United States Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke joined with her colleague Hank Johnson of Georgia to introduce legislation to the US House of Representatives that would exonerate Marcus Garvey, Jamaica’s first national hero. Garvey was a Jamaican-born Black nationalist and the head of the Pan-Africanism movement. The legislation describes him as a champion for those of African descent.
Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants and a Democrat who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, New York, said that the world should know the truth about Marcus Garvey and about Black history. Clarke, who is also the first vice-chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said she was raised on the teachings of Garvey, which promoted the ideas that everyone must join together to improve their communities, a commitment to social service, and a strong faith in God. She added that it was time to reclaim the legacy and achievements of Garvey as a human rights activist in Congress, the US, and the world. The resolution introduced by Clarke and Johnson is designed to exonerate the Black nationalist of his “unfounded charges” and calls for US President Joe Biden to “recognize and denounce” the racist smears against Garvey and his legacy and for America to “right these wrongs” now.
Marcus Garvey, a famous civil rights activist in the US and the founder of the Negro World newspaper, was born in St. Ann’s Bay in Jamaica in 1887. He advanced a philosophy of Pan-Africanism that became known as “Garveyism.” He also founded the Black Star Line, a shipping firm, and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Clarke’s resolution seeks to exonerate him of charges brought against him by the US government alleging mail fraud that involved the Black Star Line. He was convicted in 1923 and sentenced to a prison term of five years. An appeal, in which he said the charges against him were politically motivated, was denied. He was released from prison in 1927 and departed to Jamaica, where he continued his political activities. In 1935, Garvey moved to London and died there in 1940 following a series of strokes. Because of World War II, his body was interred in London, but in 1964, his remains were exhumed and brought to Jamaica. The government proclaimed Garvey to be Jamaica’s first national hero, and he was subsequently re-interred at a shrine in National Heroes Park.