Garvey's Great Gathering (1920)
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America west africa and of course officers and leaders of the un organization based here in the united states. This was in large part. The work of marcus garvey. Who is someone. We haven't really discussed on this show There are other notable facts about marcus. Garvey before purposes that suffices. This is the first time we're talking about marcus. Garvey on the show Add that to his wikipedia entry on this day political until like two hundred and fifty episodes in but this is our chance to talk about garvey back to africa. The and lots more so here to do that as always are nicole. Hammer of columbia and kelly carter jackson of wellesley. Hello there hello jody. Hey there so kelly. let's start. I mean there's so much to say about the But let's start with just this convention and these parades in harlem like take us there. What are we sort of need to know about the texture of this moment in early august. Nineteen twenty this is probably one of the biggest gatherings of black people of the african diaspora That has ever met up in new york city. You have over twenty. Two countries represented you have tens of thousands of people trying to get inside madison square garden. Which is the largest gathering place at all of these people could meet up in one location. It takes about five hours just to get inside madison square garden. But they're so much is happening. I mean this is garvey's moment of fame in which he has orchestrated all of these black people to together in solidarity to draft up basically a black constitution or a declaration of human rights for black people. People were talking about this for decades. I mean garvey was a huge on the scene. I think he's probably in my book. One of the most under estimated or underrated black figures. But he's right up there with booker t. washington in wkbd boys and he's going toe to toe in terms of his ideology and the ideology is really important. And it's why they're all of these people here from all over the world and they're marching under banners that say things like we wanna black civilization in africa must be free is a pan-africanism That he is infusing into what in the united states had not been exclusively but had been a us focused movement And so he is bringing something new in the wake. Interestingly of world war one a kind of unity among as kelly was saying diaspora people but with the people in africa as well. So during parades that u. n. a. officers are sort of in full regalia. There's the black star line abandoned choir. We'll get into what the black star line was As you mentioned there's these contingents there's black cross nurses. They've really built up a full sort of ecosystem around the central idea. So okay. that's the specific texture of this moment. Now i wonder if maybe we should just go way back and situa- garvey in like not just the context of his time. But you know. I'm reminded kelly like we've talked a little bit about back to africa. The show can't some of those have been from white abolitionists in the fifties and sixties. And now we have garvey. You know few decades later so like where does he fit into this larger. Maybe decades and decades long flow of ideas of black americans going back to africa. So if you think. The nineteenth century in the abolitionist movement as a wave of maybe like a spiritual back to africa movement or colonialistic back to africa movement That's guiding these missionaries to go back to the country to colonize evangelize in the twentieth century. It's much different. It's more of a cultural back to africa movement so and a capitalistic. One is well in which there is not only pride about being of african descent but there is a strong desire to make these connections between the caribbean and the united states in central america and have shipping networks and economic networks. Allow black people to build wealth and control their own economic power and political power So that's the real impulse for the movement and just to sort of state the obvious when we talked about like the. Acs the american colonization society. They didn't really have like economic empowerment. Necessarily no no like well you know. Black people came from africa. We should send them back to africa. Maybe that conveniently makes it less of a problem here at home. Yeah and i think that Kelly is winning too. Is that in this case. They are a set of push and pull factors right. There's this idea of black autonomy That economic independence black pride. But there's also in nineteen twenty. This sense that the united states is not going to turn into this liber tori space anytime soon where you had all of these black americans who had moved north during the war for new economic opportunities that we're now continuing after the war who had fought in the war only to come home and find themselves in in even stricter jim crow regimes that were specifically targeting Us soldiers who were black And this idea that there had to be a space. Not only were. There could be economic independence. Autonomy pride all of those things but freedom from white racism in the united states and elsewhere right across the colonials. Yeah yeah yeah. And garvey is really speaking to this. Oh with the level of militancy and cultural pride. That's just not been seen before booker. T. washington is pushing somewhat similar sentiments in terms of economic in racial uplift. But it does not at all have the kind of have to that. Garvey has behind it or or the solidarity of the diaspora so garvey is is basically saying for and he does say this. And i'm probably going to bought the exact quote but he says for every black person that they lynch in the united states we will lynch a black person in africa and that is like whoa and when when he says that you know. The audience erupts with applause. This is also what tips off the fbi and hoover and this becomes a long slippery slope into sort of the demise of garvey. But the fact that he was willing to say pain. I foreign i. We're serious about this tip. A lot of people particularly in the federal government off about who he was. We did an episode a while. Back about william garrison right and he. When he burned a copy of the constitution. i was thinking the eighteen fifties But you know what we're discussing here reminds me of that in that it does feel like to your point nikki. You know it's just. At what point does the promise of this country. Start to ring hollow and then we see different approaches Explode in the happens throughout generations of black activists and so kelly like can we paint that context of who the other black activists were in the nineteen twenties where garvey fit in the different strains of radicalism and so forth. so you have a There's a lot of different organizations. Some of them are very short. Lived i think of the niagara movement that sort of the predecessor to the n. Double acp that had a much more radical stance as well but is rather short lived and think of course of the n. Double acp which is still around to this day which takes a much more legal and some might say conservative approach. But then you get you know things that have a more religious bent like the nation of islam and things of that nature but really the un. I i would say is the first black organization to have this economic impulse really at the center of it and a radical militant sort of backing behind that as well that sort of colors The way that they operate but everything about the usaa is about building new also so they have membership and they have you know a bonds that you can buy and they have a newspaper and they start the black star shipping line and the things that they're doing are just so way ahead of what any organization i think is thinking about in terms of movement building from economic or capitalistic sense. I'm curious to kelly. You know it's it's nineteen twenty and and domestic us history. That's often talked about in terms of the negro and the harlem renaissance. Where does the and pan-africanism fit into. All of that. All fits in perfectly. If it's perfectly. I mean if you think about the fact that like malcolm x's parents were garvey rights. You know. this is the moment in which a lot of black people didn't really know how to reconcile a boy ideology because in for some black people do. Voice is is sort of bourgeois is the elites and not everybody's college educated but marcus. Garvey comes for the everyday working black man and woman and really empowers them and so this is a nineteen twenties like working class movement political movement in economic movement. That people who may not have means can really buy into Literally and figuratively in ways. That i think fits so perfectly in with like the new negro and the harlem minnesotans and like the birth of a black nation and we should just say for people who are listening who might not know like boys was really pushing this idea of the talented tenth that where chain was going to happen was at the elite levels and in the upper classes of black americans and so this is a very yeah this alternate approach versus the top down approach and i think people tend to think of two boys and washington booker. T. washington as a sort of Historical beef darby darby and two boys certainly had one. And i think in this moment right. Garvey of course took took this opportunity of this convention that we're discussing to continue that weeks before the convention. He actually invites the boys to come and nominate himself for the role of quote be accredited spokesman of the american negro people. And i think it's safe to say that garvey thought being a quote unquote accredited spokesperson about as deep of an insult as it. Sounds like trolling to me. I mean they did not get along and that this was the probably one of the most public sort of beefs in the black community. People think again booker. T. and boys. But i i always think garvey and boys because some of the exchanges and the insults was like. Oh gosh this is harsh. We should also say well while he was doling out titles that garvey chooses himself as the provisional president of africa. Yeah i mean no no shortage of ego. That's a lot there. I mean everyone in this moment is doing is doing the most the most you know to this to that point as we start to wrap up i mean garvey is i mean look every political actors juggling and fighting on a number of different fronts but i wonder if you can just point. Just talk a little bit about the various fronts that garbage juggling here. There is the debate within the black community. There's the larger pan african debate and then obviously. There is the debate with both white america and white sort of political infrastructure How does how does garvey navigate that and do you see him as particularly successful in any of those lanes Yes and no i mean. I think he's incredibly successful among the black community among black working class people that want a champion that that looks like them. I think he's a huge champion when it comes to pan-africanism and how we connect you know louisiana to cuba to brazil to ghana. I think that's incredible. But i think he loses a lot of his white audience with his militancy with his rhetoric with his You know Charismatic leadership that's a little terrifying to them. He definitely sets off the federal government in ways that i don't think he himself could have predicted. And even though he's got these great ideas and he's a visionary he does not have execution and he trusted a lot of people that he shouldn't have one of the first black people to be hired by the f. b. I was hired to basically infiltrate the you. And i a and undermine marcus garvey. We'll marcus. Garvey has his shipping organization. The black star line which is interesting because the white star line was the titanic shipping. Mind and so. They said we're going to have the black star line if you kind of think of it. Well it's a little bit of a bad omen that identifies things but to the end of the wikipedia. Pitch for that one that that would have a bad time for me but but everyone on the shipping line is taking kickbacks and you know there's corruption and so by the end of his life i mean there's so much lost potential He is basically deported. He sent back to jamaica. He gets charged with mail fraud and he moves to london during the letter days of his life and pretty much falls into a depression. And it's it's really sad considering that you know. He sitting on his couch reading the paper and read his own obituary Just a few months before he dies and so he has really fallen from grace when you think about the fact that people have written that does written him off but written him up as dead before he's even died so any final thoughts on where we see his ideas today. I'm curious your take on both garvey specifically but these larger notions of pan-africanism and we see those percolating in twenty twenty one. I think we do. I think you know if anybody attended june teen parading. You see the red and black and green flag That was the garvey flag the flag. That's black that stood for black people read that stood for the blood and greene that stood for for africa in the The greenness of africa and the lushness of africa I think you see it in symbolic ways in some ways. I think there's the political aspect of trying to buy black or purchase from black companies black on companies to support black capitalism. There's certainly echoes of it. But do i think that there's a garvey today I don't know about that all right. Well it feels like a good note to end on so nicole hammer thanks. He was always thank you. Jody and kelly carter jackson. Thanks to you my pleasure. This day in esoteric political history is a proud member of radio topi from p. r. x. network of independent listener supported. Artists owned podcasts. Are researcher and producer. Is jacob bowman. Our producer is brittany brown. You can get in touch with us with any questions or comments or ideas for the show. Email us this day pod at gmail dot com or you can find a form at this day. Pod dot com. My name is jody average again. Thanks again for listening. And we'll see you soon up to four different radio x.