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An icon of Black Liberation, Marcus Garvey mobilized Black people like no other leader before. And the U.S. government hated it. Before Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Fred Hampton, Garvey was considered a Black Messiah by the U.S. government.
Considered a “Notorious Negro Agitator” by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, the U.S. government became determined to thwart his Black nationalist efforts to unify Black people across the African diaspora. It was only a matter of time. The fix was in.
According to FBI records, “In the aftermath of World War I, the FBI began investigating Garvey’s activities, looking to deport him as an undesirable alien. In 1922, he was convicted on a mail fraud charge in connection with some business and organizational activities in which he was involved. ”
WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED WAS
In June 1923 The Black Star Line, Garvey’s shipping company, sent out announcements displaying a ship that the company had not purchased yet but was in the process of acquiring, according to The Washington Post. For that, Garvey was later fined $1,000 and sentenced to Atlanta Prison for five years.
After serving three years, then-President Coolidge later commuted the sentence.
Garvey would then leave America and never return.
Representing Garvey’s descendants, Attorney Anthony Pierce has called for a resolution to be passed which was presented by Rep. Yvette Clark (D-N.Y.) according to Black Enterprise. He called for Garvey’s exoneration of mail fraud “with bipartisan support as all who stand for freedom and democracy should want the wrongs done Mr. Garvey reversed.”
The Black Star Line was one of the first Black-owned companies of its kind in the world. Garvey would go on to establish the Negro World newspaper and Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA).
In the words of Marcus Garvey:
“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”
President Biden has yet to pardon Garvey. You can sign a petition here to #ExonerateGarvey.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated J. Edgar Hoover was president of the United States. Herbert Hoover was the 31st U.S. president. J. Edgar Hoover was an early director of the FBI.