PM Pledges Strong Support for Move in U.S. House to Clear Garvey’s Name


Prime Minister P.J. Patterson has reiterated his strong support for current legislation, pending in the United States House of Representatives, that would vindicate National Hero, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, thus clearing the way for an official absolution of the Jamaican patriot by President George W. Bush.
Delivering the keynote address at the centenary commemoration of Nobel Prize winner and noted African-American diplomat, Ralph J. Bunche, yesterday (October 25), at Howard University, Mr. Patterson said that with the close of National Heritage Week in Jamaica, it was appropriate that the Jamaican Government and people recognize the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) in the U.S. Congress for its “unswerving advocacy in support of the Resolution calling for the complete exoneration of Marcus Garvey”.
The Prime Minister extolled Garvey as one of the greatest thinkers and leaders of the 20th Century, whose influence was incalculable. “This great Jamaican, this noble fighter for the dignity of peoples the world over, was not only an example to countless numbers of his countrymen, but inspired thousands in the United States and indeed millions around the world, through his profound sense of internationalism and his deep commitment to social justice and human rights,” he said.
Mr. Patterson said that the vision and message of this philosopher and humanitarian who preached the message of liberty and self-determination during the early decades of the last century, were as important today as they were nearly a century ago.
Highlighting the phenomenal achievements of Garvey in organizing and sustaining affiliate groups throughout the Americas, Mr. Patterson characterized the National Hero as a man of extraordinary talent and foresight.
“Garvey’s contribution in retrospect, is made even more remarkable, given the fact that at the relatively young age of thirty-four, he already had thousands of followers throughout the hemisphere, who were members of his Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Garvey and the influence of these UNIA (groups) contributed to the later emergence of the civil rights movement in the United States and greatly benefited the work of American stalwarts, such as the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” the Prime Minister noted.
He also mentioned that notwithstanding Garvey’s relatively brief tenure, living and organizing in the United States, his work succeeded in creating a unity of purpose among African-Americans, the people of Jamaica, and peoples of African descent throughout the Americas.
“Still regarded by millions of African-Americans as among the ten most influential persons of the 20th Century, Garvey’s influence and the power of his ideals continue to resonate here in the U.S., in the Caribbean and in the world at large,” Mr. Patterson observed.
He expressed satisfaction at the deepening relations between CARICOM and the CBC, noting that the current effort to clear Garvey’s name was emblematic of a larger collaborative relationship which had been beneficial to the region’s interests.
“The CBC’s advocacy on this issue is symbolic of the deep-seated internationalist spirit and co-operation that characterizes the enduring bonds between African-Americans and others in the diaspora, in Jamaica, and the wider Caribbean. It was this embrace, by both Marcus Garvey and indeed Ralph Bunche, of a global agenda, which promoted justice, which fostered peace, which preserved human dignity, that underscored their common passionate pursuit of their ideals,” he noted.
House Resolution 74 is an initiative of New York Democratic Congressman, Charles Rangel, who has tabled the legislation in the U.S. House every year since the 88th Congress in 1983. The Bill seeks to exonerate Marcus Garvey, arguing that the Garvey trial and conviction on mail fraud charges in June, 1923 was “a miscarriage of justice,” and also urges the Congress to have the Federal record reflect this determination.
Garvey’s trial and conviction, which has long been criticized by several prominent jurists, academics, and opinion leaders, stemmed from the mailing of brochures to members and supporters of his UNIA, advertising stock in the SS Phyllis Wheatley, a ship that the UNIA was negotiating to acquire but did not own.
Initially charged with three other UNIA officials, Garvey alone was found guilty of the substantive charge of using the mail to defraud potential investors. He was convicted on the single charge and was given the maximum penalty of five years in the U.S. Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia. His sentence was subsequently commuted in November, 1927 by U.S. President Calvin Coolidge, after which he was immediately deported to Jamaica.
The ceremony was organized by the National Council on Caribbean Affairs (NCOCA), the American lobby group, TransAfrica, and Howard University’s Ralph Bunche Centre for International Affairs.

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