American Series Sample Documents

Volume III: September 1920--August 1921

Editorial Letter by Marcus Garvey

[New York, Sept. 1, 1920]

To the Negro People of the World, Greeting:

We hereby beg to inform you that acting under instructions from the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League of the World, an international convention of Negroes, representing every country in the world, was called, and said convention was held in New York, United States of America, in sitting from the 1st to the 31st of August, 1920.

The purpose of the convention was to elect world leaders for the Negro people of the world. After several weeks of discussion and probing into the merits of the most able representatives of the race, the convention elected the following dignitaries as leaders of the Negro people of the world, and now we have it in authority from the convention to present to you these honorable personages that you may know them and govern yourselves accordingly by their ruling. There has been disputed leadership of the Negro people in all countries heretofore, but through the effort of this international convention the problem of leadership has been settled once and for all, and all Negroes in all parts of the world are requested to obey the rulings and advice given by the following dignitaries according to the authority vested in them.

His Highness, Gabriel Johnson, Potentate of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League, was elected world leader, and he shall have under his command all the Negro peoples of the world.

His Highness, G. O. Marke, was elected Supreme Deputy Potentate, and ranks second in authority to His Highness, the Potentate.

The Potentate's proclamation on all matters pertaining to the race shall be respected by all Negro[e]s of the world.

His Excellency, J. W. [H]. Eason, was elected leader of the fifteen million Negroes of the United States of America, and his command shall be obeyed in all matters pertaining to the race.

His Excellency, Marcus Garvey, was elected Provisional President of Africa, and his ruling on all things African pertaining to a free and independent republic shall be obeyed by all Negroes.

His Excellency, R. H. Tobitt, was elected Leader of the Negroes of the West Indies, Eastern Province, and his command on all things pertaining to the race shall be obeyed by all in those sections.

His Excellency, John Sydney Debourg, was elected Leader of the Negroes of the West Indies, Western Province, South and Central America, and his ruling in all matters pertaining to the race shall be obeyed by those in the section.

The time has come for the race to establish centralized authority in the control of its own affairs and this convention with the power vested in it through its accredited delegates, did elect and inaugurate into office the dignitaries herein mentioned. The following is a list of the Universal Movement for the Redemption of the Negro Race:

  • His Highness, the Potentate, Leader of the Negro Peoples of the World---GABRIEL JOHNSON.
  • His Highness, the Supreme Deputy Potentate---G. O. MARKE.
  • His Excellency, the President General of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League---MARCUS GARVEY.
  • His Excellency, the Provisional President of Africa---MARCUS GARVEY.
  • His Excellency, Leader of the American Negroes---JAMES W. H. EASON.
  • His Excellency, Leader of the West Indies, Eastern Province---R. H. TOBITT.
  • His Excellency, Leader of the West Indies, Western Province---J[OHN] SYDNEY DEBOURG.
  • Right Hon. Assistant President General---J. D. GORDON.
  • Right Hon. Secretary General---I. D. BROOKS.
  • His Honor, The Assistant Secretary General---J. B. YEARWOOD.
  • Right Hon. High Chancellor---GABRIEL EMANUEL STEWART.
  • Right Hon. Counsel General---WILFORD HORACE SMITH.
  • His Honor, The Assistant Counsel General---WM. C. MATTHEWS.
  • Right Hon. Auditor General---ELI[E] GARCIA.
  • Right Hon. Commissioner General---[F]. WILCOM ELLEGOR.
  • His Grace, The Chaplain General---GEO. ALEXANDER MCGUIRE, D.D.
  • Right Hon. International Organizer---HENRIETTA VINTON DAVIS.
  • Right Hon. Surgeon General---D. D. LEWIS, M.D.
  • Right Hon. Speaker of the House of Convention---FREDERICK AUGUSTUS TOOTE.
  • Right Hon. Minister of Legions---CAPT. E. L. GAINES.

These are the only accredited leaders of the Negro peoples of the world as elected by the House of Deputies in convention assembled from August 1st to 31st, 1920.

All members of the race will also uphold and give their support to the Declaration of Rights, which is now being published for universal circulation and which is published in another part of this paper. Yours fraternally,

MARCUS GARVEY, Chairman of Convention JAS. D. BROOKS, Secretary

Printed in NW, 11 September 1920. Original headlines omitted.

Reports by Special Agent P-138

New York Sept. 1, '20

Negro Activities

Today [30 August] marks the end of the actual working session of the Garvey Convention in Liberty Hall. The finishing touches were put on the bylaws which are very numerous. The delegates are now all clamoring for the copies of the so-called "Bill of Rig[hts]" which were to have been printed and a copy or copies handed to each at the end of the convention. However, this was not done, and no one seems to be sure just when they will be ready. At the night session, Garvey gave a lengthy and den[u]nciatory speech against the British Government, and Lloyd George in particular, claiming that the white people were bent on preventing him from entering Africa, but he was going to fool them and beat them to it. He impressed upon his hearers the great necessity of keeping up the fight for the principle of the negro association, even if they were to face death. That the white race were their natural foe, irrespective whether they were American, English, French or Germans.

Great preparation is being made for the grand parade, holiday and reception tomorrow evening which marks the official winding up of the Convention.


[Endorsements] FILE G. F. R. NOTED W. W. G. NOTED F. D. W.

DNA, RG 65, file OG 329359. TD. Stamped endorsements.

New York 9-2-20

There was a parade on the streets of Harlem by GARVEY to-day [31 August], but owing to the rain, it was not as much of a success as they planned. For some reason, the enthusiasm which marked the former parade was lacking in this.

To-night there was a big mass meeting and dance in the Star Casino, Lexington Avenue. Speeches were made by GARVEY, EASTON [Eason], MCGUIRE and others.

It would appear, however, that the sole object of this mass meeting was to sell stock of the Black Star Line, as all the speakers dwelt on that subject. The speeches were lacking [in] emotion, as the crowds were attracted there chiefly for the dancing.

The delegates were promised to have a copy of the constitution in a very short while, and many of them are planning to stay over in New York for a week or more.


[Endorsements] NOTED F. D. W. NOTED W. W. G. FILE G. F. R.

DNA, RG 65, file OG 329359. TD. Stamped endorsements.

New York City, 9-4-20

In Re Negro Activities Marcus Garvey

On September 1st there was a general meeting at Liberty Hall, but GARVEY was not present. The hall was only about a quarter filled and the speakers confined their speeches to their experiences, etc. . . .

September 2d. I learned that GARVEY'S wife filed suit against him for separation, alimony and counsellor fee of a high figure.^1 This is causing a lot of excitement in the Negro section, owing to the fact that his wife was his partner in this "Back to Africa Movement".^2 There are also about eight other cases pending against him in the Seventh District Court, for non payment of debts, etc.

September 3d. . . . The Garvey followers are very bitter against Domingo owing to the attacks of his defunct paper "EMANCIPATOR" on the Black Star Line. These men swore to kill DOMINGO at the very first opportunity.

As a matter of fact they determine to kill anyone who opposes Garvey and his movement in any shape, form or manner.


[Endorsements] NOTED W. W. G. FILE G. F. R.

DNA, RG 65, file OG 329359. TD. Stamped endorsements.

1. Garvey first brought action against Amy Ashwood Garvey on 11 August 1920. His complaint was presented in two parts: first, that Amy Ashwood had through "fraud, concealment, and misrepresentations" induced him to marry her, and second, that she had been guilty of adultery "with persons unknown to the plaintiff." Garvey requested that the marriage be annulled. His complaint was disallowed, however, because of "improper joinder of causes,"a decision that forced Garvey to issue an amended complaint on 23 November 1920. In the meantime Amy Ashwood Garvey went to court on 13 September requesting alimony of $75 per week and counsel fees of $5,000 from Garvey. On 9 October she was granted $12 per week alimony and $250 in counsel fees. She denied Garvey's charges that she drank excessively and continued to correspond with a male friend while engaged to Garvey and after their marriage. (The friend was Allen Cumberbatch, whom she had met in Panama.) On 1 February 1921 she countered with charges that Garvey had been voted a handsome salary at the 1920 convention and could afford to pay a much larger alimony than the court had allowed. She requested that a referee be appointed to investigate Garvey's claim that his income was only $25 per week; this request was granted on 14 February. As the case dragged on without resolution, Garvey became impatient. Claiming that the burden of alimony he had to bear made a preferred status for the case appropriate, Garvey entered a formal request on 7 April. Amy Ashwood's lawyers answered by claiming that since Garvey had been the aggressor in the case, he should be given no special consideration. Finally, on 18 April Garvey requested that he be allowed to discontinue the suit after paying all court costs as well as paying his estranged wife whatever amount the court considered appropriate. As his justification Garvey stated that in meetings with the board of directors of the Black Star Line and the executive council of the UNIA, he had been advised that the bad publicity the case had generated would affect the credibility of the Black Star Line and hinder the growth of the UNIA (Marcus Garvey v. Amy/Garvey, no. 24028, New York State Supreme Court, September 1920).

2. Bureau of Investigation agent Joseph G. Tucker reported on 4 September 1920 that "the latter's [Garvey's] wife, whom he is suing for divorce, promised within a short time to make some startling revelations that will be of interest to this Bureau" (DNA, RG 65, file OG 208369-A). There is no subsequent report on the matter, however.

New York City 9-7 [1920]

Today [6 September] while passing GARVEY'S office on 135th Street, he beckoned me from his steps, saying he would like to speak to me for a while.

He told me that he was being sued for $20,000 each by R. E. WARREN [Warner] and Edgar Gray for damages as a result of the outcome of the Kilroe case. Both men were complainants in the District Attorney's case, and although Garvey apologized to them and Mr. Kilroe, thereby getting a withdrawal of the criminal libel, these two men now are entering suits against him for civil action.

Garvey said he was not prepared for this which has taken him by surprise, so he asked me to give him my help and support. He reminded me of an incident long ago, when GRAY collected money from me for advertising in his paper under false pretenses, and asked me whether he could get me to prove that so as to help his side of the case. I told him that I will give him my support as far as I could, but advised him strongly to settle out of court by a compromise, and told him I would see the men and learn their terms of course. Garvey has played into their hands by making a retraction of his newspaper charges against them, which is a trump card in their lawyers' hands, thereby compelling Garvey to pay damages on a compromise. This and the many other cases has got Garvey "up a tree."

Garvey told me that the Bill of Rights and Constitution will be published in his paper this week. He also informed me that he was just about to send out a number of propagandists all over the world to spread his teachings. He said that Domingo's paper "The Emancipator" caused [cost?] him and his company thousands of dollars, and Domingo was the most spiteful man he has ever met. He was about to make a big drive for shares in Black Star Line all over the country leaving New York tomorrow, so as to raise money to buy a large ship for the African trade.


[Endorsements] NOTED G. F. R. NOTED W. W. G. NOTED F. D. W.

DNA, RG 65, file OG 329359. TD. Stamped endorsements.

Editorial Letter by Marcus Garvey


Owing to the pressure of work in the convention I was unable to keep in closer touch with you during the eventful month of August. However, I embrace this opportunity of writing to you to convey the hearty good wishes of the first International Convention of Negroes which assembled in Liberty Hall, New York, United States of America, from the 1st to the 31st of August. This convention will go down in history as an epoch-making event. It is for me to tell you that for the thirty-one days the honorable Deputies who made up the convention and who were sent to us by the scattered electorate of Negroes in the four hundred millions of the race did their work so nobly and well that they have won for themselves the cognomen of "ABLE COUNSELLORS." It would have made any race or nation's heart feel glad to listen to these honorable Deputies. They came from the four corners of the world with a message for the convention. It was a message of good-will from their section of the world. Indeed, the assemblage was but a pooling of the heartaches and the fraternal greetings of the Negro people of the world. Retrospectively, methinks I hear the unhappy reports of the delegates from Zululand, from Nigeria, from Nyasaland, and from the Congo in Africa. In the same echo methinks I hear also the sad tales of the sufferings in Trinidad, in Jamaica, in Antigua and the other British West Indian Islands. And what did we do? We had to make laws; we had to formulate and adopt a Constitution, a Declaration of Rights, and, thank God, we have given that Declaration of Rights to the world. We wrote fifty-four articles into the Declaration of Rights, and those articles we have given to the world with the warning, with the understanding, that four hundred million Negroes will sacrifice the last drop of their blood to see that every article comes true. No more fear, no more cringing, no more sycophantic begging and pleading; but the Negro must strike straight from the shoulder for manhood rights and for full liberty. Africa calls now more than ever. She calls because the attempt is now being made by the combined Caucasian forces of Europe to subjugate her, to overrun her and to reduce her to that state of alien control that will mean in another one hundred years the complete extermination of the native African. Can we not remember the extermination of the North American Indian which was practiced in a similar manner to the practices now holding sway on the Continent of Africa[?] This convention of August left us full-fledged men; men charged to do our duty, and by the God Divine, and by the Heavens that shelter all humanity, we have pledged ourselves to bring the manhood of our race to the highest plane of human achievement. We cannot, and we must not, falter. There is absolutely no turning back. There must be a going forward to the point of destiny. Destiny leads us to liberty, to freedom; that freedom that Victoria of England never gave; that liberty that Lincoln never meant; that freedom, that liberty, that will see us men among men; that will see us a nation among nations; that will make of us a great and powerful people. Do you tell me you cannot make it? And I say, "Shame on you!" Have you not, you British Negro soldiers, made it for British colonization of the west coast of Africa, when, by your prowess, you conquered the innocent and unsuspecting native tribes? Did you not make it, you American Negro soldiers, for the white Americans in the Revolutionary War, in the Civil War, and when you climbed the heights of San Juan? Did you not make it at the battle of Chateau-Thierry and the Argonne? You French Negro soldiers, did you not make it at the battles of the Marne and Verdun? Then why can you not make it for yourselves, climbing the battle heights of Africa, to plant there the standard of the Red, Black and Green[?] I repeat, you men of the world, there can be no turning back. It means that the Negro must plant the banner of freedom in this twentieth century on the battle plains of Africa or he is lost forever. The world is still in turmoil, the world is still in agony, the world is still in labor. And there will never be a settled world, there will never be a world wherein men will be in peace, one with the other, until the reign of justice is heralded in. But there can be no justice, there will be no ordinary human respect, so long as one race remains at the foot of the great human ladder and the other race sits at the top. It is time that the Negro rise from the foot of the ladder and climb the dizzy heights of fame and meet his brother at the top. What argument, what persuasion, can ever turn us from our course, the course of liberty? Men, be not cowards; men, be not fearful of what the other fellow says. Remember, you are men. God Almighty created us in his image. He gave us all the attributes of men and as men, bearing a semblance to the Divine. Let us rise to the heights that will enable us to say to the race of our brothers, "Indeed, we are of you, and shall remain with you."

The signal honor of being Provisional President of Africa is mine. It is a political job; it is a political calling for me to redeem Africa. It is like asking Napoleon to take the world. He took a certain portion of the world in his time. He failed and died at St. Helena. But may I not say that the lessons of Napoleon are but stepping stones by which we shall guide ourselves to African liberation? We do not desire the conquest of a world; we desire the conquest of Africa; that land that is ours, the land that no one can dispute as being the heritage of the Negro, and for that land I live; for that land I will bleed; for that land I will die, that you have made me its Provisional President. You have also made me President General of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League, a social, industrial and commercial organization. This organization seeks no warfare; it seeks not to deprive others of what is theirs; it seeks to build an economic base for the Negro wheresoever he lives. Please give to this organization all the help you possibly can. Help it to become a power of commercial strength so that, as we and our children grow into older manhood, we may be able to find a way by which to live so as to preserve our own existence.

Steamships must be bought and built. In countries like Liberia railroads must be built. Industrial plants must go up if the race is to rise in greatness. Are you prepared to do your part? Men, can you be a commercial power by bowing at the footstools of other races? Can you become an industrial power by giving all energy and wealth to other races? The answer is No. But you can become a great commercial and industrial power by amassing and pooling your own industries and forming your own commercial enterprises. The Declaration of Rights, published in another part of this paper,^1 shall be the Holy Writ of this Negro race of ours. It shall be the very Scriptures by which we shall know ourselves. Alongside the Holy Words of God shall go this Declaration of Rights of this Negro race of ours, and as we pray to Almighty God to save us through his Holy Words so shall we with confidence in ourselves follow the sentiment of the Declaration of Rights and carve our way to liberty. This Declaration of Rights shall take its place alongside of the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America and the Magna Charta of England. Who shall say nay to the Negro in intepreting the sentiment of this Declaration of Rights? He who says nay to the American white man on the principles of his Declaration of Independence; he who says nay to the Englishman on the interpretation of the sentiment of the Magna Charta, then let him say nay to the Negro in his interpretation of this Declaration of Rights, because, as an American white citizen vows that he will give his last drop of blood in defense of his independence and his constitution, and as an Anglo-Saxon will drain the last drop of his blood in defen[s]e of his Constitution and his rights, so I repeat the Negro must drain the last drop of his blood in defense of the sentiments of this Declaration of Rights. Let there be no misunderstanding. The Negro has risen to the fullness of his power. That power he shall preserve down the ages "until the wreck of matter and the crash of worlds."

And now let me say, while we are preparing universally for this new start, let us also remember the Black Star Line Steamship Corporation. The command has gone forth, "Ships and more ships." Africa must be linked to the United States of America. Africa must be linked to South and Central America. Africa must be linked to the West Indies, so that there can be an unbroken intercourse between the four hundred million Negroes of the world. We can only do it by and with more ships, and now is the chance, now is the opportunity for every Negro to do his bit by the Black Star Line Steamship Corporation by buying more shares. Every share you buy is a plate in the great ships of the Negroes' merchant marine. The shares are still going at five dollars each. You may buy two, five, ten, twenty, one hundred or two hundred. The time will come when these shares will bring to you hundreds of dollars. Therefore, while the opportunity presents itself, buy your shares now. Do g[ood] by yourselves in this generation and insure the success of your posterity. You can buy your shares by writing t[o the] Black Star Line Steamship Corporation, 54--56 West 135th Street, New York City, United States of America.

For further information about the Universal Negro Improvement Association, under whose auspices [the first] International Convention of Negroes of the world w[as held] you may write to the Right Honorable Secretary, G[eneral,] the Universal Negro Improvement Association, 56 [West] 135th Street, New York. With very best wishes for your success. Yours fraternally,


Printed in NW, 11 September 1920. Original headlines omitted.

1. See The Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers 2:571--580 (hereafter cited as MGP).

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