Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey. Edited by Amy Jacques-Garvey. Arno Press and the New York Times. 1968. 412 pages. $4.50.
Reviewed by Maceo Dixon
All types of racist crackpot theories
about the inferiority of the Black race
were flourishing-finding respectability
and publicity in institutions of
The Black masses desperately
needed a leadership with a strategy to
repel these attacks and to fight for full
Garvey tried to fill this leadership
vacuum. His strategy was to counter
racist reaction by building a Black
separatist movement. He explained
that so long as Black people had no
control over the land of their birth
(Africa), they would not be respected or
treated .as human beings.
Marcus Garvey was a PanAfricanist.
Until Africa was free, he
theorized, Blacks could not win their
freedom anywhere else. This was the
basis for his slogan, "Africa for the
Africans. At home and abroad."
Pan-Africanists view Africa as the
power base for the liberation struggle
of all Blacks, wherever they currently
live. Pan-Africanists try to unite people
of African descent throughout the
world on this basis for the struggle
against racism and imperialism.
In his book A History of Pan-African
Revolt, Black scholar C. L. R. James
wrote about Garvey: "He made the
American Negro conscious of his African
origin and created for the first
time a feeling of international solidarity
among Africans and people of
African descent. Insofar as this is
directed against oppression it is a
Garvey's movement has its roots in
Jamaica, where Garvey was born m
887. His father was a brick and stone
Garvey moved to the United States
in 1916 and launched the Universal
Negro Improvement Association
(UNIA) the following year.
The UNIA program called for Black
self-improvement and a Black nation.
The organization was based financially
on a structure of developing
Black businesses. The World Community
of Islam in the West (Nation of
Islam) today follows similar ideas
about Black capitalist development.
The UNIA built a fleet of ships
known as the Black Star Line. Its
ships flew red, black, and green flags.
The UNIA newspaper was called
Negro World. Its circulation in 1920
The World was published in English,
French, and Spanish. In some countries
even possession of the paper was
a crime. In the French African colony.
of Dahomey, possession of the World
was punishable by death.
Garvey's movement won so many
followers that he was often called
Garvey estimated that in 1923 the
UNIA had 900 branches around the
The UNIA developed institutions
such as the African Orthodox Church,
the Black Cross Nurses, the African
Motor Corps, and the Black Eagle
The UNIA held annual international
conventions between 1920 and 1924.
The conventions usually lasted a
month. At the first one, 25,000 people
turned out to hear Garvey speak at
Madison Square Garden in New York.
Garvey says that during the 1924
convention there were 5,000 delegates
and deputies. He also states that the
UNIA had a worldwide membership of
11 million that year!
But Garvey's strongest base of support
was in the northern cities of the
United States. UNIA membership in
New York, for example, was estimated
at 35,000. About 2,000 UNIA members
lived in Harlem. In 1921 they organized
a street march of 50,000 Blacks
Black workers formed the bulk of the
UNIA's membership. Among their
ranks were people like Herbert Harrison,
a socialist, and Malcolm X's father.
Garvey spoke widely, denouncing
racism. He blasted the fact that Blacks
were forbidden to vote. He criticized
the second-class education Blacks were
offered. He deplored the rotten housing,
high unemployment, lynchings,
and other acts of racism inflicted on
Blacks in America.
But Garvey wouldn't organize to
fight these evils on their own soil. His
solution? Instead of meeting these
problems head on, Blacks should go
back to Africa, ignoring the situation
Unfortunately, Garvey would even
unite with the enemies of Black people
if he thought this would advance his
call for an African homeland.
He invited Klan-like racists to speak
at UNIA meetings, where they ex-
plained why as sons of slavemasters
they wished for the "darkies" to go
back to Africa.
He called on the imperialist governments
of Europe and the United States
for support. His strategy was to "get
the American Government, along with
the governments of Europe, to acquiesce
in the demand of creating for
the Negro a government in a nation of
Garvey had big conflicts with
W. E. B. DuBois, founding leader of
the NAACP. The two Black leaders
hurled fierce polemics at each other.
At the heart of this debate were
differences over the strategy to win
Black liberation-although personal
vilifications also played a role.
Garvey rejected DuBois's concept
that a "talented tenth" of Black professionals
and intellectuals would lead
the Black masses to their emancipation.
In Garvey's view this theory was
DuBois blasted Garvey's refusal to
fight against Jim Crow segregation
and prejudice in the United States. He
also frowned on Garvey's business
Garvey's political opponents also
heaped personal slander on him. They
called him a thief, a short stumpy fool,
a pompous jackal, and other vulgarities.
Garvey's foes based some of these
attacks on the elaborate uniforms
worn by UNIA members during their
parades. His opponents said such outfits
made Garvey look like a clown. But
Garvey responded, "No one would say
that about white people with the same
uniforms, so why should I be treated as
Certainly the U.S. government took
Garvey's movement more seriously
than that. Washington wanted to get ·
rid of him and the mass movement of
Black people that he led.
Government agents arrested Garvey
in 1923 on trumped-up charges of using
the postal service to defraud. Garvey
lost his last appeal in 1925. He served
two years of a five-year sentence.
In 1927 he was released from the
federal penitentiary in Atlanta and
deported to Jamaica. His movement
finally broken by U.S. government
harassment, his health deteriorating
from bronchial asthma, Garvey died in
1940 in London.
Garvey didn't consider the U.S. government
an irreconcilable enemy despite
the persecution against his
movement. He naively believed that
his frame-up was the deed of a handful
of corrupt individuals, not systematic
He didn't have the benefit of today's
revelations showing the lengths to
which Washington will go to destroy
the Black freedom struggle. Now millions
of people are aware of repressive
COINTELPRO activities suggesting
that the government may have played
a key role in the assassination of Black
leaders such as Martin Luther King,
Malcolm X, Mark Clark, and Fred
But despite his illusions in the U.S.
government, Garvey gave millions of
Black people the courage to stand up
and fight the racism that the government
Marcus Garvey you can study that
proud record for yourself.
This collection of speeches was
edited by Amy Jacques-Garvey, a participant
in the UNIA who· became
Garvey's second wife. His speeches are
part of a collection of thirty-one books
on Afro-American history published by
Arno Press and the New York Times.
There is a fine preface titled "A Short
History of Black Separatism" written
by William Loren Katz. Unfortunately,
the book was not indexed.