The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers

UNIA leaders during the first international convention, August 1920

Marcus Garvey to Samuel Herbert Pearse[1]

My dear Mr. Pearse:—

Through the good graces of Mr. J. E. Bruce of New York, your name was mentioned to us as one interested in Africa's Redemption: and for that reason our Executive Committee has decided to extend the following invitation to you.
The Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League which has organized three million active members scattered all over the world, with branches in almost every country, is calling a Universal Convention of Negroes to assemble in New York from the 1st to the 31st of August of the present year, the purpose of which is to discuss and legislate for the future government of our race.
The Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League is organized for the specific purpose of drawing into one united hold [fold?], the 400,000,000 members of the race, scattered all over the world, its objects in extenso are to be found in the Constitution herein enclosed.[2]
At this great Convention we are to elect the permanent leaders of the race, after which election, the head quarters of the Association will be transferred to Monrovia, W.A. The most prominent negroes of our race will attend this Convention, and we are asking that you make special effort to be here and to inspire as many of your friends and colleagues in Lagos, to try and attend also.
This Convention is a very important matter in that it will affect the destiny of the 400,000,000 of our race especially those of Africa. Have things so arranged that you will be able to leave Lagos on the 1st of July to arrive here in time for the 1st day of the Convention, August 1st.[3]
With very best wishes, and trusting that you will be one of the representatives of West Africa to attend this Convention, I beg to remain, Yours fraternally,
Marcus Garvey Per President General
[Address:] Hon. S. H. Pearse, Elephant House, Olowogbowo, Lagos, W.A.
Printed in LWR, 8 May 1920. Headline omitted.
[1] Samuel Herbert Pearse (1866–1955) was born in Lagos, the son of Rev. Samuel Pearse, pastor of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) church in Ebute Ero, Lagos. The older Pearse was born in Sierra Leone of Abeokuta Egba parents; he came to Lagos in 1856. Samuel Herbert Pearse attended Lagos elementary schools and the CMS Grammar School from 1879 to 1883. He then worked for several European firms before forming his own company, Pearse and Thompson. In 1907 he went to Calabar, where he grew rich through trade in ivory. He returned to Lagos a wealthy man and continued as a produce merchant.
Pearse was secretary of the Lagos Auxiliary of the Anti-Slavery and Aborigines Protection Society and accompanied the Yoruba chiefs to London, serving as interpreter. He later quarreled with Mojola Agbebi and supported the reorganization of the auxiliary. It would appear that Pearse was nominated to the Legislative Council in 1915 as a reward for opposing the Herbert Macaulay-Agbebi faction of the auxiliary. Pearse was also treasurer of the Reform Club. He was appointed as the representative from Egba to the Legislative Council from 1923 to 1933 (Akinbami Agbebi to John E. Bruce, 18 May 1920, NN-Sc, JEB; Allister Macmillan, ed., The Red Book of West Africa [1920; reprint, London: Frank Cass, 1968], pp. 97–98; Patrick Cole, Modern and Traditional Elites in the Politics of Lagos [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975], p. 88).
[2] The copy of the UNIA Constitution was not printed. The 1918 UNIA Constitution appears in MGP 1:256–281; for the 1920 amendments, see MGP 2:677–681; the 1921 revisions appear in MGP 3:747–774.
[3] Pearse did not accept the invitation, and there is no evidence of his sympathy with the Garvey movement. Rather, his association with the pro-government faction in Lagos politics would indicate his opposition to Garvey's ideas and the Lagos branch of the UNIA (Macmillan, Red Book of West Africa).