The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers

Rev. Prince U. Kaba Rega[1]to Robert R. Moton

Dear Sir:

Seeing your appeal in the "New Orleans Item" of the 23rd to the President for $5,000,000 for the development of Liberia,[2] I wish to state that I have been making the same appeal to the people of my race for the last three years. I further wish to say that if the president should grant the privilege that you gentlemen ask, I have plans by which means that I will be able to raise a great deal of money from my race for shipping felicities providing that the Government of the United States will grant me the privilege of demonstrating the possibilities and opportunities of the reso[u]rces of Liberia to my people. I believe with in a short time, I can raise money enough from my people for the purchasing of a steam ship for the usage of this Government and to the credit of my race. Having lived in Liberia for some time and studied the condition very carefully I believe that this is God's opportunity to my race[.]
I am willing to give my services to the United States through your cooperation providing said privileges are given us. So now Dear Sir hoping that the blessing of God will be with you and your committee that you may obtain your wishes for the benefit of Liberia and the glory of my race.
Regarding myself, I am a "British Subject" born in Unyoro B.E. Africa and have traveled extensively this being my second tour around the globe, speaking nine different European languages fluently. So hoping Dear Sir that if my services and experience will be of any use to you and your committee in your great movement for the redemption of Liberia and to the glory of my race, I will gladly [portion of text missing]
Enclose[d] please find clipping[3] of the "Helena World" which will prove my statement to you.
Hoping after your careful consideration of my letter that I may have an early reply, I remain, Yours respectful,
Rev. Prince U Kaba Rega
ATT. TL, carbon copy.
[1] Rev. Prince U. Kaba Rega claimed to have been born at "Unyoro," British East Africa, on 18 July 1876, as the youngest son of "King Aziam Kaba Rega, who rules over a kingdom of about 35,000 people under protection of the British Empire" (NW, 31 August 1929). However, information about him is sketchy and contradictory, making it difficult to verify his real identity. Kaba Rega's activities brought him to the attention of the watchful Bureau of Investigation, and most available information comes from reports filed by bureau agents. In an August 1920 interview with an agent in New Orleans, Kaba Rega claimed that he had lived with his father in East Africa until he was ten years old, at which time he was brought to London by an English trader named "Carl Boumn." He also claimed that he attended public school in England and was a graduate of one of the colleges at Oxford, and that, after traveling back and forth to Bunyoro, he moved to Hamburg, Germany, where he lived for several years. He said that he left Germany in January 1914, visiting China, Japan, and South America before arriving in Montreal, Canada, in the latter part of the year. (It should be noted that in 1914 a "Prince Frederick Bouman" showed up in New York, claiming to have been "born in Unyora, Albert Lake, Manza, British Africa," and to have traveled "in the United States, England, Japan, Calcutta, Java and other countries" [New York Age, 19 February 1914]. Bouman also stated that "Liberia is the only place that is open to immigration in Africa"; at the same time, he reportedly claimed to have requested that the police and the British consul in New York investigate Chief Alfred Sam's controversial scheme for settlement in the Gold Coast [ibid.].)
In his interview Kaba Rega claimed that he had lived in Montreal for two years, and that he had visited Chicago in late 1915 by way of the Canadian Pacific Railroad, on which he was employed for some time as a cook. He preached in Chicago for several weeks, then traveled south in December 1916 to Gulfport, Miss., where he received a British passport through the British vice consul. In May 1917 Kaba Rega moved on to Los Angeles, where he became affiliated with the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church. An official letterhead of Kaba Rega's "Ethiopian Enterland Interdenominational Missionary Society," apparently based in El Centro, Calif., confirms that he was in Los Angeles in 1918 and that his wife, Mrs. Lena Kaba Rega, was secretary-treasurer of the organization. He was at this time still pursuing with Moton the idea of "the developing of Liberia" (Kaba Rega to Robert R. Moton, 11 November 1918, ATT, RRM). Kaba Rega preached in several California towns before leaving in May 1919 for Texas, where he lectured at Forth Worth, Houston, and Beaumont. After living in Beaumont for nine weeks, he relocated in March 1920 to New Orleans, where he organized the African Interland Missionary Society.
The agent found in Kaba Rega's possession a letter addressed to "A. A. White" of Houston from the African Steamship and Saw Mill Company of Philadelphia, with a penciled notation on the back: "My dear Husband only a few lines to let you hear from me i am feeling better so this is from your wife Alice White answer soon." Kaba Rega denied being interested in the company, although a company circular letter was found in his possession, as well as a letter from Samuel Kpakpa-Quartey of New York.
Before the agent in New Orleans filed his report, a confidential bureau informant in the same city had reported that "a certain negro prince EMPHRENZA CABEREKA from East Africa, is reported to be in New Orleans, soliciting $200,000 for the purpose of purchasing a missionary ship for use between the United States and Africa." The informant confirmed that, during a speech at the Broadway Mission Baptist Church in New Orleans, Kaba Rega had "bitterly attacked the negroes for permitting themselves to be lynched, burned, Jim Crowed, etc., and stated that the only way for them to stop it, was to go back to the land of their forefathers." The informant was of the view, however, that Kaba Rega "doesn't seem to be a radical agitator, and is probably harmless" (report by confidential informant R-143, cited in report by H. D. Gulley, Bureau of Investigation, New Orleans, 4 August 1920, DJ-FBI, file 388465).
This was not the view held by a black army chaplain in Los Angeles, a Major Prioleau, who, according to a third bureau agent, had arranged for Kaba Rega to lecture black troops stationed in Nogales, Ariz., in March 1919. The chaplain declared that Kaba Rega "was a very dangerous man and an impostor and should be deported, as his business is nothing more nor less than a negro agitator attempting to stir up trouble among the negroes of this country and the south in particular, exhorting them to radical actions on account of the lynchings" (report by A. P. Harris, Bureau of Investigation, New Orleans, 23 August 1920, DJ-FBI, file 388465).
A bureau agent in Houston reported that in 1919 Kaba Rega had lectured "once or twice at the City Auditorium on religious subjects, but was not very well liked by the colored people in this section of the country" (report by E. R. Newell, Bureau of Investigation, Houston, Tex., 7 June 1920, DJ-FBI, file 388465). In August 1920 a bureau special agent who had infiltrated the Garvey movement in Harlem reported that a "Rev. Prince Baba (East Africa)" had joined Samuel Kpakpa-Quartey and three other Africans in a secret meeting to organize African opposition to Garvey. According to the agent's report, "These Africans were greatly enraged at the fact that Garvey had elected himself President of Africa. . . . They said it was a high-handed piece of folly to make himself . . . higher than all the African Chiefs." The agent also reported that the men planned to "protest openly from the convention floor, besides starting a counter propaganda in Africa" (report by Special Agent P-138, printed at 25 August 1920).
In the 1920s Kaba Rega continued with his evangelical work in various parts of the U.S. In January 1921 it was reported from Washington, D.C., that "Rev. V. Kaba Rega, said to be an African prince," was delivering a series of addresses at various churches (General Intelligence Report no. 10 by J. O. Wynn, Jr., special agent, Washington, D.C., 10 January 1921, DJ-FBI, file 202600–9–10). He was also reported to be in attendance at a meeting of the National Negro Press Association in March 1921 (NW, 2 April 1921). The latest report to be found states that in 1929 he was soliciting funds in the south for "Coosan Island Industrial and Orphan Home which he founded several years ago in South Carolina" ("African Prince, Oxford Graduate, Tells Experiences," NW, 31 August 1929).
Kaba Rega would appear to have been one of several preachers in the U.S. claiming to be of royal African heritage. Garvey repeatedly denounced them, declaring in 1935 that "these Negro lecturers are no other than the usual itinerant fakers who make a living telling lies and talking nonsense" (BM 1, no. 8 [July 1935]: 20). In Lesson 20 of his School of African Philosophy, Garvey warned UNIA organizers to "keep a close eye on African princes, African chiefs, princesses and all such fake personalities from coming into the meetings of the U.N.I.A." (L&L, p. 338).
Kaba Rega's name may have been derived from that of Kabarega (1850?–1923), the last independent ruler of Uganda's Bunyoro kingdom and a leader in the resistance movement against British occupation in the 1890s. Kabarega was deported by British officials in 1899. During his exile he converted to Christianity; he was allowed to return to Uganda as a private citizen in 1923, but died soon after his arrival (Moton to Kaba Rega, 1 April 1920, ATT, RRM; report by H. D. Gulley, Bureau of Investigation, New Orleans, 4 August 1920, DJ-FBI, file 388465; P. W. Moss, head clerk, Registrar's Office, University of Oxford, to Robert A. Hill, 12 March 1984; NW, 2 April 1921; MGP 1:xlvii n. 40; DAHB).
Prince U. Kaba Rega
[2] In an April 1918 meeting with President Wilson, Moton and a small committee requested that the U.S. loan $5 million to Liberia, arguing that, with financial assistance, Liberia could furnish large quantities of foodstuffs, particularly rice, to the Allies. Such a loan, Moton had suggested earlier, would have a domestic symbolic value as well, when seen against the backdrop of "the unrest and discontent among the colored people at this time" (Moton to Wilson, 7 July 1917, ATT, RRM). In his follow-up letter asking for an interview with Wilson, Moton further developed this argument. "There are thousands of colored people throughout this country who are deeply interested in the Negro Republic of Liberia," he wrote. "There are certain things about the situation that should be said bearing not only upon our own efforts in this country to hold the colored people to a straight line of patriotic cooperation, but as to how Liberia may be encouraged, and thereby, by reaction, influence Negro Public opinion in the right direction" (Moton to Wilson, 21 February 1918, ATT, RRM).
The meeting with the president to discuss the Liberian question took place in Washington, D.C., on 22 April 1918. The committee consisted of Moton, Emmett J. Scott, and William H. Lewis, who was at the time, according to Moton, "making a series of wonderfully fine addresses under patriotic auspices" (ibid.). When it was announced in September 1918 that a five-million-dollar loan would be granted to Liberia, Moton thanked President Wilson, noting that "this act will serve not only to help a struggling people, but it will tremendously strengthen the morale of the American Negroes" (Moton to Wilson, 11 September 1918, ATT, RRM).
[3] This clipping has not been found.