A report by Rebekah Kebede for Quartzˆ.
Martin Luther King called Marcus Garvey the first man “to give millions of Negroes a sense of dignity and destiny.” His philosophy of black self-determination influenced black leaders from Nelson Mandela to Jomo Kenyatta to Malcolm X.
At a time when lynchings still occurred, Garvey was a firebrand who turned soapbox speeches on a Harlem street corner into a mass movement for black rights. By 1920, just six years after arriving in the United States from his native Jamaica, he had organized the largest ever march of black people on the streets of Harlem. People called him the “Black Moses”—the man who would lead them out of the downtrodden legacy of slavery.
But instead of achieving lasting global celebrity like those he inspired, Garvey faded into obscurity, his name one that might seem only vaguely familiar except to those well-versed in black history.
Now a movement is underway to restore Marcus Garvey’s legacy by asking US president Barack Obama to issue a pardon for what many consider to be Garvey’s wrongful conviction for mail fraud. Supporters include the families of Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and Bob Marley. Jamaica’s prime minister Andrew Holness also supports the effort.
“They are starting to call Black Lives Matter a terrorist group. It’s no different than what they did 100 years ago with Marcus Garvey,” “The time has come when he should be exonerated,” he said during a visit to New York earlier this year.
A presidential pardon for Garvey would be especially symbolic today, with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, advocates say.
Benjamin Crump, a lawyer who has represented several black families including those of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice, said the effort is especially symbolic against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“We know now more than ever that this notion that black lives matter, that black experiences matter is at the crux of the national conversation,” Crump said.“In many ways, when you see the young people standing up and taking a stand, it harkens back to what Garvey was trying to do over 100 years ago.