Sunday, May 20, 2012

Marcus Garvey,W.E.B.Dubois and Firestone in Liberia

Marcus Garvey once said "Up you mighty race you can accomplish what you will."Marcus Garvey was the most listened to Black man in history.At his peak in 1923 he had millions of followers around the world.W.E.B Dubois was also a top intellectual who had influence in the Black community.The staging group for all African humanity was in the United States.Marcus Garvey found ready followers and listener in America,where as he never could get a following Europe and the West Indies.In America he remarked that her saw Black men walking down streets,owning businesses running newspapers in America.He saw Black colleges,scientist,teachers,doctors.It was here he saw the vision for a redeemed Africa.But the problem as Garvey saw it in America was leadership.He saw that leaders were primarily light skinned Negroes,who in his opinion had questionable loyalties.His detractors accused him of separating Black and Whites even though America Jim Crow and racial discrimination was the norm.Marcus Garvey woke the conscious of Black people up.He captured the imagination of millions of poor Black people.He appeared genuine to most.It was this connection that his enemies feared.The appointed Black leaders of the day did not address the community.They spoke about the community not to the community.Their newspapers and essays were aimed at Whites to convince them of the need for intergration and that Black people were good Americans.All the while knowing that the masses would never benefit even from token intergration.So when Garvey told the Black man in America he should colonize Africa and be able to rise on his own merits and hard work,that resonated with the majority of African Americans.Only African Americans were in the position to challenge European powers in Africa.The issue was would they want to stay being Black Americans or would they want to be African nationalist?They majority choose African Nationalism.
The NAACP the oldest civil rights organization was opposed to African Nationalism.Most were light skinned and did not feel attached to Africa as the masses of darker skinned Black people.The presence of Marcus Garvey and the parades with military themes struck fear in the hearts of the old Negro guard and the White establishment.It did not matter that Garvey called the White man a brother and was respectful of the United States and its sovereignty.The whole idea of what America thought of Black men was being undermined.Most Americans thought of Black people as not quite human.The stereotypes and minstrel image of Blacks being ignorant,clownish,violent,lustful,petty,simple was what most White Americans believed.Seeing a big imposing man with a militant uniform speaking with a foreign accent alarmed the White power structure.On four continents the cry was"GARVEY MUST GO."Seeing this the old guard Negro leadership began reaching out to White Americans who were misinformed about who and what Garveyism was.These treacherous Negroes successfully convinced the powers in America Garvey was a danger to the good Negroes in America who only dream about being American.
The UNIA team to Liberia. The enduring goad to the Universal Negro Improvement Organization was the Republic of Liberia.The first independent African republic and second independent Black state.Liberia was at the center of an international scandal involving tribesmen being recruited for labor on an island called Fernando Po.The league of nations investigated and found no evidence of slavery but said the practice should stop.This was a ploy to get Liberia to relinquish her sovereignty.Liberia had two cards to play.Marcus Garvey offered to raise money to pay Liberia's debt.He organized a team of engineers,farmers,bankers ect to go to Liberia and build a new settlement.The Liberian government promised Garvey one million acres of land for settlement.This alarmed the colonial powers in the region who had banned all images of Marcus Garvey in their colonies.Now he would have a base to operate from.So threats came about an invasion if Garvey or his followers landed in Liberia.At the same time WEB Dubois heard that Harvey Firestone was looking at Liberia as a source of rubber.Firestone of Akron Ohio was one of the largest tire manufacturers in the world.But the British had a monopoly on the world rubber supply.WEB Dubois convinced Firestone to go to Liberia to give Liberia an alternative to Marcus Garvey.He then visited Liberia and convinced Liberian president CB King that Garvey was an undemocratic dictator who would take over Liberia.So Liberia rejected Garvey arresting his men when they arrived on the ship.The keep the ship and tools.Garvey's movement collapsed after this and Firestone signed a 99 year lease building the worlds largest rubber plantation on land promised to Marcus Garvey.
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2 comments:

Mwariama Kamau said...

Not bad for a short synopsis. However, some language may mislead the laymen (e.g. 'Garvey's movement collapsed after the Liberia fiasco').

Also, a lot of history is omitted in this brief overview. Garvey's broad base of support in Liberia, President CDB King's ill intentions long before DuBois' collusion, successful repatriation by UNIA members after the failed 1924 effort, etc. are just a few of the important and necessary aspects of this history that must be included to properly analyze and contextualize the dynamic relationship between some of the pivotal parties involved.

Again, I appreciate the material and would certainly welcome any further dialogue on the historiographically significant subject and its relevance to our plans for African Redemption today.

Kala Nation said...

I do think the Liberia incident was the downfall of Garvey.I say this because without settlement you really have nothing.Settlement is when you put what you believe to the test.After this Garvey appealed to the League of Nations to turn Germany's former colonies over to the UNIA.Failure to create settlements was the shortcoming of Garvey/