The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers


Bisiriyu Ade Mumuney to the Times of Nigeria[1]

Hearken! O Fellowmen A Letter from a Young Negro

Sir,

Please allow me a space in your valuable paper to make a clarion [call] to our Negro Fellowmen. In the first place I have to express my gratitude to "The Lagos Weekly Record" for publishing information touching the advertisement of the American Negro in our interest and warmly beg you to start doing so yourself until they themselves should be able to bring hither their interesting civilisation and perhaps start a journal of their own.
We Negroes have been waiting a considerable time for an opportunity to show the world that we can do something and should bear in mind that there can be no opportunity as good as the present time.
The American Negroes are trying their best to make their aims a success and as far as they have gone they are crowned with success. They are steadily carrying on the great work of Negro improvement in spite of the fact that they have to face great difficulties. We are in Africa, the original home of all Negroes, and have not to face as great difficulties as they have, but yet what are we doing? What have we achieved? It should be borne in mind that it would be a great and lamentable disappointment to the American Negroes if they are to find that we have not yet realised that it is our duty as Negroes to cooperate with them in making Africa and the Negro Race as they ought to be. Mr. A. Agbebi, our countryman now in America, as an eye-witness of what the Negroes are doing there, has given us a short account thereof (In the "L.W.R." of 7–2–20)[2] with a view to making us practise our love for Africa and our Race. I need not add that it would be a grave mistake and criminal on our part to ignore the object of that letter. In the same issue a similar article appeared with the heading "negro enterprise" with the closing sentence "What are we going to do?"
These articles deserve great attention and we believe our patriotic [elders?] will be alive to it. In the face of the latter article (Negro Enterprise) it is clear that the Editor would welcome any good suggestion regarding what we have to do. In fact, I know pretty well that there is a good deal of patriots in this part of the world and that our failure to achieve anything is due to disorganisation on our part. We want an association having Racial Improvement as its object, and I feel sure we would be able to do some tangible things in course of time.
For the past year or so there have been some misunderstandings among our Editors and politicians[,] each one thinking that he is fighting for the good of his country. As these misunderstandings are over or just about to be so, let them take up the question of Racial Improvement. Let them be hard at this question even as they were (or are) hard against themselves during the recent political misunderstandings and thus give tangible evidence of their patriotism.
In conclusion I beg to thank you for space allowed and venture to hope that Negro fellowmen will rally and hearken to,—Your young friend,
Bisiriyu Mumun[ey] (Animashaun)[3]
Printed in TN (Lagos), 1 March 1920.
    
[1] The Times of Nigeria was founded in 1910 as the Nigerian Times by James Bright Davies (1848–1920), a veteran nationalist and journalist from Sierra Leone. Davies published the newspaper intermittently and changed its name to Times of Nigeria in 1914. In 1917 the paper was sold to Adamu Idrisu Animashaun, a prominent member of the Lagos Muslim community. During the 1890s, as one of the younger and more progressive Muslim leaders, Animashaun was chosen by Edward Wilmot Blyden, then agent for native affairs, to be headmaster of the first Western-style, English-language school for Muslim children in West Africa. Animashaun was also a member of the Jamat, the antigovernment Muslim faction in Lagos allied with Herbert Macaulay in the crusade to champion the cause of the eleko (Eshugbayi), the traditional ruler of Lagos, against government attempts to depose him. After acquiring the Times of Nigeria in 1917, Animashaun remained its owner and publisher until the paper's demise in 1924.
The Times showed a strong interest in pan-African affairs. As early as 6 October 1919, it reprinted UNIA resolutions sent to British foreign secretary Arthur James Balfour under the title "The Future of the Black Races." The Times supported unity among blacks, stating that "one lesson above all others that the results of the late world upheaval have taught the African race is the necessity for organizing an African brotherhood" (1 March 1920). The newspaper also provided a forum for debate of the Garvey program. Its editors tended to echo the opinion of columnist Patriarch J. G. Campbell, applauding the Black Star Line but rejecting Garvey's political program. A pseudonymous columnist known only as "Mr. Rambler," however, defended Garveyites against Campbell and "Ajax" of the Nigerian Pioneer, writing that "the Universal Negro Improvement Association is a hope for all Negroes. . . . It is for the branches organised in British Colonies to arrange their own plan to suit their respective conditions" (see document printed in the Addendum, MGP 10, at 8 November 1920). The UNIA's local branch, in fact, eliminated the organization's political plan in favor of working for general improvement. In addition, the Times printed letters supporting the Garvey movement. For example, Frank H. Dawson wrote, "Africa will succeed as a confederated whole, and not as a separate political entity. Let us do all we can to uphold the Marcus Garvey and the National B. W. African Congress Movements" (see document printed in the Addendum, MGP 10, at ca. 28 June 1920) (Times of Nigeria, 1917–1924; Hollis R. Lynch, Edward Wilmot Blyden: Pan-Negro Patriot, 1832 – 1912 [London: Oxford University Press, 1967], pp. 235–236).
    
[2] Agbebi's letter, which appeared in the 7 February 1920 Lagos Weekly Record, is printed at 23 December 1919.
    
[3] The parenthetical "Animashaun" may indicate that Mumuney was a relative of the owner and publisher of the Times of Nigeria, Adamu Animashaun.