The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers

Article by J. T. E.[1]in the Sierra Leone Weekly News

Reflections, Observations and Criticisms

The editorial of the 17th inst., ought to be carefully read and seriously pondered over by every true member of the native section of this community. The facts revealed therein, in the matter of native "incompetency and weakness," along with those indicated in the account given in the same issue, of the regrettable failure of a scheme for the amalgamation of two African Societies[2] in the heart of the British Empire, ought to send a sensation of bewilderment and dismay to the pride and aspiration of any self-respecting people, who, if they must take their God-assigned position in the forced marches of progress and advancement, [which] the leading nations of the world (including the Negro of America under the vigorous and ideal leadership of Marcus Garvey—a modern Joshua only of about 33 Summers[)] are just now engaged in[,] should, without any further delay, put away childish things, think, decide, and set dead to action.[3] After the fact has been admitted in all fairness that the Sierra Leone Negro from the beginning has been seriously handicapped in the nature of the educational "gifts" he received from the philanthropy and humaneness of the British Nation, in that he has not been able hitherto to make any outstanding achievement at his own expense, he must be rudely awakened and compelled to borrow a leaf out of the pages of illumination afforded him in the scheme of co[o]peration and go-a-headedness so very successfully launched out by his indomitable and resourceful compatriot, the Hon. Marcus Garvey, relative to the accomplishment of the project of launching, on the sea of commerce, a regular run of the Black Star line of steamers. Those who have closely followed the pages of the Negro World, would bear testimony to the fact that coolness, confidence, and co-operation have been the dominating principles that have influenced the soul of the originators of such a praise-worthy endeavour to the goal of success they have already attained. Every one who caught the flame of inspiration which flowed so profusely out of the heart on fire of that now world-famed Negro leader, has had to put in his or her, 5[,] 10, 20, 50, 100, or 200 dollars, and so become a "lively" entity in the effectuations of the great scheme. It is by this way poor people, however handicapped, can become rich and great, and it is in this direction the path is opened for the Sierra Leone Negro of the present day, to lead out into the channel of progressive action and compel his detractors to stand at bay. The reason given by Mr. J. E. Taylor for his failure to identify himself with the movement so wisely begun, to effect a co-ordination of action in the struggle for the moral and political emancipation of the black race of the world, does not appear to us to fit in with the spirit with which he so chivalrously and praiseworthily faced the recent libel suit, that has already won so much for his race, despite the fact that he is mulct in damages of £400 with cost.[4] Some thing else appears to be still at the bottom; the cloven foot of which, may be detected in the suggestion to "play fair," in the closing portion of his last correspondence on the matter. This is regrettable. But let the Sierra Leone Negro, at home or abroad, be alive to this one tremendous fact, that he is in no way in the reckoning, if he cannot, however poor and handicapped, " play fair, " co-operate, and go for doing things at his own expense.
[ . . . ][5] We share in the recognition of a hopeful ray that seems to glimmer in the effort to form an amalgamated Committee; and we wish and pray that the mantle of Marcus Garvey would fall upon some of our local men so that, backed up by a whole community, waiting, to be led into right actions, the earnest and continued advocacy of Professor Abayomi Cole may lead a politically enslaved people out of the welter of "incompetency and weakness" into noble, independent endeavours that will compel recognition of its fitness for the enjoyment of "larger liberties."
Printed in SLWN, 24 January 1920. Text abridged.
[1] During this period, articles appeared regularly in the Sierra Leone Weekly News under the initials "J. T. E."; their author has not been identified. In the 6 March 1920 issue, "J. T. E." wrote that "Africa for the African—is surely an ideal that ought to inspire the mind of every true Negro."
[2] Two African societies were founded in London in 1918: the Society of Peoples of African Origin (SPAO), organized by John Eldred Taylor, a Sierra Leonean businessman and editor of the London-based African Telegraph, and the African Progress Union (APU). Both were represented at the 1919 Paris Pan-African Congress. As a response to the race riots which occurred in London, Cardiff, and Liverpool that year, the two organizations decided to unite, creating the Society of African Peoples. A dinner to mark the amalgamation was held on 18 July 1919 at the Holborn restaurant in London. The union was short-lived, however; on 24 November 1919 Taylor, acting as president of the SPAO, informed Robert Broadhurst, secretary of the APU, of his decision to withdraw from the new body. Taylor claimed that it would be improper to ask the APU to share in the severe financial difficulties which the SPAO was facing. But, as "J. T. E." points out, other factors were apparently involved in the separation, including personal animosities over leadership. The full exchange of correspondence setting out the principal reasons for the failure of the amalgamation appeared in the Sierra Leone Weekly News, 17 January 1920, and in the Lagos Weekly Record, 14 February 1920 (African Telegraph, January–February, March, and July–August 1919; SLWN, 17 January 1920; Ian Duffield, "John Eldred Taylor and West African Opposition to Indirect Rule in Nigeria," African Affairs 70, no. 280 [1971]: 252–268; Peter Fryer, Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain [London: Pluto Press, 1984], pp. 235, 293–294).
[3] Creoles living in Sierra Leone often adopted a self-accusatory tone, which was in part inspired by the strictures pronounced by Edward Wilmot Blyden (1832–1912), who spent his last years in Freetown and who regularly vilified the Creoles living there (Christopher Fyfe, A History of Sierra Leone [London: Oxford University Press, 1962], pp. 618–620).
[4] A local official named Fitzpatrick sued Taylor for libel following the publication of an article in the African Telegraph in December 1918. Fitzpatrick was on leave in London when Taylor published an account of a May 1914 incident in which Fitzpatrick publicly flogged two Nigerian women accused of trespassing in the Bauchi Residency. Taylor queried in the African Telegraph "whether Mr. Fitzpatrick as a married man, would like the idea if Mrs. Fitzpatrick were to be flogged entirely naked in an open market" (Duffield, "John Eldred Taylor," pp. 262–264). Taylor had written to Fitzpatrick, requesting that he deny the story if it were untrue, but he received no reply. The story originally appeared in the Gold Coast Leader in 1914, prompting an official investigation of Fitzpatrick. However, there seems to have been no follow-up, because Fitzpatrick was due to be mobilized for service in World War I (ibid.).
[5] A discussion of the government's criminal code has been elided.