Breaking the Ideology of Separation Versus Integration: Part 3 – Marcus Garvey Versus W.E.B. Du Bois


In Part 2 of this series, I covered Booker T. Washington’s contention with W.E.B. Du Bois. I would encourage everyone (before reading this) to go back and take a look at the previous parts of this series – Part 1 and Part 2 – as well as the introduction. That would include taking a look at the various links provided, whether that is to resources available on this website or those directed to outside sources. To save time, I will neither go into the complete detail nor a full overview of the previous parts in a reiteration of what has been previously explained. For a full understanding of a lot of the concepts that shape the context of the contention between Du Bois and Garvey, an understanding of what was previously discussed is essential. For example, it would be harder to understand any black American rejection of a back-to-Africa movement, without the context of abolitionist rejections, previously failed movements, and the history of colonization and its connection with white supremacist ideas. It also might be more difficult, only dealing within today’s context, to fully realize how much it would anger individuals of that generation when a man has a meeting with a KKK leader, within the context of lynchings, massacres, and political disenfranchisement. That also relates as a key element of the Washington-Du Bois contention. Understanding the nature of that contention will also provide context as to why another black leader such as Garvey would contribute to an added frustration. This would counter a lot of improper framing that might come from viewing it simply as a “petty beef”, unjustified disagreement or lack of unity, similarly to how situations of today might be perceived.

Additional Background

The last section left off with Du Bois becoming a founding member of the N.A.A.C.P. The Niagara Movement had been formed previously with a more radical approach to civil rights and against Washington and the “Tuskegee Machine”. As Du Bois notes in Dusk of Dawn, it was “not without misgiving that the members of the Niagara Movement were invited into the new conference, but all save Trotter and Ida Wells Barnett came to form the backbone of the new organization.” This misgiving came after little progress was able to be made with the Niagara Movement, and it also stemmed from the liberal (less radical) and white elements going into the founding of the N.A.A.C.P. There were, at one point, some reservations made as to how much Du Bois, who would be moving to New York as editor of the Crisis magazine, would be able to attack Booker T. Washington outright. That same sentiment existed from the beginning of the process.

As Ida Wells-Barnett recalled in her autobiography, there was an “uneasy feeling”, and particularly around the National Negro Committee, the concern was “that Mr. Booker T. Washington and his theories…would prevail…”. Mrs. Barnett also notes how her not playing a larger role, partly, had to do with the circumstances surrounding these early committees and meetings. She recalls, “Mr. Oswald Garrison Villard…was very active in promoting [the] meeting…[and]…had been an outspoken admirer of Mr. Washington.”

Her feelings of uneasiness were lifted slightly with her being on the list of founding members. She tried to assure her friends in telling them that “their fears were groundless…[and]…that…[of the list of names]…Mr. Washington’s name was not only not on the list, but that [her name] was, along with others who were known to be opposed to the inclusiveness of Mr. Washington’s industrial ideas.” This signified a shift (or an acknowledgment of a shift) away from the ideas pushed publicly by Washington and toward the ideas and objections asserted by Du Bois and others.

During the final meeting, however, Ida B. Wells-Barnett’s name was substituted off of the list. Despite being hurt by the incident, and after leaving, she followed a request to come back and discuss the issue. Du Bois had read the names and was the only black on the responsible sub-committee. According to Mrs. Barnett’s account of the story, Du Bois stated that he knew that she and Mr. Barnett were working with Mrs. Celia Parker Woolley and that he felt it okay to place Dr. Charles E. Bentley on the list over Mrs. Barnett. Du Bois then made the offer of reinstatement; given her anger, she refused. She addressed the issue in her autobiography by saying that “[o]f course, [she] did a foolish thing.” There were, also, subsequent attempts to have her name added, which she also denied; however: “before the committee sent out its letterhead they added [her] name to the list.”

Following a similar trajectory, Trotter also maintained a loose, uncomfortable connection with N.A.A.C.P. His lack of trust in white leadership and involved money interests kept him searching for a more radical, black alternative. He and Ida Wells-Barnett both having moved away from the N.A.A.C.P. would both try to work within the National Equal Rights Leauge, which was exclusively by and for black people.

With Trotter and Ida B. Wells-Barnett not taking a full part in the N.A.A.C.P., that left out two of the greatest and outspoken, radical leaders of that time period. Neither of them proved able to gain an organization of their own to establish national leadership and prominence. The racial tensions and white leadership of the N.A.A.C.P. impacted the inclusion of more radical elements, and it also hampered the ability of those like Du Bois to fully control the direction of the movement. The white leadership, in itself, given racial insensitivities, lack of first-hand experience with being black in America, and potentially nefarious and/or personal agendas, contributed to further setting back the establishment of a legitimate movement for radical change. The same elements that existed with the Tuskegee Machine to control the nature of the opposition existed with the N.A.A.C.P. This, as well, contributed to a situation prime for what we would see with Marcus Garvey and the U.N.I.A.

The Death of Booker T. Washington

As the death of Joesph C. Price on October 25, 1893, coincided with the rise of Booker T. Washington into prominence, having given his Atlanta speech a couple of years later, Marcus Garvey would also fill the void left by the death of Booker T. Washington on November 14, 1915.

Prior to his arrival to the U.S., Garvey was corresponding with Washington whom he saw as an influence. Garvey would travel through South American and England, prior to coming back to Jamaica in July of 1914 and establishing the U.N.I.A.

Kingston, Jamaica,W.I.
April 12, 1915

Dear Doctor Washington:
Some time last year I wrote to you informing you of my proposed visit to America to lecture in the interest of my Association and you were good enough to write to me inviting me to see your great institution.

I am expecting to leave for America between May and June and I shall be calling on you. I intend to do most of my public speaking in the South among the people of our race. I enclose you a manifesto of our Association which will give you an idea of the objects we have in view. I am now asking you to do your best to assist me during my stay in America; as I shall be coming there a stranger to those people.

I need not reacquaint you of the horrible conditions prevailing among our people in the West Indies as you are so well informed of happenings all over Negrodom.

Trusting to be favoured with an early reply with best wishes I remain Your Obedient Servant.

Universal Negro Improvement Association Per Marcus Garvey

P.S. I take the opportunity of enclosing your Patron’s tickets for a concert to which we ask your patronage — as also envelope.

Booker T. Washington to Marcus Garvey
[Tuskegee Institute, Alabama]
April 27, 1915

My Dear Mr. Garvey:
I have yours of April 12th advising of your proposed tour of this country and of your plan to visit Tuskegee Institute while in the South.

I am very glad indeed that you have decided to come here and it will give us all very great pleasure to make your stay as pleasant and as profitable as we can. Certainly I shall do what I can to help you while in this country.

I thank you for sending me the statement outlining the aim and purpose of the Negro Improvement Association.

Yours very truly.
Booker T. Washington (F)*

[“F”: signed for Washington by Charles H. Fearing, the assistant secretary to the principal of Tuskegee Institute from 1908 until after Washington’s death in 1915.]

Du Bois also received a correspondence from the U.N.I.A. welcoming him during his trip to Jamaica in 1915.

In 1916, Garvey made a trip to the U.S., which was originally for the purpose of promoting the U.N.I.A. before returning to Jamaica. He was supposed to meet with Booker T. Washington, travel around the U.S., and inquire about establishing an industrial school in Jamaica modeled after Tuskegee. Booker T. Washington, however, passed away from questioned circumstances prior to Garvey’s arrival to the U.S.

Ida B. Wells-Barnett’s brief discussion of Garvey in Crusade for Justice provides some context. It starts with her describing being elected in NY by the U.N.I.A.

“Mr. Garvey had visited Chicago a few years before, when he had recently come from Jamaica to accept an invitation that had been extended him by Booker T. Washington to visit Tuskegee.

Mr. Washington had passed away before he came; so Mr. Garvey was traveling from place to place to arouse the interests of other West Indians who were living in the United States to assist him in establishing an industrial school in Jamaica. He visited my husband’s law office, and Mr. Barnett brought him home to dinner.”

She recalls part of their conversation where Garvey describes the conditions concerning him in Jamaica:

“He wanted to return to his native home to see if he could not help to change the situation there.

Instead he went to New York, began to hold street meetings, and got many of his fellow countrymen as well as American Negroes interested in his program of worldwide Negro unity. For a time it seemed as if his program would go through.

Had Garvey had the support which his wonderful movement deserved, had he not become drunk with power too soon, there is no telling what the result would have been.

It was during this time [of Garvey holding month-long conferences in NY City] he sent me an invitation to come…deliver an address.

Before this Mr. Garvey had spent a couple of hours acquainting me with his idea of establishing what he called the Black Star Line. He wanted me to present the matter that night, but I told him that it was too big an idea and would require more thought and preparations before it should be launched. He had shown me the restaurant that had been established, the newspaper which was circulating regularly each week, and one or two smaller ventures. He had complained that none of them were self-sustaining because they had not been able to obtain efficient help.

I knew that the work involved in a shipping business called for a much more complicated program…I advised him to defer the matter. This he did not do…

Perhaps if Garvey had listened to my advice he need not have undergone the humiliations which afterward became his. Perhaps all of that was necessary… It may be that…the seed planted here will yet spring up and bring forth fruit which will mean the deliverance of the black race–that cause which was so dear to his heart.”

In that excerpt, some core issues arise surrounding the situation. Those issues need to be addressed. The first would be the coincidental timing and circumstances of Booker T. Washington’s death. Both him and Joesph C. Price were diagnosed with Bright’s Disease (at various points – Booker T. Washington did have varying diagnoses over time) and died at relatively young ages. There was also speculation surrounding Booker T. Washington’s death related to the subsequent Tuskegee experiments that took place involving syphilis, along with the description of “racial characteristics” used to describe the symptoms around his death. Both the negative impacts on kidney health and high blood pressure attributed to the death of Mr. Washington can be present as the results in someone who has been poisoned. Also, with some controversy about the new leader of Tuskegee, at the time, between Emmett Jay Scott and Robert Russa Moton, Moton would eventually become president of the Institute. Both of these individuals would play a role in high positions, such as presidential affairs; however, at Tuskegee, Moton was president during those infamous experiments with syphilis.

The next question is why and/or what? Why did Garvey stay in the U.S. as opposed to going back to Jamaica? and/or what influenced this decision? That along what became, historically, the most notable issue, the Black Star Line, and his ultimate contention with Du Bois and other black leaders, his mail fraud trial and his jail sentence and deportation. These issues will be discussed below in more detail.

Marcus Garvey

The core part of the contention happened a little while after Garvey came to the United States, specifically from the point of view of the Garvey Must Go campaign, the mail fraud trial, and Du Bois ultimately writing Lunatic or Traitor. Garvey came to the U.S. in 1916, but it wasn’t really until the early-1920s that those incidents that seem more noted in history took place.

Here, regarding the early years, as opposed to looking into the details of the founding of the U.N.I.A. in NY, I’m going to start with an often overlooked aspect of Garvey concerning why exactly he stayed in the U.S., as opposed to returning to Jamaica. In addition, I will look at what is also overlooked regarding the functioning of his movement, ideas, and program, especially in connection to other movements, subsequent or prior, specifically with regard to a comparison between the agenda of white supremacy and a positive agenda for the black community.

His son Julius Garvey, in this interview with Democracy Now, explains Marcus Garvey’s reasoning and motivation behind staying in the U.S.

“…his plan was still to go back to Jamaica, although he established a branch of the UNIA in New York. But, again, the politics of the situation, every time he developed the organization to the extent where he thought he could leave, then there were communists and there were other people who were trying to take over the organization as a black organization. And he ended up being requested to stay. And he stayed, and that became the headquarters.”

Along with the aspect of him staying, the historical context is something that is also ignored. It wasn’t just following the contention involving Booker T. Washington and other black leaders, like Du Bois who would now be establishing himself as editor of the N.A.A.C.P.’s Crisis in New York City, there was also the First World War and the beginning of the Great Northward Migration that saw many blacks escaping the South to settle in Northern cities, along with some increase in the number of immigrants, particularly West Indian, also settling in these areas. In addition, there was also a corresponding rise in both anti-capitalist (socialist/communist) sentiment, globally, including by black Americans, as well as a global counter-response from capitalist interests and governments, especially responding to the formation of the Soviet Union, as was evident in the First Red Scare. The presence of individuals like Claude McKay surrounding the relevant movements and activity with the Harlem Renaissance probably best illustrates the context.

Garvey, despite his intentions, aids global capital in a number of ways. He provides a new, Northern-based movement encapsulating the masses settling in the big cities; he continues a lot of the problematic schemes as was seen to be devised for the benefit white supremacy, e.g., Booker T. Washington and the ideas he pushed, as well the colonization movements; and, he also, aided in diverting these movements away from the one thing that threatened white supremacy and global capital the most: an organized communist movement with coalition between white and black groups.

To summarize issues, further, as points, take the following:

1. Garvey continued the distraction away from the fight against Jim Crow and away from the fight for political and civil rights. Just as Booker T. Washington was serving the function by vocally being against public agitation and defending legal rights, Garvey was able to divert through his schemes and separatism.

2. Garvey continued in aiding the discouragement of traditional higher education.

3. Garvey continued the contentions and/or co-opting/appropriating of other black leaders. He brought certain leaders and/or ideas within the group; others were brought in and then rejected out of the group; some, regardless of if ever in the group, were attacked vehemently.

4. Garvey aided in controlling opposition and aided in controlling communist elements.

5. Garvey created a movement mirroring the previous colonization schemes that were rooted in white supremacy. Like those schemes, he wanted Africa to be, basically, colonized by black leaders, particularly from Western countries/former colonies, like himself.

6. Garvey created a movement rooted in separatism and a black-white dichotomy (potentially anti-white), which is rooted in the acceptance of white supremacy. The ruling classes of Western countries have had no concern for other groups of their own people without even imposing the fabricated “white” race. Buying that disallows for any potential coalition between white and black individuals and interests with similar views and goals. It also perpetuates the fiction of “whiteness”.

7. Garvey created a movement rooted in cultish ideas, Freemasonry and idol worship, that would be seen and/or repeated with groups like the Nation of Islam.

8. Garvey created a situation of controlling leadership and members and with former members that have been pushed out or left being murdered or dying, which would be repeated with organizations like the Nation of Islam.

During this time period, two organizations — the N.A.A.C.P. and the U.N.I.A. — were able to effectively control opposition from the black community toward the American elites. As there was control over the Tuskegee Machine, the same basic control was established with the N.A.A.C.P. with a major difference being that, as opposed to a black leader, who was Booker T. Washington, pushing the main narrative, W.E.B. Du Bois was primarily suppressed from the role of controlling the narrative and ideas coming out of the organization. That narrative was instead controlled, and limited with regard to Du Bois, by the leadership of the organization. This would later be an issue that would see Du Bois leave the N.A.A.C.P. (the topic of the next part in this series). An initial condition for the explosion of a movement like the U.N.I.A., as hinted at previously, was the liberal elements of the N.A.A.C.P. and the lack of a black, radical movement. A part of that radical appeal was the communist and socialist elements that made up an early part of the organization. With the rise of Garvey, we saw a completely different style, differing both from the N.A.A.C.P. format and the Tuskegee Machine. With Garvey, we saw for, potentially, the first time, a tactic that would prove paramount to the later movements on up through the Black Panther Party. It was a black and black-led organization whose entry point to those in power was through agents and informants for U.S. police and military intelligence.

As to whether or not Garvey (in this case) — or Elijah Muhammad, who will be discussed in a later series — was a part of a nefarious plot in coordination with U.S. intelligence from the beginning, compromised later on, or simply acted coincidentally, is not something that, even if able to be determined, will be determined in this series. I will, however, note, providing corroboration from the Julius Garvey interview, that Garvey fully participated in a rightward shift and maintenance of the U.N.I.A., as well as he had a strict grip on the leadership.

Lunatic or Traitor

Garvey versus Du Bois is not in any way the beginning or end. As the assassination attempt against Garvey and subsequent death of the would-be assassin George Tyler would show, it did not escape violence. Almost the entirety of Garvey’s rise and prominence in the U.S. was made up of opposition and feuds, with the common denominator being Garvey on one end and other radical and charismatic leaders on the other.

From the beginning, the U.N.I.A. owed even a part of its success to black socialists and communists. And, as mentioned in the previous section, these are elements that Garvey would undermine in terms of their role in the U.N.I.A, as well as he would undermine the building of a greater connection between those types of movements — at least, after appropriating and exploiting these movements for his and his organization’s own interests and popularity. The context of being in Harlem during the above-mentioned times of great West Indian immigration and Great Northward Migration from the American South is an important one.

Also, during the course of this discussion, there must be special regard for the real intentions behind the monitoring and intelligence targeting of the U.N.I.A. The core radical and leftist elements was a primary factor behind the targeting. This is contrary to narratives holding up Garvey that can falsely give the impression that Garvey was being targeted based on his activity alone, almost even ignoring where that activity actually might have been criminal.

Hubert Harrison, a West Indian immigrant and socialist, played an early role and influence over Garvey and the organization. A Philip Randolph, who was a prominent opponent of Garvey – part of the Garvey Must Go campaign – was also there early in the scene of Garvey’s Harlem rise. In Negro with a Hat, the author Colin Grant details a story that provides a further example of my point about Booker T. Washington. Harrison arriving in the U.S. would work at the New York Post Office. As noted by Grant, “[a]ll had gone reasonably well until he’d made the unforgivable mistake (in the eyes of certain powerful men) of criticizing Booker T. Washington — an act akin to writing his own dismissal note.” This is what sets Harrison on the eventual pathway first with the Socialists then with him espousing an ideology based on black unity. Garvey would start growing his base from that point, including with elements of Harrison’s Liberty League of Negro-Americans, and as Grant notes based on Harrison’s reflections, “[speaking] the same language…because Garvey had helped himself to some of his better ideas.”

Around the time of the Black Star Line, Harrison did gain some connection back to the U.N.I.A. and Garvey through working as an editor of the Negro World. He would eventually make statements in his diary showing his concerns with the organization and Garvey before he left that position. Although Harrison was not, himself, involved in the early U.N.I.A., some of the individuals that moved from his organization were. These early members such as Samuel Duncan, Issac B. Allen and including John Edward Bruce were part of an early contention that broke the organization. After Bruce had reached out to Dusé Mohamed Ali, whom Garvey had worked for in London. According to Grant: “Ali had written back disparaging Garvey, pointedly referring to him as a messenger – not a very good one – who’d been discharged, after three months, due to his unsatisfactory conduct.” He “went on to surmise”, again, according to Grant, that “Garvey’s sole pretext for starting the U.N.I.A. in American was for collecting money for his own purposes.” Bruce then responded with a questioning of Garvey’s intentions in a letter to the New Negro, ending with “who are you anyway and what is your game?” Garvey characterized the events as a coup by individuals who sought to use the organization toward their own political ends. Marcus Garvey then went on to resign from the organization, prior to filing a lawsuit to get back the name. After that, he took back over the organization, placing himself at the top again.

This falling out would reoccur throughout the U.N.I.A. With the founding of the Negro World, a Jamaican acquaintance of Garvey, who was also a socialist, Wilfred Domingo was used in gaining an advantage due to his connections and ability to get a line of credit extended to Garvey and benefits for printing. He was allowed to take over as editor for the Negro World, which was seriously struggling early to the point of being sued for individuals being unpaid and ultimately getting some financial backing from the philanthropy of Madam C.J. Walker.

Two entities that tracked the political activity and spied on the U.N.I.A. were the Bureau of Investigation (not yet the Federal Bureau) with a young J. Edgar Hoover, in addition to a lot more seasoned and respectable military intelligence via Walter Loving. In military intelligence reports, it can be seen that a real concern of intelligence was their anti-communism, fueled by the Red Scare. This is in addition to any of the otherwise radical and black activity (almost synonymous in the American context) labeled “Negro Activities” and “Negro Agitation”, which was also monitored. The Negro World being “probable Bolshevik propaganda” is, therefore, a very pressing issue. Ida B. Wells-Barnett, who gained the title of being an “agitator” was one thing; however, socialism in addition to black radicalism was an even bigger (double) threat. Hoover, maybe with more ridiculous paranoia than military intelligence, also looked into the socialist connection with the U.N.I.A. In one memo it noted widely that in “…his paper the ‘Negro World’ the Soviet Russian Rule is upheld and there is open advocation of Bolshevism.”

Individuals like Domingo and others associated with the U.N.I.A. brought that threat to the government, and these threats would be cleared out, time and time again, by Garvey. After Domingo was let go from the U.N.I.A. he did eventually recall his being put out in an article in which he gave his concerns, at the time, surrounding Garvey’s activities, including the Black Star Line.

With military intelligence, as with the B.O.I., both came to similar conclusions, at least about the activity of Garvey himself, notwithstanding the review of communist elements, mentioned above. Hoover in a memo stated: “Unfortunately, however, he has not as yet violated any federal law whereby he could be proceeded against on the grounds of being an undesirable alien, from the point of view of deportation. It occurs to me, however, from the attached clipping that there might be some proceeding against him for fraud in connection with his Black Star Line propaganda…”. Loving reached a similar conclusion, speaking rather favorably of Garvey.

Cyril Briggs, a member of the African Blood Brotherhood (a black socialist/communist organization), was also partly connected to the U.N.I.A. movement. Wilfred Domingo would also go on to join the African Blood Brotherhood, as would others around, or upon leaving, the U.N.I.A. In an indication of what was to come, after some questions started to come up related to the Black Star Line – criticisms, as can be seen from all the above descriptions, were piling from everywhere – Garvey decided to cut ties with the ABB and Cyril Briggs.

According to Grant in Negro with a Hat: “…Garvey addressed the audience. Cyril Briggs…, he warned, ‘the paid servant of certain destructive white elements… The time for masquerade was over. Communism was ‘a white man’s creation to solve his own political and economic problems. … Their delegates’ cards were ripped up and they were immediately expelled from the convention.” Despite this Briggs attempted reconciliation. He stressed how both organizations were aiming for what was identical and how he refused to engage in a personal quarrel between them that might weaken the race.

Garvey, in turn, responded brutally. Again, from Grant’s Negro with a Hat: “The U.N.I.A. ‘can form no alliance with any organization of Negroes working secretly to attain and enjoy rights and privileges which ought to be won in a manly open fight’…”. This was alluding to the fact that Garvey, in part, was exposing (outing) publicly the semi-secret organization. He would go on to say that Briggs was a white man masquerading as a Negro for convenience. Briggs would sue for criminal libel over these comments and win the suit; however, there was permanent damage to the relationship.

Throughout the course of these events and all of the B.O.I. and military intelligence monitoring, it took a while before the major events such as the mail fraud trial.

With Du Bois, at least, the turning point, if you will, was surrounding the Paris Peace Conferences and First Pan-African Congresses, where Garvey was already starting to heavily attack Du Bois and other leaders. Garvey started circulating rumors surrounding Du Bois’s involvement in stopping the success of one of his men. Du Bois, himself, had yet to really go at Garvey strongly, and that would not necessarily change until his final article; however, with the December-January 1920-1921 issues of the Crisis, Du Bois would write two articles entitled Marcus Garvey.

The first was on the personal side of Garvey in the December 1920 issue:

“It is a little difficult to characterize the man Garvey. He has been charged with dishonesty and graft, but he seems to me essentially an honest and sincere man with a tremendous vision, great dynamic force, stubborn determination and unselfish desire to serve; but also he has very serious de­fects of temperament and training: he is dictatorial, domineering, inordinately vain and very suspicious. He cannot get on with his fellow-workers. His entourage has con­tinually changed. He has had endless law suits and some cases of fisticuffs with his subordinates and has even divorced the young wife whom he married with great fanfare of trumpets about a year ago. All these things militate against him and his reputation. Nevertheless I have not found the slightest proof that his objects were not sincere or that he was consciously diverting money to his own uses. The great difficulty with him is that he has absolutely no busi­ness sense, no flair for real organization and his general objects are so shot through with bombast and exaggeration that it is diffi­cult to pin them down for careful examina­tion.

Of Garvey’s curious credulity and sus­picions one example will suffice: In March, ­1919, he held a large mass meeting at Pal­ace Casino which was presided ever by Chandler Owen and addressed by himself and Phillip Randolph. Here he collected $204 in contributions on the plea that while in France, W. E. B. DuBois had interfered with the work of his ‘High Commissioner’ by ‘defeating’ his articles in the French press and ‘repudiating’ his statements as to lynching and injustice in America! The truth was that Mr. DuBois never saw or heard of his ‘High Commissioner’, never denied his nor anyone’s statements of the wretched American conditions, did every­thing possible to arouse rather than quiet the French press and would have been de­lighted to welcome and co-operate with any colored fellow-worker.”

The second was on the “industrial enterprises and feasibility of his general plans”. January 1921:

“When it comes to Mr. Garvey’s industrial and commercial enterprises there is more ground for doubt and misgiving than in the matter of his character. First of all, his enterprises are incorporated in Delaware, where the corporation laws are loose and where no financial statements are required. So far as I can find, and I have searched with care, Mr. Garvey has never published a complete statement of the income and ex­penditures of the Negro Improvement Association or of the Black Star Line or of any of his enterprises, which really revealed his financial situation. A courteous letter of inquiry sent to him July 22, 1920, asking for such financial data as he was willing for the public to know, remains to this day unacknowledged and unanswered.

To sum up: Garvey is a sincere, hard­working idealist; he is also a stubborn, domineering leader of the mass; he has worthy industrial and commercial schemes but he is an inexperienced business man. His dreams of Negro indus­try, commerce and the ultimate free­dom of Africa are feasible; but his methods are bombastic, wasteful, illogical and in­effective and almost illegal. If he learns by experience, attracts strong and capable friends and helpers instead of making need­less enemies; if he gives up secrecy and sus­picion and substitutes open and frank re­ports as to his’ income and expenses, and above all if he is willing to be a co-worker and not a czar, he may yet in time succeed in at least starting some of his schemes to­ward accomplishment. But unless he does these things and does them quickly he can­not escape failure.”

Also in January, Garvey addresses Liberty Hall with “Du Bois and his Escapades.” As opposed to taking advice, Garvey goes into the same racist tricks that Du Bois criticized in the above mentioned Crisis article. Du Bois claimed he was bringing outside colorist sentiment to the U.S. much to the delight of some white leaders. Garvey followed calling Du Bois a “white man Negro”, saying he had never done anything to benefit Negroes. A continuation of divisive and anti-white rhetoric.

Again, to stress that Du Bois was not the only contention, The Messanger‘s Garvey Must Go campaign, led by A Philip Randolph and Chandler Owen, who were close to Garvey in Harlem, also gained steam with the coming events.

After all of the years of questions about the Black Star Line, in January 1922, a year after the Du Bois articles, Garvey was arrested for mail fraud. He was, however, released on bond.

In June, to make things worse, further backlash comes after he decides to meet with the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, Edward Young Clarke. The significance of this, not just surrounding the time, is huge. In addition to the times, there was also the unwillingness and distance he put, e.g., between himself and “white” communists and socialist (or even liberal) interests. The outright refusal and denouncing, as came with the falling out and distancing from the Harrisons, McKays, Briggs and during the occasion of Rose Stokes getting an opportunity to speak, is telling. The relationship between, e.g., the Communist Party and the black community, built by those other leaders (really in spite of the U.N.I.A. and Garvey) would go on to establish the National Negro Congress and Civil Right Congress, which would lead the multiple U.N. petitions and help spark both mainstream civil rights efforts, in addition to foreshadowing what Malcolm X would do in terms of international, human rights struggle.

The biggest blow in all of the mess, however, could be the assassination of James Eason, after being expelled from the U.N.I.A. It happened on New Year’s Day (1923), after being forced out by Garvey in August and going out on his own. That same January was when black leaders set a petition to the Attorney General against Garvey. Garvey, at that point, still wasn’t on trial. The trail started in May.

It wasn’t until a year later, in May of 1924 that Du Bois would publish Lunatic or Traitor in the Crisis:

“In its endeavor to avoid any injustice toward Marcus Garvey and his followers, The Crisis has almost leaned backward. Notwithstanding his wanton squandering of hundreds of thousands of dollars we have refused to assume that he was a common thief. In spite of his monumental and persistent lying we have discussed only the larger and truer aspects of his propaganda. We have refrained from all comment on his trial and conviction for fraud. We have done this too in spite of his personal vituperation of the editor of The Crisis and persistent and unremitting repetition of falsehood after falsehood as to the editor’s beliefs and acts as to the program of the N.A.A.C.P.

In the face, however, of the unbelievable depths of debasement and humiliation to which this demagog has descended in order to keep himself out of jail, it is our duty to say openly and clearly:

Marcus Garvey is, without doubt, the most dangerous enemy of the Negro Race in America and in the world. He is either a lunatic or a traitor. He is sending all over this country tons of letters and pamphlets appealing to Congressmen, business men, philanthropists and educators to join him on a platform whose half concealed planks may be interpreted as follows:

That no person of Negro descent can ever hope to become an American citizen.

That forcible separation of the races and the banishment of Negroes to Africa is the only solution to the Negro problem.

That race war is sure to follow any attempt to realize the program of the N.A.A.C.P.

We would have refused to believe that any man of Negro descent could have fathered such propaganda if the evidence did not lie before us in black and white signed by this man. here is a letter and part of a symposium sent to one of the most prominent business men of American and turned over to us; we select but a few phrases; the italics are ours:

Do you believe the Negro to be a human being?; Do you believe the Negro [i]entitled to all the rights of humanity?; Do you believe that the Negro should be taught not to aspire to the highest political positions in the Governments of the white race, but to such positions among his own race in a Government of his own?; Would you help morally or otherwise to bring about such a possibility?; Do you believe that the Negro should be encouraged to aspire to the highest industrial and commercial positions in the countries of the white mean in competition with him and to his exclusion?; Do you believe that the Negro should be encouraged to regard and respect the rights of all other races in the same manner as other races would respect the rights of the Negro.

The pamphlets include one of the worst articles written by a Southern white man advocating the deportation of American Negroes to Liberia and several articles by Garvey and his friends. From one of Garvey’s articles we abstract one phrase:


Not even Tom Dixon or Ben Tillman or the hatefulness enemies of the Negro have every stooped to a more vicious campaign than Marcus Garvey, sane or insane, is carrying on. He is not attacking white prejudice, he is grovelling before it and applauding it; his only attack is on men of his own race who are striving for freedom; his only contempt is for Negroes; his only threats are for black blood. And this leads us to a few plain words:

1. No Negro in America ever had a fairer and more patient trail than Marcus Garvey. He convicted himself by his own admissions, his swaggering monkey-shines in the court room with monocle and long tailed coat and his insults to the judge and prosecuting attorney.

2. Marcus Garvey was long refused bail, not because of his color, but because of the repeated threats and cold blooded assaults charged against his organization. He himself openly threatened to “get” the District Attorney. His followers had repeatedly to be warned from intimidating witnesses and one was sent to jail therefor. One of his former trusted officials after being put out of the Garvey organization brought the long concealed cash account of the organization to the office and we published it. Within two weeks the man was shot in the back in New Orleans and killed. We know nothing of Garvey’s personal connection with these cases but we do know that today his former representative lies in jail in Liberia sentenced to death for the murder. The District Attorney believed that Garvey’s ‘army’ had arms and ammunition and was prepared to ‘shoot up’ colored Harlem if he was released. For these and no other reasons Garvey was held in the Tombs so long without bail and until he had made abject promises, apologizing to the judge and withdrawing his threats against the District Attorney. Since his release he has not dared to print a single word against white folk. All his vituperation has been heaped on his own race.

Everybody, including the writer, who has dared to make the slightest criticism of Garvey has been intimidated by threats and threatened with libel suits. Over fifty court cases have been brought by Garvey in ten years. After my first and favorable article on Garvey, I was not only threatened with death by men declaring themselves his followers, but received letters of such unbelievable filth that they were absolutely unprintable. When I landed in this country from my trip to Africa I learned with disgust that my friends stirred by Garvey’s threats had actually felt compelled to have secret police protection for me on the dock!

Friends have even begged me not to publish this editorial lest I be assassinated. To such depths have we dropped in free black America! I have been exposing white traitors for a quarter century. If the day has come when I cannot tell the truth about black traitors its high time that I died.

The American Negroes have endured this wretch all too long with fine restraint and every effort at co-operation and understanding. But the end has come. Every man who apologizes for or defends Marcus Garvey from this day forth writes himself down as unworthy of the countenance of decent Americans. As for Garvey himself, his open ally of the Ku Klux Klan should be locked up or sent home.”


Garvey would eventually get his sentence shortened and he would be deported in late 1927. There would be another assassination surrounding the organization, however. Laura Adorkor Kofi in March 1928.

Regardless of what you take away from Garvey — good or bad — his mark was left. Quoting C.R.L. James: “All things that Hitler was to do so well later Garvey was doing in 1920 and 1921.” Of Garvey’s movement, he said in a History of Pan-African Revolt, that “[i]t was pitiable rubbish, but the Negroes wanted a leader and they took the first that was offered them.

The fine line of presenting and controlling leaders is something that would be present in the black liberation struggle from Garvey forward. And, even with Garvey and the interpretation of leaders and historical movements today, the same historical play of legit versus “pitiable rubbish” masquerading in people’s emotions and perception is in action.

The relevancy to the integration narrative is in that historical perception. The history of the introduction of the terminology and framework will be discussed in the next series on Du Bois versus the N.A.A.C.P.; however, in the form of the “integrationist” Du Bois, the label is slapped on without regard for the fact that the term was used within the context of framing Du Bois’s contention with the N.A.A.C.P., where Du Bois was attacking their position on segregation that would today be labeled “integrationists” without, again, thinking about the what sense (or nonsense) is behind using the term.

Austin Mayle

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