raise funds on Garvey's behalf, Ware sought to have her activities stopped. Meanwhile, U.S. Department of State authorities worked cooperatively with British colonial officials who were clandestinely monitoring Garvey's affairs.
In October 1931 Garvey paid a second visit to the League of Nations in Geneva and presented league officials with proposals regarding the UNIA petition that he had renewed during his trip in 1928. During his absence from Kingston he was elected a councillor of the reestablished KSAC. Upon his return to Jamaica in November, however, he did not devote himself to political affairs and held very few public meetings. He concentrated his energies on his newspaper and on private commerce. He began to sell shares in the Edelweiss Park Amusement Company and became involved in the promotion of concerts and vaudeville shows that featured local Jamaican artists and with the production of various other entertainments. He also began the operation of a real estate and commission agency under the name of Marcus Garvey and Company.
Meanwhile, the New York-based UNIA, Inc., held a convention independent of Garvey's influence. With the worldwide economic depression approaching crisis stages, the resolutions passed by the 1932 convention delegates focused exclusively on domestic concerns rather than on a Pan-African program. Delegates reported actions taken by local divisions to respond to the conditions of stark need around them. In New York City, for example, the Tiger division reported feeding 1,563 unemployed persons during the last week of February 1931. In Gary, Indiana, some seventy-five people were fed daily at Liberty Hall; groceries were also delivered to the homes of those persons unable to attend the daily Liberty Hall meal. Rural UNIA divisions began community gardens.
From the fall of 1931 onward, Garvey ceased to write any further articles for the Negro World in New York. In July 1932 he disclaimed any, further connection with the paper. During the same period he was forced for financial reasons to suspend publication of the Blackman, which had become a weekly rather than a daily. In the summer of 1932 he began an evening newspaper, the New Jamaican, which he used to promote Jamaica as a place "second to none in the world," and argued that "there is no reason why any country whether it is subject to another or not cannot be self-sustaining in itself" (New Jamaican, July 1932). This optimism regarding Jamaica and her prospects was matched by his ever-present interest in New Thought metaphysics, which he made the principal theme of his weekly, inspirational talks at Edelweiss Park. In those sermons he advocated the application of New Thought gospel beyond personal habits and orientations to the reform of society, as a whole.
At the same time that Garvey was preaching optimism and self-determination, however, his own personal fortunes were rapidly being depleted. Publication of the New Jamaican ceased abruptly, in September 1933, when the landlord seized the printing plant used to produce it due to Garvey's nonpayment of rent. Obliged to mortgage his home to raise money for his activities, he appealed to former supporters for financial help. In spite of these straitened financial circumstances, he began publishing a third newspaper in December 1933, two months after suspension of the New Jamaican. The new monthly magazine, initially called the Blackman, was eventually renamed the Black Man: A Monthly Magazine of Negro Thought and Opinion. The new publication was aimed at an international audience rather than a local Jamaican readership. The magazine represented Garvey's attempt to reclaim his leadership after three years of virtual abstention from UNIA affairs. It may also have been an effort to avoid financial collapse by creating a publication that could be distributed in the United States and other areas beyond Jamaica where the UNIA remained active.
The generally conservative editorial stance of the Black Man was in keeping with these twin objectives of political reacceptance and financial regeneration. This was nowhere better demonstrated than in Garvey's announcement calling for patriotic support for American and European governments "to which Negroes owe allegiance," especially in light of "the progress the Negroes have made under the U.S. Government" (January 1934). This editorial stance was part of Garvey's larger campaign to gain readmission to the United States, a cause that he felt might be more successful than in the past because of the shift from Republican to Democratic party presidential administrations. Garvey's consistent support of Franklin D. Roosevelt, both as a Democrat and statesman, was one of the more salient editorial features of the Black Man, from its beginning in 1934. through its final issue in 1939. Meanwhile, Garvey loyalists in the United States, especially Benjamin Jones of the Philadelphia UNIA division, worked hard to help Garvey win readmittance. They lobbied administration officials to grant a pardon to Garvey, or, at the very least, to permit him to visit the United States in order to conduct UNIA business there.
Garvey's renewed interest in UNIA affairs and in his prospects as an international spokesman and leader were also manifested in his call for the meeting of the UNIA's seventh international convention, the first held by his UNIA, August 1929, of the World since its inception. The convention was held at Edelweiss Park in August 1934. It proved to be the last major event that Garvey would hold in Jamaica. Billed as a double program, namely, "a Celebration of the Centenary of the Emancipation of the Negroes of the Western Hemisphere, in conjunction with a Convention to make the progress the race has made within said period of time," the 1934 UNIA convention was a poorly attended affair. During the same time, the rival wing of the movement had gathered some strength in the United States. Soon after Garvey's UNIA, August 1929, of the World held its meeting, the New York UNIA, Inc., elected its own slate of officers, including former Garvey stalwart Henrietta Vinton Davis as president. Davis had been slighted by Garvey at the 1929 UNIA convention, and although she served as an officer with his Jamaica-based organization until 1932, she had also maintained ties to UNIA leaders in America. Her election represented her permanent rejection of Garvey's claims to sole administrative authority. While the UNIA, Inc., continued to maintain its independence from the Jamaica-based organization, the New York Garvey Club remained loyal to Garvey, as did A. L. King's New York UNIA division.
As the economic depression worsened, Garvey and the UNIA were faced with the advent of rival movements that arose to compete directly for the support of Garveyites. One of the highlights of the 1934 convention was the preoccupation with the state of religion among black people, or, as it was termed by Garvey, "the prevailing religious fanaticism among certain classes of Negroes" (Daily Gleaner, 14 August 1934). The convention discussion and resolution on religion disclosed, however, that the principal object of the delegates' concern was the sweeping growth of the Father Divine movement in the United States. The Garveyites assembled in Jamaica were distressed at the continuing inroads that Father Divine was making and his ability to attract hitherto loyal UNIA members into the ranks of his fast growing Peace Mission movement. Perhaps the most striking example was that of M. L. T. De Mena. Following cessation of publication of the Negro World in October 1933, De Mena, Garvey's official representative in the United States, became a supporter of Father Divine and began publishing a newspaper for the Peace Mission movement. As a result, Garvey gave her former UNIA title and position to S. A. Haynes, who received credentials from Garvey to operate as Garvey's personal representative in America in January 1934.
Depression-era black nationalist religious sects also made successful appeals to UNIA members---some by claiming Garvey as a precursor or early prophet. The black Hebrews and Moorish Americans drew a sizeable part of their membership from among former Garveyites. Garvey distanced himself from these new black nationalist religious faiths and rejected the terms they used to refer to people of the African diaspora---Moors, Ethiopians, Hamites, black Jews, Moslems, etc.---making it known that he would not depart from Negro as the preferred usage when referring to black people.
By the summer of 1932, the UNIA's ranks were also penetrated by pro-Japanese elements working under the direction of the Pacific Movement of the Eastern World and its principal agent, the Filipino Policarpio Manansala, known in the United States as Ashima Takis. Takis offered Garveyites the message that Japan was the champion of the darker races. His views gained a considerable following among UNIA members.
The 1930s was also the period when the Communist party reached its peak of influence in Harlem. Some disillusioned Garveyites joined the party or were active in various Popular Front organizations, such as the League of Struggle for Negro Rights. They worked in coalition with the party in protest over the Scottsboro Boys case and the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, two events that drew international attention to issues of racial justice. Garvey denounced these coalitions, urging UNIA members to keep a clear separation between themselves and Communists. He chose instead to admire the political strength and nationalist resurgency he saw manifested in the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party to power in Germany and the consequent ascendancy of fascism in Europe.
Garvey's isolation from the major currents of African-American opinion was heightened by his decision to move to London in early 1935. The move had personal as well as political consequences. He left Jamaica for England in March 1935, having lost his printing machinery, the Edelweiss Park property, and his family home to creditors. Thwarted politically and financially bankrupt, Garvey's status as he departed from his homeland ironically echoed statements he had made a few years earlier in the New Jamaican (16 July 1932). "The man who leaves home is really an outcast" Garvey had written, "He has lost hope, he has lost character, he has lost self-reliance, he has lost everything that would tend to make him a man." Amy Jacques Garvey remained behind in Jamaica with their two sons while Garvey established a new beginning in England. He opened an office in London, recommenced publication of the Black Man, announced plans to run for political office, and appeared regularly as a speaker in Hyde Park. His family joined him in 1937 but their time in London was shortlived. Marital difficulties and a crippling illness suffered by Marcus Garvey, Jr., induced Amy Jacques Garvey to return to Jamaica with the two children in August 1938. Away presiding over a UNIA convention in Canada at the time, Garvey discovered their departure only upon his return. Not on speaking terms with his wife, he continued to correspond with his sons until his death in 1940, but never saw any of his family members again. His letters to his children are terse and perfunctory, but they also display a poignancy of feeling that was rare for the undemonstrative Garvey to reveal. In addition, they continually emphasized the value of education that he believed was an important step toward equality and uplift. Politically, the breach between Garvey and his wife represented the end of the last major working relationship that he had been able to maintain from the days of the early UNIA.
Cut off geographically and emotionally from old supporters, Garvey became increasingly conservative in his political opinions, taking stances that were incongruent with the main currents of political action central to other members of the Pan-African community. In a time when black people looked to Paul Robeson as a cultural hero and leader in international efforts to win recognition for black rights, Garvey vilified the performer as an accommodationist. His disinterest in the Scottsboro case and skepticism over African-American support for the Ethiopian cause are further indications of his isolation. Not only did he take unpopular stands on these central issues, he chose to support causes that had little meaning to a majority of black people. He urged the UNIA to back the 1938 repatriation legislation sponsored in Congress by Senator Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi, who was infamous as a white racist. He campaigned in support of Edward VIII's rights to the crown during the process of his forced abdication. And, when labor rebellions reached their peak in Jamaica in 1937--1938, Garvey was far from the scene. By contrast, his former follower, St. William Wellington Grant, emerged as a major figure in the protests. While Garvey saw the labor demonstrations in narrow economic terms, Grant perceived them as opportunities for significant political change and was instrumental in the formation of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union and in Norman Manley's People's National Party---both important steps toward Jamaica's eventual independence from colonial rule.
Most significantly, Garvey lost credibility in the eyes of a large number of followers when he criticized Haile Selassie's performance during the Italo-Ethiopian war and its aftermath. Garvey attacked the Ethiopian emperor at a time when he had become an icon of black resistance, when the Ethiopian cause was galvanizing black communities throughout the West to an unprecedented level of international response, and when Rastafarianism was emerging as a key social movement in Garvey's homeland. Garvey was initially supportive of Haile Selassie, praising him when he was first crowned emperor in November 1930 and during the early months of the Italian invasion in 1935. His view changed with the collapse of the Ethiopian army and the emperor's decision to flee his country in order to continue the struggle from exile. Garvey interpreted the decision to flee as an act of cowardice. Blaming Haile Selassie for a weak defense and a naive faith in intervention by the League of Nations, Garvey was further incensed when the Ethiopian leader spurned a delegation of black Pan-Africanists (including Garvey) who had gathered to greet him upon his arrival in exile in England in 1936.
Garvey lost prestige among former followers even on issues that had once been primary planks in the UNIA program. A case in point is the rivalry the UNIA faced from former Garveyite Mittie Maud Lena Gordon's successful Peace Movement of Ethiopia (PME). In the late 1930s, Gordon's PME seized the leadership from the largely inactive UNIA on the question of African repatriation. Few UNIA members responded to Garvey's call for volunteers to work on behalf of Senator Bilbo's Greater Liberia bill, but PME members collected over a million signatures on petitions in support of the bill and sent several hundred supporters to Washington, D.C., to demonstrate for its introduction. While new groups championed the UNIA's old platform, Garvey was also faced with UNIA members who departed from his prescribed agendas. In the late 1930s he reprimanded Capt. A. L. King, whose New York UNIA division (and later, New York Central UNIA division) cooperated with a range of Harlem political organizations and leaders---from the ministers of local churches to organizers of labor unions and the Communist party---in support of consumer boycotts, Ethiopian aid, and the Scottsboro cause. King's willingness to work with members of the Left brought Garvey's ire; Garvey responded by refusing to recognize King's division's contributions to the UNIA, while divisions whose activities were less politically diverse continued to win praise.
Despite this evidence of personal and political decline during Garvey's years in London, the last half of the 1930s were also a time of continued positive initiative. Garvey appeared frequently at Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park, and, until he was disabled by illness, those who heard him reported that he spoke with the same kind of electrifying force that had moved audiences throughout the United States and the Caribbean earlier in his career. The Black Man, as a monthly journal of opinion, political commentary, and UNIA news, surpassed the Negro World as an in-depth vehicle for Garvey's views. Garvey presided over UNIA regional conferences and conventions in Toronto, Canada, in 1936, 1937, and 1938. At the 1937 meeting he inaugurated his School of African Philosophy, lecturing to selected students after the convention adjourned, and later offering transcripts as a correspondence course through his London office. Filled with Garvey's philosophy of success and prosperity, the series of lessons were designed to prepare UNIA officials and organizers for leadership positions. Garvey assigned the nine graduates of the initial course in 1937 to commissions over specific regions in the United States and Canada. After teaching the sessions, he made an extensive speaking tour of the Caribbean before returning to London.
These activities were accomplished despite Garvey's debilitating physical condition. The chronic bronchitis and asthma that had plagued him for years were worsened by the dampness of the English climate, straining his heart and lungs. Garvey's final physical decline in 1939--1940 was framed by the cataclysmic drama of world affairs. European politics were at a crisis point when Garvey's ill-health became critical. Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, in September 1939, Garvey's former wife, Amy Ashwood Garvey, who was operating a nightclub in London and active in Pan-African circles there, reported seeing a much-diminished Garvey speaking in Hyde Park:
Drooping shoulders were straightened and he mounted the platform in the manner of the old Liberty Hall days. He tried hard to recapture the power of those days, but alas it was too late. The old fire had gone. I could not hold back my tears, for I realized that the man I had helped to mould and whose vision I had shared was passing. (Amy Ashwood Garvey, "Portrait of a Liberator" [New York, unpub. ms.]; see also Lionel Yard, Biography of Amy Ashwood Garvey, 1897--1969 [New York: Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History, 1989])
A few months later, in January 1940, Garvey suffered a cerebral hemorrhage that left him deprived of speech and partially paralyzed on one side of his body. His secretary, Daisy Whyte, and other staff members cared for him in his convalescence. His condition seemed to be improving by May, when an erroneous news report, apparently released by the London correspondent of the Chicago Defender, George Padmore, appeared in several black newspapers in the United States and the Caribbean, incorrectly announcing Garvey's death. According to Whyte, Garvey became very upset upon reading the international press's subsequent obituaries. While American UNIA divisions were busy discounting the false rumor of their leader's death, Garvey suffered either a second cerebral hemorrhage or a cardiac arrest, then lapsed into a coma from which he never recovered. He died on 10 June 1940, the day Italy declared war on France and Great Britain and four days before the fall of Paris to the German army.
The loyal membership of the UNIA eulogized Garvey with formal memorial services and processions in Brooklyn, Kingston, and New York City. as well as in smaller memorials sponsored by local divisions and Garvey clubs. In August 1940, regional leaders met in an emergency conference in New York to elect a new UNIA council that would lead the organization through an interim period until a new convention could be held and officers elected by division delegates. It was decided that James Stewart, a UNIA leader in Cleveland and a graduate of Garvey's School of African Philosophy, would succeed Garvey as president general of the UNIA. Charles James became assistant president general and Ethel Collins remained the organization's secretary general. In the Autumn of 1940 the headquarters of the UNIA Parent Body was shifted from New York to Cleveland, and in October 1940 the first issue of the New Negro World, the successor to the old Garveyite weekly, appeared out of the Cleveland office.
The seriousness and confusion of world events, combined with the strange and contradictory nature of reportage about Garvey's final illness, caused many Garvey followers to doubt the reality of his death. The circumstances surrounding the disposition of the president general's body did little to make his death seem more concrete to those who admired him. War conditions prevented its shipment to Jamaica; consequently his body was placed in a catacomb at St. Mary's Catholic cemetery in London. After the end of the war legal disputes between his first and second wives, bureaucratic complications, and the political fears of British officials further delayed its relocation. As a result, the body was not returned to Jamaica until almost twenty-five years after Garvey's death.
In the meantime, Garvey's reputation went underground. His memory and teaching were sustained after the war by the continued efforts of his widow, Amy Jacques Garvey, from her base in Jamaica. In the United States, the philosophy of Garvey provided essential inspiration for many black nationalist activists in Harlem and other black communities, many of whose leaders had once been active UNIA members. Among the postwar organizations to maintain the link with Garvey's teachings were the African Freedom Movement, African Nationalist Pioneer Movement, Black Jews, Buy Black Committee, Ethiopian World Federation, First African Corps, Garvey Club, Inc., International Committee in Defense of Africa, Liberation Committee for Africa, Michaux's Book Store, Muslim Brotherhood United States of America, Nation of Islam, and Muhammad's Mosque (Number 7, New York).
While his political importance was rarely discussed by historians or public figures in the post-war years, his cultural influence burgeoned. Garvey became a major icon of black popular culture in the United States and in the Rastafarian movement of Jamaica; his name permeated reggae music as it became an international phenomenon. With the success of nationalist independence movements in the Caribbean and Africa and the growth of the militant black consciousness of the 1960s, Garvey was again lauded as a visionary of African freedom and a symbol of Pan-African unity and strength. This renaissance of political appreciation and restoration was made concrete in November 1964, when Garvey was declared Jamaica's first National Hero. His body was flown home from England, and he received a hero's burial, with official state ceremonies, processions, and reinternment in a permanent Marcus Garvey memorial in National Heroes Park.
This volume concludes the first series of The Marcus Garvey and UNIA Papers, chronicling the life of Garvey and the evolution of the UNIA in the United States. The succeeding volumes of the three-part edition will document the impact and spread of the Garvey movement in Africa and in the Caribbean and circum-Caribbean. The volumes in these African and Caribbean series will further elucidate the network of relationships that provided the structure of Garveyism as an international grassroots phenomenon. They will also disclose the full scope of Garvey's influence on the interwar origins of African and Caribbean nationalism.
Copyright © 1995-2014 The Marcus Garvey and UNIA Papers Project, UCLA