The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers

Herbert Macaulay[1] to Marcus Garvey, Secretary-General, UNIA

Dear Sir,

Your letter dated 25th April 1919 and published in "The Negro World" addressed to all your Fellowmen of the Negro Race with reference to the proposed "BLACK STAR LINE" has arrested my attention.[2]
It is the duty of every Negro, in part payment of the debt he owes to his Country and Race, to do all he can towards the consummation of so noble and laudable an object.
Whatever arrangements might be undertaken on your side for the carrying out of such a gigantic scheme, it is in my humble opinion absolutely necessary that, before launching the barque of your scheme into the Sea of Maritime Enterprise, where you certainly will encounter the banks and shoals of undisguised European competition and strenuous opposition founded upon commonplace Commercial jealousy[3] intermixed occasionally with intolerable "racial prejudice," your Committee should have, at first hand, accurate information from various parts of the world to which it is proposed to run "The Black Star Line" for the guidance of the Directors[4] of so gigantic and far-reaching an undertaking affecting, as it would, the most vital interests of the Black populations of the tropical portions of this globular Universe. "To be forewarned is to be forearmed."[5]
As you have included in your programme the "African Ports," it is obvious that the West Coast of Africa, and particularly Nigeria with a Coast Line 500 miles long, will undoubtedly claim a prominent place in that programme.
Long long ago has it been proved over and again beyond the horizon of doubt or serious misconception that the Negro, given equal opportunities and similar advantages, is not in mental capabilities inferior at least to any other Race on the surface of the terrestrial globe; and only recently have the eyes of so great a Statesman as Lieut-General [Jan Christiaan] Smuts[6] of South Africa been opened to the fact of the serious danger of the unquestionable superiority of the Africans, (the Negro), as a military material which threatens the future of the whole world—A glaring fact which has compelled the gallant general to express the forlorn hope that one of the results of the recent World-War should be that the military training of the Natives of Africa will be absolutely forbidden.[7]
Only ten years ago, the Statesmen of Europe recognized the vast potentialities inherent in the future combination of Negroes and coloured people all over the World when, at a Dinner of the Royal African Society in London, Herr BERNHARD DERNBURG,[8] then the German Imperial Minister for the Colonies[,] gave animated expression to the European compact and argued that "All Whites should stand together in order not to be swept under by [the] Black Masses; and that the Whites should help the Black people, but keep them within bounds."[9]
This post-prandial ebullition was like a signal to the guests, who poured out their satisfaction in a mighty avalanche of applause, especially from former British Colonial Secretaries.[10] Fortunately or unfortunately, instead of the Black Masses, the great German Nation and their Imperial Minister for the Colonies are today kept well "within bounds" on the Eastern Bank of THE RHINE.[11] Man proposes, but an Almighty God disposeth.[12]
With all these latent qualities in the Africans all over the world, the only thing which at present we apparently lack is the Association of ideas, that remarkable phenomenon of the human mind, which must be founded upon unity of sentiment as well as upon unity of object; and therefore what we really desire now to see quickly developed is the solidarity of the Race with sound national organizations.
You on that far side of the great Atlantic will always and for ever remember that European greed ruthlessly tore your ancestors and ours away from Africa, their hearth and home, their Country and their beloved Motherland, throughout four hundred years of Slavery and suffering into the Tobacco and other plantations of British and South America.
Thank God! You have made wonderful progress notwithstanding within the last fifty years, so that today the Negro is recognized as an integral part of the American government with over 500,000 of the Votes which rule that rich and formidable Union.[13]
It is with unqualified gratification that one reads from the pen of HILTON M. RADLEY[14] of Toronto, of the existence in America of 30,000 Negro carpenters, 36,000 miners, 55,000 Railway employes, 28,000 porters, 30,000 Clergymen forsooth, 30,000 teachers, 3,000 Physicians, Two million School children, 200,000 Mistresses of independent homes, and above all, one Million Farmers and 250,000 Farms with twenty million acres of Land worth One Hundred Million Pounds Sterling. £100,000,000, exclusive of Church property to the value of Fifteen Million and two hundred thousand Pounds Sterling, owned by negroes.[15]
Thank God! The Negro can claim with pride today that "wherever the American Flag floats today, black hands have helped to plant it," and that "American religion, industry, Music, Art, and Literature are all as much the gift of the American Negro as of the American White man."
This is what the Negro has achieved in America in response to continued manifestations of the vilest forms of racial prejudice, oppression, humiliation, and supreme insult from the White Masses, some of whom are possessed of that epiphenomenal Pride which prompts an individual to vaunt and overvalue what he actually is, and consequently inclines him to disvalue that which he himself possesses, as well as the superior possession of others round and about him.
Nigeria, the Colony and Protectorate, covering approximately an area of 335,650 Square Miles[,] is about three times the size of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, and is the largest of the British West African Possessions.
From sunrise to sunset, year in and year out, at the head of a Steel mast planted on the spacious grounds of a magnificent Government House on the Island of Lagos[,] the metropolis of Nigeria, there floats the "Union Jack," a combination of the banners of St. George, St. Andrew, and St. Patrick, which forms an unblemished emblem of Justice and Fairplay, of Truth, Equity, and Unity, the unmistakable ensign of British National philanthropy.
The population over which the British Banner daily unfolds itself numbers about 17 millions of Black people comprising a good number of tribes which possess dissimilar characteristics and speak different languages, but the English language in one form or another is not unfamiliar everywhere throughout Nigeria.
Under this Flag you will have a hearty welcome from 17 million of your Countrymen of unmixed negro blood who form an important portion of the vast British Empire over which the glorious Sun never sets. The Imperial and Colonial policy which hitherto this Flag represents has been "to throw British Crown Colonies and Protectorates open to the trade of all the world without seeking to secure for British Subjects any commercial advantages over their rivals of other nationalities"; so that you, not being of other nationality but simply under a different Flag involuntarily, can reasonably reckon upon a similar welcome from the Colonial Government of Nigeria which is administered by a European Governor and Commander-in-Chief, two European Lieutenant Governors, one European administrator assisted by an Executive Council composed ex[cl]usively of Europeans, and a Legislative Council of Eight Europeans and two negroes[16] resident within the town and Island of Lagos the official Headquarters where for sometime now there has existed a singular form of Municipality which imposes Taxation without Representation.[17]
You will nevertheless expect to encounter keen commercial competition and perhaps well directed opposition from existing Shipping Companies and European Trading Associations and Combinations who, up to the present[,] have for many years enjoyed the sweet monopoly of the whole of the Ocean carrying trade of the West Coast of Africa, and the phenomenal profits and unlimited benefits of the West African Trade.
You will find it difficult, very difficult perhaps, to obtain all along the Coast any supply of Coal.
The Colonial Government have discovered and taken charge of a valuable Coal Mine at ENUGU[18] in the UDI district[19] of the Niger, 151 miles by railway from Port Harcourt,[20] the daily output of which is about 400 tons; a limited amount of which is being offered for sale by the Government as no portion of the coal field is at present open to private enterprise.
I must not yet record the eternal and financial blessings which have accrued to the negro owners of the Land in which this mineral wealth has been discovered and is being developed.[21]
As Peace has been signed and War is now practically over, it is highly probable that the wireless installation of your Steamers may be allowed to remain in tact while at Sea; and I can see no reason why any Black passenger you may repatriate or carry should now be taxed at Twentyfive Pounds Sterling per head[22] before landing on the shores of any of the West African Coast Towns, knowing as we now do what White and Black America have done for Europe and the World at the urgent call of the Prime Minister of England. [ . . . ][23]
What the Negro has done for America and in America I am absolutely po[s]itive that the Negro can accomplish for Africa in Africa.
Let the Negroes all the World over, for Five consecutive years[,] constitutionally preach the simple Gospel of Coalition in all its phases, and at the same time put to practice /with invincible determination,/ the combination of their industrial and economic /racial/ interests and energies;[24] patiently abiding God's good time for the inevitable epiphenomenal interconnection of the disincorporated masses of Black people /inhabiting/ all the zones;—there is not in my own mind the faintest shadow of a doubt, for I am emphatically convinced, that at the end of this period,—"Racial Prejudice," that European cankerworm which preys with vast delight at liberty upon the manhood of the Negro Race and /of all/ coloured people[,] shall be staggered into sporadic hysterical paroxysm and /will be compelled to/ linger in such a morbid condition until the end of time.
Your proposal to run a Steamship Service entirely under the control and management of Negroes and men of African descent to be designated, "The Black Star Line," is as gigantic an undertaking as it is opportune, far-reaching, and profitable.
I know that the imminent difficulties in your pathway are not insurmountable nor will the indispensable energy and necessary courage and perseverance in you be found wanting.
Throughout the length and breadth of Africa, from Cape Verde to Cape Guardafui,[25] and from the Cape of Good Hope to the mouths of the River Nile, indeed from Negroes everywhere, pray listen and you hear the National call,—Come over and meet your Kith and Kin;—Come over and let us create, once for all, a coalescence of indissoluble Racial Interests, "where Afric's Sunny Fountains roll down their Golden Sand."[26]
With the most heartfelt prayer for the success of "The Black Star Line," and in the fervent hope that the undertaking will be conducted upon lines based on strict moral rectitude, fair and healthy competition qualified by the most scrupulous and resolute Self-determination, I remain Your Fellowman of the Negro Race,[27]
H. Macaulay
IU, HM. ALS, carbon copy.
[1] Herbert Samuel Heelas Macaulay (1864–1946), often called "the father of Nigerian nationalism," was born in Lagos. His grandfather, Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther, was the first black Anglican bishop in West Africa. His father, the Rev. Thomas Babington Macaulay, was a leading educator and protonationalist and the first principal of the Church Missionary Society grammar school in Lagos, where Macaulay himself was educated. Macaulay worked as a clerical assistant and indexer of Crown lands in the Lagos public works department until being selected to study surveying in England on a government scholarship in 1890. Returning home in 1893, he worked as a government surveyor until resigning in 1898. He continued to practice privately as a surveyor and began writing the "Janus" opinion column in the Lagos Standard. His newspaper articles and pamphlets attacking the government led to a political career as a leader of the popular faction in the water-rate agitation that divided Lagos in the years from 1912 to 1917. In 1913 Macaulay was imprisoned for misappropriating trust funds (the Mary Franklin case), a misstep which not only temporarily removed him from organizing the antigovernment populist faction but later debarred him, as a convicted felon, from holding elective office. Nevertheless, Macaulay played a leading role in forming the Nigerian National Democratic party (NNDP) in 1923.
Until the mid-1930s the NNDP dominated Lagos politics, winning every contested seat on the Lagos Municipal Council and the Nigerian Legislative Council. Macaulay's championing of traditional rulers and land chieftaincies of Lagos—the eleko and oluwa issues—earned him enormous popularity among the Lagos masses. In 1925 he established his own newspaper, the Lagos Daily News, which ran until the mid-1930s. Another clash with the authorities led to a second, six-month jail sentence in 1928—for publishing a rumor likely to incite a riot. In his writings and his political activities, Macaulay combined an obsessive concern with local politics with a strongly developed sense of racial nationalism; even so, he also displayed an equally pronounced affection for the British imperial connection.
Though Macaulay admired Garvey's stance, the seemingly seditious intentions of the UNIA toward colonial Africa were unacceptable to him, and he is reported to have advised his followers to shun it. Macaulay, never in the forefront of regional pan-Africanism, maintained a distance from the local branch of the National Congress of British West Africa, as well as from the Lagos UNIA.
From the mid-1930s until 1944, Macaulay's political fortunes waned in the face of competition from the rival Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM). However, in the fragmentation of the NYM and the founding of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) in 1944 by Nnamdi Azikiwe, Macaulay found a new political arena. As NCNC president he devoted the remaining months of his life to campaigning on its behalf (IU, HM; confidential report by the deputy inspector general of police, Lagos, 28 March 1921, in "UNIA Activities in Nigeria," 27 February 1922, PRO, CO 583/109; A. A. Lipede, "The Political Activities of Herbert Macaulay between the Wars" [M.Phil. thesis, University of London, 1981]; Isaac B. Thomas, Life History of Herbert Macaulay, 3d ed. [Lagos, 1947]).
Herbert Macaulay
[2] On 26 April 1919 the Negro World carried a notice calling "every Negro man and woman" to a "monster convention of the race." The rally, at the Palace Casino in New York on 27 April 1919, announced plans for establishing the Black Star Line shipping company.
[3] Until the middle of the nineteenth century a small number of British merchants controlled shipping along West Africa's coast. The discovery in 1830 that the Oil Rivers delta was the outlet for the Niger River opened new possibilities for European merchants to bypass the African coastal traders who acted as middlemen for the interior. The abolition of the slave trade also increased interest in expanding trade in legitimate goods. As Britain's trade in the region expanded throughout the second half of the nineteenth century, the British Crown became interested in controlling the trade, but felt that the British public would not support spending public money on shipping ventures. The solution was to establish charter shipping and trading companies that relied on private funding, but had exclusive royal concessions and thus acted as government monopolies. Private steamship lines along the West African coast emerged in the 1850s, with the African Steamship Company and the African Steam Navigation Company dominating. They merged in the 1870s, forming the Elder Dempster line (Peter N. Davies, The Trade Makers: Elder Dempster in West Africa, 1852 – 1972 [London: Allen and Unwin, 1973], pp. 21–69).
[4] The officers elected at the first BSL board of directors meeting in June 1919 were Marcus Garvey, president; Jeremiah Certain, first vice president; Henrietta Vinton Davis, second vice president; George Tobias, treasurer; Richard Warner, secretary; Edgar Grey, assistant secretary; and Janie Jenkins, assistant treasurer. Garvey, Grey, Jenkins, Tobias, and Warner were the original incorporators of the shipping line. On 2 August 1919 Warner and Grey were expelled as directors and Fred Powell and Edward Smith-Green elected in their stead (MGP 1:442, 444 n. 4, 560; 5:59–60).
[5] This quotation echoes Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote, Part Two (1615): "Forewarned forearmed."
[6] Jan Christiaan Smuts (1870–1950) was prime minister of South Africa from 1919 to 1924 and from 1939 to 1948. He was responsible for drafting an article of the 1902 peace treaty concluding the South African War, which left the question of the African franchise to be settled by the white minority "after the introduction of self-government" (Parliamentary Papers, 1902, Cd. 1284, p. 12). He was also the architect of the discriminatory regulations of the 1911 Mines and Works Act which reserved thirty-two job categories exclusively for whites. In a 1917 speech in London, he warned against arming Africans in European conflicts and defended South Africa's policy of keeping Africans "apart as much as possible in our institutions, in land ownership, in forms of government, and in many ways" (Times [London], 23 May 1917). In 1920 he piloted the Native Affairs Act, which helped keep Africans out of parliament by creating a Native Affairs Commission and local councils in the African reserves. The same year he inaugurated a "don't hesitate to shoot" policy against striking African workers in Port Elizabeth that led to the killing of more than twenty people. Smuts was also responsible for enacting the Natives (Urban Areas) Act of 1923, which legalized compulsory segregation and instituted the registration of all labor contracts in urban areas (H. J. Simons and R. E. Simons, Class and Colour in South Africa, 1850 – 1930 [Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1969], pp. 174, 251, 315; DAHB).
[7] Smuts spoke at the Savoy Hotel in London on 22 May 1917 to a dinner of the Royal African Society, the Royal Colonial Institute, and other guests involved in South African issues. He stated that
“before the war we were not aware of the military value of the natives. It will be a serious question for us in the future, and a serious question for the statesmen of the Empire and of Europe, whether they are going to allow a state of affairs like that to be a menace not only to South African problems but to Europe itself. I hope one result of the war will be that some arrangement may be made by which the military training in that area will be absolutely forbidden. Otherwise, armies may be trained so large that, properly led by whites and properly equipped, they may be a danger to civilization itself. (Times [London], 23 May 1917; also published in "Problems in South Africa: Address by General Smuts," JAS 16, no. 64 [July 1917]: 273–282)”
Smuts participated in the British War Cabinet during World War I; when he made this speech he was South Africa's minister of defense (Official Year Book of the Union, no. 7, 1924 [Pretoria: GPO, 1925], pp. 94–96).
[8] Bernhard Dernburg (1867–1937) was a banker before he joined the German colonial ministry. His business background was reflected in the reforms carried out under his direction and in his emphasis on the economic self-sufficiency of the colonies (Woodruff D. Smith, The German Colonial Empire [Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1978], pp. 188–209).
[9] The Royal African Society published Dernburg's remarks along with a complete list of guests and the text of toasts to Dernburg at a dinner held on 5 November 1909. While the words attributed to Dernburg in this document do not appear in his speech, they do capture his sentiment. He stated, in part, that "the interests of all white nations are identical. . . . [W]e knew that unruly natives crossing and recrossing frontiers were a danger as well to the one nation with which they were at war as to the other with which they were temporarily at peace, and that a reported success by the natives over one body of white men would at once endanger the safety of all the rest." Dernberg also referred to white trusteeship of Africans, gave examples of cooperation in scientific and other endeavors among the European colonizing nations, and discussed the need to combine white "superior knowledge" and "guidance" with the "actual work, the menial labour, [which] must come from the black man." While Dernburg did not use the expression "European compact," his speech as a whole assumed the existence of a compact among European colonizers (JAS 9, no. 34 [January 1910]: 113–119, 196–205).
[10] Sir George Goldie, founder of the United Africa Company in Nigeria, presided over the evening; the guests included Alfred Lyttelton, former secretary of state for the colonies; J. E. B. Seely, undersecretary of state; and Count Metternich, the German ambassador. In their toasts and comments following the speech, Goldie, Lyttelton, and Seely lauded Dernburg's remarks and added further examples of how Europeans "of all parties sink their differences" when dealing with African issues (ibid.).
[11] With the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28 June 1919, Germany accepted sole responsibility for World War I (Article 231). In the arrangement worked out by the treaty, Germany made extensive territorial cessions. Germany's rivers were internationalized, and the Allies were to move in and occupy the Rhineland for at least fifteen years. A strip of land thirty miles wide on the right bank was to be demilitarized by the Germans, who were to pay the costs of the Allied occupation (Derek H. Aldcroft, From Versailles to Wall Street, 1919 – 1929 [Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1977]; EWH, p. 978).
[12] "Man proposes but God disposes" (Thomas à Kempis, Imitation of Christ 119 [ca. 1420]).
[13] The number of black men of voting age in 1919 has been estimated at 2,944,440 (NYB, 1918–1919, p. 449).
[14] A reference to Hilton M. Radley of Ontario, Canada, author of "Is the Negro Coming? His Position in the United States and the Question in Canada: Other Aspects of an Imperial Problem" (African World, Special West African Monthly Supplement, 3 March 1917; reprinted in LWR, 7 April 1917).
[15] In 1919 blacks owned six hundred thousand homes and one million farms representing twenty-one million acres of land, which, along with fifty thousand businesses, represented $1.1 billion. The value of church property in 1919 was cited as $85.9 million (NYB, 1918–1919, pp. 2–3).
[16] The Nigerian Council, which was designed by Frederick Lugard, included at least four African members, appointed by the governor, but it had no executive or legislative powers (J. Ayodele Langley, Pan-Africanism and Nationalism in West Africa, 1900 – 1945 [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973], p. 270).
[17] Residents of Lagos had been forced to pay a variety of municipal taxes in return for few services and no elective representation. As early as 1919, the abolition of the Nigerian Council was proposed, along with the creation of a Legislative Council that would include four African representatives: three from Lagos and one from Calabar. This representation was realized in the 1923 constitution (Langley, Pan-Africanism, pp. 270–275).
[18] Enugu took its name from the Enugu Ngwo community. Between 1915 and 1924 the government acquired substantial tracts of land in the area and began mining coal. Enugu subsequently developed into a major commercial and governmental center of Nigeria's eastern provinces (HDN).
[19] The Udi District of Nigeria lies approximately one hundred miles north of Port Harcourt. Extensive coalfields were discovered there around 1905 and the area became the primary source of coal in Nigeria. The Udi coalfields supplied all the coal for the Nigerian Railway and Marine Department, as well as large quantities to the Colony of the Gold Coast (The Nigeria Handbook, 10th ed. [Lagos: Government Printer, 1933], p. 92).
[20] The basis for development of the town of Port Harcourt was laid by the Hargrove Agreement of 1913, by which the government appropriated the fishing camps and creeks of the Okrika Ijo and Amodi villages, as well as the Obumutu farmlands owned by the Rumerebisi of Diobu, the area's traditional ruler. A colliery railway and port for the shipment of coal and agricultural exports was constructed. By 1912, with the completion of the railway line linking the eastern and western parts of Nigeria, Port Harcourt became the gateway for the eastern region's foreign trade. In 1926 it became the headquarters of Owerri Province (C. N. Anyanwu, "Port Harcourt, 1912–1955: A Study in the Rise and Development of a Nigerian Municipality" [Ph.D. diss., University of Ibadan, 1971]).
[21] With the construction of the colliery and harbor and the expansion of the new town of Port Harcourt, the indigenous inhabitants of Okrika Ijo, Biobu, Amodi, and other neighboring towns derived substantial benefits. Area chiefs were financially rewarded for the land appropriated, while construction work for the port and railway created employment opportunities for more than two thousand people. Local trade was also enhanced (Anyanwu, "Port Harcourt, 1912–1955," pp. 115–152).
[22] There is no evidence that this requirement applied throughout British West Africa. Macaulay might have been referring to the drastic immigration ordinance rushed through the Gold Coast Legislative Council at a single sitting on 18 March 1914, which was envisaged not as applying to all immigrants but as being "directed ad hoc" against members of Chief Sam's African movement. Immigrants were required to deposit twenty-five pounds sterling as security to cover the cost of their repatriation. The movement's chronicler, Orishatukeh Faduma, describes "the payment of the exorbitant, unnatural and prohibitive sum . . . as 'blood money'" demanded of a people who, after having been "sold into bondage and taken by force to an unnatural home for money, yet cannot return except for money" ("The African Movement," African Mail [Liverpool], 12 March 1915, p. 234) ("An ordinance to make provision to regulate the immigration of persons not born in any part of West Africa," Ordinance 4 of 1914; PRO, CO 96/552/9069, minute).
[23] The elided text contains a discussion of Britain's historical involvement in the slave trade and of the Crown's 1833 decision to compensate slave owners following Britain's abolition of slavery. There follows a detailed, forty-page survey of the growth of shipping and trade in West Africa during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
[24] Macaulay went on to have other contacts and business relationships with African Americans. In 1930 William Kempton Hart, a twenty-four-year-old craftsman from New York, traveled to Lagos, where he met Macaulay. The two became business associates; Macaulay had recently launched the Lagos Daily News, the first daily newspaper in West Africa, and the young New Yorker provided certain insights based on his knowledge of the American press, leading Macaulay to propose that Hart serve as his partner and consultant. Hart returned briefly to the U.S. to purchase a modern printing press for the newspaper, and made plans to settle in Lagos permanently, bringing his mother over to join him (NW, 25 October 1930).
[25] Cape Verde is an alternate name for Cape Vert in Senegal, the westernmost point in Africa; Cape Guardafui, extending into the Indian Ocean at the northeastern tip of Somalia, forms the continent's eastern extremity (WNGD).
[26] Taken from the hymn "From Greenland's Icy Mountains," composed by Richard Heber in 1819. It was adopted by the UNIA in 1918. The first stanza is, "From Greenland's icy mountains, / From India's coral strand, / Where Afric's sunny fountains / Roll down their golden sand; / From many an ancient river, / From many a palmy plain, / They call us to deliver / Their land from error's chain" (MGP 1:278).
[27] The complimentary closing echoes the opening salutation of Garvey's weekly Negro World front-page editorials which began, "Fellowmen of the Negro race, Greeting" (IU, HM).