Will an American president finally pardon Marcus Garvey?

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An icon of black liberation, Marcus Garvey mobilized black people like no other leader before. And the US government hated it. Before Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Fred Hampton, Garvey was considered a black messiah by the US government.

Considered a “Notorious Negro Agitator” by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, the US government became determined to thwart its black nationalist efforts to unify black people across the African diaspora. It was only a matter of time. The fix was in place.

According FBI files, “In the aftermath of World War I, the FBI began investigating Garvey’s activities, seeking to deport him as an undesirable alien. In 1922 he was convicted of a charge of mail fraud in connection with certain business and organizational activities in which he was involved. ”


In June 1923 The Dark Star LineGarvey’s shipping company, sent out advertisements displaying a vessel the company had not yet purchased but was in the process of acquiring, according to The Washington Post. For this, Garvey was later fined $1,000 and sentenced to prison in Atlanta for five years.

After serving three years, then-President Coolidge later commuted the sentence.

Garvey would then leave America and never return.

Representing Garvey’s descendants, attorney Anthony Pierce called for the passage of a resolution that was presented by Rep. Yvette Clark (DN.Y.) according to black business. He called for Garvey’s exoneration for mail fraud “with bipartisan support, because everyone who stands up for freedom and democracy should want the wrongs done to Mr. Garvey undone.”

The Dark Star Line was one of the first black-owned businesses of its kind in the world. Garvey then established the Negro World newspaper and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA).

In the words of Marcus Garvey:

“A people who do not know their past history, origin and culture are like a tree without roots.”

President Biden has yet to pardon Garvey. You can sign a petition here at #ExonerateGarvey.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly listed J. Edgar Hoover as President of the United States. Herbert Hoover was the 31st President of the United States. J. Edgar Hoover was one of the first directors of the FBI.

Kevin E. Boling