Fighting The Masses Essay

1691 words - 7 pages

“I have an ideal that is far above money, and that is to see my people really free. Others of my race oppose me because they fear my influences among the people, and they judge me from their own corrupt, selfish consciences.” In January 1922, Marcus Garvey made his statement of arrest with the previous quote summarizing his journey as a leader. Garvey is known widely for his “Back to Africa Movement” and many attempts to bring blacks back to power. However, more unpleasingly, Garvey is known to be controversial as regards to his leadership. There was no doubt Garvey wanted to do great things for blacks and had all intentions to create a prosperous future for them. However, some historians ...view middle of the document...

Some of the most important programs in Garvey’s movement failed such as the Black Star Steamship. It was undoubtedly a good idea and seemed to be a positive step towards promoting commerce in black communities. Within 3 months, the first ship set sail known as the S. S. Yarmouth. However not long after, the chaos began. Elliot Rudwick, in his review of the infamous Edmund D. Cronon’s book, notes the failure of Black Star Line. Rudwick mentions that Cronon in his own words exclaimed that the company failed due to “irresponsible and inexperienced leadership.” Many representative officers stole from the company, such as one of Garvey’s self-picked leaders, Joshua Cockburn. During many trips, steamships got entangled and confused because of the lack of docking arrangements. The steamships lost over 1.25 million dollars because of this and were often overcharged by engineers and on multiple occasions, Garvey invested more money into ships than they were worth. These are common mistakes however. A good plan spoiled by misdirection; so why did the company fall so hard and so fast? Because of Garvey’s conflict with other leaders, which is later explained in depth, he, “alienated much of the support the movement might otherwise have received.” With this conflict, the company was victim of sabotage primarily by J. Edgar Hoover. This conflict contributed to the downfall of Garvey’s movement heavily as it led to Garvey’s arrest. Garvey’s leadership mistakes do not make him corrupt in any way. What perfect leader is there? Although this mismanagement of the company caused a downfall in Garvey’s plans, this is certainly not the reason Garvey’s movement failed in its entirety.
Due to Garvey’s conflicts with many upper class black leaders, he was often targeted and painted to be a corrupt leader making it difficult for his movement to proceed without interference. Edgar Hoover, who was just previously mentioned, definitely had it out for Garvey. Hoover coordinated several investigations on Garvey and his activities. He sent notes to multiple people concerning Garvey’s leadership. In one note to FBI agent, Special Agent Ridgely, Hoover accuses Garvey of fraud. He says in the memo, “there might be some proceeding against him for fraud in connection with his Black Star Line propaganda and for this reason I am transmitting the communication to you for your appropriate attention.” This note was in October 1919. Later in August 1920, in a memo to Special Agent P-138, he reports on his encounters with Garvey and his movement. Hoover concludes in the memo that,
“I am fully convinced that Garvey's teaching is without doubt a purely anti-white campaign and the Negro World is the instrument employed to spread the propaganda...That the convention and movement is only stirring up race hatred and widening the gap between the Races which the other intelligent leaders took years to build up.”

Finally in February 1921, Garvey sends a memo to Lewis J. Baley in which...

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