The Garveyites: Part Three


IN concluding Part Two last week, we indicated that by 1919 the number of registered Garveyites had grown to beyond 750 000 and that this alarmed many white governments including Britain which interpreted the Garveyites motto of ‘Africa for Africans’ as a threat to their colonial interests.
Garvey’s pan-African message continued to spread and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) ended up with as many as 500 divisions operating in 22 countries.
The USA’s federal authorities began planting spies among the Garveyites.
They sent black agents to give them information and also to disrupt Garvey’s organisation in any way they could.
The Justice Department was commissioned to take care of what the whites called ‘the black problem’.
In this department was a General Intelligence Division that was headed by a white federal agent called J. Edgar Hoover.
This is the organisation which predated the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and was collectively known as the Bureau of Investigation (BI) in those days.
The likes of J. Edgar Hoover called Marcus Garvey a ‘notorious Negro agitator’.
Hoover would eventually plot and undertake measures that would eventually lead to the demise of the Garvey movement.
In this same period, Garvey made a statement saying: “We are organising to drive away every pale face (whiteman) out of Africa.
“Africa is the land of my fathers.
“We have pledged ourselves even to the last drop of our sacred blood, that Africa must be free.”
Such statements increased the suspicion of the whites and from thenceforth, the businesses and projects of the Garveyites would be under subtle attack by the white authorities.
The black secret agents would infiltrate the UNIA and some of them would take up crucial positions in management.
The secret agents sought to cause discord in this organisation which had since been flourishing.
At one point a man called George Taylor attempted to shoot Garvey to death, an act possibly influenced by USA government spies.
At the peak of Garvey’s movement in 1919, he purchased a ship on behalf of the UNIA and called it the Black Star Line.
Garvey wanted it to be used to trade and buy other ships.
Ideally these ships were to be used to transport the African Americans back to Africa.
Unfortunately, the man he hired to captain this ship was a government informant.
The captain bought the ships that followed at a much overpriced value.
Despite this, Garvey bought two more ships.
He sold UNIA stock at $5 to the Garveyites who spent their savings on these projects.
Unfortunately it was in this ambitious project that Hoover and his agents found reason to persecute Garvey.
Garvey and the Garveyites were disciplined people who committed no crimes worthy of prosecution and imprisonment.
The agents that were planted in the UNIA structures started gathering evidence of financial impropriety.
The Garvey movement reached its very peak in August of 1920 at an event called, ‘The International Convention of Black People around the World’.
At this event millions of blacks from all around the world were in attendance.
Garvey spoke to them at the Madison Square Garden.
He spoke of making Africa one vast Empire comprising of both the blacks in the Motherland and those in the Diaspora.
The enlightened blacks were affectionately referred to by the Garveyites as ‘the new Negro’.
The Garveyites underestimated the threat posed by the Bureau of Intelligence (BI).
Marcus and his followers were the first organised black movement that the white authorities of the USA had to deal with after the abolishment of slavery.
Hoover was pioneering the destruction of black movements in the USA.
The measures he took to take down the Garvey movement would later be used and enhanced to take down Malcom X, Martin Luther King and the Black Panther Movement.
Edgar Hoover was the head of the Intelligence Division during the period of the four black movements.
There were numerous agents in the UNIA, but the two most remembered were called by the code names ‘800’ and ‘P 138’.
These agents were both black and were sent to find evidence that could lead to Garvey’s imprisonment. 800 did a lot of damage in the UNIA’s Ship project.
P 138 became Marcus Garvey’s close associate and this made Garvey extremely vulnerable.
In total, there were eight federal agencies that focused their attention on the UNIA and the Black Star Line.
To sabotage the shipping business, the captains were bought to make unhelpful decisions which brought the project down.
One captain steered the ship off route to see his wife.
Another tried to intentionally sink his ship.
On the day when the Black Star Line was to make its opening voyage, the ship did not reach the places where people were stationed to see it sail.
Frustrated, Marcus personally assaulted one captain for his failure to perform assigned duties well. Many unfairly blame Marcus for the fate of the shipping liner.
Garvey also suffered the loss of support of some outstanding blacks such as W. E Du Bois and A. Phillip Randolph.
As these black leaders vilified each other publicly, the white authorities used this as an excuse to go after Marcus.
They would say; “Look even Marcus’s own people (blacks) don’t like him, so there certainly must be something wrong with him.”
Eventually the evidence they found that could warrant Garvey’s persecution was that of federal mail fraud.
When Garvey advertised in the Negro World Newspaper for UNIA members to buy stock for a new ship, he included a picture of the SS Phyllis Wheatley which was not his ship.
Garvey was sued for this.
Another charge was that of using the mail to defraud a UNIA member called Benny Dancy of US$25.
Marcus was eventually found guilty and was sentenced to five years in prison.
He was locked up in February 1925 after two years of appeal.
In November of 1927 he was released and deported back to Jamaica after spending two years and nine months in jail.
The deportation of Marcus Garvey was the fulfillment of Edgar J Hoover’s dream.
Marcus Garvey spoke before his imprisonment saying; “It has always been the policy of my life to live with honour or die for the principle.
“What I have succeeded is made manifest in the sweeping consciousness that has taken hold of the (black) race in Africa, America, the West Indies, Central and South America and Asia.”
Marcus spoke of his suffering saying, “The history of the movement is now being written.
Garvey was well aware of what he had sown throughout his life and what was to be reaped by the succeeding generations of blacks.
He prophetically said; “This is only the first Marcus Garvey, many more will come after me.”
In the next series we shall be looking at the black movements of the USA that followed after Garvey.


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