Saturday, January 29, 2011
MARCUS GARVEY AND THE BLACK STAR LINE
WHAT WAS THE MOTIVE BEHIND THE BLACK STAR LINE ?
At the end of this centennial year for Marcus Garvey, Jamaica would have conceded three important event that are significant to his cultural legacy for black majority political and economic power.
The Black Star Line was a shipping compay established by Marcus Garvey, founder of the UNIA (Universal Negro Improvement Association). The shipping line was supposed to facilitate the movement of goods and African Americans throughout the African global economy. It derived its name from the White Star Line, a line whose success Garvey felt he could emanate, which would become a standard of his Back-to-Africa movement. It was one among many businesses which the UNIA originated.
The Black Star Line and the Black Cross Navigation and Trading Company, function between 1919 and 1922. It stands today as a major symbol for Garvey followers and African Americans in search of a way to get back to their homeland.
The Black Star Line started in Delaware on June 23, 1919. Having a majority capitalization of $500,000, BSL stocks were sold at UNIA conventions at five dollars each. The company's losses were estimated to be between $630,000 and $1.25 million.
The Black Star Line surprised all its critics and opponent when, three months after being in operation, the first of four ships, the SS Yarmouth was bought with the intention of it being rechristened the Frederick Douglass. The Yarmouth was a coal ship during the First World War, and was in bad structure when it was bought by the Black Star shipping company. Once reconditioned, the Yarmouth sail for three years between the U.S. and the West Indies as the first Black Star Line ship with black crew and a black captain. Later Joshua Cockburn, the captain was accuse of bribery and corruption
The SS Yarmouth was not the only ship bought in bad structure and to be completely expensive. Marcus Garvey spent extra $200,000 for more ships. The SS Shadyside, sailed on the Hudson River one summer and sank, the next fall because of a leak many thought to be sabotage. Another was a steam yacht once owned by Henry Huttleston Rogers. Booker T. Washington had been an honored guest aboard the ship when it was owned by his friend and confidant, Rogers, and was known as the Kanawha. However, Rogers had died in 1909, and the once maintained yacht had also served in the first World War. Renamed by the Black Star Line the SS Antonio Maceo, blew up and and killed a man off the Virginia coast on its first sailing from New York to Cuba, and had to be towed back to New York.
Besides oversold, poorly conditioned ships, Black Star Line was beset by corruption of management and infiltration by agents of J. Edgar Hoover's Bureau of Investigation (the forerunner to the FBI), who – according to historian Winston James – sabotaged it by throwing foreign matter into the fuel, damaging the engines. The first commission for the Yarmouth was to haul whiskey from the U.S. to Cuba before Prohibition. Although the ship made it in record time, it did not have docking arrangements, so it lost money sitting in the docks of Cuba while longshoremen had a strike. A cargo-load of coconuts rotted in the hull of a ship on another voyage because Garvey insisted on having the ships make ceremonial stops at politically important ports.
The Black Star Line stopped it operations in February 1922. It is seen as a better option of achievement for African Americans of the time, despite the thievery by employees, engineers who overcharged, and the Bureau of Investigation's acts of infiltration and sabotage.
Marcus Garvey who is popularly called "black Moses" during his lifetime, created the largest African American organization, with hundreds of chapters across the world at its height. While Garvey is remembered as Africa proponent, it is clear that the scope of his ideas and the UNIA’s actions go beyond that characterization.
Marcus Garvey's ideas originated with African Americans during the postwar period. At the center of Garvey's program was a strong backing on black economic self-reliance, black people’s rights and freedom to political self-determination, and the founding of a black nation on the continent of Africa.
Perhaps the biggest achievement of the UNIVERSAL NEGRO IMPROVEMENT ASSOCIATION (UNIA,) was the Black Star shipping Line, an enterprise intended to provide ways for African Americans to return to Africa while also enabling black people around the Atlantic to exchange goods and services. The company’s three ships (one called the SS Frederick Douglass) were owned and operated by black people and made travel and trade possible between their United States, Caribbean, Central American, and African stops. The economically independent Black Star Line was a symbol of pride for blacks and seemed to attract more members to the UNIA.
As an outcome of a bigger financial responsibility and managerial errors, the Black Star Line failed in 1921 and ended operations. Early in 1922 Garvey was charged on mail fraud charges regarding the Black Star Line's stock sale. Garvey was sentenced to prison but released after serving three years in federal prison. He was deported to Jamaica. In the United States Garveyism was the development of the black attitude and pride at the center of the twentieth-century freedom and movement.
Marcus Mosiah Garvey the name that continues to evoke the inspire slogan: "Up you mighty race, you can accomplish what you will."
Marcus Garvey was born in St. Ann's Bay on Jamaica's north coast. He was the youngest of eleven children. His parents were said to be of unmixed Negroid stock. And his father was a descendant of the Maroons, escaped slaves who fought fierce guerilla battles for their liberation in the Jamaican mountains. He was also largely self educated and possessed a large library from which young Marcus began his early reading. Young Marcus was very proud of the Maroon linage he inherited from his father.
Garvey dropped out of school early due to financial troubles and he took a job as a printer apprentice to his godfather. This allowed him to develop the journalistic skills that proved beneficial later. He went to Kingston to further his craft and began to experience first hand the discrimination of Blacks in the trades. Whenever he went to the British authorities to seek justice he found them to be indifferent to the plight of his fellow Blacks. He concluded from that, and other similar experiences, that Blacks could never get equal treatment from whites.
Garvey became involved in organizing to help Blacks improve their lot. Realizing that his efforts would require more money, he went to Costa Rico where his uncle helped him get a job as timekeeper on a banana plantation. Here too he realized the deplorable conditions of Blacks. He became involved in radical journalism and reform in order to address these concerns. His uncle became disenchanted with his efforts and sent him to Panama. There too Garvey noticed similar conditions for Blacks. He traveled throughout several countries in the area and found similar conditions for his people. Illness brought him back to Jamaica.
In 1912 he decided to go to London to learn about the conditions of Blacks in other parts of the British Empire. There he became associated with the Egyptian nationalist Duse Mohammed Ali, and he wrote for his monthly magazine African Times and Orient Review. He also met other young Black students from Africa and the West Indies, African nationalists, sailors, and dock workers. From them he received information about the condition of Blacks throughout the world. He became an avid reader on African subjects. One of the books he read,Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington, sparked his determination to become a race leader.
Garvey returned home to Jamaica in 1914 with ambitious plans to uplift the race. He founded the Universal Negro Improvement and Conservation Association and African Community League, shortened to the Universal Negro Improvement Association (U.N.I.A.), for the purpose of "drawing the peoples of the race together." Among the objectives of the Association was:
...to establish Universities, Colleges and Secondary Schools for the further education and culture of the boys and girls of the race; to conduct a world-wide commercial and industrial intercourse.
(U.N.I.A. Manifesto, Booker T. Washington MSS, Library of Congress.)
The motto of the Association was both inspirational and succinct: "One God! One Aim! One Destiny!"
Garvey received support from oppressed Blacks and some whites, but little or none from well-to-do Blacks and mulattoes. He soon felt the need to go to the United States to raise funds. He had been in touch with Booker T. Washington about his ideas toward educating his people. However Washington died before he could make his trip to the U.S. In 1916 when he did leave for the U.S. he prophesied to his followers to "Look to Africa for the crowning of a Black king, he will be the Redeemer." This prophesy was to have a profound effect on the later spiritual movement of the Rastafarians. [See the footnotes of the section on Haile Selassie.]
When Garvey arrived in the U.S. he stayed with a Jamaican family in Harlem. He found work as a printer and saved enough money to begin a fundraising tour throughout the United states. Garvey's whirlwind tour began in Harlem and proceeded through thirty-eight states. Harlem had recently become converted into the Black section of New York City and the virtual capital of the Black world. So when he returned to New York he chose to set up his headquarters there. Garvey moved into the center on Harlem stage with all the ease and self-confidence of a man with a mission. He took to the streets, joining the soapbox and stepladder orators and form political alliances with some of Harlem's most prominent radicals.
Garvey's first two attempts to establish a New York chapter of the U.N.I.A. with headquarters in Jamaica were sabotaged by socialists and Republicans who wanted to turn it into a political club. In his third attempt he had formed a cadre of thirteen like minded souls. This one too had its divisions but Garvey was able to weather the storm. And when Garvey decided to stay in the United States the U.N.I.A. was incorporated in the state of New York on July 2, 1918.
A month or so later the U.N.I.A.'s newspaper Negro World, initially edited by Garvey, appeared. It would eventually become the most widely circulated paper of its kind and the bane of European colonialist. Garvey embarked on a second fundraising tour. In November he reportedly held a meeting in New York of five thousand people. And by the next year, 1919, he was firmly established as one of Harlem's most important figures.
During 1919 and 1920 the U.N.I.A experienced spectacular growth. In the midst of the contemporary Black disillusionment Garvey thundered his famous slogan and battle cry: "Up, you mighty race! You can accomplish what you will." The Black masses responded by the thousands. New U.N.I.A. chapters were established in most of the American cities with significant Black populations. By the summer of 1919 Garvey had raised enough money to purchase a large auditorium which he renamed Liberty Hall. Other chapters would establish similar sites that would become headquarters for race redemption and bastions of Black freedom.
Earlier that year Garvey had begun speaking of Black owned and operated steamships that would link Black peoples of the world , uniting the Black Diaspora to the African Motherland. This daring proposal quickly captured the imagination of many of the Black masses. Money was raised to purchase ships for the promised Black Star Line. However, the attorney general of New York warned Garvey not to sell stock unless the enterprise was a legitimate business. Garvey then incorporated the black Star Line in the state of Delaware where the laws were more liberal.
Many laughed at Garvey's attempt to develop a ship line. But Garvey pushed on and in mid-September announced the viewing of the first ship the S.S. Yarmouth. Two more ships were to follow. They were not in the best of shape, and the price paid for them far exceeded their value. Even though the purchases were ill advised, they instilled pride and enthusiasm among his followers and many of the Black masses worldwide. And support for the Black Star ship line continued to pour in.
The Black Star Line was but one of Marcus Garvey's visions for leading his people to economic independence. He established the Negro Factories Corporation, capitalized at one million dollars under a Delaware charter. In practice, the corporation usually lacked funds to lend to ambitious Black entrepreneurs, but it helped to develop a chain of cooperative grocery stores, a restaurant, steam laundry, tailor and dressmaking shop, millinery store, and a publishing house.
With Garvey's successes arose the suspicions of his adversaries. Some of his opposition was from shear jealousy while some was honest and logical. Among the later was raised concerns about his business practices and many of them felt that his followers would lose their meager earnings. Among those questioning Garvey's methods was W.E.B. Du Bois and there would be bitter exchanges between them.
Garvey pushed on. In late 1919 he issued a call for the first international convention of the U.N.I.A. to be held in August of 1920. Delegates were to come from throughout the Black world. The Garveyites planned the convention carefully and by any measure it was a resounding success and a magnificent affair.
There were parades and pageantry of the uniformed African Legion, and the Black Star Nurses, and the children's auxiliary marching beside their elders. Business came to a standstill and the parade was the talk of Harlem for months. Now the world began to take notice of Marcus Garvey as the event instilled a sense of pride and awe throughout the Black world.
The 1920 convention produced a "Declaration of the Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World." It compiled grievances of the delegates against the wrong and injustices of Negro people; is demanded and insisted upon certain rights; etc. Perhaps the most enshrined legacy of that convention was the presentation of the "Red, Black, and Green" flag and the symbolism of its colors: red for the "color of the blood which men must shed for their redemption and liberty," black for "the color of the noble and distinguished race to which we belong," and green for "the luxuriant vegetation of our Motherland."
By 1921 Garvey was unquestioned leader of the largest organization of this type in the history of the world. And with his success came the rise in scrutiny and criticism from his opponents. The US government considered him subversive because of his radicalism; European governments viewed him as a threat to their colonies; communist felt he kept Black workers from their ranks; civil right organizations were against him because he argued that white segregationist were the true spokesmen for white America and he advocated Black separatism.
Some of Garvey's troubles came from within his organization from both unscrupulous opportunist and from the lack of business acumen. The un-seaworthiness of the ships they had purchased was beginning to take a financial toll trying to keep them afloat. Finally on January 12, 1921, the US government, using the fact that the U.N.I.A. had used the postal services to sell stock for their ship line, levied charges against him for alleged mail fraud.
During his trial, Garvey had dismissed his attorney and pled his on case. He gave a dazzling display of oratory. But in the end the jury found him guilty and he was given the maximum penalty five years, $1000 fine, and costs. While out on bail he sought to show his strength. He raised $160,000 and bought a modern first class ship, which he christened the Booker T. Washington. It sailed to the West Indies after a great sendoff in New York City, but was seized upon its return and sold to settle judgments that had accumulated against him.
Garvey had sought an appeal from the U.S. Supreme Court but lost and was taken to Atlanta penitentiary. All attempts for a pardon failed, but in 1927 President Coolidge commuted his sentence and he was deported to Jamaica. While there he won a seat on the city council and continued his agitation. And later went to London and continued his efforts there also. He never regained his former stature, but he continued speaking and agitating until his health began to fail. On July 10,1940 Marcus Mosiah Garvey died.
The flag of Ghana was designed by Mrs. Theodosia Okoh to replace the flag of the United Kingdom upon attainment of independence in 1957. It was flown until 1959, and then reinstated in 1966. It consists of the Pan-African colors of red, yellow, and green, in horizontal stripes, with a black five-pointed star in the centre of the gold stripe. The black star was adopted from the flag of the Black Star Line, a shipping line incorporated by Marcus Garvey and gives the Ghana national football team their nickname, the Black Stars
In conclusion the Black Star Line had a profound effect on America, giving the blacks the opportunity to invest in stock was new to the America country, and thus gave them a modernized way of investing their money. Also it shows that blacks could act as successful business men and contribute economically to America. The fact that the Black Star Line was an independent black movement showed that blacks were capable of organizing international businesses.
Once scorned by the Jamaican power structure, Garvey is regarded today as the father of Jamaican independence. The capital city of Kingston named a road after him. The government brought his remains home and laid them to rest in a Marcus Garvey National Shrine. Marcus Mosiah Garvey is now officially regarded a Jamaica's first national hero. And his likeness now adorns Jamaican currency.The social and cultural results of the Black Star Line were unheard of in the 1920s, and consequently presented blacks with more economic and social opportunities than ever before.
The black star line also created a great impact on the mind of the black of unity, they. Marcus Garvey throught his black star line incorporation inspired most of the blacks to stand on thire own and fight for their right . He gave the way or open the broadways for pan-africanism and pave way for Africa revolution and the first national hero of Jamaica.
Marcus Garvey’s cultural legacy by Jimmy Tucker (17-18)