Primary Sources: Statement of Arrest
Statement of Arrest
by Marcus Garvey
I believe that true justice is to be found in the conscience of the people, and when one is deprived of it by the machinations and designs of the corrupt, there can be no better tribunal of appeal than that of public opinion, which gives voice to conscience and that is why I now appeal to the conscience of the American people for justice.
I believe that all races have their peculiar characteristics, the Jew fights the Jew, the Irish fights the Irish, the Italian fights the Italian, and so we have the Negro fighting the Negro. As a Negro schooled in the academy of adversity, with the majority of my race, I have ever had a whole-souled desire to work for the race's uplift. Recently out of slavery, we have had but a meagre chance to rise to the higher heights of human development as a people. At Emancipation we were flung upon the civilized world without a program. Unlike the Irish and the Jew we had not national aspiration of our own. We were left to the tender mercies of philanthropies and humanitarians who helped us to the best of their ability.
In the Negro's struggle to get somewhere every member of the race took a selfish course all his own. There was no group program or group interest. The only cause that held us together as a people was RELIGION. During the days of slavery Religion was the only consolation of the Negro, and then it was given to him by his masters.
Immediately after the Emancipation, when the Negro was thrown back upon his own resources, the illiterate race preacher took charge of us, and with the eye of selfishness he exploited the zeal of the religious. Our emotions were worked upon by our illiterate preacher-leaders of the early days.
The masses of us having found new employment for which we received pay, were able to contribute to the partial upkeep of our own church life, thus making it profitable for the preachers of our race to exploit us in the name of God, without giving us a program by which we could redeem ourselves.
After the illiterate preacher-leader, came the illiterate race-politician who also had no program for the higher temporal development of the race. He, like the preacher, and had his selfish plans of using and feeding upon the emotions of the people. These two illiterate parasites, who extracted all that was worth while from the people traveled hand in hand until we reached the first mile stone of higher intelligence, then the illiterate preacher and politician had to give way to a more intelligent class, who, unfortunately, with only a few exceptions, scattered here and there, followed and are still following in the footsteps of the old preachers and politicians to plunder and exploit the masses, because they had no vision.
And now I come to source of my troubles, in fighting the battles of the masses. I come to the people in the role of the reformer and say to the, "Awake! the day is upon you , go forth in the name of the race and build yourselves a nation, redeem your country Africa, the land from whence you came and prove yourselves men worthy of the recognition of others."
This is the offence I have committed against the selfish Negro preachers and politicians who have for more than half a century waxed fat at the expense of the people. The shout goes up, "We cannot allow Garvey to preach his reformation and expose us to the people. The people will become too wise. We will lose our standing among them and they will not support us. We must "get" Garvey. We must discredit him before the people. We cannot do it ourselves, because we have no power. We will frame him up; we will lay traps for him; we will state all manner of charges against him to various departments of government so that the government will prosecute him for us."
Such have been the ravings, machinations and designs of a certain class of Negro politicians and preachers against me because of my reform work of three and a half years among my people that has over four million followers.
Jews, Irish and Reformers of all races have had their troubles and trials with their own people, so I am satisfied to bear the persecution of my own that they might be free.
I trust no one from the people would believe that I could be so mean as to defraud a fellow Negro, either directly or indirectly. I have an ideal that is far above money, and that is to see my people really free.
Others of my race oppose me because they fear my influences among the people, and they judge me from their own corrupt, selfish consciences. There is an old adage that says, "A thief does not like to see another man carrying a bag," and thus the dishonest ones of our preachers and politicians believing that I am of their stamp, try to embarrass me by framing me up with the law.
I have had to dismiss from the employ of the Association, and caused the arrest of many dishonest preachers and politicians, and now their fraternities are out for revenge.
Poor misguided mortals! How can they, when the conscience and soul of a man cannot be incriminated from without?
The Negro Ministry needs purging and with the help of God and the people, we shall in a short while, show to the world a new race by the purification of those who lead.
I desire to say that I have a great amount of confidence in several of the preachers and politicians of my race today, but the great majority need purging, because among them we have gamblers, thieves, rogues, vagabonds and these are the ones who are fighting me at this time.
Excerpt from Amy Jacques-Garvey, ed. Philosophy & Opinions of Marcus Garvey. New York: Athenaeum, 1969.