The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers, Volume XI: The Caribbean Diaspora, 1910-1920

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With Volume XI: The Caribbean Diaspora, 1910–1920, Duke University Press proudly assumes publication of the final volumes of The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers. This invaluable archival project documents the impact and spread of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), the organization founded by Marcus Garvey in 1914 and led by him until his death in 1940. Volume XI is the first to focus on the Caribbean, where the UNIA was represented by more than 170 divisions and ...
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The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers, Volume XI: The Caribbean Diaspora, 1910-1920

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With Volume XI: The Caribbean Diaspora, 1910–1920, Duke University Press proudly assumes publication of the final volumes of The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers. This invaluable archival project documents the impact and spread of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), the organization founded by Marcus Garvey in 1914 and led by him until his death in 1940. Volume XI is the first to focus on the Caribbean, where the UNIA was represented by more than 170 divisions and chapters. Revealing the connections between the major African-American mass movement of the interwar era and the struggle of the Caribbean people for independence, this volume includes the letters, speeches, and writings of Caribbean Garveyites and their opponents, as well as documents and speeches by Garvey, newspaper articles, colonial correspondence and memoranda, and government investigative records. Volume XI covers the period from 1911, when a controversy was ignited in Limon, Costa Rica, in response to a letter that Garvey sent to the Limon Times, until 1920, when workers on the Panama Canal undertook a strike sponsored in part by the UNIA. The primary documents are extensively annotated, and the volume includes twenty-two critical commentaries on the territories covered in the book, from the Bahamas to Guatemala, and Haiti to Brazil. A trove of scholarly resources, Volume XI: The Caribbean Diaspora, 1910–1920 illuminates another chapter in the history of one the world’s most important social movements.

Praise for the Previous Volumes:
“The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers will take its place among the most important records of the Afro-American experience. . . . ‘The Marcus Garvey Papers’ lays the groundwork for a long overdue reassessment of Marcus Garvey and the legacy of racial pride, nationalism and concern with Africa he bequeathed to today’s black community.”—Eric Foner, the New York Times Book Review

“Until the publication of The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers, many of the documents necessary for a full assessment of Garvey’s thought or of his movement’s significance have not been easily accessible. Robert A. Hill and his staff . . . have gathered over 30,000 documents from libraries and other sources in many countries. . . . The Garvey papers will reshape our understanding of the history of black nationalism and perhaps increase our understanding of contemporary black politics.”—Clayborne Carson, the Nation

“Now is our chance, through these important volumes, to finally begin to come to terms with the significance of Garvey’s complex, fascinating career and the meaning of the movement he built.”—Lawrence W. Levine, the New Republic

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of World History - Glenn A. Chambers

The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers: The Caribbean Diaspora, 1910–1920 is a valuable resource for scholars and students of the man and the movement. Though not an exhaustive compilation of documents from the period, the historical commentaries, chronologies, and primary documents in this volume serve as a thorough introduction to this important period in history and successfully integrates the history of Garvey and his impact on the global African diaspora into world history.”
Caribbean Studies - Frances Peace Sullivan

"By making such archival material widely available, the much-anticipated 'Caribbean Series' . . . is sure to expand the study of what Emory Tolbert has called 'outpost Garveyism' in the Caribbean' . . .  Researches interested in a variety of questions about the daily experiences of West Indians at home and abroad will benefit from The UNIA Papers' latest edition."
Journal of American History - Shawn Leigh Alexander

“With more than four hundred documents to support Hill’s insights, The Caribbean Diaspora, 1910–1920 is a treasure trove for scholars. . . . This volume is a superb addition to The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers. The documents and the general
introduction continue to shed new light upon the complex leader and the activities of the organization. The scholarly community will be intrigued
by this new installment and will eagerly await the publication of the other volumes in the Caribbean series and the completion of the collection.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822346906
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books
  • Publication date: 6/9/2011
  • Pages: 1128
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 2.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert A. Hill is Professor of History and Editor-in-Chief and Project Director of The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, James S. Coleman African Studies Center.

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Read an Excerpt


The Caribbean Diaspora 1910–1920
By Robert A. Hill


Copyright © 2011 Duke University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8223-4690-6



Africa was clearly Garvey's ultimate objective and provided the subject of his program of African Redemption. Based on the principle of "Africa for the Africans," Garvey looked to the creation of "a government of our own" in Africa that would be the means of uniting the black race worldwide. Speaking in Toronto in August 1938, two years before his death in London in June 1940, Garvey reprised the goal of the movement. The "ultimate object," he said, was "making ourselves a nation with the hope of extending as an Empire." This African imperium would redeem Africa, emancipate the race, and, ultimately, protect it. Garvey explained to his audience that "The UNIA [Universal Negro Improvement Association] has had to struggle in America for the ultimate carrying out of that object and as it is organized in America, so it is organized in every part of the world, for the ultimate of that object."

It was in America that Garvey struggled and succeeded in making his lasting political mark, the effects of which were profound and would ramify throughout the black world. Here he achieved his greatest renown as a black leader and created for himself a legend as a Moses of his race. Africa was the "ultimate" goal, but it was America that supplied the platform and the organizational means. Together, it was the combination of America and Africa that raised Garvey to the level of international significance. The price of Garvey's rise in America, along with the political attraction of Africa, was paid in the coin of Caribbean independence. "My one regret now in Liberty Hall is that I was not born in slavery days," Garvey declared. "I wish I were born in slavery days. I would have taught someone a lesson then." Going further, Garvey spelled out the reason:

If I were born eighty-four years ago in the West Indies, in the island of Jamaica, where, fortunately or unfortunately, I was born, tonight Jamaica would not have been a province of England. Jamaica would be a free and independent republic in the Caribbean Islands. But since I was not born then and I am born now, and they own that land out there, and since I am born at a time when Africa is not free, then my life, my blood will be given to Africa's redemption, Africa's freedom and Africa's liberty.

The coin of Garvey's legend has hitherto not featured prominently the West Indian side of the phenomenon, though the significance of the political renunciation implicit in his statement assumes a West Indian context. Garvey was clearly addressing an audience made up mainly of West Indians when he spoke. In spite of this fact, Garvey's legend has been comprised of two faces: the American on one side (the one most prominently displayed) and, to a much lesser extent, the African on the other. The propagation of this version of the story has won widespread acceptance. But, as these pages will make plain, although the main crucible of the Garvey movement was situated in the U.S., the main driving force was West Indian. Furthermore, if the Garvey movement, as a mass movement, was launched in America, the ground was not only prepared in the West Indies; it was also where the movement had its greatest political impact. Just how different things look when both these phases of the movement are more fully integrated, as they should be, into the wider historical narrative of Garveyism will become clear in the following pages.

Garvey's movement did not start in America. It came to America with Garvey, who had left Jamaica in 1916, seeking support for his fledgling Jamaican organization founded in 1914. Although it attracted the patronage of local officials, it received scant support from Jamaicans. After traveling through several states, Garvey returned to New York, his port of arrival, in May 1917, and decided to remain in America to seek his destiny.

Garvey's organization, the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), traveled with him from Jamaica, and he incorporated it in New York in the summer of 1918. The statement in the certificate of incorporation listing the objects of the association discloses the adventitious nature of the ideal that animated it. UNIA aimed "To promote and practice, the principles of Benevolence and for the protection and social intercourse of its members and for their mental and physical culture and developments and to extend a friendly and constructive hand to the Negroes of the United States."

Coming as he was from Jamaica to America, Garvey was joining a veritable wave of nearly one hundred thousand West Indians flooding into the United States before and after the First World War. Shortly after his arrival, Garvey had no trouble linking up with other Jamaicans who had only recently preceded him. "About three members of the old board of management are over here and helped at the lecture," Garvey was pleased to report two days after making his debut at St. Mark's Church Hall in Harlem in May 1916.

America in the years leading to the First World War was the West Indian Mecca. For West Indians, migration to America became a way of life. The wave crested after the war in the 1920s, not coincidentally, the peak years of the Garvey movement in America. West Indians had been migrating to the United States since the nineteenth century, but construction of the Panama Canal starting in 1904 drew off an estimate of over a hundred thousand migrants. As canal construction tailed off and thousands of West Indians were laid off, they began to disperse and looked north again toward America.

The number of migrants reaching the U.S. was astounding. Garvey's Negro World estimated in October 1920 that immigrants from the West Indies and South America arrived in America "at the rate of 5,000 a month," adding, "The West Indian section of the colored population in the United States is growing by leaps and bounds. Most of them are lost to the West Indies forever." According to the U.S. Federal Census of 1920, approximately ninety-six thousand West Indians from the British West Indies, U.S. Virgin Islands (former Danish West Indies), and the Dutch and French West Indies were living in the United States (see Appendix, table 1). More to the point, of the total number of West Indians living in the U.S., close to half (47,063) lived in New York City. The community of Harlem—consisting of fifty square blocks—was home to as many as thirty-six thousand West Indians, and approximately nine-thousand resided in Brooklyn. Together these two areas represented approximately 22 percent of the total black population of New York (see Appendix, table 2).

Hubert H. Harrison, the doyen of the West Indian radicals in Harlem, contrasted nineteenth-century West Indian migrants with those of the early twentieth-century wave: "In the first period of West India immigration," he observed, "when they who came here were mainly maidens and scholars seeking wider fields of usefulness, the Negroes of America drew from these samples as their first and more favorable estimates of West Indian character. It was taken for granted that every West Indian immigrant was a paragon of intelligence and a man of birth and breeding." Harrison then detailed the social and political contours of the explosive phase of West Indian emigration that emerged before and after the First World War.

Then came the slump in West Indian sugar, caused by German and American competition and the impoverished islands began to decant upon the mainland their working population, laborers, mechanics, peasants, ambitious enough to be discontented with conditions at home and eager to improve their lot by seeking success in the land of Uncle Sam. At first they furnished the elevator operators, janitors, hall-boys, porters, maids and washerwomen of upper Manhattan almost exclusively, with a few tradesmen and skilled workers thrusting themselves forward into better positions and breaking the trail for the Negro-Americans to follow. But during the last two decades they have won their way in New York as business men, lawyers, doctors, school teachers, musicians and journalists. Besides, there is the significant fact that almost every important development originating in Negro Harlem—from the Negro Manhood Movement to political representation in public office, from collecting Negro books to speaking on the streets, from demanding Federal control over lynching to agitating for Negroes on the police force—every one of these has either been fathered by West Indians or can count them among its originators.

Harlem emerged during these years as the symbol of cultural and intellectual freedom for West Indians, and its effects radiated to every part of the West Indies, laying the groundwork for the beginning of a cultural revolution there. New York's black neighborhood, home to the Garvey movement specifically, and to West Indian radicalism generally, provided a place where new forms of Caribbean consciousness could be tested and explored. This was the allure of Harlem—it was a liminal space, a threshold across which important changes in personal as well as social status could be negotiated and achieved through the emigrant spirit of enterprise. Harlem became the place in America where West Indians could shed their insular differences and forge a new black communitas, based on their common humanity and equality as emigrants, rather than on the values of colonial hierarchy and a discredited, oppressive plantation system.

According to the West Indian journalist and historian Arnold M. Wendell Malliet, who was born in Jamaica in 1896 and emigrated to the United States in 1918, it was these West Indians who provided most of the support of the Garvey movement during its highest peak of success, from 1919 to 1923, and who acted as the transmission belt for the spread of Garveyism throughout the entire Caribbean archipelago. The symbiotic relationship between the America–West Indian Diaspora and its homelands represented a continuous movement, with headquarters in Harlem. This base in New York was highly significant to the spread of the movement in the West Indies, for not only did it mean access to greater resources, but, most importantly, it also meant that the guiding center was beyond the reach of the strenuous British attempts to suppress the movement. West Indians at home had very little space to develop organizations that were critical of the plantation system that controlled them, since colonial officials rushed to snuff out the potential for any sort of protest or resistance at their very first sign. It was in America that West Indians would acquire the ability to conduct mass politics. In this sense, the Garvey movement provided an indispensable school of political training, learning from the example and experience of African Americans in their struggles against racial injustice.

Thus, although the Garvey movement was founded and developed within the West Indian milieu, it was never exclusively the product of West Indians. African Americans were also deeply involved, and increasingly so after 1922- 1923, when the UNIA's following expanded steadily into the U.S. South and Midwest. A compilation based on the available evidence of the names of UNIA subscribers, speakers or participants at meetings, officeholders, and signers of petitions and other documents during what is considered by many the high point of the movement, from July 1918 (when the UNIA was formally organized in New York) to August 1920 (when its first convention was held), allows for a comparison of these individuals' ethnic backgrounds, thus providing a general breakdown of the ethnic composition of the movement. When organized by gender, the data show that 66 percent of the males were West Indian and 34 percent were African Americans. The figures for UNIA females are almost completely reversed: 61 percent were African American, and 39 percent were West Indian (see Appendix, tables 3 and 4). When both sets of figures are aggregated, the breakdown is 59 percent West Indian versus 41 percent African American.

These figures will be subject to change as additional sources are uncovered and more information is collected and tabulated. But for now they give a provisional sense of the relative proportions of West Indians and Africans during the three formative years of the UNIA in America. In addition, the data serve as a useful prosopographical tool by identifying individuals, many of whom are otherwise completely unknown. The information also points to deeper connections beneath the political rhetoric, permitting an examination of common characteristics as well as an assessment of the changing roles of particular status groups within the movement.

Garvey would later describe what he found when he arrived in New York and why he needed to serve as a cultural broker between West Indians and African Americans. "On arriving in the city of New York, in the little district of Harlem where, then, about 100,000 Negroes lived," Garvey explained, "I met a few of my countrymen and a few West Indians who had been living there for some time. They thought that I had come specially to advocate the cause of West Indians." He described the popular misconception about West Indians that was spread about: "At that time, the West Indians who were living in America made the American Negroes understand that they were not Negroes, but Indians, and the American Negroes, who were very ignorant of the geography and history of their own race, believed that the West Indians were a branch of the Indian race, so that the West Indians were getting by as Indians." Garvey claimed that when he arrived in Harlem, his fellow Jamaicans there thought that:

I had come to speak to them especially. But I disappointed them and I spoke to the Negro people, and I told the Negro people of Harlem, including Americans, West Indians—Negroes all—the truth of their history. I told them that we were one—the same branch of one human family. I told them in Harlem that it was my duty to re-unite the Negroes of the Western world with the Negroes of Africa, to make a great nation of black men.

Earlier, Garvey also claimed that such was the seriousness of the split that he felt obliged to remain in America in order to try to address it. Speaking in Liberty Hall in March 1920, Garvey explained:

When I came to New York two and a half years ago, I found a disorganized state among my race here. I found the Americans were against the West Indians and the West Indians were against the Americans—that one side was saying "I am better than you," and the other side was saying the same thing.... [F]rom my knowledge of the history of the Negro in the Western hemisphere, I saw that the American Negro was no better than the West Indian Negro nor the West Indian Negro any better than the American Negro—we were all fighting and struggling toward one common destiny. Because I saw that, I took the opportunity to organize a branch of the Association in New York.

From his description, the split must have been full of rancor, with Garvey and the UNIA doing their utmost to steer a middle course between the rival camps. The rivalry had degenerated into a public scandal, as soap-box orators, brought out by the warm weather, appeared along Lenox Avenue in Harlem in 1919. "Obviously the new tactics of discussing the West Indian and American questions along purely nationalistic lines must be taken as eloquent testimony of the intellectual impoverishment of those speakers, who in order to attract a crowd resort to the most disgusting and vulgar form of billingsgate and abuse imaginable," admonished the Negro World in an editorial entitled appropriately "Divide and Rule." "Perhaps the Negro speakers who indulge in this race-disrupting pastime," the paper continued, "are merely rendering service for wages already received, or perhaps (and this is a charitable view) they are merely imitating a certain white man who started out along that line on Lenox avenue this season."


Excerpted from THE MARCUS GARVEY AND UNIVERSAL NEGRO IMPROVEMENT ASSOCIATION PAPERS by Robert A. Hill Copyright © 2011 by Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission of DUKE UNIVERSITY PRESS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


MAPS....................liii GENERAL INTRODUCTION....................lix HISTORY OF THE EDITION....................xcix
EDITORIAL PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICES....................ciii TEXTUAL DEVICES....................cix SYMBOLS AND ABBREVIATIONS....................cxi CHRONOLOGY....................cxix APPENDIX....................787
Table 1: West Indian Emigrants in the U.S., 1900–1930....................789
Table 2: Origins of West Indian Emigrants in New York City, 1920....................790
Table 3: Origins of Male Participants in UNIA, 1917–1920....................791
Table 4: Origins of Female Participants in UNIA, 1917–1920....................796
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