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Marcus Garvey: Look For Me in the Whirlwind

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Primary Sources: Writing to the U.S. Attorney-General -- "Garvey Must Go"

The letter to the Attorney General:
2305 Seventh Ave, New York City, Jan.

Harry M. Daugherty, United States Attorney-General,
Department of Justice,
Washington, D. C.

Dear Sir:

(1) As the chief law enforcement officer of the nation, we wish to call your attention to a heretofore unconsidered menace to harmonious race relationships. There are in our midst certain Negro criminals and potential murderers, both foreign and American born, who are moved and actuated by intense hatred against the white race. These undesirables continually to proclaim that all white people are enemies to the Negro. They have become so fanatical that they have threatened and attempted the death of their opponents, actually assassinating in one instance.

(2) The movement known as the Universal Negro Improvement Association has done much to stimulate the violent temper of this dangerous element. Its president and moving spirit is one Marcus Garvey, an unscrupulous demagogue, who has ceaselessly and assiduously sought to spread among Negroes distrust and hatred of all white people.

(3) The official organ of the U. N. I. A., The Negro World, of which Marcus Garvey is managing editor, sedulously and continually seeks to arouse ill-feeling between the races. Evidence has also been presented of an apparent alliance of Garvey with the Ku Klux Klan.

(4) An erroneous conception held by many is that Negroes try to cloak and hide criminals. The truth is that the great majority of Negroes are bitterly opposed to all criminals, and especially to those of their own race, because they know that such criminals will cause increased discrimination against themselves.

(5) The U. N. I. A. is composed chiefly of the most primitive ignorant element of West Indian and American Negroes. The so-called respectable element of the movement are largely ministers without churches, physicians without patients, lawyers without clients and publishers without readers, who are usually in search of "easy money." In short, this organization is composed in the main of Negro sharks and ignorant Negro fanatics.

(6) This organization and its fundamental laws encourage violence. In its Constitution there is an article prohibiting office holding by a convicted criminal, EXCEPT SUCH CRIME IS COMMITTED IN THE INTEREST OF THE U.N.I.A. Marcus Garvey is intolerant of free speech when it is exercised in criticism of him and his movement, his followers seeking to prevent such by threats and violence. Striking proof of the truth of this assertion is found in the following cases:

(7) In 1920 Garvey's supporters rushed into a tent where a religious meeting was being conducted by Rev. A. Clayton Powell in New York City and sought to do bodily violence to Dr. Charles S. Morris, the speaker of the evening -- who they had heard was to make an address against Garveyism -- and were prevented only by action of the police. Shortly afterward members of the Baltimore branch of the U. N. I. A. attempted bodily injury to W. Ashbie Hawkins, one of the most distinguished colored attorneys in America, when he criticized Garvey in a speech. During the same period an anti-Garvey meeting held by Cyril Briggs, then editor of a monthly magazine -- The Crusader -- in Rush Memorial Church, New York City, on a Sunday evening, was broken up by Garveyites turning out the lights.

(8) Several weeks ago the Garvey division in Philadelphia caused such a disturbance in the Salem Baptist Church, where Attorney J. Austin Norris, a graduate of Yale University, and the Rev. J. W. Eason were speaking against Garvey, that the police disbanded the meeting to prevent a riot of bloodshed. Reports state the street in front of the church was blocked by Garveyites, who insulted and knocked down pedestrians who were on their way to the meeting.

(9) In Los Angeles, Cal., Mr. Noah D. Thompson, a distinguished colored citizen of that city, employed in the editorial department of the Los Angeles Daily Express, reporting adversely on the Garvey movement as a result of his visit to the annual convention, was attacked by members of Garvey's Los Angeles division, who, it is alleged, had been incited to violence by Garvey himself, and only through the help of a large number of police officers was Thompson saved from bodily harm.

(10) A few months ago, when some persons in the Cleveland, Ohio. Division of the U. N. I. A. asked Dr. LeRoy Bundy, Garvey's chief assistant, for an accounting of funds a veritable riot took place, led, according to the Pittsburgh America, by Bundy himself.

(11) In Pittsburgh, Pa., on October 23 last, after seeking to disturb a meeting conducted by Chandler Owen, editor of the Messenger Magazine, Garveyites who had lurked around the corner in a body rushed on the street car after the meeting, seeking to assault him, but were prevented by the intervention of the police.

(12) When William Pickens, who had co-operated in the expose of Garvey frauds, was to deliver an address in Toronto, Canada, Garveyites met him on the steps of the church, with hands threateningly in their hip pockets, trying to intimidate him, lest he should further expose the movement.

(13) In Chicago, after seeking to break up an anti-Garvey meeting, a Garvey supporter shot a policeman who sought to prevent him from attacking the speaker as he left the building.

(14) In New York last August during a series of meetings conducted by the Friends of Negro Freedom to expose Garvey's schemes and methods, the speakers were threatened with death. Scores of Garveyites came into the meetings with the avowed intention of breaking them up. This they were prevented from doing by the stern determination on the part of the leaders, the activities of the New York police and the great mass of West Indians and Americans, who clearly showed that they would not permit any cowardly ruffians to break up their meetings.

(15) In fact, Marcus Garvey has created an organization which in its fundamental law condemns and invites to crime. This is evidenced by section 3 of Article V of the Constitution of the U.N.I.A., under the caption, "Court Reception at Home." It reads: "No one shall be received by the Potentate and his Consort who has been convicted of felony, EXCEPT SUCH CRIME OR FELONY WAS COMMITTED IN THE INTEREST OF THE UNIVERSAL NEGRO IMPROVEMENT ASSOCIATION AND THE AFRICAN COMMUNITIES LEAGUE."

(16) Further proof of this is found in the public utterances of William Sherrill one of the chief officials in the organization and Garvey's envoy to the League of Nations Assembly at Geneva. Speaking at the Goldfield Theatre in Baltimore, Md., on August 18, 1922, he is quoted as saying: "BLACK FOLK AS WELL AS WHITE WHO TAMPER WITH THE U.N.I.A. ARE GOING TO DIE."

(17) What appears to be an attempt to carry out this threat is seen in the assault and slashing with a razor of one S. T. Saxon by Garveyites in Cincinnati, Ohio, when he spoke against the movement there last October.

(18) On January 1, this year, just after having made an address in New Orleans, the Rev. J. W. Eason, former "American Leader" of the Garvey movement, who had fallen out with Garvey and was to be the chief witness against him in the Federal Government's case, was waylaid and assassinated, it is reported in the press, by the Garveyites. Rev. Eason identified two of the men as Frederick Dyer, 42, a longshoreman, and William Shakespeare, 29, a painter. Both of them are prominent members of the U. N. I. A. in New Orleans, one wearing a badge as chief of police and the other as chief of the Fire Department of the "African Republic." Dr. Eason's dying words identifying the men whom he knew from long acquaintance in the movement, were:

(19) "1 had been speaking at Bethany and was on my way home when three men rushed out at me from an alley. I saw their faces and (pointing at Dyer and Shakespeare) I am positive that these two men here are two of the three."

(20) The vicious inclination of these Garvey members is seen, in their comments in an interview:

(21) (The N. Y. Amsterdam News reports): "Both Dyer, and Shakespeare have denied the attack, but declared they were glad of it, as they said Eason richly deserved what he got. 'Eason,' said one of them, 'was a sorehead. The association made him what he was. When he was expelled because of misconduct he went up and down the country preaching again Marcus Garvey, who is doing great good for our race. Someone who evidently thought it was time to stop his lies took a crack at him. I don't blame the one that did it. Eason richly deserved what he got.'"

(22) Eason says he knew the men who shot him were directed to do so. In so much, however, as the assassination of Mr. Eason removes a Federal witness, we suggest that the Federal Government probe into the facts and ascertain whether Eason was assassinated as the result of an interstate conspiracy emanating from New York. It is significant that the U.N.I.A. has advertised in its organ, The Negro World, the raising of a defense fund for those indicted for the murder, seeming in accordance with its constitution.

(23) Not only has this movement created friction between Negroes and whites, but it has also increased the hostility between American and West Indian Negroes.

(24) Further, Garvey has built up an organization which has victimized hordes of ignorant and unsuspecting Negroes, the nature of which is clearly stated by Judge Jacob Panken of the New York Municipal Court, before whom Garvey's civil suit for fraud was tried: Judge Panken says: "It seems to me that you have been preying upon the gullibility of your own people, having kept no proper accounts of the money received for investments, being an organization of high finance in which the officers received outrageously high salaries and were permitted to have exorbitant expense accounts for pleasure jaunts throughout the country. I advise those dupes who have contributed to these organizations to go into court and ask for the appointment of a receiver."

(25) For the above reasons we advocate that the Attorney-General use his full influence completely to disband and extirpate this vicious movement, and that he vigorously and speedily push the government's case against Marcus Garvey for using the mails to defraud. This should be done in the interest of justice; even as a matter of practical expediency.

(26) The government should note that the Garvey followers are for the most part voteless -- being either largely unnaturalized or refraining from voting because Garvey teaches that they are citizens of an African republic. He has greatly exaggerated the actual membership of his organization, which is conservatively estimated to be much less than 20,000 in all countries, including the United States and Africa, the West Indies, Central and South America. (The analysis of Garvey's membership has been made by W.A. Domingo, a highly intelligent West Indian from Jamaica, Garvey's home, in the "The Crusader" magazine, New York City; also by Dr. We. E. Du Bois, a well-known social statistician, in the "The Century Magazine," February, 1922, New York City). On the other hand, hosts of citizen voters, native born and naturalized, both white and colored, earnestly desire the vigorous prosecution of this case.

(27) Again the notorious Ku Klux Klan, an organization of white racial and religious bigots, has aroused much adverse sentiment -- many people demanding its dissolution as the Reconstruction Klan was dissolved. The Garvey organization, known as the U.N.I.A., is just as objectionable and even more dangerous, inasmuch as it naturally attracts an even lower type of cranks, crooks, and racial bigots, among whom suggestibility to violent crime is much greater.

(28) Moreover, since its basic law -- the very constitution of the U.N.I.A. -- the organization condones and encourages crime, its future meetings should be carefully watched by officers of the law and infractions promptly and severely punished.

(29) We desire the Department of Justice to understand that those who draft this documents, as well as the tens of thousands who will indorse it in all parts of the country, are by no means impressed by the widely circulated reports which allege certain colored politicians have been trying to use their influence to get the indictment against Garvey quashed. The signers of this appeal represent no particular political, religious or nationalistic faction. They have no personal ends or partisan interests to serve. Nor are they moved by any personal bias against Marcus Garvey. They sound this tocsin only because they foresee the gathering storm of race prejudice and sense the imminent menace of this insidious movement, which cancerlike, is gnawing at the very vitals of peace and safety -- of civic harmony and interracial concord.

The signers of this letter are:
HARRY H. PACE, 2289 Seventh avenue, New York City.
ROBERT S. ABBOTT, 3435 Indiana avenue, Chicago, IL.
JOHN E. NAIL, 145 West 135th Street, New York City.
DR. JULIA P. COLEMAN, 118 West 130th Street, New York City.
WILLIAM PICKENS, 70 Fifth avenue, New York City.
CHANDLER OWEN, 2305 Seventh Avenue, New York City
ROBERT W. BAGNALL, 70 Fifth avenue, New York City
GEORGE W. HARRIS, 135 West 135th Street, New City.

Harry H. Pace is president of the Pace Phonograph Corporation.
Robert S. Abbott is editor and publisher of the "Chicago Defender."
John E. Nail is president of Nail and Parker, Inc., Real Estate
Julia P. Coleman is president of the Hair-Vim Chemical Co. Inc.
William Pickens is field secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Chandler Owen is co-editor of "The Messenger" and co-executive secretary of the Friends of Negro Freedom.
Robert W. Bagnall is director of branches of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
George W. Harris is a member of the Board of Alderman of New York City and editor of the New York News.

Address reply to Chandler Owen, secretary of committee, 2305 Seventh Avenue, New York City.

Excerpt from Amy Jacques-Garvey, ed. Philosophy & Opinions of Marcus Garvey. New York: Athenaeum, 1969.

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