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Purpose of This Mini-Edition

The documents included in this model edition begin with Garvey's letter to the British museum in 1913 in which Garvey asks for a pass to research Edward Wilmot Blyden, a pan-Negro patriot. They end with reports on the UNIA convention in Madison Square Garden in August 1920, a convention which framed the Declaration of Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World and elected a government in exile for Africa. In so doing, they span the development and fulfillment of Garvey's ambition to engage in the practice of statecraft and create the symbols of black nationhood and sovereignty.

The documents have been selected from the first volume in the African series of the Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers. Garveyism spread widely and sank deep roots in Africa without developing the organized cohesion that the movement enjoyed in North America. African Garveyism germinated among hundreds of cultures, in more than three dozen distinct territories ruled by three sovereign governments and five different European colonial powers. What it may have lacked in cohesion, it more than made up for in richness and diversity, as African Garveyism took on textures and dimensions never experienced in other parts of the world.

To a degree even greater than is the case for North American Garveyism, there is no central repository of documents, no African Garveyism archive or collection that existed before the project undertook to assemble documents more than fifteen years ago. From a worldwide search of more than one hundred archival repositories and manuscript collections, the project has selected nearly a thousand documents for publication in the African Series volumes. Most texts are in English and French, but there are also many documents in German, Italian, and Portuguese, as well as scattered documents in such African languages as Xhosa and Sotho. All documents will be published in English translation, and it is hoped that the original texts will later be made available in microform.

After the decision was made to separate the edition into regional series, an attempt was made to have in-house staff members write African Series annotations, as was done for the Main Series. As in the Main Series, African Series annotations elucidate place names, historical figures, and obscure textual references. This effort soon broke down, however, because of the paucity of reference materials on early twentieth-century Africa on which non-specialists can draw. As an exceptionally fragmented international and multicultural phenomenon, African Garveyism proved to be a subject demanding the expertise of a diverse team of regional scholars. Clearly the project had to turn to outside help.

In 1984 the Garvey Papers studied how five other major editing projects had used external contributors. It then formulated a plan to assemble an international team of Africanists to write annotations as "contributing editors" to the African Series. The documents were divided into mostly geographical groups and sent out to an initial group of scholars whom the project, with the advice of its African Series editorial board, recruited to undertake the necessary annotation work.

Contributing scholars to the African Series were asked to write valuative essays to serve as background material for their annotations. These essays were of such outstanding quality that the decision was made to include them as part of the critical scholarly apparatus of the series.

For Garvey scholars, Africa remains the most enigmatic area of research. There is ample scholarly work documenting the impact of Garvey on the Caribbean and the U.S. Yet there is much confusion over the extent to which Garvey and the UNIA penetrated Africa, and over how significant the Garvey movement was in Africa. These documents lie at the heart of the most important issue facing Garvey scholars today.
 


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