Written early 1920
Marcus Garvey appeared in Harlem -- that crowded section of New York city which has been termed the "Mecca" of the Negroes of the world. Coming unheralded, like John the Baptist, he brought a message which carried conviction to all open-minded listeners. For many years Garvey had studied the hard lot of his race everywhere on God's earth. He had witnessed their political and economic oppression and noted the sufferings and discriminations which they experienced. He had himself drunk to the dregs of this bitter cup. As to Moses of old, so to Garvey, there came a clear call to duty and leadership.
As a member of a race free from the spirit of retaliation and vindictiveness, with the desire to treat all mankind as brothers without regard to differences in creed, race or country, this young man, while respecting the rights and admiring the progress of alien people, resolved to make the material, political, social and spiritual development of his blood-kin wherever found, and the fostering within them of the spirit of self-reliance, and self-determination, the sole consecrated purpose of his life, to the end that the Negro might eventually take his God-given place in the fraternity of man. Whatever successes Garvey has achieved, whatever efforts have failed of fruition, all were conceived and undertaken in the sincere and honest determination to attain for his race this great goal.
Not long ago Bishop Bratton, the white Episcopal Bishop of Mississippi, wrote a book dealing with the Negro under the title "WANTED LEADERS." The following is a statement of this friendly author. "The Negro has had, and still has, the tremendous task laid upon him of making the place which is his in life; and of taking it, not because he demanded it, but because he has successfully made that place. In general, he who has to DEMAND his place has never earned it. In general, too, he who has MADE a place has deserved it, and in the long run, it will be accorded him."
This is Garvey's philosophy in a nutshell as the unbiased and discriminating reader will discern in this collection of addresses and documents, by which the man must be judged rather than by the opinions of his adversaries or the miscarriage of any of his subsidiary undertakings. Garvey knew full well that the Negro had to make his place. Other leaders had either demanded or begged, but this new leader, the very type which the race wanted according to Bishop Bratton, came preaching to the Negro the necessity of making a place for himself which the world would be compelled to recognize and therefore to accord him.
Advocating and promoting racial organization, racial solidarity and racial self-government, he stimulated in Negroes both in this country and abroad, the spirit of nationalism and the desire for a republic of their own in their ancestral homeland. Millions enlisted under the banner of Marcus Garvey shouting the slogan "Africa for the Africans."
His phenomenal success, as well as his philosophy expressed in his vivid speeches which were broadcast throughout civilization, challenged the attention of those alien nations which dominate Africa and the antagonism of jealous and hostile Negro leaders in the United States of America. Demetrius of Ephesus, when he saw his occupation as a maker of gods threatened by the preaching of St. Paul against idolatry, called a convention of his fellow silversmiths to conspire against the great Apostle whose success would result not only in the cessation of the worship of the goddess Diana but the annihilation of the craft which had brought them wealth. These evil fellows led a mob through the streets of the city, and threw Ephesus into such confusion that the municipal authorities were compelled to take action, resulting in the departure of St. Paul to other parts. The professional Negro leaders of America have duplicated in many ways the strategy of Demetrius. No invective was too violent to express their censure, sarcasm and abuse; no shaft of contempt, ridicule or vilification too sharp to hurl at Garvey; no name in the lexicon too bad to be applied to him. He was called fool, fanatic, freak, deceiver, and agitator and described as black, ugly, and an emissary of the Ku Klux Klan. "Garvey must go" was their war cry, and after pursuing various subterranean devices they succeeded in bringing about his imprisonment and are still hoping for his subsequent deportation from America.
Whether Garvey be in prison or out of prison, whether Garvey be living or dead, his vision of a free Africa, in which Negroes shall enjoy nationhood in governments of their own, shall one day become a reality. The Almighty Ruler of men and nations has predestined and spoken it, and Marcus Garvey is but the herald of a free and restored Africa. Newspaper reporters of both races treated Garvey's philosophy and preachments with levity, magnifying and exaggerating his commercial reverses. They intentionally or unintentionally hailed him as the Moses of a wholesale "Back to Africa" pilgrimage, a scheme which Mr. Garvey has never advocated nor planned. It is to be noted, however, that many publicists of the white race are approaching the viewpoint of Garvey and suggesting to America that she give aid and fostering oversight to the attainment of the aims of the Negroes within her borders, who desire to enjoy liberty in a government of their own in Africa.
Marcus Garvey's place in Negro history is secure for all time, despite his misfortunes which have been brought about both by opposition from without and treachery from within the camp. This man has felt the pulse of his people, and inspired them with race consciousness and hope in their future destiny more than any other leader, past or present. The great movement of which he has been the creator will "go on forever" like Tennyson's Brook until it reaches its consummation, for it is, in reality, a spiritual movement. Whether Garvey be in the flesh or in the spirit, the soul of the movement which he has fanned into flame, and the spiritual yearnings of his legions of converts will not be extinguished. Shed of its present physical habiliments the soul will be reincarnated and "go marching on."
To his followers, Marcus Garvey is more than a leader. To them, he is the outstanding prophet as well as the trail-blazer of the universal freedom of a noble race. Outsiders fail to understand the psychology of the disciples of Garvey, but the writer of this Preface (who is not ashamed to acknowledge that he is an open follower of this great teacher, rather than one of the numerous Nicodemus’ who are secret disciples for fear of criticism or opposition) finds the reason for our devotion in the conviction that no man has spoken to us like this man, inculcating pride and nobility of race and pointing out to a down-trodden and discouraged people their Star of Destiny. Let it be known and acknowledged, Garvey is no idle dreamer, no empty visionary, no frenzied enthusiast, but rather a true reformer to whom it has been permitted to arouse his people from a condition of apathy growing out of hopelessness and through good report or ill to suffer persecution, yea martyrdom for his race and the cause of truth, justice and liberty.
It is not Garvey who is being weighed in the balance of the world's judgment, but his race, and particularly his jealous and unworthy rivals who conspired against him. The Greeks gave Socrates, the greatest of their philosophers, the cup of hemlock. The Bohemians burned John Huss, their pioneer reformer, at the stake. Luther, Savonarola and others suffered imprisonment and hardships for the truth's sake, but they were God's noblemen. So with Marcus Garvey, a man of intellectual power and penetrating vision; a man who discovered the only solution of the problem confronting the Negro people the world over; and had the courage to preach the new gospel of salvation from permanent economic and political servitude. Disgruntled leaders who delight in the fleshpots of Egypt or accept gratefully, the crumbs which fall from the political master's table secretly, while protesting against the injustices of the color-line, concentrated their attack upon Garvey for proclaiming this a white man's country with a white man's government in which the black man's place is strictly limited and clearly defined, and beyond which it has been declared he "shall not pass."
While in theory they have vehemently denied this doctrine of Garvey, they have been compelled to accept it in practice, vainly hoping for the political and social millennium in America, when they shall hold the highest offices of State and enjoy the fullest privileges of society. But because Garvey believes with all his soul, and preaches with all his fervid eloquence the doctrine of racial integrity to be secured and maintained in a Negro country and government free from the pollution of miscegenation, his rivals who claim that at all hazards they must fight on American soil for their social, political and economic rights, have heaped opprobrium upon him.
Marcus Garvey in prison, with a conscience untainted from the guilt of fraud to deceive and prey upon his own people for personal gain, poor in pocket, although he has handled millions of dollars, eagerly and willingly contributed by his followers, suffers gladly with determined soul and unbroken spirit. No trace of cowardice has been found in him, even by his bitterest foes, for it is his courage to proclaim his convictions and to attempt the realization of his vision which has removed him from the sphere of his activities. Consecration of a great cause still leads to Calvary, but Calvary is not the scene of the final act of a people's redemption or of a reformer's victory. "Via Crucis" is still the path to permanent achievement, glory and honor. Garvey's work shall endure throughout the ages. His dream of "Africa for the Africans" shall surely be fulfilled.
UNIA & ACL International Organizer
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