American Series Sample Documents

Volume V: September 1922--August 1924

Maurice Peterson, British Embassy, to William L. Hurley, Department of State

[Washington, D.C.] September 1, 1922

My dear Hurley,

I think it was with you that we had some time ago some conversations and correspondence with regard to the negro movement in this country headed by Marcus Garvey. In this connection I think it well to call your attention to an article in the "New York World" of August 29th^1 which reports that a message from the King and Queen of Abyssinia was conveyed to the meeting under Garvey's auspices by the Persian Consul General in New York, H. H. Topakyan, who apparently claimed to represent Abyssinia in this country^2

I should be very grateful if you would let me know whether this claim is justified or, if not, what power, if any, does represent Abyssinian interests in the United States. Yours sincerely,


PRO, FO 115/2766. TL, carbon copy.

1. The message was printed in The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers 4 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1985), pp. 1,005--1,007; hereafter cited as Garvey Papers. The New York World article of 29 August 1922 was entitled "Abyssinia's King Elates Negroes by His Invitation"; it implied that Topakyan delivered the message in person; according to Negro World accounts of the speech, however, Topakyan was in Washington, D.C., and sent his message, which Garvey read to the convention (NW, 9 September 1922).

2. No records have been found that indicate an official relation between H. H. Topakyan and the Abyssinian (Ethiopian) government. In response to a letter Topakyan wrote to President Warren G. Harding asking that an American consulate general be established in Addis Ababa, an interoffice memo of the State Department said simply, "Who is Mr. Topakyan. . . ?" While the Department of State replied to Topakyan that they would consider the matter, an embassy was not opened in Addis Ababa until 1 March 1928 (DNA, RG 59, file 125.121/3, H. H. Topakyan to Warren G. Harding, 4 October 1922; unsigned letter from Department of State to H. H. Topakyan, 19 October 1922; unsigned memo, 21 October 1922).

Article by Hodge Kirnon

[Negro World, 2 September 1922]

Hodge Kirnon^1 Analyzes Results of Anti-Garvey Campaign

The campaign against Garveyism waged by Randolph, Owen and Pickens ought to be productive of beneficial results. I enumerate the following as characteristic ones:

  1. It should provoke discussion as to whether Pickens' platform buffoon oratory was taken seriously as against Garveyism.
  2. It should tend to modify the exuberance of optimism and idealism of the Garveyites, thus rationalizing Garveyism to some degree.
  3. It should tend to prove a corrective against injudicious and thoughtless election and appointment of officers and leaders of the Garvey movement.
  4. It should awaken and stimulate a keener interest in questions affecting the Negro.
  5. It should tend to stimulate more interest in the Garvey movement.
  6. It should tend to emphasize the fact that while the Garvey movement received its impetus from economic considerations, a spiritual and racial idealism has been evolved which transcends economic interests, and which is fast getting beyond the assaults of logic.
  7. It should tend to force Randolph and Owen to eventually recognize Garvey as a potent factor in the life of the Negro, just as they have at this very late date begun to recognize J. A. Rogers^2 and Wm. H. Ferris.
  8. It should teach Randolph and Owen that Garveyism is a spiritual power which has enveloped and stimulated the racial soul of the Negro, and therefore cannot be thrown, bag and baggage, out of America.
  9. It should teach Randolph and Owen that class consciousness could and should be developed alongside race consciousness.
  10. It should teach Randolph and Owen to ponder seriously over the following words of Dr. Henry Maudsley,^3 the great English scientist and author, before sweeping Garvey too abruptly aside with an air of finality: "What right have we to believe Nature under any obligation to do her work by means of complete minds only? She may find an incomplete mind a more suitable instrument for a particular purpose. It is the work that is done, and the quality in the worker by which it is done, that is alone of moment; and it may be no great matter from a cosmical standpoint, if in other qualities of character he was singularly defective---if, indeed, he were [a] hypocrite, adulterer, eccentric or lunatic."
  11. It should teach Randolph and Owen that they do not know it all.

Printed in NW, 2 September 1922.

1. Hodge Kirnon was born in Montserrat, West Indies, in 1891; he immigrated to the United States in 1908, and was an early follower of Hubert H. Harrison. Kirnon drifted into the Garvey movement in 1920, at the same time that he began to edit a journal entitled the Promoter, which the Negro World praised as being both "radical and racial" (NW, 21 August 1920). Despite leveling periodic criticism at the Garvey movement, Kirnon contributed articles to the Negro World, spoke at occasional UNIA meetings, and supported Garvey in the early days of his trial. Kirnon felt that the "racial radicalism" of the Garvey movement was part of an "evolutionary process in the life of the Negro" and recognized that this "racial patriotism" held a spiritual power that had a profound appeal among blacks in the United States as well as having the potential to unite blacks around the world (NW, 17 June 1922). He felt, however, that the struggle of American blacks was in the United States, not abroad, and called it "downright ignorance and unspeakable folly" not to work with progressive whites in the fight to improve conditions for all American workers, both white and black. Racial consciousness should, he believed, be developed alongside of class consciousness (Hodge Kirnon, "Racialism and Radicalism," Promoter 1, no. 3 [July 1920]). Kirnon wrote a book on his homeland in 1925 entitled Montserrat and the Montserratians and by 1928 was chairman of the publicity committee for the Montserrat Progressive Society. Kirnon became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1928. Still interested in the West Indies, Kirnon became an active member of the American-West Indian Association on Caribbean Affairs in 1942 (Hodge Kirnon, Montserrat and the Montserratians [New York: n.p., 1925]; Ben Waknin, "Garvey Among the Intellectuals" [unpublished manuscript]; NW, 20 August 1920, 16 July and 30 July 1921, 14 January, 28 January, 3 June, 17 June and 2 September 1922, 5 September 1925, 6 October 1928, 16 August 1929; NYT, 8 October 1922; U.S. Department of Labor, declaration of intention no. 154866, May 1928; NN-Sc, UNIA Records, box 11, e.18).

2. Joel Augustus Rogers (1880--1966), a self-educated journalist and historian, helped pioneer the study of black history in the early twentieth century. Born in Negril, Jamaica, Rogers migrated to the United States, where in 1911 he began his lifelong research in black history. In 1917 Rogers published From "Superman" to Man, which attacked racist assumptions of black inferiority. This was followed in 1919 by the publication of As Nature Leads. These self-published books brought Rogers to the attention of the black press and helped launch his career in journalism. He began writing a weekly column for the Pittsburgh Courier and became a contributing editor to the Chicago Enterprise. He served as subeditor of Garvey's short-lived Daily Negro Times in 1922 and wrote occasionally for the Negro World. In 1926, writing for the New York Amsterdam News, Rogers interviewed Garvey in prison (New York Amsterdam News, 17 November 1926).

In 1925 Rogers went to Europe as a correspondent. He sent back articles on life in Europe and the rise of fascism that were published in black American newspapers. He was the only war correspondent for a black weekly to cover the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935--1936; Rogers's detailed accounts of Ethiopian bravery and his interview with Emperor Haile Selassie, by then the beleaguered symbol of resistance to the onslaught of Italian fascism, made him a celebrity.

In spite of his support of Garvey's efforts to build black racial pride and the UNIA's appeal to black workers, Rogers was critical of Garvey's leadership, and in 1922 he attended at least one meeting of the anti-Garvey group, the Friends of Negro Freedom. In 1947 he chose to label the Garvey movement "racial fascism," comparing Garvey with Mussolini and Hitler. Whatever his political differences, however, Rogers was to remain in contact with Garvey until Garvey's death in London in 1940.

The culmination of Rogers's historical research found expression in 1947, when he published World's Great Men of Color, a two-volume series of biographical essays on black historical figures which he had begun publishing in black newspapers in 1924. Although Rogers wrote the essays as inspirational success stories aimed at black youth, the volumes found a much broader audience, bringing to light neglected areas of the past and laying the basis for a later resurgence of interest in black history. Rogers continued to write books and articles on various aspects of black history until his death in 1966 (WWCA; Augustus Low and Virgil Clift, Encyclopedia of Black America [New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981], p. 735; Earl E. Thorpe, Black Historians: A Critique [New York: William Morrow, 1971], p. 153; Robert L. Southgate, Black Plots and Black Characters [Syracuse, N.Y.: Gaylord Professional Publications, 1979], p. 288; NW 7 May 1921, 7 January and 17 June 1922, 22 August and 12 December 1925, 3 November 1928, I6 June 1932; Pittsburgh Courier, 9 April 1966; New York Amsterdam News, 2 April 1966; NYT, 27 April 1966; JNH 51, no. 3 [July 1966]: 236; Valerie Sandoval, "The Bran of History: An Historiographic Account of the World of J. A. Rogers," Schomburg Center Journal 1, no. 4 [spring 1978]: 5--7, 16--19; W. Burghart Turner, "Joel Augustus Rogers: Afro-American Historian," Negro History Bulletin 25, no. 2 [February 1972]: 35--38; Ralph L. Crowder, "Street Scholars: Self-Trained Black Historians," Black Collegian [January/February 1979]: 8--23; Jervis Anderson, A. Philip Randolph: A Biographical Portrait [New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1972], p. 140; Andrew Buni, Robert&nbspL. Vann of the "Pittsburgh Courier": Politics and Black Journalism [Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1974], pp. 141, 246--249; William R. Scott, "A Study of Afro-American and Ethiopian Relations, 1896--1941," [Ph.D. diss., Princeton University, 1971], pp. 294--300; John Henrik Clarke, Introduction to World's Great Men of Color [New York: Macmillan, 1972], I: ix--xv, 2: xi--xxiv). For Joel A. Rogers's own works, see From "Superman" to Man (published by the author, 1917); As Nature Leads (published by the author, 1919 ); History of the Maroons of the West Indies (published by the author, 1921); World's Great Men of African Descent (published by the author, 1930); Real Facts About Ethiopia (published by the author, 1935); One Hundred Amazing Facts about the Negro (published by the author, 1940); Your History from the Beginning of Time to the Present (Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh Courier Co., 1940); Sex and Race, 3 vols. (published by the author, 1944); World's Great Men of Color (published by the author, 1947; reprint, New York: Macmillan, 1972); Nature Knows No Color Line (published by the author, 1952); Africa's Gift to America (published by the author, 1961); She Walks in Beauty (Los Angeles: Western Publishers, 1963); Facts about the Negro (Pittsburgh: Lincoln Park Studios, 1964); Five Negro Presidents (published by the author, 1965).

3. Dr. Henry Maudsley (1835--1918), English physician, academic, and author, was a pioneer of research into mental illness and psychiatry (Allibane's Dictionary of English Literature and British and American Authors, supp., vol. 2 [Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1897], p. 1,092.

Report by Special Agent James E. Amos

New York, N.Y. Sept. 6, 1922

U.S. vs. Marcus Garvey et al.

Continuing on the above entitled matter, Agent interviewed the REV. [J. D.] GORDON, 385 Herkimer Street, Brooklyn, N.Y. GORDON has given to Agent all papers he had in connection with this matter, but did not want to appear on the stand as he is a minister, but after talking to Agent, he promised to testify at any time the Government wanted him to, as he now feels that GARVEY is a menace to the negro race.

Agent interviewed DR. J. D. GIBSON, 140 West 128th Street, N.Y. City, former Surgeon General of the U.N.I.A., and he has promised to come to the Bureau office with letters, papers and anything he has that he thinks will be of service to the Government when GARVEY is tried, and is also willing to go on the stand at any time.

Agent also interviewed J. D. BROOKS, 72 Wickliffe Avenue, Newark, N.J., whom GARVEY had arrested for stealing $400.00. BROOKS was tried in Part 4, General Sessions, before Judge [N]ott,^1 but was found not guilty. BROOKS told Agent he intended to sue GARVEY for $100,000 for false arrest and defamation of character. BROOKS was general secretary of the U.N.I.A., and went through the count[r]y selling stock for the myth ship "PHILIS WHEATLY [PHILLIS WHEATLEY]." He testified on the stand before Judge Knott that he sold $2,000 worth of stock certificates for the "PHILS WHEATLY." BROOKS is ready and willing to testify at any time for the Government.

Agent interviewed J. W. [H]. EASON, who was leader of American negroes in the U.N.I.A. He has promised to come to this office and give a statement concerning the U.N.I.A, also of moneys he sent by mail to GARVEY for his fraudulent stock sales. All of these men and hundreds of others are willing to testify for the Government any time they are called.

Agent will forward statements of these men as soon as same are obtained.


DJ-FBI, file 61. TD.

1. Charles C. Nott, Jr. (1869--1957), Massachusetts-born judge, graduated from Harvard Law School in 1894. In 1903, following several years of practice in New York, he was appointed assistant district attorney, a position he held until his election in 1912 to the general sessions bench. He served twenty-five years on the bench and presided over the trial and eventual acquittal of George A. McManus, accused of murdering the gambler Arnold Rothstein, and of James H. Hines, Tammany Hall leader charged with protecting the racketeer Arthur "Dutch Schultz" Flegenheimer (NYT, 11 May 1957).

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