The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers

Editorial in the Lagos Weekly Record

Negro Enterprise

We have just seen the finish of a great and fearful war; but greater perhaps than even the war are the mighty forces which have been let loose in the world. There is hardly any people whose outlook on life is not altered by the war. Their horizon has become more extended; all classes of men are seeking to live a better and larger life, and are making efforts to this end. The American Negro has caught the spirit of the age and is successfully organising himself into a formidable force with which the world will have to reckon sooner or later.
Already two big organisations have sprung up into being; the United Negro Improvement Association and the African Communities League and with these two organisations is incorporated the "Black Star Line," the Negro Shipping Company.
The movement has a heavy and extensive programme: the protection of the Negro from further industrial exploitation by the stronger races of the world; to raise the status of the black man throughout the world; to remove the disabilities generally under which the Negro works. It is a very full program[m]e, but judging from what has already been accomplished by the amazing energy and enthusiasms of Mr. Marcus Garvey who is the leading spirit of the movement, there is little doubt as to the ultimate success of the movement and the realisations of all its aims.
The first ship of the Black Star line, the Frederick Donglass [Douglass] commanded by Capt. [Joshua] Cockburn,[1] once in the service of the Nigerian Government, and an all black crew has made a successful voyage from New York to the West Indies and is returning to New York with cargo and passengers. A second ship of the line is soon to be launched which will sail for West Africa.
The American Negro is out to secure for the black race the best possible conditions in the after-the-war world[;] what is the African Negro prepared to do? The way has been boldly and clearly marked out for us by our brothers across the sea; all we have to do is to fall in line; follow the example they have given us of oneness of purpose and aim. If we choose, we can do a great deal better than the American Negroes; we are in our country, and we can count on many more European friends and sympathisers than American Negroes can. The present time is the most opportune and favourable for the initiation of any great movement for the betterment of our race.
What are we going to do?
Printed in LWR, 7 February 1920.
[1] Joshua Cockburn (1877–1942), captain of the BSL's SS Yarmouth, was born in the Bahamas. He had served as a seaman and officer in the Royal Navy, studied navigation, and accrued more than two decades of nautical experience when he approached Garvey in 1919 about serving in the BSL. Cockburn received a sixteen-hundred-dollar commission as a broker in the negotiations for the SS Yarmouth and traveled with Garvey on a promotional tour for the sale of stock in the line. On 1 November 1919 he received an official appointment as commander of the newly acquired ship, taking it on its maiden BSL voyage later that month. In the summer of 1920 Garvey dismissed Cockburn, charging him with reckless handling of the ship and citing numerous complaints against its operation. Cockburn remained in Harlem as a shipping agent and became a highly successful real estate broker in the decade preceding the Depression (L&L; MGP 1:515 n. 3).
Captain Joshua Cockburn