The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers

Editorial in the Times of Nigeria

The Marcus Garvey Movement

Elsewhere in to-day's issue appears a timely letter from the Very Rev. Patriarch [J. G.] Campbell on the subject of the proposed Universal Convention of African peoples to be held in New York, U.S.A. in August next.
The venerable gentleman's view, with which we are in entire accord, will, we are sure, meet with wide approval among British West Africans. The idea of establishing a line of steamers owned and controlled by Africans is a great and even sublime conception for which every body of African origin will bless the name of Marcus Garvey. The humiliating discriminations to which blacks have been and are being subjected in connection with white-owned vessels have long created a yearning, and pointed to the urgent necessity, for the inception of a Black Star Line of steamers, and the promoters of the scheme may well count upon the heart-whole support of every sane-minded African.[1] The inclusion, however, of such a tremendous political plan, as the founding of a pan-African Empire, is too obviously ridiculous to do aught else than alienate sympathy from the whole movement. We do not suggest that our brethren in America ought not to aim at political autonomy. Liberty is man's highest right, and every African in his heart of heart[s] prays for the day when he will become his own master—and particularly in the case of our American brethren, for whom the hardships and disadvantages under which they exist in the land of their exile make it desirable to have some portion of their ancestral land, where they could unmolested shape their own destiny and spread culture amongst their less enlightened brethren—"De 'ole folks at home."
But the idea of independence entertained by Africans, at least by British West Africans, certainly does not chime in with that propounded by the Hon. Marcus Garvey. If at all the day should come, and come it must in the process of evolution—when Africa shall be controlled by Africans, each distinct African nation, while having the most cordial relations with every other sister nation, will infinitely prefer remaining as a separate political entity to being drawn into one huge me[l]ting pot of a Universal Negro Empire. All the European nations ruling Africa[,] recognizing the inevitableness of such evolution, rightly describe themselves as "trustees"[2] of their African subjects, who also are aptly designated their "wards." Until the advent of this happy era, though, British West Africans are content to remain in grateful allegiance to the Empire that has done so much for them in the past and that may do still more for them in the years to come, and it's the securing of this larger measure of liberty and opportunity that West Africans are most concerned about just now. The recent work of the British West African Congress is the first great step towards accomplishing this object. Once the peoples of British West Africa are granted full rights of liberty and equal opportunity their loyalty to the British throne—intense as it already is—will even surpass itself.
Our humble advice to the Hon. Marcus Garvey and other members of the great movement for Negro emancipation is that, so far as West Africans are concerned, what is needed most is civilisation. Besides the Black Star Line (already in being) West Africa needs the establishment of Bank[s], Industries, Schools (normal and vocational), Colleges and an up to date University. These are the best civilising agencies and the best means of speeding up the process of evolution. To talk of building up an Empire on the bases of ignorance and uncivilisation is but to contemplate the wildest of wildcat schemes.
Printed in TN (Lagos), 24 May 1920.
[1] The monopoly held by the Elder Dempster Line placed African merchants at its mercy, when, for example, the company increased freight charges. Strikes in Britain in 1921 also hampered the West African exporters and led them to look to the BSL and trade with America. The inaugural meeting of the NCBWA in March 1920 resolved to support the BSL (J. G. Campbell, "The Black Star Line Inc.," TN, 18 April 1921, printed in the Addendum, MGP 10, at 16 April 1921; idem, The First Conference of Africans of British West Africa Held at Accra, Gold Coast Colony, March 11 – 29, 1920 [Lagos: Tika Tore Press, 1920], p. 14; J. Ayodele Langley, Pan-Africanism and Nationalism in West Africa, 1900 – 1945 [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973], p. 201).
[2] The term trustee derives from Joseph Chamberlain's famous dictum, "We, in our colonial policy, as fast as we acquire new territory and develop it, develop it as trustees of civilisation for the commerce of the world" (Frederick Lugard, The Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa [1922; reprint, London: Frank Cass, 1965], p. 60). The idea of the colonial power as "trustee" was rooted in a perception of the colonial period as a time of tutelage. The subject peoples, the "wards," were the beneficiaries of education, justice, and industry. J. G. Campbell, who believed in the British mission to raise Africa to a higher level of civilization, continually reminded the colonial authorities of their duty to train Africans in the professions. He sought to ensure that one-third of all civil service posts were held by Africans, and urged Britain to make responsible, upper-level positions, such as district officer, police magistrate, and postmaster, available to Africans. Such measures would ensure that the "wards" would eventually assume control of the country (TN, 5 December 1921).