The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers

Article by Anselmo R. Jackson in the Emancipator

An Analysis of the Black Star Line

[ . . . ][1] As Garvey's organization became more and more prominent, Negroes stopped regarding him as an object of curiosity and began admiring, complimenting and idolizing him. He made powerful and passionate appeals [to] the race pride and race consciousness of Negroes and received responses in the nature of assurances of allegiance and assistance from Africa, the West Indies, South America and almost every important city in the United States.
It was quite natural that not only men and women with a creditable record of achievement and unimpeachable integrity would be attracted to Garvey's movement, but that professional politicians and all kinds of unprincipled opportunists in quest of easy berths and financially advantageous positions would also join his organization. The latter aroused Garvey's anger and earned his vigorous and repressive antagonism. This element unintentionally gave him a pretext for becoming despotic since his arbitrary attitude could have easily been excused as being absolutely essential to protect the association from members with selfish and sinister purposes. So far as Negroes are concerned Garvey's projects are as ambitious as his propaganda is all-embracing. His aims may be briefly summarized as follows:
1. To bring about a better understanding and a more sincere spirit of effective co-operation among the peoples of African origin by impressing their community of interests and establishing closer contact among them.
2. To make Negroes more self-respecting, more self-reliant and economically independent.
3. To voice the yearnings of the Africans for liberty and to arrive with inexorable determination until the great dream of "Africa for the Africans"[2] shall have been made a living reality.
Prior to the Black Star Line, Garvey started the publication of the Negro World, the official organ of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League. This periodical is a weekly and has been published more than a year. During that period it has been edited by Mr. W. A. Domingo[3] from its first issue until eleven months thereafter when he was succeeded by the Rev. W. H. Ferris,[4] its present editor. Garvey next announced his intention of establishing a chain of restaurants, dry goods and grocery stores to be owned by his organization and to be operated by its members on the membership-co-operative mutual profit-sharing basis. Through the issuance of bonds, some of which he has since redeemed, he collected a considerable sum of money but later learned that he could not execute his plans as formulated on a loose cooperative system and was forced to have both of his organizations legally incorporated. So far, only one restaurant, located at 56 West 135th Street, has been started under a business cooperation [corporation?]. The project of the Black Star Line has seemingly delayed the execution of his plans for the operation of cooperat[iv]e stores. Despite this fact he has organized a $1,000,000 corporation known as the Negro Factories Corp., Inc.
Garvey who has at times unquestionably been "The man of the hour" among Negroes, like all human beings, has many peculiarities. Probably one may gain a fair idea of the man and his methods by taking into account the fact that his head has the shape of the German type and that his temperament and his racial philosophy are not, [words mutilated] unlike the tempera[ment] [or the?] racial philosophy of Germans. He has neither patience with, nor pity for, failures. He is always feverishly interested in results and is totally disinterested in methods. So over-anxious is he over ultimate results, that he frequently interferes prematurely and unnecessarily assists in the performance of duties allot[t]ed to others. The timeliness of his obtrusion, he justifies by alluding to the alleged disappointing failure of subordinate officials whom he has not directly supervised.
About the beginning of the Fall of 1918, Captain Joshua Cockburn arrived in the city. He was then employed by the Elder Dempster S.S. Co., a Liverpool-West Africa Line, and was on a three months vacation. Captain Cockburn took advantage of the leave granted him and stopped in New York on his way to Nassau, Bahamas, to visit his parents whom he had not seen in 23 years. He then announced that he had brought a message of hope from Africa, referred to that continent as the economic salvation of Negroes everywhere and was reported as having said that he had been commissioned by some wealthy Africans to purchase schooners for trading purposes. It was his appointment under the British crown as master of the S.S. Trojan and S.S. Baman in Nigeria, West Africa and his numerous sailings to the different ports of Africa that probably gave him the opportunity to meet and form the friendship of Africans of good financial standings. He and Mrs Cockburn left for overseas quite hurriedly and did not return to New York until late in the Spring of last year.
Despite his reported authorization to purchase ships for trading purposes, which was published in a Negro Magazine on November 1[5]th, 1918, and Garvey's plan to launch the Black Star Line, announced nearly six months later, it has been declared that it was not before his return to New York from visiting his parents that Captain Cockburn and Garvey were introduced.
The sign of interrogation and the mark of exclamation were alternately visible on the face of nearly every one of Garvey's followers when their leader announced the Black Star Line project. They cheered outwardly, perhaps from sheer force of habit, but during the intervals of speechmaking, and after the meeting was over, they openly indulged in debates as they conceived the magnitude of the task which was proposed. Those Garveyites whose eyes were befogged or who were not sufficiently farsighted to catch a faint glimpse of Garvey's vision, nevertheless, attended the meetings with accustomed regularity, cheered just as lustily, applauded thunderously and otherwise gave unmistakable signs of consistent and continued allegi[a]nce.
Printed in the Emancipator (New York), 3 April 1920. The article was the second of a five-part series that ran in the issues of 27 March, 3 April, 10 April, 17 April, and 24 April 1920 (MGP 2:271–279).
[1] The elided text discusses Garvey's arrival in the U.S. and the early history of the UNIA.
[2] The slogan "Africa for the Africans" was often attributed to Garvey (who was one of its most important propagandists), but it was already in use in the Niger Delta and Sierra Leone between 1863 and 1884 (George Shepperson, "Notes on Negro American Influences on the Emergence of African Nationalism," JAH 1, no. 2 [1960]; E. A. Ayandele, The Missionary Impact on Modern Nigeria, 1842 – 1914 [New York: Humanities Press, 1966], pp. 178, 190, 206, 209, 227–228).
[3] Wilfred Adolphus Domingo (1889–1968) was the editor of the Negro World from the paper's inception in August 1918 until he resigned in July 1919. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Domingo received his education at Calabar School and the Kingston Board School. After leaving school, Domingo took a job as an apprentice tailor in Kingston, where he met Garvey.
An avid reader, Domingo also frequently contributed articles to the local press under various pseudonyms on the controversies of the day. With his uncle's financial support, Domingo left Jamaica in August 1910 for Boston, where he lived with his sister, who ran a boarding house for Jamaicans. In 1915 Garvey wrote to Domingo from Jamaica to tell him that he had been invited to visit the U.S. by Booker T. Washington. After Garvey arrived in New York early the following year, he immediately contacted Domingo. In addition to advising him, Domingo introduced Garvey to several prominent black figures in New York City. In July 1917, Domingo helped organize the British Jamaicans Benevolent Association in New York, a group similar to the Jamaica Club he had established earlier in Boston.
Domingo developed strong political ties with A. Philip Randolph, Chandler Owen, Richard B. Moore, and other blacks associated with the Socialist party organization of the Twenty-first Assembly District in Harlem, and also with the Rand School of Social Science. During this same period, although he never became a member, Domingo participated in meetings of the fledgling New York UNIA in 1917–1918. In the summer of 1918, when Garvey was about to start the Negro World, Domingo introduced him to the printer who produced the Socialist party's New York Call, Henry Rogowski. This made the publication of the Negro World possible, since Rogowski agreed to extend Garvey the necessary credit.
Domingo, who had already become a member of the Socialist party's Speakers' Bureau in New York, used the Negro World to propagate socialist views. Garvey responded by having him "tried" before the executive committee of the UNIA on charges of writing and publishing editorials that were not in keeping with the UNIA program. As a result, Domingo resigned as editor in July 1919. Domingo later described Garvey's methods as "medieval, obscure and dishonest," and referred to the BSL venture as "bordering on a huge swindle" (W. A. Domingo to the Editor, "Mr. W. A. Domingo's Connection with the UNIA," DG, 15 June 1925). After splitting with Garvey, Domingo resumed his connection with Randolph and Owen, who made him a contributing editor of the Messenger magazine. In spring 1920 Domingo and Richard B. Moore teamed up to publish the Emancipator. Its ten issues, however, mainly criticized Garvey and the finances of the BSL. After the Emancipator failed, Domingo joined forces with Cyril Briggs's Crusader, and became an active member of the African Blood Brotherhood (ABB). But unlike the majority of the key ABB leaders, Domingo never joined the Workers' (Communist) party.
Little is known about Domingo's political activities between 1923 and 1936. During this period he prospered in business as an importer of West Indian foods. In 1936, he helped to found the Jamaica Progressive League (JPL). As vice president of the JPL, Domingo spent approximately six months in Jamaica in 1937–1938. He acted as an adviser to the group that formed the nucleus of the future People's National party (PNP), headed by Norman Washington Manley.
Shortly after returning to New York, Domingo received an invitation from the PNP in Jamaica to become its organizing secretary. Upon his arrival in Jamaica, however, on 6 June 1941, Governor Sir Arthur Richards ordered him arrested aboard ship and placed in an internment camp, where he joined a number of Jamaican labor leaders. Domingo was declared a potential threat to the colonial government, despite the fact that he had earlier publicly expressed his support for the British war effort. The governor produced as evidence a number of censored letters that Domingo had written from New York in which he predicted that there would be a revolution in Jamaica after his arrival.
A lengthy campaign to secure Domingo's release from detention was launched by his associates in Jamaica and New York, with legal help from the American Civil Liberties Union. Domingo was finally released after serving twenty months in detention, but he was forced to remain in Jamaica for an additional four years when the U.S. government denied him a visa. During this period, Domingo worked actively for the PNP and wrote regular articles for the local press, most importantly for Public Opinion, the leading voice of the Jamaican self-government movement. Domingo returned to New York in 1947, where he continued to campaign for Jamaica's independence. He died on 14 February 1968 (MGP 1:527–531).
[4] William H. Ferris (1873–1941), historian, literary critic, and journalist, was the literary editor of the Negro World from 1919 to 1923 and held various offices within the UNIA. A graduate of Yale University, he studied at Harvard Divinity School and received his master's degree from Harvard in 1900. In the following years, he worked as a correspondent for the Boston Guardian and the Colored American, and lectured widely on African history. He was involved in Du Bois's Niagara movement in 1905. His major work, The African Abroad; or, His Evolution in Western Civilization: Tracing His Development under Caucasian Milieu, was published in 1913, the year Ferris became aware of Garvey from reading an article by Garvey in the African Times and Orient Review. In 1914 Garvey wrote to Ferris about the possibility of Ferris conducting a West Indian lecture tour, but these plans were cut short by World War I. The two men did not meet until Garvey made his own lecture circuit of the U.S. in 1916; Ferris was then associate editor of Champion magazine in Chicago.
When he founded the Negro World in New York, Garvey invited Ferris to serve as literary editor. During his tenure with the UNIA paper, Ferris encouraged the publication of poetry, fiction, essays, and art criticism. He was also active with John E. Bruce's Negro Society for Historical Research and with the 135th Street (Harlem) branch of the New York Public Library. His circle of friends included J. A. Rogers, who stated that Ferris's African Abroad was one of the most influential books he ever read. In 1923 Ferris became literary editor for the Spokesman (Tony Martin, Literary Garveyism: Garvey, Black Arts and the Harlem Renaissance [Dover, Mass.: Majority Press, 1983], pp. 32–35, 80; Bruce Kellner, ed., The Harlem Renaissance: A Historical Dictionary for the Era [Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1984], p. 121; MGP 1:75–76 n. 3).