Having just read Jason Overstreet’s debut novel “The Strivers’ Row Spy,” I’m inspired to do a lot more research on real-life characters who come to life in historical fiction. My review of the novel appears at Amazon, Goodreads and NetGalley .
Coincidentally, one of the historical figures is in today’s news. (NOTE: The novel brings Marcus Garvey to life better than any nonfiction source can.) I’ve summarized, excerpted, and reworded this from http://nbcnews.to/2b241AR via @nbcnews.
AUG 17 2016 – On His Father’s 129th Birthday Marcus Garvey’s Son Seeks Presidential Pardon
Julius Garvey, 82-year-old, semi-retired doctor, wants President Barack Obama to posthumously pardon his father.
“The Civil Rights movement started with Marcus Garvey, as acknowledged by Brother Malcolm, as acknowledged by Martin Luther King, and acknowledged by anyone who knows history. The president stands on that foundation,” Julius Garvey said during a press conference on at the National Press Club.
However, not all members of the civil rights movement at the time were fans of Garvey.
W.E.B Du Bois, who established the NAACP, called Garvey “the most dangerous enemy of the Negro race in America” for championing against the idea of black integration as a movement to create an equal United States.
Instead of integration, “Garveyism” called for political, social, and economic separation from whites. Africans who remained in America, he feared, would continue to suffer as a minority under repressive Jim Crow laws and race based segregation in the post-World War I 1900s. Garvey encouraged a diaspora of people of African ancestry to reclaim their homeland – and for European colonial powers to get out of Africa.
“Where is the Black man’s government?” Garvey asked. “Where is his King and his kingdom? Where is his President, his ambassador, his country, his men of big affairs? I could not find them. And then I declared, ‘I will help to make them.’” Further, Garvey adopted the term “Black is beautiful” decades before it became widely acceptable, understanding that in order to succeed, a people had to feel good about themselves and have positive self-identification. @Atlanta Black Star
DISCLAIMER: please do not assume I agree with Garvey on his plan to bail out of the USA and creating a new nation in Africa. I’m merely calling attention to a novel that shows the dark side of Garvey’s proposals. M. Jason Overstreet was born in Denver, Colorado. He lives in Los Angeles where he works as a screenwriter and author. He has appeared on NPR and C-SPAN’s Book TV. He holds a B.A. in mass communication and an M.S. in education.
Born in Jamaica, Garvey studied in London, traveled through Central America, Europe and then the U.S., and saw that those of African descent were almost always the poorest members of society. Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), urging African descendants to find their own economic independence by leaving their home countries and reclaiming European territories in Africa as their own.
Garvey established the Black Star Line shipping company as a push toward African economic independence. By 1920, he claimed to have 4 million committed members. His first convention in New York City’s Madison Square Garden attracted 25,000 people who cheered and applauded his call for African Americans to move to Liberia and reclaim it as a de facto homeland.
The prospect of a new, independent Liberia run by the African diaspora, right next door to British-controlled Sierra Leone, made certain Europeans nervous. Under a young J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI investigated Garvey for mail fraud when he solicited donation for a “back to Africa” movement. He was convicted in 1922 and sentenced to five years in prison. He served roughly two and a half years, was commuted by President Calvin Coolidge, then immediately deported back to his native country of Jamaica — a move which effectively ended his civil rights work in the U.S. Garvey eventually moved to London in 1935 where he died five years later.
The Garvey family and several members of the Congressional Black Caucus have pressed the president for a pardon. Neither the Department of Justice nor the White House have responded, Justin Hansford the Garvey family attorney told NBC News.
Those behind the push to pardon Garvey are trying to connect the dots between his movement and those that have followed, particularly the Black Lives Matter movement today.
“I think what the black lives matter movement is showing us is that our young black children are tired,” Julius Garvey said. “They’re tired of living in a society that marginalizes them and restricts their opportunities to be full human beings. That’s the way it was when Marcus Garvey came to America.”
Why Marcus Garvey’s Teachings Are as Important Today as they were over one hundred years ago via @Atlanta Black Star
Historian Lawrence Levine calls the UNIA “the broadest mass movement” in African-American history. Inspired by Booker T. Washington, Garvey originally established the UNIA in order to provide economic and educational uplift for Black people.
Garvey’s UNIA developed the Pan-African flag. As Azizi Powell noted in The History & Meaning Of The Red, Black, And Green Flag, the flag was created in 1920 in response to the popular 1900 coon song, “Every Race Has a Flag but the Coon,” which helped popularize the word “coon” in the American vocabulary.
–Africans, trafficked to the Americas from as early as the fifteenth century, their scattered descendants (“diaspora”) longing for a return to the homeland
— the American Colonization Society founded the colony of Liberia for the resettlement of free blacks
–Garvey, a product of Pan-Africanism … [established] the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and African Communities League (ACL) in 1914 to liberate Africa from alien rule and establish a united and powerful African State
Liberia in West Africa was selected as the base for the establishment of the great African nation envisioned by Garvey…Founded for the purpose of helping the refugee slaves and exiled Africans to re-establish a foothold in their native land, Liberia was seen by Garvey as the rightful home of those wanting to return to Africa. He felt it expedient also to establish a foothold before white nations of Europe robbed Liberia of its autonomy, under the guise of friendship. The UNIA, in exchange for the permission to settle and establish new enterprises, would work assiduously to improve conditions that existed in Liberia and thus position the country as a great commercial and industrial commonwealth. The Liberian government accepted Garvey’s proposal because at the time he represented the only source of assistance and the government recognised the need for infrastructural development. However on the matter of administrative involvement there was conflict. To address this, the Liberian government outlined that ‘every emigrant before leaving America shall subscribe to an oath that they will respect the established authority of the Liberian government’. Such an oath ran contrary to Garvey’s mission. The regeneration of Africa for Garvey meant the imposition of European values and customs which were upheld as the epitome of civilization.
Those African nations that exhibited no knowledge of these western norms and values were thus regarded as ‘backward tribes’ and in need of Africans from the West who had benefited from western education and cultural habits. Thus Garvey, and all those who espoused ‘back to Africa’ views were intent on a ‘civilizing’ mission. They envisioned West Indian and American blacks, as the most likely administrators of affairs in Africa and in particular, Liberia. The growing popularity of Western bred blacks who settled in Liberia did not sit well with the Liberian Government, and indicated that it would be difficult to keep these ‘outsiders’ in check. Therefore, when the Firestone Plantation Company of Akon, Ohio proposed to develop the natural rubber resources of the country, Liberian President Charles King without hesitation signed an agreement with the Company in 1926 and retracted the offer previously made to the UNIA. Firestone promised to be a very lucrative venture and President King became personally involved in the project. The failed acquisition of lands in Liberia began the downward spiral of Garvey’s ‘back to Africa’ scheme. A power struggle between UNIA members Cyril Crichlow, secretary of the Liberian legation, and Gabriel Johnson, UNIA potentate in Liberia, further exasperated the situation. Crichlow “took the extraordinary asinine step in turning to the U.S. Minister in Monrovia for support. In the process, he turned over confidential UNIA documents to this representative of the U.S. government and thereby contributed more than his share to the downfall of Garvey’s Liberian plans”.
Read more: http://jamaicans.com/garveyliberiaconnection/#ixzz4IAjtyTPX
My own summary based on Wikipedia entries:
Garvey thought communists were white men who wanted to manipulate blacks. Communism “is a dangerous theory of economic and political reformation,” Garvey said, “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” (Nolan, 1951).
Recent studies on the African diaspora bring to light the roles Blacks have played in bringing about modern culture–roles that have been buried by the eurocentric perspective that dominated history books, showing Africans and its diasporans as primitive victims of slavery, without historical agency.
According to historian Patrick Manning, Blacks toiled at the center of forces that created the modern world.
The African diaspora refers to the communities throughout the world that have resulted by descent from the movement in historic times of peoples from Africa, predominantly to the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and among other areas around the globe.
In 1928, Garvey travelled to Geneva to present the Petition of the Negro Race. This petition outlined the worldwide abuse of Africans to the League of Nations.
In September 1929, he founded the People’s Political Party (PPP), Jamaica’s first modern political party, which focused on workers’ rights, education, and aid to the poor.
In 1935, Garvey left Jamaica for London. He lived and worked in London until his death in 1940. During these last five years, Garvey remained active and in touch with events in war-torn Ethiopia (then known as Abyssinia) and in the West Indies.
In 1938, he set up the School of African Philosophy in Toronto to train UNIA leaders. He continued to work on the magazine The Black Man.
While imprisoned Garvey had corresponded with segregationist Earnest Sevier Cox who was lobbying for legislation to “repatriate” African Americans to Africa. Garvey’s philosophy of Black racial self-reliance could be combined with Cox’s White Nationalism — at least in sharing the common goal of an African Homeland. Cox dedicated his short pamphlet “Let My People Go” to Garvey, and Garvey in return advertised Cox’ book “White America” in UNIA publications.
In 1937, the Peace Movement of Ethiopia openly collaborated with the United States Senator from Mississippi, Theodore Bilbo, and Earnest Sevier Cox in the promotion of a repatriation scheme introduced in the US Congress as the Greater Liberia Act. Bilbo, an outspoken supporter of segregation and white supremacy and, attracted by the ideas of black separatists like Garvey, proposed an amendment to the federal work-relief bill on 6 June 1938, proposing to deport 12 million black Americans to Liberia at federal expense to relieve unemployment. He wrote a book, “Take Your Choice, Separation or Mongrelization,” advocating the idea. Garvey praised him in return, saying that Bilbo had “done wonderfully well for the Negro”.
Garvey died in London on 10 June 1940, at the age of 52, having suffered two strokes.
NEXT UP*: more on the Harlem Renaissance, W.E.B. Du Bois, and other fascinating aspects of America in the early 1920s.
*It may be a while. I have four more NetGalley ARCs in my Kindle – and dozens of requests from authors for reviews. Perihelion Science Fiction, a monthly ezine, gets top priority.
*Futhermore, I’m still trying to learn the history of Liberia up to the present.
“Charles Taylor Testifies: Prince Johnson Killed Doe”
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor … testified that Liberian senator Prince Johnson killed the country’s former president, Samuel K Doe, in 1990. Johnson, a former warlord turned politician, has publicly denied killing Doe, despite a well-publicised video of him drinking Budweiser beer as he ordered his men to cut off the former president’s ears. Taylor, another former warlord who led a revolution to oust Doe in 1989-90 and was elected president in 1997, is defending himself against 11 charges of supporting a campaign of terror by rebels in Sierra Leone’s 1991-2002 civil war.
He said Johnson caught Doe in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, around September 1990.
“Prince Johnson captures Doe alive and subsequently kills him,” Taylor told judges at the Special Court for Sierra Leone.