Most of us see Marcus Garvey as a founding father of Pan-Africanism and a Black Moses, but he would have rather be seen as a Black Hitler. There’s a lot that says Marcus Garvey structured the United Negro Improvement Association after Hitler’s Nazi Party. Even his speaking style was modeled after Hitlers. Listen to this short clip from one of Garvey’s speeches here:
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The first public reference that we have proving Marcus Garvey’s affinity for Hitler’s form of Nationalism can be found in a speech he gave in 1923. He said;
“we who believe in race purity believe that the White race should protect itself against racial contamination, and the Negro should do the same.” In 1924, he added that “the United Negro Improvement Association believes in the purity of the Negro race and the purity of the white race” and advocated “Africa for the Africans” based upon the same nationalistic concept of Europe for the Europeans.
Later, in March 1934, Garvey recommended that his readers peruse Mein Kampf – Hitlers memoirs – and expressed his hope that one day the Black race would produce its own Hitler.” He wrote the following disturbing words, “Hitler has a lesson to teach and he is teaching it well.”
Early on, Garvey praised the Ku Klux Klan’s intention of making America a White man’s country, and Hitlers efforts in Europe. In July 1922, he publicly said:
“From impressions, from my observations, from my understanding, the Ku Klux Klan is a mighty white organization in the United States of America, organized for the purpose of upholding white supremacy in this country; organized for the purpose of making America a white man’s country, pure and simple. The organization has absolutely no apology to make as far as its program is concerned – a program of making America a white man’s country. Whilst the Ku Klux Klan desires to make America absolutely a white man’s country, the Universal Negro Improvement Association wants to make Africa absolutely a Black man’s country.”
Did Garvey and other Black Men and Women of the time not know about the NATIVE AMERICAN GENOCIDE that came before White America?
While we can be sure that Marcus Garvey looked up to men like Ethiopia’s Haile Selassie, Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta, and Samory Toure in Ancient Mali, we also know that he idealized men like Hitler, Napoleon and Mussolini.
Marcus Garvey went so far as to arrange a meeting with Edward Y. Clarke, then the leader of the Ku Klux Klan – a move that would hurt the leader’s popularity for decades. The KKK was at its height, ramapaging through Black neighborhoods raping, lynching, and murdering. Marcus Garvey’s meeting was seen not only as contradictory for a Pan-Africanist – but treasonous to the Black Power movement of his day. Marcus Garvey was making a deal with the devil at the expense of the masses that he led. Of the meeting, he said;
“I regard the Klan, the Anglo-Saxon clubs and White American societies, as far as the Negro is concerned, as better friends of the race than all other groups of hypocritical whites put together. I like honesty and fair play. You may call me a Klansman if you will, but, potentially, every white man is a Klansman, as far as the Negro in competition with whites socially, economically and politically is concerned, and there is no use lying about.”
On one hand, we can believe that Marcus Garvey wanted the same level of power, pride and organization that he saw in Hitler’s Nazis and the KKK. On the other hand, it could be that his response to the racism and violence that white organizations used was to retaliate with Black racism and violence. But, such an attitude did not uplift the Pan-African movement; it completely undermined the credibility of it instead.
So Whats the Verdict on Marcus Garvey?
The United Negro Improvement Association was a beautiful thing, and Marcus Garvey was a spectacular leader and Black Man. But what of his sleeping with the enemy? Does this change how the leader should be viewed? Was Marcus Garvey right – that the races should remain separate and “pure” – or should we work with the white race for the good of our cause (a question I previously posed here)?