The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers


Christopher John Phillips,[1] Foreign Office, to Edward John Harding,[2] Colonial Office

My dear Harding,

I am sending you her[e]with a copy of a communication we have received from our representative[3] in New York as to a certain native of Accra called "S. G. KPAKPA-QUARTEY."[4] Are you in a position to secure and let us have information suggested in the last paragraph of the letter? Sincerely yours,
C. J. Phillips
PRO, CO 96/619/282. TLS, recipient's copy.
    
[1] Christopher John Phillips (b. 1896) joined the British Foreign Office after World War I; he later held consular offices in Germany until 1939 (Statement of Services [London: PRO, 1940], p. 384).
    
[2] Edward John Harding (b. 1880) held a variety of government positions before joining the British Colonial Office as acting principal clerk in 1919. He was later permanent secretary of state for dominions affairs (DOCOL, 1939).
    
[3] A reference to David Boyle, assistant director of the British Mission in New York.
    
[4] Samuel G. Kpakpa-Quartey (Agbon Kwatei Quartey or Agbon Kwatei) (1894?–1940), prominent Gã businessman and politician in Accra, Gold Coast, between the world wars, received his primary education at Prampram and was first employed as a clerk at the Tarkwa and Abontiakon mines. He left the mines, probably in the early 1910s, and returned to Accra, where he opened the first restaurant at Bukom and later opened several liquor stores. In 1920 he built Accra's first three-story hotel, the Trocadero. In December 1919 he visited New York to establish business relations with the firm of Shirley and Forman. After his sojourn in the U.S., he visited Great Britain, where he was active in the Gold Coast National Aid Society, on whose behalf he took up the plight of stranded West African seamen. His affectation for European dress earned him the nickname "Owura Kpakpa Bronufi—Kpakpa the European."
Kpakpa-Quartey's business led him into politics. On his return to Accra he quickly immersed himself in the politics of the local Gã community, leading and financing the populist faction that became the Mambii party in 1927, and he contested the Legislative Council elections later that year. Led by Kpakpa-Quartey and the radical lawyer Kojo Thompson, the Mambii party challenged the established Rate Payers Association—affiliated with the Gold Coast section of the NCBWA—in this and two subsequent elections in 1931 and 1935. Violence and acrimony marred the campaign, and the Mambii party's eventual victory in 1935 was greatly assisted by two fiery journalist-politicians from neighboring colonies—Nigeria's Nnamdi Azikiwe and Sierra Leone's I. T. A. Wallace-Johnson.
During his 1919 visit to New York, Kpakpa-Quartey encountered the Garvey movement and aroused the interest of the British authorities. On 6 December he made a long speech praising Garvey and the establishment of the BSL at a meeting at Liberty Hall, but a subsequent British intelligence report claimed that he was one of several Africans who strongly objected to Garvey's being elected provisional president of Africa.
With his close friend and fellow member of the Methodist church, James Sannie, Kpakpa-Quartey apparently built up a following for Garvey in Accra. While they may have been instrumental in forming a local branch of the UNIA around 1922, nothing is known about its activities. Though the Garvey movement collapsed in the Gold Coast in the 1930s, Kpakpa-Quartey remained active in local politics until his death in 1940 (C. C. Williams, Jr., to Sir Basil H. Thomson, 11 October 1920, DNA, RG 84, file 800/820; interview by A. Adu Boahen with S. K. Kpakpa-Quartey, eldest son of S. G. Kpakpa-Quartey, John Nii Sannie, eldest son of James Sannie, and Nii Aquashon, in Accra, December 1985; West Africa Mail and Trade Gazette [Freetown], 26 November 1921).