Marcus Garvey, 60, Negro Ex-Leader
By THE NEW YORK TIMES
LONDON, June 11 (UP)--Marcus Garvey, West Indian Negro, who
once set himself up as "Emperor of the Kingdom of Africa" in New
York's Harlem and later appeared before the League of Nations as
representative of "the black peoples of the world," died here yesterday.
His Career as a Promoter
Marcus Garvey was a short, stout, ebony-colored firebrand who styled
himself a "world- famous orator." He was a promoter who sold hundreds of
thousands of American Negroes on the idea of a nation for themselves, an
African empire. He preached racial solidarity, racial enterprise and race
segregation. Until some of his promotions landed him in jail, they paid him at
least $22,000 a year, and probably much more.
Where Father Divine of a later day created "angels" and "archangels" among
the colored population of Harlem, Garvey in his time sprinkled the area with
princes and princesses, barons, knights, viscounts, earls and dukes, and kept
for himself for a time the comparatively humble designation of "Sir Provisional
President of Africa." There was no evidence that he had ever set foot on that
continent, and the Republic of Liberia was, by announcement of its
government, closed to him and his followers. He blamed the British and
French Governments for that. His proposed hegira of black men and women
back to the continent of their origin remained to the last simply a proposal.
Exact information about the origins of Marcus Aurelius Garvey, as he
sometimes proudly named himself, was never forthcoming. It appeared,
however, that some time about 1880 he was born in Jamaica, B.W.I., which
fact made him a British citizen. According to his own story he was the editor
of a Catholic newspaper in Jamaica at the age of fifteen, and thereafter edited
papers in Jamaica and Costa Rica. He also said that he spent a year traveling
through Europe before coming to the United States as the World War was
about to begin.
His career in this country began as a journalist and lecturer to Negro
audiences. It appeared to him that the Negroes in this country were in a state
of semi-serfdom and he proposed to do something about it. The first step was
the formation, in July, 1914, of the Universal Negro Improvement
Association, with an original membership of 15.
His Fire-Brand Period
The next five or six years were his fire-brand period. He made inflammatory
attacks upon white people; suggested that for every Negro lynched in the
South a white man should be similarly treated by the Negroes in New York.
The trickle of dues into his "parent body," as he began to call the U.N.I.A.,
swelled into a stream, and Garvey began to dream other dreams than race
fighting. He had learned that small sums contributed by many persons may
reach an impressive total.
So he organized the Black Star Steamship Line and the Black Star Steamship
Company, to establish a world shipping firm staffed wholly by Negroes. He
called a convention of his U.N.I.A. and offered some 5,000 Negroes who
attended at Madison Square Garden an opportunity to buy stock at $5 a
share. The money rolled in and he bought several ships. One was the
Yarmouth, another the Kanawha, which had been the pleasure yacht of the
late colonel Henry Huddleston Rogers. The first job the Yarmouth had was to
haul a $3,000,000 cargo of liquor from Brooklyn to Cuba for a firm that
wanted to get it out of the country before prohibition became effective on Jan.
15, 1920. All that whisky was too much temptation for the crew, who got
drunk and put in at Norfolk, where the ship was seized under the prohibition
law. A total loss.
Kanawha Rams a Pier
The black skipper of the Kanawha also had bad luck at Norfolk. On his first
voyage he rammed a pier there, his boiler exploded, and the Kanawha, too,
became a total loss.
Nothing, meanwhile, had happened in Harlem except the multiplication of
Garvey's notions. He had organized the African Community League,
incorporated at $1,000,000; the Negro Factories Corporation and, on the
non-commercial side, the Order of the Nile; the Black Cross Nurses and the
Universal African Legion.
In February, 1925, three years after he had been arrested on a charge of
using the mails to defraud in soliciting funds for one of his ship companies,
Garvey went to Atlanta penitentiary, where he stayed until the middle of
1927, when his sentence was commuted, so that he could be deported. Sent
back to Jamaica, he tried to carry on with the mission he had inaugurated in
the United States. Back within the British Empire, his pleas were less well
received, financially, and, after a futile effort to raise funds to rescue Ethiopia
from the Italians, he sank into obscurity.