The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers

Article in the Sierra Leone Weekly News

Dr. Jordan[1] at Regent Road Church

A great meeting of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League was held at the Church of God, Regent Road, on Wednesday evening, March 3, where an address was delivered by Dr. L. G. Jordan, General Secretary of the Foreign Board, National Baptist Convention, U.S.A. The meeting was large and appreciative. The house was fi[l]led to overflowing[.] Dr. Jordan actually electrified the audience, as only an American can do, in his ardent address respecting Hon. Marcus Garvey and the Black Star Line. It is stated that other meetings of a similar nature will be held at the following places at 8 P.M., next week. Wilberforce Hall,[2] Monday, Bathurst Street Schoolroom, Tuesday, Trinity Church Schoolroom, Wednesday. Speakers, Dr. Jordan, and others.[3]
Printed in SLWN, 6 March 1920.
[1] Lewis Garnett Jordan (1853–1939), a former slave, was active in the early years of the Philadelphia UNIA division and was corresponding secretary of the Foreign Mission Board of the National Baptist Convention from 1896 to 1922. He visited Africa in this capacity on several occasions, and in the late 1890s he was introduced to John Chilembwe, who had come to the United States to study. Jordan became a friend and mentor to Chilembwe; it is likely that Jordan collaborated with Chilembwe on a 1901 project, the African Development Society, for the settlement of African Americans in Africa and the establishment of an African industrial mission.
In March 1919 Jordan and Bishop W. H. Heard chartered the Philadelphia-based African Steamship and Saw Mill Company for the purpose of conducting trade with Liberia as a means of developing Liberian industry. The firm's consulting engineer was John O. Garrett, who later would be the engineer on board the BSL's SS Kanawha. According to him, Jordan and Heard "went well until a few spies operating for the British and French got inside. Then they were nipped in the bud of their project through a stock deal" (NW, 14 July 1923). Like Garvey, Jordan had difficulty purchasing a ship from the U.S. Shipping Board, a problem that contributed to the failure of the company. Jordan, active with the Philadelphia UNIA, met with Garvey in September 1919. According to U.S. Bureau of Investigation agent Arthur L. Craig, Jordan tried to persuade Garvey to join in with existing African-American plans but failed in this attempt.
In October 1919 Jordan began a trip that included visits to Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. On 25 April 1920, shortly after his return to the U.S., he spoke at the New York Liberty Hall, reporting that in Liberia he had dined with President C. D. B. King, and that when he told King, "Mr. Garvey and his people say they are going to put their headquarters here after August," King had replied, "Well let them come" (MGP 2:294). At the Philadelphia Baptist Preachers' Convention of November 1921, Jordan acknowledged during a debate on Garveyism that he was a member of the UNIA and added that he would support any movement for the uplift of Africans (DJ-FBI, file 61; New York Age, 30 August 1919; Crisis 20, no. 5 [September 1920]; NW, 12 November 1921; JNH 24, no. 2 [April 1939]: 243–244; George Shepperson and Thomas Price, Independent African: John Chilembwe and the Origins, Setting and Significance of the Nyasaland Native Rising of 1915 [Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1958], pp. 112–117; MGP 2:13 n. 2).
[2] After the death of the English philanthropist and abolitionist William Wilberforce (1759–1833), money was raised in Britain to build a memorial hall in Freetown. The foundation stone was laid in 1864 but the money ran out, and it remained a roofless shell until 1887, when, after more funds had been raised locally, it was finally completed. Wilberforce Memorial Hall remained the principal public meeting place of Freetown until it burned down in 1959 (Christopher Fyfe, A History of Sierra Leone [London: Oxford University Press, 1962], pp. 329, 465–466; CBD).
[3] The other speakers included Rev. J. D. Clarke and Miss E. V. Delaney, who would return with Rev. Jordan to the U.S. (Colonial and Provincial Reporter, 13 March 1920).