Marcus Garvey, who stirred black racial pride a half-century ago with his idea of Africa for Africans, took a step out of the shadow of history yesterday. His bust was unveiled in the Hall of Heros at the Organization of American States building.
In joining national heros like Simone Bolivar, Benito Juarez and Jose de San Martin, Garvey becomes the first figure from and English-speaking Caribbean country to be honored in the hall. More than 700 persons crowded into the hall to hear speeches paying tribute to Garvey on the 93rd anniversary of his birth.
Jamaican Ambassador Alfred Rattray said of his countryman, "Garvey helped spawn a whole generation of liberators." Alejandro Orfila, secretary general of the OAS, quoted Martin Luther King Jr.: "Marcus Garvey was the first man of color in the history of the United States to lead and develop a mass movement."
Some of those attending, like 82-year-old "Queen Mother" Moore of Harlem, worked directly with Garvey in the Universal Negro Improvement Association, an organization he founded in 1914 and which reportedly attracted more than 2 million followers in 40 countries.
However, the once-strong UNIA is only a skeleton of what it once was, according to UCLA historian Robert Hill, who is editing the 11-volume Garvey papers. The main groups, he said, are based in Cleveland and Philadelphia and exist to keep the founder's name alive.
Garvey, born in Jamaica in 1887, came to the United States in 1916. He soom began a year-long lecture tour of 38 states, appealing for funds for a proposed industrial school in Jamaica and calling for redemption of Africa. Almost immediately, Garvey met with opposition from large segments of black American leadership, including W.E.B. DuBois, who called him "the most dangerous enemy of the Negro race in America and the world."
Unperturbed, Garvey went on to establish the Black Star steamship line, formed as the link between blacks all over the world. However, it was his downfall. Poor business management brought about huge losses. And he was eventually convicted on federal charges of mail fraud in connection with stock fraud.After serving two years, he was deported in 1927 and later died a broken man in London in 1940.
Also on view yesterday was a small exhibition of Garvey memorabilia -- newspapers, photographs, his draft registration card, a Garvey-written pamphelt, "the Tragedy of White Injustice" and books about him. They will be exhibited at the OAS for three weeks.