The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers

Marcus Garvey reading the historic Declaration of Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World, Liberty Hall, New York City, August 1920

Report on UNIA Meeting in Madison Square Garden[1]

Never before in the history of the Negro has there been a gathering of the magnitude, splendor and enthusiasm of that held at Madison Square Garden last night under the auspices of the Universal Negro Improvement Association.
Following upon the heels of the unique parade that took place in the afternoon the [word illegible] throng hurried to the Garden in order to secure seats early.
The seating capacity of the Garden, including the arena, is estimated at 25,000. Every available seat was occupied, not only the boxes and tiers of the four galleries were crowded, but the vast floor space of the building as well. On the north side was erected the speakers’ platform, which was covered with the American flag and the flag of the U.N.I.A. These flags, similarly intertwined, hung in other parts of the hall, which together with the banners of the various branches and divisions of the association throughout its jurisdiction, presented a patriotic and pleasing appearance to the eye.
Mr. Garvey Acclaimed
Promptly at 8:45 o’clock the Hon. Marcus Garvey, President-General, entered the building from the west side, accompanied by other high officials of the association, distinguished guests and delegates to the convention, all regaled in their magnificent multi-colored robes of office. As the procession wended its way toward the speakers’ stand, the audience rose en masse, saluted and cheered, the huzzas and applause that greeted the new leader of the Negro race created a deafening sound that reverberated throughout the great building. In the procession, and at its head, were the various bands of the association, as the Black Star Line Band, the U.N.I.A. Band, and the Fifteenth Regiment Band. The bands played “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” as they marched into the hall, countermarching while Mr. Garvey and his official family took their places. Pandemonium reigned, so thunderous was the applause, the shouts and plaudits of the people as they gazed on the spectacle. Men and women cheered, waved handkerchiefs, threw their hats up into the air, and did everything else they possibly could to give vocal expression to their feelings of delight and admiration. If any one ever doubted that the Negroes of the world can be united, and are now actually uniting, such doubts, were any such persons present, must at once have been dispelled forever.
Marcus Garvey was acclaimed as no black man ever was acclaimed by black people before in this or any other country. And the vociferous acclaim given him was spontaneous and genuine, the enthusiasm manifested knowing no bounds. He bore the plaudits and cheers with becoming grace and dignity, bowing to right and left as the procession proceeded, in evident grateful acknowledgment of the extraordinary honors that were bestowed upon him.
Dr. McGuire[2] Delivers Invocation
Miss Henrietta Vinton Davis,[3] International Organizer of the Association, presided and introduced the Rev. Dr. McGuire who delivered the invocation. This was followed by a musical program, in which Mesdames Houston[4] and Robinson, also Miss Clarke, took part. Mr. Edward Steele, the noted tenor, also sang. The Acme Quartet rendered several numbers. This part of the program was greatly enjoyed by the audience and gave a breathing spell, as it were, after their exertions in the great welcome accorded Mr. Garvey. Especial mention must be made of the solos rendered by Mesdames Houston, Robinson and Clarke, which were of the highest order and elicited encore after encore. The Acme Quartet did itself proud by singing original selections composed especially for the occasion.
Mr. Garvey, who was in evident splendid form and voice, delivered a most stirring and masterful address. It was a superb, eloquent statement of the purposes and objects of the Universal Negro Improvement Association. He was frequently interrupted by applause. Ther[e] could be no doubt, judged in the light of his address, the thoughts it expressed, and the spontaneous expressions of approval it evoked that Mr. Garvey is the man of the hour—the hero and recognized leader of the Negro race.
Other addresses were delivered, principal of which was the address of the Chaplain-General, Rev. Dr. J. W. Eason.[5]
The meeting adjourned at 11 o’clock, thus closing a most memorable chapter in the race’s history, the scenes attending which, and the addresses that were heard, being such in character as doubtless will ever remain vivid in the recollection of those who were present. It has carried the race one step higher in its march onward to higher things, and is further proof that the black people of the world have before them a great destiny to achieve which is now in course of realization.
Pays Mr. Garvey Glowing Tribute
Miss Henrietta Vinton Davis, in introducing the President-General, said: I esteem it a very great honor to have the pleasure of introducing to you the man of the hour. (Cheers.) The man who has stood upon the Olympian heights, who has caught the vision of the gods for his people, whose clarion voice has been echoed from mountain top to mountain top until it has circled the globe, calling his brothers to arms. That man is the undaunted, the unconquerable, the incomparable Marcus Garvey. (Loud applause.)
Hon. Marcus Garvey rose and said: I have in my hand two telegrams, one received and one to be sent. The one received is from Louis Michael, a Jew from Los Angeles, California. It reads as follows:
“Los Angeles, Cal., August 1, 1920. Delegates of the Universal Negro Improvement Association: As a Jew, a Zionist and a Socialist I join heartily and unflinchingly in your historical movement for the reclamation of Africa. (Applause.) There is no justice and no peace in this world until the Jew and the Negro both control side by side Palestine and Africa.”
Louis Michael. (Loud applause.)
I hold also in my hand a telegram to be sent to the Hon. Edmund De Valera [Eamon de Valera],[6] President of the Irish Republic:
“25,000 Negro delegates assembled in Madison Squar[e] Garden in mass convention, representing 400,000,000 Negroes of the world, send you greetings as President of the Irish Republic. Please accept sympathy of Negroes of the world for your cause. We believe Ireland should be free even as Africa shall be free for the Negroes of the world. (Loud applause.) K[eep] up the fight for a free Ireland.”
Marcus Garvey President-General of the Universal Negro Improvement Association. (Applause.)
Members of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, Delegates to the great convention, Ladies and Gentlemen: We are met in this historic building tonight for the purpose of enlightening the world respecting the attitude of the new Negro. We are assembled here tonight as the descendants of a suffering people and we are also assembled as a people who are determined to suffer no longer. (Applause.) For three hundred years our forefathers and even ourselves suffered in this Western Hemisphere. For over five hundred years our forefathers on the great continent of Africa suffered from the abuse of an alien race. It was claimed that we were a backward people, not knowing the higher calling of civilization. That might have been true eighty-five years ago or eighty-three years ago. But when we remember that eighty-two years ago in the British West Indies—eighty-two years up to yesterday—millions of Negroes were set free from the bondage of slavery;[7] when we remember that fifty odd years ago, in America, Negroes were set free from a bondage of slavery, and when we realize now that the Negroes of America and the West Indies claim a civilization co-equal with that of the white man, we declare, therefore, that what is good for the white man in this age is also good for the Negro. (Loud applause.)
The white race claim freedom, liberty and democracy. For that freedom; for that liberty; for that democracy they drenched Europe in blood for nearly four and a half years. In that bloody war, fought to maintain the standard of civilization and freedom of democracy they called out two million black men from Africa, the West Indies and America to fight that the world might enjoy the benefits of civilization. We fought as men; we fought nobly; we fought gloriously; but after the battle was won we were deprived of our liberties; our democracy, the glorious privileges for which we fought. And as we did not get those things out of the war, we shall organize four hundred million strong to float the banner of democracy on the great continent of Africa. (Loud applause.)
We have absolutely no apologies nor compromises to make where Negro rights and liberties are concerned. Just at this time, as we can see[,] the world is reorganizing, the world is reconstructing itself, and in this reconstruction Ireland is striking out for freedom; Egypt is striking out for freedom;[8] India is striking out for freedom;[9] and the Negroes of the world shall do no less than strike out also for freedom. (Applause.) Freedom is the common heritage of mankind, and as God Almighty created us four hundred millions strong, we shall ask the reason why, and dispute every inch of ground with any other race, to find out why we also can not enjoy the benefits of liberty. (Applause.) We as a people do not desire what belongs to others. We have never yet desired what belonged to others. But others have always sought to deprive us of those things which belong to us. Our fathers might have been satisfied to have been deprived of their rights, but we new Negroes—we young men who were called out in this war; we young men who have returned from this war shall dispute every inch of right with every other race of the world until we win what belongs to us. (Applause.)
This convention of the U.N.I.A. is called for the purpose of framing a Bill of Rights for the Negro Race. We shall write a constitution within this month of August that shall guide and govern the destiny of four hundred million Negroes of the world. (Applause.) You know and understand what a constitution means to a people, to a government and to a nation. The Constitution of the United States of America, the greatest democracy of the world, means that a white American shall shed the last drop of his red blood in the defense of the Constitution. The Constitution of Great Britain means that every Anglo-Saxon shall shed the last drop of his blood to maintain the integrity of Great Britain. The constitution that we shall write within this month will mean that four hundred million black men, women and children shall shed the last drop of their blood to maintain this constitution. (Loud applause.) Wheresoever I go, whether it is in England, or in France, Germany, Spain or Italy; whether in Canada or in Australia, I am told, “This is a white man’s country.” Wheresoever I travel throughout the United States of America I am made to understand that I am “a nigger.” If the Englishman claims England as his native habitat, and if the Frenchman claims France as his native habitat, and if the Canadian claims Canada as his native habitat, then the time has come for four hundred million Negroes to claim Africa as their native land. (Loud applause.)
If Europe is for the white man, if Canada is for the white man, then, in the name of God, Africa shall be for the black peoples of the world. We say, and we mean it[,] that we pledge our life’s blood, our sacred blood to the battlefields of Africa, to plant there the flag of Liberty, of Freedom and Democracy (applause). The most glorious death a man can die, is that which is given in self-defense, and to maintain the integrity of his race. Men have been dying for the last five hundred years—and for whom? For an alien race. The time has come for the Negro to die for himself. (Great applause.)
The great President of this country, President Wilson, returned from Europe, and tells us that there is to be peace. David Lloyd George returned to England, and tells his fellow-countrymen that there is to be peace. Clemenceau returned to the cabinet of France, and gives out the statement that there is to be peace. Orlando and Sononi [Baron Sidney Sonnino][10] of Italy went back to their government, and told their people that there is to be peace. But the handwriting on the wall shows that the bloodiest and greatest war of all times is yet to come—the war when Asia shall match her strength against Europe for “the survival of the fittest,” for the dominance of Oriental or Occidental civilization, one or the other.
Strike for African Redemption
Men, let me tell you this: That the hour has come for the Negro to mobilize his forces, 400,000,000 strong, for that bloody war, that bloody conflict, when Asia shall array herself against Europe. The time has arrived and is now opportune for the Negro to strike for African redemption (applause).
It is apparent that it is left to the Negro to teach the principles of mercy and justice. Shakespeare says:
“The quality of mercy is not strained; It droppeth as the gentle rain from Heaven upon the place beneath; It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes.[11]”
It is a glorious principle. The Negro has carried that principle with him for thousands of years; but the time has come for us to call a halt. And why? We realize that the other races of the world are living in a material and practical age of the world. They do not regard glorious and noble principles; they regard only those things that will make them happy and comfortable. Whilst the white man, for ages, taught us to despise Africa, told us how hideous a place Africa was, inhabited by savages, by cannibals, and by pagans, trying to persuade Negroes not to take any interest in Africa, they have gone to South Africa, and taken up all of South Africa. They have gone to North Africa, and taken up all of North Africa. So with East Africa, and so with West Africa; and so much so that there is very little of Africa left. But the hour has come when North and South and East and West Africa and Central Africa shall be the domain of the black peoples of the world. (Applause.) We shall not seek to ask England, “Why are you here?” We shall not seek to ask France, “Why are you here?” We shall not seek to ask Italy, “Why are you here?” We shall not seek to ask Portugal, “Why are you here?” The only thing that we will ask—the only command we will give, will be: “Get out of here!” (Thunderous applause.) We mean that. (Cries of “Yes!”) And because we mean that, we believe in the principles of Justice and of Equity. That is why we are in sympathy with Ireland. That is why we are in sympathy with the Zionist movement.[12] That is why we are in sympathy with the Nationalist movement of Egypt, and of India. We believe all men should be free. (Great applause.)
Want a Place in the Sun
We have no animus against the white man. All that we have, as a race, desired is a place in the sun. Four million people are too numerous not to have a place in the sun. (Applause and cries of “Hear, hear!”) If 60,000,000 Anglo-Saxons can have a place in the sun, if 80,000,000 Germans can have a place in the sun, if 60,000,000 Japanese can have a place in the sun, if 7,000,000 Belgians (groans and hisses) can have a place in the sun, I cannot see why, under the same principles, 400,000,000 black folks cannot have a place—a big spot in the sun also. (Great applause.) If you believe that the Negro should have a place in the sun; if you believe that Africa should be one vast empire, controlled by the Negro, then arise, and sing the National Anthem of the Universal Negro Improvement Association.
At this juncture, the entire audience stood up and sang the UNIA anthem suggested by the speaker.
On concluding his speech, President-General Garvey took over the chairmanship of the meeting, and said: It now gives me great pleasure to present to you the Rev. Dr. J. W. Eson [Eason], chaplain-general of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League. (Great applause.)
Declaration of Aims
By Rev. Dr. Eason: Mr. President-General, Officers, Members of the Race, Ladies and Gentlemen here assembled: I would be strangely constituted and regarded as devoid of emotions as a human being were I to arise at this hour to address you, unmoved. Assembled as we are, in this, the largest assembly-room of its kind in the world, under such circumstances as we are, to listen to a declaration of our aims and objects now, henceforth and forever, and to renew our determination to continually organize, to continually agitate, continually to get together, until the 400,000,000 black folks of the world shall have one God, one aim, one destiny (applause) and shall realize the fondest desires of their hearts. And the most reasonable thing to ask, expect and demand of the world, is a free and a redeemed Africa. (Loud applause.)
We are mindful of the fact, distinguished delegates from all parts of the world, ladies and gentlemen, that the Negro has suffered well and long, for more than five hundred years. He has been the tool, the serf, the slave and the peon of [words missing].
For three hundred years in this country he suffered, he bled and he died. For hundreds of years in the islands of the sea and in some parts of Asia and of Europe and Australia and in all parts of the world he has been regarded as less than a man. But during those years, and especially since the coming into existence of the U.N.I.A. and A.C.L., under the inspired leadership and the indomitable courage of Marcus Garvey, he has determined that he shall suffer no longer. (Applause.) Suffering seems, therefore, to have fitted the Negro peoples of the world to come together with an idea of teaching the world the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. (Applause.) For 1920 years the world has heard the mighty voice of the man of Galilee saying unto humanity everywhere, “Do unto all men as you would that they should do unto you.” (Applause.) And up until August the second at ten o’clock, 1920, nearly all the dominant nations of the world have failed to heed the command of the man of Galilee. And so tonight we, the representatives of the New Negro; we, the people made out of the same dust as other people by the same Creator, formed and fashioned by His hand, and endowed with the same chance and opportunity, though we differ somewhat in form and feature—yet we, being children of the same God, have decided that on the account of our numerical strength, on account of our religious nature, on account of the sufferings that we have gone through, we are now able to teach the world “to do unto all men as you would have them do unto you.” (Great applause.) I believe, my friends, that the All-powerful Spirit has breathed inspiration through His divinely-called leader—through him to the Negroes of the world, calling them to come out in the open and let the world know that their sufferings have been long and intense; let the world know that they have been mistreated, and let the world know that they do not want to be mistreated any longer, and then let the world know that we will not be mistreated any longer. (Vociferous applause.)
Negro Has Played a Man’s Part
I realize, my friends, that the Negro has played well his part in all the countries where he has lived. Though taken from his native land as a slave and as a servant, and though he has been partially set free everywhere with few exceptions, yet he has always been better to the foreigners in a foreign land than they were to him a long way from home. Under the English Government he was even brought to this country and sold as a slave; under the French Government he has been partially recognized as a man, and only partially so in his native land; under the German flag he has been a beast of burden, a hewer of wood and drawer of water; under the Belgian flag (hisses from all parts of the hall) he was deprived of his life; under the other flags of Asia and of Europe he has suffered long and patiently, and they called him to the battlefields by the millions to “make the world safe for democracy,” and to beat the Germans back across the Rhine, and he did it (tremendous cheers), but with little results to himself. My friends, I was born in the United States of America, under the sunny skies and beneath the waving palms of North Carolina (cheers); I know that during the days of slavery our people suffered in this country, and I know that in different sections of this country now we are called upon to undergo terrible hardships. It is not because of our form of government, but because of the radical folks who are not fit to be under the Stars and Stripes. The preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America [Declaration of Independence] says:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created free and equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” (Applause.)
The Negro’s War Record
It is not the Negro’s fault that he does not enjoy these things. Neither is it the republican form of government; but it is the fault of rebels North, South, East and West, who do not hold up the Constitution of the United States. (Loud and continued applause.) Ah, we have the right to boast of our loyalty, because when Old Glory was being formed and fashioned, preparing to be floated in the breeze, when it was thundered from the halls of Legislatures and from the Continental Congress that America could not exist under the English heel; on the Commons of Boston; while white men argued and paused and faltered by the way, black men under the leadership of Crispus Attucks fired the first gun. (Vociferous applause.) Though we were still slaves and still suffering, we loved the cause of liberty so greatly that we were willing to give our lives that other men might be free, hoping that after a while we would get to enjoy the same freedom. (Cheers.)
Time will not permit me to speak of our loyalty during the Civil War period. Time will not permit me to tell how we climbed San Juan Hill that Old Glory might not trail in the dust. (A voice: “Tell about the 15th, too.”) Time will not permit me to tell how we fought, bled and died on the battle plains of France and Flanders that the world might be “made safe for democracy.” But permit me to say this one word, that when the Kaiser held the world at bay and when German militarism threatened the progress of the civilized peoples all over the world, Uncle Sam sent the black boys of New York over and the war stopped. (Thunderous applause.)
Selected Own Leader
So much for our sufferings in the past. Let us for a moment glance at the present condition of our peoples throughout the world, and I can better call your attention to that by letting you know why we are here, who is responsible for us being here, and what we intend to do as a result of being gathered here. (Cheers.) I want it to be distinctly understood by everybody here present that all of us black folks here assembled have selected our own black man to be our leader. (Cheers.) When we selected him we did not have millions of dollars at our backs to tell him to go ahead and fight our battles for us and we will back you with money already in hand; we were not organized throughout the world to follow where he led; but, like the leaders of old—like Moses, like Christ, like Abraham Lincoln—he had to shed his own blood to bring us where we are tonight. (Applause.)
You may judge somewhat of our present standing—I mean the Negroes of the world; we are talking from a world standpoint now; we are not narrow any more; we do not represent the English Negro or the French Negro or the German Negro or the American Negro or the African Negro; we represent all Negroes. (Enthusiastic applause.) Time will not permit me to tell of our present progress from a world viewpoint. You may read the “Negro Year Book,” whose editor is in the building tonight. (The speaker here referred to Mr. Monroe N. Work, director, Department of Records and Research, Tuskegee Institute, Ala.) You may need to read the Negro papers—the Negro World especially—to find out for yourselves how we stand in the world of commerce, of industry, of education and in the world of religion. I am speaking about generalities tonight. So they come from Europe representing the Negroes there; they come from all the Americas, and all the States in the union representing the Negroes there; they come from far off Australia, and they come from where every prospect ends (and man is not so vile in Africa)—they come representing the Negroes of the world assembled here—the progressive Negroes—the New Negroes—the Negroes who believe that what is good for anybody is good for him and he is going to have it (cheers); Negroes who do not believe in doing harm to anybody, and who will not allow anybody to do harm to them (cheers). I am glad to be living in such an age as this.
So much for our past. Let us take a little look into the future. I am not a prophet nor the son of a prophet. In my ministerial career I have been a seer of visions and dreamer of dreams, and tonight as I stand before you in the presence of royalty; as I stand before you in the largest city of the world and in the best country of the world—until we have redeemed Africa (tumultuous applause) I will take a little look into the future. Do you know that the war has not been officially ended as yet so far as the Congress of the United States is concerned? We are hoping that a Republican Congress and a Republican President will declare the war over immediately after the election in November (laughter) but, however, while the Stars and Stripes are still over there, technically protecting the foreign lands, we are going to ask Old Glory to do a large thing for us when it comes back; and I believe that on account of what we have done for Old Glory the folks who are in charge are going to give us what we ask for. (Cheers.) We are going to ask them if they cannot help us—diplomatically—to just stand off and look at us go across. (Loud and prolonged cheering.) And so, Old Glory, when you come back, won’t you remember that we have shed our blood that you might be the proudest banner in the world? Old Glory, when you come back won’t you protect my brother and my father in the South as you do other folks? Old Glory, when you come back won’t you cry aloud and recognize Palestine for the Jews officially, Ireland for the Irish officially, and Africa for the African officially? (Tumultuous applause.)
Lauds Mr. Garvey
All honor and all glory to the man who has brought this mighty movement to pass, where all the Negroes of the world can come together and legislate and form plans by which the great African Empire shall be established on the African continent and turned over into the hands of the Negro. (Cheers.) And so they may fix it that every Negro everywhere shall be protected. (Cheers.) Some folks get the idea that all the Negroes who join the Universal Negro Improvement Association and all the Negroes over whom the U.N.I.A. have charge—and it is going to have charge over all of them pretty soon—that they all must go back to Africa. But friends, you have got the wrong idea. Some of the Negroes are not fit to be here and we would not have them in Africa. (Cheers and laughter.)
Expect to Defend the Colors
What it does mean is, that as the Englishman wraps the Union Jack around him and says: “Fire, if you dare, and a million men will march tomorrow morning to defend it!” It means that as the Tricolor of France is floating in the breeze and the Frenchman wraps it around him and says: “Fire, if you dare; and a million men will go out and fight for France!” It means that if an African citizen is anywhere in the world he wraps the red, the black and the green around him and 400,000,000 black folks will say: “Fire, if you dare!” (Vociferous cheers.)
But let me stop. (Voices, “Go ahead.”) Let me thank the President and the officers and members of the U.N.I.A. for calling me into existence and giving me the opportunity to speak to you tonight as Chaplain-General of this organization representing the spiritual interests of the Negroes throughout the world. I am a man of peace, but I further understand that my God is a God of war. I see into the future men marshalled around a plain—east, west, north, south—not to fight an aggressive warfare, but a defensive warfare. I see a black emperor, or a black president, or a black whatever you might call him—potentate, if you please—at the head of the black folks of the world with headquarters in Africa. (Cheers.) I see black generals, black colonels, black captains, black corporals, black privates, all standing with drawn swords ready. (Cheers.) I see black physicians, black dentists, black hospital attendants and Black Cross nurses[13] (cheers) on the African battlefields. My head may be gray; my shoulders may be bowed with age; my steps may be feeble and slow; my voice may be cracked and broken. Some day in the dim distant future I hope to be able to creep out in my old age, if necessary and in my inf[i]rmity, and raise my hands to heaven, and call down God Almighty’s benediction upon the black soldiers of Africa as they go forth to make the world safe for everybody.[14] (Loud cheers.) Lest we forget the depth from which we have come; lest we forget the sufferings through which we have passed; lest we forget the good things that have been done for us here, and lest we forget to ask for greater things; lest we forget each other; lest we forget our leader; lest we forget his supporters, let us ask the Lord God of Hosts to be with us here, lest we forget, lest we forget.[15] (Loud and prolonged applause.)
Distinguished Visitors Introduced
Some of the distinguished visitors who occupied seats on the platform were introduced. Conspicuous among these was the Hon. Gabriel Johnson,[16] Mayor of the city of Monrovia, Liberia, who was received with great enthusiasm. The presidents of the various branches and divisions in this country, British West Indies, South and Central America, were also introduced.
Hon. Marcus Garvey then said: I want to invite everybody to Liberty Hall, where a convention will be held during the 31 days of this month. Tomorrow night will be the opening proper of this convention, when the mayor of Monrovia will be the speaker of the evening. It gives me great pleasure to now present to you one of the most brilliant scholars of the Negro race. Dr. William H. Ferris, literary editor of The Negro World. Dr. Ferris is a graduate of Harvard and Yale Universities, and is known throughout the length and breadth of this country as the author of “The African Abroad.” Dr. Ferris will speak to you for five minutes.
Prof. Ferris Speaks
Professor Ferris said: Mr. President-General, Ladies and Gentlemen: This is the largest Negro gathering I have ever witnessed. What does it mean? It means that the Hon. Marcus Garvey is a human dynamo, and that the Negro has now begun to do for himself. The old Negro believed in prayer; but the new Negro believes in deed. The old Negro believed in taking any place which the white man wanted him to have; but the new Negro believes in blazing a path for himself, in Africa, if necessary.
The Negro is the acid test for American Democracy and American Civilization. There are some who desire to wait until the American white man becomes Christianized; but there are others who are trying to build up a civilization for themselves.
I have faith in the Universal Negro Improvement Association, because I believe in the possibilities of the Negroes. A race that can stand slavery for two hundred and fifty years and emerge with physical vitality and with faith in God; a race that is segregated, disfranchised, jimcrowed and that can pile up two billion dollars’ worth of property and accumulate one billion dollars in the banks; a race that can marshal the forces from the four corners of the world as has this Negro convention, such a race I believe has great possibilities for the future. (Applause.)
Rev. Dr. J. D. Brooks[17] was next introduced and said: “Mr. President-General, Members of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, Ladies and Gentlemen: There are but two great things in my life now; two large letters; two capital letters; two Gs; Garvey and God. (Applause.) God represents to me all that is spiritual, and since I have been following Garvey I have learned that God made me just as He made other things. I had some doubts in my mind as to the God the folks told me about being my God; but since I have followed Garveyism I have changed my mind and believe that God is my God. Garveyism to me represents Independence of thought; Freedom of action; Independence of everything, everybody, but God.
The Negro has depended on other folks too long instead of depending upon God and himself. No race in the world has been foolish enough to depend upon other races to help them get what belongs to them but Negroes. Other races have gone out and demanded what rightfully belongs to them and either got it or died trying to get it. Negroes have been waiting on God to give them their rights. And God has never been on the side of a coward. God always has been on the side of those who are brave. God selected the Jews because the Jews would fight for what they wanted to have. No Negroes anywhere nor any other race of people for that matter, are going to get their rights unless they are willing to fight and if necessary die for their rights. (Applause.) Until the Negro stops talking about dying and gets ready to die, he is not going to have anything. If he died for other peoples he can also die for himself. (Applause.)
The meeting was then adjourned till ten-thirty o’clock tomorrow morning (Tuesday), when the convention meets at Liberty Hall.
Printed in Negro World Convention Bulletin, 3 August 1920.
[1] Madison Square Garden has had four different incarnations. The one in which Garvey spoke was the second, which occupied the entire block bounded by Madison and Fourth Avenues and 26th and 27th Streets. Designed by architect Stanford White, the Garden, when it opened in 1890, had a main auditorium with 8,000 seats and space for several thousand more; smaller theaters sat 1,200 and 1,500 people (Moses King, King ’ s Handbook of New York [Boston: Moses King, 1893], p. 584; Joseph Durso, Madison Square Garden: 100 Years of History [New York: Simon and Schuster, 1979], pp. 71–77).
[2] George Alexander McGuire (1866–1934), chaplain general of the UNIA in 1920, was born in Antigua and educated at Mico College and the Nisky Theological Seminary of Saint Thomas, Virgin Islands. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1894 and became a priest in the Episcopal Church. He served as a missionary in the Caribbean and the U.S., and in 1904 he took up his own parish at the Afro-American Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia. In 1905 he became the first black to be appointed archdeacon, moving to take up duties in the diocese of Arkansas. Disillusioned with the racism he encountered within the white Episcopal Church hierarchy, McGuire decided to change careers, attending Jefferson Medical College in Boston and in 1913 returning to Antigua to practice medicine and work for the Church of England. Moving back to the U.S. in 1919, he became involved in the Garvey movement.
His experience as an Episcopal priest led him to believe in the necessity of a separate church for blacks, and he began to promote the idea among UNIA members. He presided over Episcopal services at the 1920 UNIA convention, and in 1921 he drafted the UNIA’s Universal Negro Ritual and Universal Negro Catechism. He organized the independent African Orthodox Church (AOC) in September 1921. McGuire was chaplain general of the UNIA until August 1921, when Garvey requested that McGuire either relinquish his denominational work with the AOC—which McGuire had founded as an adjunct organization to the UNIA—or his position with the UNIA. J. D. Gordon, assistant president general of the UNIA, published a notice in the Negro World that stated that “we favor all churches, but adopt none as a U.N.I.A. church” (6 August 1921). As a result of this attitude, McGuire resigned from the UNIA but continued to communicate with some of its members on behalf of the AOC. Garvey thereupon requested that McGuire not communicate with UNIA members, a request that McGuire felt infringed upon his personal freedom. McGuire went on to join the African Blood Brotherhood (ABB), thereby decreasing his popularity further with the UNIA, which apparently sought to interfere with the progress of the AOC. McGuire was said to have provided Cyril Briggs, founder and leader of the ABB, with the subscription lists of the Negro World, which Briggs used to distribute anti-Garvey materials. McGuire and Garvey eventually reconciled in 1923 (NW, 6 November 1920; NYT, 12 November 1934; Richard Newman, “The Origins of the African Orthodox Church,” introduction to The Negro Churchman: The Official Organ of the African Orthodox Church [Millwood, N.Y.: Kraus Reprint Co., 1977], 1:iii–xxii; Randall K. Burkett, Black Redemption: Churchmen Speak for the Garvey Movement [Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1978], pp. 157–180; MGP 2, 4).
[3] Henrietta Vinton Davis (1860–1941), African-American actress and elocutionist, was a UNIA stalwart for almost twenty years, becoming the most powerful woman leader and one of Garvey’s most trusted lieutenants. Born in Baltimore and educated in Washington, D.C., Davis became a public school teacher in Maryland at the age of fifteen and later returned to Washington, where she worked as a copyist at the Office of the Recorder of Deeds. There she was an assistant to Frederick Douglass, the recorder of deeds from 1881 to 1886. Douglass encouraged her dramatic career, and she studied with private teachers in Washington, New York, and the Boston School of Oratory. She made her professional dramatic debut in Washington in April 1883, introduced by Douglass. In her one-woman show, she performed readings from a variety of British and American writers, including Paul Laurence Dunbar, Shakespeare, and Mark Twain. Her success in Washington was followed by a tour of several eastern cities, with James M. Trotter and William H. Dupree acting as her managers. She supported the Populist presidential campaign in 1892 and may have lectured on the party’s behalf. She established her own dramatic company in Chicago in 1893, where she produced the play Dessalines by black playwright William Edgar Easton. In the spring of 1912 she toured Jamaica with contralto Nonie Bailey Hardy and became manager of the Covent Garden Theatre in Kingston. While in Jamaica, she organized a benevolent society for black Americans called the Loyal Knights and Ladies of Malachite, then carried her tour into Central America before returning to the U.S., where she raised funds to begin a school for girls in Jamaica. She joined the UNIA in New York in 1919, was an original director as well as the second vice president of the Black Star Line, and became an international and national UNIA organizer.
Davis presided over the dedication of Liberty Hall in August 1919. She chaired the UNIA meeting at Carnegie Hall in the same month, the November 1919 mass meeting at Madison Square Garden, and sessions of the 1920 UNIA convention, where she shared the podium with Garvey. As international organizer she traveled aboard the Yarmouth to the Caribbean and Central America in 1919, 1920, and 1921, when Garvey referred to her as “the greatest woman of the Negro race today.” In 1920 she embarked on a nationwide organizing tour, visiting and reorganizing divisions in Pennsylvania, California, Missouri, and elsewhere. Garvey made Davis a lady commander of the Sublime Order of the Nile at the 1921 UNIA convention, and he nominated her when she was elected fourth assistant president general in 1922. She served with Robert L. Poston and Milton Van Lowe in the UNIA delegation to Liberia in December 1923 to March 1924, meeting with President C. D. B. King on 11 February 1924. Davis traveled aboard the General Goethals with M. L. T. De Mena and George Emonei Carter during its organizing tour of the Caribbean in 1925. She became closely involved with the New York Division during Garvey’s incarceration in Atlanta penitentiary, serving as lady president of the division in 1926 and assistant president general of the UNIA in 1928 and 1929. Her relations with Garvey became strained in the late 1920s, partly over the issue of the large amount of back salary due to her from the UNIA. When the pro-Garvey wing of the UNIA split from the UNIA, Incorporated, of New York, at the 1929 UNIA convention in Jamaica, Davis became secretary-general of the new pro-Garvey parent body, although she and Garvey had been openly in conflict during the convention proceedings. Despite her election to office in the pro-Garvey faction, she remained affiliated with the rival American wing of the organization, and in the early 1930s was its first assistant president general, second in command to Lionel Francis. She died in Washington, D.C., a year after Garvey’s death (MGP 1–7).
[4] Marie Barrier Houston of New York was an active UNIA member and musician. She was the director of the Salem Methodist Episcopal Church Choral Society. Houston appeared regularly as a soloist at UNIA meetings in Liberty Hall in 1919–1922, helped to direct the Liberty Hall choir, and appeared as a central figure in musical programs during the 1920, 1921, and 1922 UNIA conventions. She also accompanied Garvey and Amy Jacques on organizational tours in the U.S. She participated in Women’s Day events at the 1922 convention (MGP 2, 3:705, 4).
[5] James W. H. Eason (1886–1923), prominent African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) clergyman, became a dynamic leader in the UNIA. Eason was born in North Carolina and graduated from Livingstone College and Hood Theological Seminary in Salisbury, N.C. He became a pastor for a brief time in North Carolina before moving to Philadelphia, where he left his original appointment to found his own People’s Metropolitan AME Zion Church. Eason and other black ministers organized the Colored Protective Association as a response to the Philadelphia race riot of July 1918. He joined the NAACP as well, but became disillusioned with the organization and turned instead to Garvey and the UNIA. He was elected the first UNIA chaplain general (1919) and later elected “leader of American Negroes” at the 1920 UNIA convention. In the same year he was nominated the presidential candidate of the Harlem-based Liberty party, organized by William Bridges, Hubert Harrison, and UNIA general secretary Edgar Grey. Eason was one of the signers of the UNIA petition to the League of Nations in July 1922. He spoke and traveled as an organizer for the UNIA, and his great personal charisma soon attracted a following. Eason and Garvey parted ways during the UNIA convention in August 1922, when Garvey had Eason impeached for alleged irregularities in handling UNIA revenues, disloyalty, and moral conduct unbecoming a UNIA officer. Found guilty on all charges, Eason was expelled from the UNIA. He countered the expulsion by impeaching Garvey on charges of incompetency, violations of the UNIA constitution, and affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan. A successful vote of confidence in Garvey’s leadership was taken, and Eason’s charges against him were rescinded without a hearing.
Eason reacted to these events by forming a rival organization, the Universal Negro Alliance, in September 1922. On New Year’s Day 1923, Eason was ambushed and shot as he was leaving a New Orleans church where he had held a meeting. It was publicly known that he had been subpoenaed to appear as a government witness in Garvey’s mail-fraud trial in New York the following week. Severely wounded, he told the police from his hospital bed that he had been physically threatened by UNIA loyalists before and that he suspected the assassination attempt had indeed been carried out by UNIA members, but he did not identify his assailants by name. After his death from the injuries on 4 January 1923, two Garveyites, Constantine “Fred” Dyer and William Shakespeare, were arrested in connection with the killing (Burkett, Black Redemption, pp. 51–63; MGP 1, 2–5).
[6] Eamon de Valera (1882–1975), Irish nationalist and statesman, was born in New York and immigrated to Ireland in 1885. After joining the Irish Volunteers in 1913, he commanded the third battalion of the Dublin Brigade in the Easter Rebellion of 1916. He was sentenced to death by the English after the uprising, but was released under a general amnesty following a brief imprisonment. He returned to Ireland in 1917, where he was elected to parliament and became president of Sinn Fein and the Irish Volunteers. After leading an anti-conscription campaign he was again imprisoned by the English but escaped in 1919. He traveled to the U.S. in 1919–1920 to raise money and political support for the recognition of the provisional Irish Republic. Having been elected first minister of the Irish parliament in 1919, de Valera was referred to by the American press as “president” or “provisional president” of the Irish Republic, a form of address which may have inspired Garvey’s choice of the title “provisional president of Africa” at the August 1920 convention. De Valera resigned in 1922, after a treaty was signed between Great Britain and Ireland which established the Irish Free State but excluded Northern Ireland from the agreement. In 1926, de Valera established his own party, Fianna Fail, which gained control of the government in 1932. He served as taoiseach (prime minister) from 1932 to 1948, from 1951 to 1954, and from 1957 to 1959, and as president from 1959 to 1973. Under his leadership Ireland suspended oaths of allegiance to the British Crown and the payment of land annuities to Britain; it also maintained a neutral position throughout World War II (Earl of Longford and T. P. o’Neill, Eamon de Valera [Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1970]; John P. o’Carroll and John A. Murphy, eds., De Valera and His Times [Cork, Ireland: Cork University Press, 1983]; Tim Pat Coogan, Eamon de Valera: The Man Who Was Ireland [New York: HarperCollins, 1994]; MGP 1:lxx–lxxviii, 2:377 n. 4).
[7] The British officially abolished legal slavery in 1833 and 1834; emancipation was granted in the West Indies and South Africa in 1838 and in British India in 1843 (Reginald Coupland, The British Anti-slavery Movement [1933; reprint, New York: Barnes and Noble, 1964]; Owen Sherrard, Freedom from Fear: The Slave and His Emancipation [New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1959]).
[8] Although Egypt was a part of the Ottoman Empire until 1914 and was never legally a British colony, it was under British control from 1882. A 1904 agreement allowed Britain an increasingly explicit role in the administration of Egypt, and when the Ottoman Empire entered World War I, Britain declared Egypt a protectorate. Following the war, Egyptian politicians requested independence negotiations; the issue was further advanced by a student and peasant rebellion that began in 1919, and February 1922 brought a British declaration of Egyptian independence.
Garvey often used Egyptian nationalism as a model to inspire other peoples seeking independence from colonial oppressors. When he spoke at a meeting in Washington, D.C., in July 1920, Garvey told his audience that “this is the age when all peoples are striking out for freedom, for liberty, and for democracy. We have entered this age of struggle for liberty at the same time with the people of Ireland, the people of Egypt, of India, and the people of the Eastern states of Europe” (MGP 2:478). The following month, at the First International UNIA Convention in New York, he sent a telegram, on behalf of the delegates, to the chairman of the Egyptian Nationalist party, congratulating the people of Egypt “for the great success that has crowned their efforts in securing their independence” (MGP 2:649) (CHA 7:742–755; Peter Mansfield, The British in Egypt [New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971], pp. 220–244; see also MGP 2:500, 502, 651 n. 6).
[9] In August 1920, Mohandas K. Gandhi embarked on a nationwide campaign to press for independence from British rule by encouraging participation in a noncooperation movement. The following month, the Congress of Calcutta affirmed Gandhi’s program of boycotts of foreign products, courts, schools, official functions, legislatures, and overseas military service. By December 1920, the congress had transformed itself into a mass organization dedicated to India’s independence (EWH).
[10] Baron Sydney Sonnino (1847–1921) served in many posts in the Italian government, beginning in 1893 when he became minister of finance, a position followed by terms as minister of the treasury, premier, and finally minister of foreign affairs from 1914 to 1919. He was an Italian representative at the Paris Peace Conference (WBD).
[11] Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, 4.1.184–186.
[12] Zionism, the movement which strove to recover the ancient homeland of Palestine for the Jewish people, was developed as a concrete political movement in the late nineteenth century by Theodor Herzl (1860–1904) to gain rights over this territory. After World War I, Zionist objectives were supported by the British government, and Jews began to migrate to Palestine; in 1948 the Jewish state of Israel was formed with the support of the United Nations (Cambridge Encyclopedia).
[13] The Universal African Black Cross Nurses (BCN) were a female auxiliary of the UNIA, modeled after Red Cross nurses of World War I and planned in part to complement the Universal African Legions (the male paramilitary auxiliary) on future African battlefields. The BCN, in long white robes with black crosses on their caps, fulfilled dress functions in UNIA parades, marching as a contingent along with such other uniformed auxiliaries as the Legions and the female Motor Corps. Although some members of the BCN were trained nurses, the majority had little formal nursing training. The BCN provided first aid and educated mothers in hygiene, nutrition, and child care. BCN groups were formed in connection with UNIA divisions in the U.S., the Caribbean, and Central America. The BCN button was a black Latin cross on a red background, encircled with a band of green (MGP 3:766–768; photographs in MGP 3, 4).
[14] In 1919 W. E. B. Du Bois wrote:
“The black soldier saved civilisation in 1914–18. First, nearly 400,000 black men of Senegal were the troops that at the Marne and the Ourcq stopped the first onset of Germans, filled the river with their dead and made the world’s greatest army re-cross on the dead corpses of their companions. France not only does not deny this—she is proud to acknowledge the debt. . . .”“America did not win the war by her fighting only. Her fighting both of colored and white troops covered less than a year of a four years’ war. America’s great contribution was her preparations which frightened Germany; and her sailors, engineers and laborers who made food and material available. Among these the black stevedores have won a world record. They have been the best workers in France, as is acknowledged by everybody, and their efficiency has been due in part to no small numbers of colored officers and under-officers and to colored YMCA workers.”“But America did some fighting, and the most critical time of America’s fighting was in the terrible days of last fall when the exhausted French had to have reinforcements or yield. It was here that among the first units sent to aid was the Ninety-third Division. . . . So at the most critical period of the American participation in the war these men went into action. (“The Black Man in the Revolution of 1914–1918,” Crisis 17, no. 5 [March 1919]: 218–223)”
The 93d division consisted of black troops who made up the 369th, 370th, 371st, and 372d regiments, which, according to Du Bois, “was an aggregation nobody wanted” (p. 219).
[15] From the poem “Recessional” by Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936).
[16] Gabriel M. Johnson (b. 1871), mayor of Monrovia and president of the Monrovia UNIA division, was elected supreme potentate of the UNIA at the 1920 UNIA convention in New York. Johnson was a member of a prominent Americo-Liberian family that migrated to Liberia in the nineteenth century. His father, Hilary Johnson, served as president of Liberia, and his brother, F. E. R. Johnson, was a member of the Liberian Supreme Court. Gabriel Johnson attended Liberia College in the 1880s. He became a building contractor and worked in his family’s commercial establishment; he was also involved in the recruitment of forced labor for contract work in Fernando Po. He attained the rank of brigadier general in the Liberian militia and served as mayor of Monrovia from 1912 to 1913 and again from 1920 to 1921. The UNIA paid his passage to attend the 1920 UNIA convention, where he delivered one of the major addresses, encouraging the UNIA’s colonization plans. As the UNIA’s liaison with Liberian officials during the UNIA delegation’s 1921 visit to Liberia, Johnson saw the UNIA as a source of investment and development preferable to that of the U.S. government, whose financial intervention in Liberian affairs he opposed. After he lost his bid for reelection as mayor in 1921, Johnson was appointed consul general to Fernando Po by President C. D. B. King. He addressed both the 1921 and 1922 UNIA conventions (MGP 2–6).
Gabriel M. Johnson
[17] James D. Brooks, American pastor, was the secretary-general of the UNIA in 1920 and 1921. Brooks joined a group of other leading Garveyites, including George Alexander McGuire and Cyril Crichlow, in leaving the UNIA to join Cyril Briggs’s African Blood Brotherhood in 1921. Brooks began his career with the UNIA as an organizer, traveling to divisions in the American South, West, and Northeast in 1920 to raise funds and increase membership in the organization. He went on a UNIA fund-raising tour of northern cities in the spring and early summer of 1921, speaking in Cleveland and Cincinnati in June. He ceased to report to the executive council of the UNIA in July 1921, and at the August 1921 UNIA convention, he was charged with incompetence, embezzlement, and violation of the UNIA constitution. His office was declared vacant after delegates testified to his misuse of organization funds. Detectives tracked him down in November 1921, when he was arrested on grand larceny charges first instigated by the National Surety Company, which held him on bond for the UNIA. He was interviewed by Bureau of Investigation agents in January 1922 in connection with Garvey’s impending mail-fraud trial. Garvey testified at Brooks’s August 1922 larceny trial, in which Brooks was acquitted on 31 August 1922 (People of New York v. James D. Brooks, no. 34086, City Magistrates’ Court of the City of New York, August 1922; New York News, 3 December 1921; MGP 1–5).