The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers

Marcus Garvey to Sir Frederic George Kenyon[1]

Marcus Garvey reading the historic Declaration of Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World, Liberty Hall, New York City, August 1920

Dear Sir:

Re my letter of the 6th inst[2] making application for admission to your reading room I further beg to inform you that the special purposes for which I would like to use the said room are Reading the works of the late Dr. Edward Blyden LL.D[3] and other works that are not obtainable in any of the other libraries of London, as also to scan certain copies of old journals that are /not/ obtainable elsewhere.[”]
Knowing your willingness to assist those in need of that knowledge that is under your keeping I now feel assured that you will consider my purpose befitting the condition under which your department is seen.[4] Yours faithfully
Marcus Garvey
[Endorsement:] Let me see previous papers R/R Ad. 1 month call 10/10/13 11.10.13 F. G. Kenyon
BM. ALS, recipient’s copy. Handwritten endorsements.
[1] Sir Frederic George Kenyon (1863–1952) became director of the British Museum in 1909 and published a variety of works on its manuscript collection (WWW).
[2] On 6 October 1913, Garvey wrote to Kenyon requesting “to be admitted as a permanent reader in the Reading Room of the Museum for the purpose of research and reference.” He described himself as “a journalist and student.” Garvey’s letter was accompanied by a testimonial from Dusé Mohamed, editor of the African Times and Orient Review.
[3] Edward Wilmot Blyden (1832–1912), West Indian author, minister, teacher, and strong proponent of pan-African repatriation, had a long political career in Liberia. Born in Saint Thomas, Virgin Islands, at eighteen he visited the U.S. in search of a theological education. After being refused admission to Rutgers University, he moved to Liberia. By 1857 he was editor of the Liberia Herald and had published the first of many articles on Africa and pan-Africanism. In 1858 Blyden was ordained a Presbyterian minister and became principal of Alexander High School. In the early 1860s he visited Britain and the U.S. as Liberian commissioner and emigration propagandist. He served as professor of classics at Liberia College from 1862 to 1871; as Liberian secretary of state from 1864 to 1866; and as Liberian ambassador to Great Britain from 1877 to 1878. In 1880 he became president of Liberia College, as well as minister of the interior. After running unsuccessfully for the Liberian presidency in 1885, he made Sierra Leone the base of his activities. His last important public service was as Liberian minister plenipotentiary to London and Paris in 1905.
Christianity, Islam and the Negro Race, Blyden’s greatest work, was published in 1887. His thought—especially his ideas concerning the “African personality” and the desirability of return to Africa—had a great impact in his own time and on pan-Africanist thinkers of the twentieth century, Garvey among them. In fact, Garvey’s pamphlet “A Talk with Afro-West Indians,” his first publication after launching the UNIA in 1914, contained a four-page extended quotation from Christianity, Islam and the Negro Race (Hollis R. Lynch, Edward Wilmot Blyden: Pan-Negro Patriot, 1832– 1912 [London: Oxford University Press, 1967]).
Edward Wilmot Blyden
[4] Garvey was granted a reading ticket (no. 11199) for one month, dated 11 October 1913.