Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Rollover text informationAmerican Experience Logo
Marcus Garvey: Look For Me in the Whirlwind

spacer above content
Online Forum: The Deportation of Marcus Garvey
 1 of 15 next

Who is most responsible for the deportation of the Honorable Mr. Garvey, the NAACP or the U.S. Government?
N. F.

Answered by Theodore Kornweibel:
The U. S. government was responsible for Garvey's deportation, which followed his conviction and imprisonment. It built its mail fraud case on a variety of evidence, some gained by agents (both black and white) of the Bureau of Investigation, with a great deal of other evidence obtained from U.N.I.A. documents. Garvey blamed W.E.B. Du Bois and the NAACP for his legal troubles however, among Garvey's critics, Du Bois was much more even-handed than many others.

The only "assistance" of the NAACP to the government was the signature of two NAACP officers on a group letter to the Attorney General urging a speedy prosecution; NAACP attorneys reviewed the letter before it was sent. But it was written when the Justice Department had almost completed building its case and had no real impact.

In short, the NAACP played no significant role in Garvey's legal troubles. From quite early in his American residence, Garvey distrusted (and misunderstood) the NAACP because he perceived it through Jamaican perspectives: in Jamaica,"coloreds" (persons of mixed race) often looked down on"blacks" like Garvey and identified with the island's white elite. Garvey mistakenly believed that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was only promoting the interests of African Americans of mixed race, like Du Bois and other of his critics.

Answered by Barbara Bair
It is inaccurate and an over-simplification to blame the NAACP for Garvey's deportation. The deportation was the culmination of a long series of events and actions, including actions and choices made by Garvey himself, in which opposition to Garvey by members of the NAACP, including W.E.B. Du Bois, and many other progressive and Leftist black activists, not affiliated with the NAACP but with other organizations, played one part.

The most important and fundamental element in the deportation was the long and concerted effort by the State and Justice departments, in concert with the British colonial office, and spearheaded by the doggedness of J. Edgar Hoover, to rid the United States of what Garvey represented, namely a mass movement of black people -- and not elite black people, but laborers and common folk, many of whom had not had the benefit of prolonged schooling or whom wielded the types of influence that can come with middle class life, and who were nevertheless politicized and united, strengthened and given voice, by Garvey's message.

The government simply preferred that they not be dissatisfied with their lot. One of the sadnesses of the situation is the role of fellow blacks in the "divide and conquer" approach that the government took in undermining and disassembling the Garvey movement, most especially in imprisoning and deporting Marcus Garvey. On the other hand, those who participated in the "Garvey Must Go" campaign did so with good reason, from their perspectives.

A. Philip Randolph, for example, was very concerned about financial corruption within the Garvey movement because he felt that Black Star Line stock was being sold to the very people who could least afford it, to the poorest among the poor of the black community, and that these poor people were being bilked by Garvey. Others could simply not stomach Garvey's meeting with the Ku Klux Klan, and felt that Garvey, as a West Indian, did not fully understand the history behind white southern violence against black people and the full horrors represented to American blacks by the KKK hood and gown. Part of Garvey's motivation in meeting with the Klan was to work in coalition with the Klan along racial separatist lines--a White America for white people and a Black Africa for black people--with a shared concern to prevent miscegenation, or the mixing of the races.

Garvey expressly negotiated with the Klan that the U.N.I.A. would oppose the NAACP's campaigns in the South in behalf of integration, housing and residential rights, and other anti-Jim Crow measures. In exchange, he hoped in part that the KKK would help lobby the federal government -- whom Garvey believed held political beliefs very similar to those of the KKK -- to keep Garvey out of prison, or if imprisoned, to help win him a pardon. All these elements, and more, contributed to Garvey's ultimate deportation from the United States.

return to the forum | next question
Site Navigation

Special Features: In His Own Words | Online Forum | The Impact of Garvey
Life and Lessons | Interview Clips

Marcus Garvey: Look For Me in the Whirlwind Home | The Film & More | Special Features | Timeline | Gallery | People & Events | Teacher's Guide

American Experience | Feedback | Search & Site Map | Shop | Subscribe | Web Credits

© New content 1999-2000 PBS Online / WGBH

Exclusive Corporate Funding is provided by: