The Criminalization and Exoneration of Marcus Garvey

The Criminalization and Exoneration of Marcus Garvey

By Julius Garvey, MD, Special to CAW

Marcus Garvey after traveling throughout the Caribbean, Central America, Britain and Europe came back to Jamaica in 1914 and formed the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League.

The purpose was to unite Africans worldwide for the Redemption of Africa. Redemption meaning to regain possession of what had been lost by the processes of enslavement and colonialism.


Listen to an interview with Dr. Julius Garvey on “Justice for Garvey” below:


In his travels he had seen the problems of African people worldwide with no representation at the level of governments and international institutions and being always at the bottom in areas of human endeavor. He had studied and read widely knowing of world history and the past glories of African Civilization. He saw history as cyclical and had the epiphany that it was his mission to return Africa to its proper seat at the table of nations. He had read Booker T. Washington’s, “Up from Slavery” and had corresponded with him, determined that the Tuskegee Model of skills training and education was the way to participate in the Industrial Revolution as the basis for the economic development of Africa. He came to the United States in 1916 to gain first-hand knowledge of Tuskegee as well as to gain funds for the development of a similar institution in Jamaica. He spent a year traveling through 38 states and gathering first-hand information on the living conditions and aspirations of African Americans. He was encouraged to stay in America as membership in the organization grew rapidly and by 1918 he shifted the head office of the organization to Harlem, New York, U.S.A.

This was the period of World War I, 1914-1918 and its aftermath. From 1915-1925 over 1 million African Americans moved north from the agricultural south to New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, and Philadelphia to participated in the lower levels of the industrialization process as laborers, factory workers and domestic help. Despite thousands of Black men fighting and dying on the battlefields of Europe for democracy, many returned home and were lynched in their uniforms.

Between 1877 and 1950, more than 4,000 Black men, women and children were lynched, vey often with body parts distributed as souvenirs. One of the bloodiest race riots was in East St. Louis, Illinois in 1917 as many as 100 Blacks were killed, others maimed, and property destroyed, and 6,000 Africans Americans had been driven from their homes.

The Red Summer was in 1919 was when riots broken out in Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, and other northern cities. In 1921 a mob of 2,000 white men and women demolished the Greenwood Section of Tulsa Oklahoma, killing 300 people, burning 35 blocks of homes and thriving businesses rendering 10,000 people homeless. Between 1877 and 1950 more than 4,000 Black men and women and children were lynched by mobs or the Ku Klux Klan. Such were the conditions in the first half of the 20th century.

Marcus Garvey and the UNIA created the conditions for self-identity self-dependence, community development and the unity of all African people with the ultimate prospect or repossession of Africa as the homeland for all Africans, those at home and those abroad. The organization grew by leaps and bounds with a multitude of businesses employing more than 1,000 people in New York alone, with over 1,000 branches in 42 countries and by 1923 an estimated membership of 6 million.

In 1920 there was the first major convention the African peoples of the world, with 2,000 delegates from all over. Opening night was at Madison Square Garden with an overflow crowd of over 25,000 people. The delegates deliberated for the month of August and signed the Declaration of the Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World. This much power and determination to break free of colonialism, white racist supremacy and voracious capitalism was too much for the status quo to tolerate without retaliation. J. Edgar Hoover of the F.B.I. had marked Garvey for attack in an internal memo in 1919. He employed the first of four Black F.B.I. agents to infiltrate the UNIA, disrupt it internally and report back to him about internal affairs.

The Black Star Line was the major economic venture of the organization, and this was the venue to discredit Marcus Garvey and destroy the organization. Marcus Garvey and 4 members of the UNIA were charged in 1923 with conspiracy to use the U.S. mail service to defraud the public. Marcus Garvey was indicted and convicted of conspiracy to use the mail system to defraud.

10 Reasons to Exonerate Marcus Garvey
1.No conspiracy was proven. The other four defendants were released. The innocence of one proves the innocent of all and vice versa.
2.There was no fraud proven as there was no way for Marcus Garvey to profit, different from any other investor.
3. There was no evidence that Marcus Garvey sent misleading information to the public. The evidence offered was an empty envelope with no content, presented by a witness who couldn’t remember what was in the envelope.
4. The witness who was supposed to have mailed the letter could not show that he worked for the UNIA, and admitted that the prosecuting attorney had coached him in lying.
5. The prosecuting attorney suborned the main witness.
6. The presiding Judge should have recused himself as requested and lied when he denied being a member of a rival organization to the UNIA.
7. His rulings were prejudicial to a fair trial and were very often unsolicited
8. The prosecuting attorney made frequent derogatory remarks in reference to Marcus Garvey without once being reprimanded by the Judge. This clearly prejudiced the jury.
9. It was an all-white jury, not a jury of his peers.
10. No crime was committed. The business credibility of the Black Star Line was impugned by the charges brought by the District Attorney’s Office.

Clearing Garvey’s Name
It was clear that the trial was political theatre to destroy a legitimate business venture, the Black Star Line and to damage the credibility of Marcus Garvey, who was at that time the major spokesman for the freedom and development of African people worldwide. Please join with us to clear the name of Marcus Garvey. It is only in the United States that he is regarded as a criminal. He is Jamaica’s First National Hero, and he is a hero of the Organization of American States. The United States is one of the 33 members. This says something about the American system of justice.

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