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African Series Introduction

Volume VIII: October 1913--June 1921

The following text is a rough draft of the introduction to the African Series (Volume 8), which is in the process of being completed. Currently, a chronology of events from 1917 to June 1921 is presented in outline form.

End of World War I (armistice signed 11 November 1917), Bolshevik Revolution (7 November 1917)

Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points (8 January 1918), Paris Peace Conference opens (18 January 1919)

Early African attempts at pan-African organizing included S. O. Logemoh's 1917 letter to London-based Egyptian journalist Dusé Mohammed Ali. Logemoh, a Liberian living in New York, was trying to establish an industrial mission in West Africa. The letter was intercepted by British military intelligence forces, underscoring the intensity with which officials were monitoring such efforts among black people. This was followed in 1918 by an unidentified African in Seattle, and "Prince U. Kaba Rega" in Mississippi, both writing to Robert R. Moton at Tuskegee regarding plans for Pan-African business schemes. In this same period, in May 1917 Garvey founded the New York UNIA, supposedly inspired by talking with a West Indian returning from Basutoland with his Sotho wife who described the horrible conditions facing Africans on the continent.

Elsewhere, in Europe and Africa: J. E. Taylor founds the Society of Peoples of African Origin in London (August 1918), in 1919 each of the following were founded: Lekhotla la Bafo in Basutoland, the Young Baganda Association in Uganda, the Industrial and Commercial Workers' Union in South Africa, and the Liga Africana in Lisbon. In February 1919 W. E. B. Du Bois organizes the first Pan-African Congress, convened in Paris under the presidency of Blaise Diagne, and in March the UNIA delivers its Peace Aims to the Paris peace conference, requesting the former German colonies be turned over to African Americans. March 1921: Partido Nacional Africano founded in Lisbon, in May Correio de Africa begins publication. June: Harry Thuku founds Young Kikuyu Association in Kenya.

In April 1919 Garvey announces plans to launch the Black Star Line Steamship Company, a black-owned company for commercial trade between Africa, the Caribbean and the U.S. These plans captured a great deal of attention in Africa. In June, Herbert Macauley wrote to Garvey offering to help with BSL organizing in Nigeria, and in September the BSL purchased its first ship. African newspapers began publishing articles supportive of the BSL; two articles published in the Ronga language in the Mozambican newspaper O Brado Africano (191025, 191115), similar pieces appear in the Lagos Standard (191299), the Lagos Weekly Record (200299), and the Times of Nigeria in March and August.

In February 1920 a police constable in Boksburg, South Africa reports on a political meeting in which a speaker announced "America had a black fleet and it is coming." Monrovia's U.S. military attaché Colonel Charles Young, wrote ". . . Garvey has worked up an interest in his scheme all along the West Coast, especially in Freetown, Sierra Leone and Monrovia." (200515). Akinbami Agbebi becomes BSL agent in Lagos, travels to New York in December 1919 and addresses UNIA meeting in Liberty Hall. 18 May 1920: Agbebi writes to J. E. Bruce suggesting they expand into the Lagos bread-baking business. In November 1919 Accra businessman Kpakpa-Quartey speaks at a UNIA meeting in New York.

August 1920: first International UNIA convention convenes in New York, African representatives include Gabriel Johnson, G. O. Marke, and Prince Deniyi. Convention ratifies the Declaration of Negro Rights, and elects Garvey "Provisional President of Africa." Reactions include a flurry of correspondence between different colonial governments trying to gather information on the convention; also, a group of Africans in Harlem holds a secret meeting to repudiate Garvey's claims to be president-elect of the continent. Many Africans, originally interested in the commercial and business aspects of Garvey's philosophy, were very angry and disillusioned to learn that he had been elected "president," and denounced the political machinations of the UNIA. 210129: Prince Deniyi writes article attacking Garvey in the Richmond Planet, and J. E. Bruce writes a harsh retort in the NW (210219).

South Africa: Historic SANNC delegation travels to Britain in November 1919 to present their grievances to David Lloyd George, who in turn writes a letter to SA Prime Minister Smuts, stating: "The negro population of th[e] world is beginning to stir into conscious life. It has developed many leader[s] of force and ability as you will realize if you have followed the recent movements among the negroes of America," (200303) and forwarded a London Times article on a UNIA meeting convened in New York's Madison Square Garden. UNIA member James G. Gumbs participates in the Cape Town dock strike organized by Clements Kadalie in December 1919. 200518: SA postmaster writes to the secretary of the interior stating that he will intercept the NW from the mails if any arrive, and on 24 May the SA Railways and Harbours office writes that it is keeping a watch out for the arrival of the Yarmouth.

In July 1920 the Cape Town Black Man is founded, edited by Kadalie and S. M  Bennett Ncwana. Paper supports both the UNIA and ICU. In August Kadalie speaks at a Cape Town UNIA meeting, but by 1921 he split with the UNIA. 201011: it is reported that at a meeting of the Natal Native Congress, there were 1000 people present, including an "American Negro named Moses" who spoke of black people in America preparing a fleet of ships and ammunition to free Africa from white rule. 200806: F. M. Gow of the AME church writes on behalf of a group of six African delegates to a church conference in St. Louis, denouncing Garvey in a letter to the British consulate, and pledging loyalty to British rule. In response to this, an October 1920 Cape Town Black Man article attacked Gow.

On 1 January 1921 Umteteli wa Bantu (Johannesburg) reports that "it is a common occurrence for up-country storekeepers to find numbers of pamphlets, printed in various native dialects, in the cases of goods they unpack . . . Our American cousin is unwelcome, but he is wealthy and determined." Also in January, SA authorities consider banning the NW. In January and February 1921 SANNC leader Sol Plaatje speaks on the same stage as Garvey, in Toronto and New York. Bulhoek massacre of Israelite sect led by Enoch Mgijima in May 1921. On 22 February 1921 Garvey stated "if we have achieved nothing else during the three years of our work as members of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, we have at least waked up South Africa to a consciousness of itself."

Liberia: May 1920: J. W. H. Eason and Hubert Harrison plan for a trip of UNIA delegates to Liberia; the U.S. state department investigates. Elie Garcia speaks at a UNIA meeting in Monrovia, former president Arthur Barclay is amongst those in the audience. 28 May: A. H. Butler publishes critique of UNIA in Liberia. June: President C. D. B. King welcomes the UNIA to Liberia and invites them to establish headquarters there. In August Garcia submits a confidential report to Garvey about conditions in Liberia, and that same month Gabriel M. Johnson, mayor of Monrovia, is elected Supreme Potentate of the UNIA at the August convention. October: UNIA launches Liberia Construction Loan, and the following February Garvey travels to the Caribbean to raise funds for the loan. December: F. E. M. Hercules requests ten thousand acres of Liberian land. Ca. 30 december 1920: Liberian News publishes article praising the BSL and Gabriel Johnson.

In January 1921 the Liberian senate incorporates the UNIA and ACL, and the UNIA delegation leaves for Monrovia. In March King arrives in New York to negotiate a loan from the U.S. government; that same month, in Monrovia, the UNIA commissioners meet with E. Barclay, acting president, and cabinet members, to discuss land concessions. In June the Crisis publishes an open letter from President King denouncing the UNIA (210407: Du&nbspBois writes to King to request that he sign such a document for publication), and in that same month Crichlow goes to the American minister in Monrovia to appeal for help in returning home to the U.S.; the minister forwards all of the information he can gather from Crichlow on the UNIA to the U.S. state department.

West Africa: March 1920: NCBWA inaugural convention in Accra passes a resolution supporting the BSL. May: Times of Nigeria editorial critical of Garvey movement. 200609: Simeon Coker, organizing superintendent, Christ Army Church, writes letter to William Ferris of the NW, defending the Braide movement. August: Nigerian UNIA branch is formed in Kano. September--December: J. E. K. Aggrey, travelling through West Africa with the Phelps-Stokes Fund, denounces Garvey to audiences throughout Nigeria. October, November, December: Nigerian Pioneer publishes editorials critical of Garvey. 201126: Lagos UNIA branch unveils its charter. 201127: LWR defends Garvey against attacks by "the Patriarch and the Pioneer." 1920--1922: Nigerian businessman Chief J. Akinpelu Obisesan journal extracts trace his embrace of Garveyism through reading the NW.

Other: June 1921: "La Rome Noire," newspaper report on Garvey, is published in La Dépeche Coloniale; circulated widely in France and French West Africa. June 1921: Simon Kimbangu is arrested in Belgian Congo; African uprisings in that colony are blamed on the circulation of African-American newspapers there. October 1920--June 1921: Paris, Belgian Congo, Dakar, authorities corresponding to gather intelligence of W. A. Wilson and Francis Webber. 210426: Fitz Herbert Headly to the magistrate of Lüderitz requesting permission to form a branch of the UNIA, claiming to have a membership of 125. 210304: Bishop Charles S. Smith, AME, Detroit, writes a letter to the British secretary of state for the colonies, denouncing Garvey and claims ". . . it is calculated to prompt the imposition of restrictions on the movements of colored American religious bodies conducting mission work in Africa."

Copyright © 1995-2014 The Marcus Garvey and UNIA Papers Project, UCLA