The American Antecedents of Marcus Garvey
By John Henrik Clarke
It is no accident that Marcus Garvey had his greatest success in the United States among Black Americans. There is an historical logic to this occurrence that seems to have escaped most of the interpreters of Garvey's life and the mass movement that he built. For in many ways the scene was being prepared for Marcus Garvey for over one hundred years before he was born. There is no way to understand this without looking at the American antecedents of Marcus Garvey, that is the men, forces and movements that came before him.
West Indians in the Afro-American Struggle
Prior to the Civil War, West Indian contribution to the progress of Afro-American life was one of the main contributing factors in the fight for freedom and full citizenship in the northern United States. West Indians had come to the United States during the 18th and 19th centuries and the most outstanding of them saw their plight and that of the Afro-American as being one and the same.
In the 18th century America, two of the most outstanding fighters for liberty and justice were the West Indians, Prince Hall and John B. Russwurm. When Prince Hall came to the United States the nation was in turmoil. The colonies were ablaze with indignation. Britain, with a series of revenue acts, had stoked the fires of colonial discontent. In Virginia, Patrick Henry was speaking of liberty or death. The cry "No Taxation Without Representation" played on the nerve-strings of the nation. Prince Hall, then a delicate-looking teenager, often walked through the turbulent streets of Boston, an observer unobserved. A few months before these hectic scenes, he had arrived in the United States from his home in Barbados, where he had been born about 1748, the son of an Englishman and a free African woman. He was, in theory, a free man, but he knew that neither in Boston nor in Barbados were persons of African descent free in fact. At once, he questioned the sincerity of the vocal white patriots of Boston. It never seemed to have occurred to them that the announced principles motivating their action made stronger argument in favor of destroying the system of slavery. The colonists held in servitude more than a half million human beings, some of them white; yet they engaged in the contradiction of going to war to support the theory that all men were created equal.
When Prince Hall arrived in Boston that city was the center of the American slave trade. Most of the major leaders of the revolutionary movement, in fact, were slaveholders or investors in slave-supported businesses. Hall, like many other Americans, wondered: what did these men mean by freedom? The condition of the free Black men, as Prince Hall found them, was not an enviable one. Emancipation brought neither freedom nor relief from the stigma of color. They were free in name only. They were still included in slave codes with slaves, indentured servants, and Indians. Discriminatory Laws severely circumscribed their freedom of movement.
By 1765, through diligence and frugality, Hall became a property owner, thus establishing himself in the eyes of white as well as Black people. But the ownership of property was not enough. He still had to endure sneers and insults. He decided then to prepare himself for a role of leadership among his people. To this end he went to school at night and later became a Methodist preacher. His church became the forum for his people's grievances. Ten years after his arrival in Boston, Massachusetts, he was the accepted leader of the Black community.
In 1788 Hall petitioned the Massachusetts Legislature, protesting the kidnapping of free Negroes. This was a time when American patriots were engaged in a constitutional struggle for freedom. They had proclaimed the inherent rights of all mankind to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Hall dared to remind them that the Black men in the United States were human beings, and as such were entitled to freedom and respect for their human personality.
It was racial prejudice that made Hall the father of African secret societies in the United States what is now known as the "Negro Masonry." Hall first sought initiation into the white Masonic Lodge in Boston, but was turned down because of his color. He then applied to the Army Lodge of an Irish Regiment. His petition was favorably received. On March 6, 1775, Hall and fourteen other Black Americans were initiated in Lodge Number 441. When, on March 17, the British were forced to evacuate Boston, the Army Lodge gave Prince Hall and his colleagues a license to meet and function as a Lodge. Thus, on July 3, 1776, African Lodge No. 1 came into being. This was the first Lodge in Massachusetts established in America for men of African descent. Later, in 1843, a Jamaican, Peter Ogden, organized in New York City the first Odd Fellows Lodge for Negroes.
The founding of the African Lodge was one of Prince Hall's greatest achievements. It afforded Africans in the New England area of the United States a greater sense of security and contributed to a new spirit of unity among them. Hall's interest did not end with the Lodge. He was deeply concerned with improving the lot of his people in other ways. He sought to have schools established for the children of free Africans in Massachusetts. Of prime importance is the fact that Prince Hall worked to secure respect for his people and that he played a significant role in the downfall of the Massachusetts slave trade. He helped to prepare the ground-work for those freedom fighters of the 18th and 20th centuries whose continuing efforts have brought the Black American closer to the goal of full citizenship.
In his book Souls of Black Folk, Dr. W.E.B. DuBois points to the role of West Indians in the Afro-American struggle. They, he says, were mainly responsible for the manhood program launched by the race in the early decades of the last century. An eminent instance of such drive and self-assurance can be seen in the achievement of John W. A. Shaw of Antigua, who, later in that century, in the early 1890's passed the Civil Service tests and became Deputy Commissioner of Taxes for the County of Queens in New York State.
In his series of articles entitled "Pioneers in Protest," Lerone Bennett, Senior Editor of Ebony Magazine, has written a capsule biography of John B. Russwurm, the distinguished Jamaican who was a pioneer in Afro-American journalism. As early as 1827, Russwurm, also one of the founders of Liberia, was the first colored man to graduate from an American college to publish a newspaper in the United States. The following information about Russwurm has been extracted from Bennett's article, "Founders of the Negro Press," Ebony Magazine, July 1964.
Day in and day out, the Negroes of New York City were mercilessly lampooned in the white press. In the dying days of 1826, the campaign of vilification and slander reached nauseous heights. The integrity and courage of Negro men were openly questioned. Worse, editors invaded Negro homes and impugned the chastity of Negro women … This was a time of acute crisis for all Negro Americans and the New York leaders were agonizingly conscious of the forces arrayed against them … More ominous was the creeping power of the American Colonization Society which wanted to send free Negroes "back" to Africa.
John B Russwurm and Samuel E. Cornish, two of the youngest and most promising of the New York leaders, were assigned the task of inventing a journal that could speak forcibly to both the enemy and joint friend without and the 'brethren' within the veil.
Samuel E. Cornish, who is virtually unknown today, was born about 1795 in Delaware and raised in the relatively free environments of Philadelphia and New York. He organized the first Black Presbyterian Church in New York City. Russwurm, was the son of an Englishman and an African woman. His father neglected to inform his white wife of "the sins of his youth"; but after his death, the widow learned of the boy's existence and financed his education at Bowdoin College where he was graduated in 1826.
Russwurm and Cornish made an excellent team, despite the proposed paper they idealistically state:
We shall ever regard the constitution of the United States as our polar star. Pledged to no part, we shall endeavour to urge our brethren to use their rights to the elective franchise as free citizens. It shall never be our objective to court controversy though we must at all times consider ourselves as champions in defense of oppressed humanity. Daily slandered, we think that there ought to be some channel of communication between us and the public, through which a voice may be heard in defense of five hundred thousand free people of color…
On Friday, March 26, 1827, the first issue of Freedom's Journal, the first "Negro newspaper" in the Western World, appeared on the streets of New York City. In their ambitious first editorial, Russwurm and Cornish struck a high note of positiveness that still has something to say to the Afro-Americans in their present plight. It read in part:
We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoke for us. Too long has the republic been deceived by misrepresentations, in things which concern us dearly, though in the estimation of some mere trifles; for though there are many in society who exercise toward us benevolent feelings; still (with sorrow we confess it) there are others who make it their business to enlarge upon the least trifle, which tends to discredit any person of color; and pronounce anathema and denounce our whole body for the misconduct of this guilty one … Our vices and our degradation are ever arrayed against us, but our virtues are passed unnoticed…
The timeliness of this editorial, written over a hundred years ago, and the dynamics of its intellectual content, are far ahead of most editorials that appear in present-day Afro-American newspapers.
During the later years of his life, John B. Russwurm moved to a position that today would be called Black nationalism. After receiving his master's degree from Bowdoin College in 1829 Russwurm went to Liberia in West Africa, where he established another newspaper, The Liberia Herald, and served as a superintendent of schools. After further distinguishing himself as Governor of the Maryland Colony of Cape Palmas, this pioneer editor and freedom fighter died in Liberia in 1951.
Repatriation in Historical Perspective
The back-to-Africa idea has long been a recurring theme in Afro-American life and thought. This consciousness started during the closing years of the 18th century, and was articulated by the first Afro-American writers, thinkers and abolitionists. This agitation was found mainly among groups of 'free Negroes' because of the uncertainty of their position as freed men in slave-holding society. "One can see it late into the eighteenth century," Dr. DuBois explains in his book Dusk of Dawn, "when the Negro Union of Newport, Rhode Island, in 1788, proposed to the Free African Society of Philadelphia a general exodus to Africa on the part of at least free Negroes."
DuBois addressed himself to the broader aspects of this situation on the occasion of the celebration of the Second Anniversary of the Asian-Africa (Bandung) Conference and the rebirth of Ghana on April 30, 1957, when he said:
From the fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries, the Africans imported to America regarded themselves as temporary settlers destined to return eventually to Africa. Their increasing revolts against the slave system, which culminated in the eighteenth century, showed a feeling of close kinship to the motherland and even well into the nineteenth century they called their organizations 'African', as witness the 'African unions' of New York and Newport and the African Churches of Philadelphia and New York. In the West Indies and South America there was even closer indication of feelings of kinship with Africa and the East.
The Planters' excuse for slavery was advertised as conversion of Africa to Christianity; but soon American slavery appeared based on the huge profits of the Sugar Empire and Cotton Kingdom. As plans were laid for the expansion of the slave system, the slaves themselves sought freedom by increasing revolt which culminated in the 18th century. In Haiti they won autonomy; in the United States they fled from the slave states in the South to the free states in the North and to Canada.
Here the Free Negroes helped form the Abolition Movement, and when that seemed to be failing, the Negroes began to plan for migration to Africa, Haiti and South America.
Civil War and emancipation intervened and American Negroes looked forward to becoming free and equal here with no thought of return to African or of kinship with the world's darker peoples. However, the rise of the Negro was hindered by disenfranchisement, lynching and caste legislation. There was some recurrence of the "Back to Africa" idea and increased sympathy for darker folk who suffered the same sort of caste restrictions as American Negroes.
Professor E.U. Essien-Udom of the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, outlined the beginning of this consciousness and how it developed, in three lectures in the CBS Black Heritage TV Series, Summer, 1969. In the first lecture on "The Antecedents of Marcus Garvey and His Movement," Professor Essien-Udom gives this analysis:
In the United States it may be said that Garvey's ideas or variants of his ideas, are becoming increasingly relevant for the independent African states in their struggle for real political and economic independence as well as relative cultural autonomy.
A history of the freedom movements of Black Americans is the history of the aspirations for nationality and dignity. The reasons for this are not far to seek. Firstly, the Africans who were forcibly removed from their ancestral homelands to the New World were dramatically alienated from any vital human community, except the community of color, common deprivation and persecution. Because they were drawn from various and distinct African nationality groups and scattered throughout the New World, they lost many vital ingredients as a distinct nationality group, such as a common language, religion, traditions, and more important, the freedom to shape their own destiny.
Secondly, because they were excluded from meaningful participation in the emergent American nationality, they became not only non-citizens, but also, in a sociological sense, non-nationals of the United States throughout most of their history. Early in their history, the Africans were simply an aggregation of persons who were non-citizens and consequently possessed no civic rights in the United States. Such for a long time was their political status.
Similarly, as a group without recognizable nationality, which derives from belonging to a definite and meaningful humane community, they could not feel a sense of human dignity. Inevitably, therefore, and from slavery to freedom, the black freedom movement has had two ambivalent objectives. The first being the aspiration for nationality, a term which I shall use interchangeably with collective identity. And secondly, the aspiration for full citizenship in the United States.
In the past, the history of the Black freedom movement especially in the United States, was interpreted principally in terms of integration or in terms of assimilation into the mainstreams, whatever that is, of American society.
If integration is understood as the enjoyment of full rights of citizenship and full participation in the live activities of the United States, then this has been one of the most important objectives of the Afro-American freedom movement. But to interpret this movement principally in terms of assimilation, is a misrepresentation of historical fact and a negation of the long and tragic history of the struggle for black identity and dignity. Assimilation necessarily entails the withering away of the distinctly Afro-American nationality which has been forged by the history of the Africans and their descendants in the United States.
The aspiration for black nationality or a collective identity should not be understood in the narrow political sense, although there have been manifestations of the desire for political nationality; that is, a homeland. Nevertheless, the much-abused term, "black nationalism," or its recent variant, "black power," encompasses the various expressions of the need for collective identity. The formation of collective identity has been the result of both history and the conscious activities of Afro-Americans. On occasions, this aspiration for nationality has been expressed in terms of independence from white economic, political and social control. More persistently however, this collective black identity has been expressed in the assertion of Afro-American cultural autonomy and the dignity of the black communities in America.
What Professor Essien-Udom is saying is: the Black Americans have been forced by a set of circumstances to walk down several roads simultaneously going to and from America. This seems like a contradiction and maybe it is. The greater contradiction is America itself, and its relationship to Black people. Early in the 19th century some "free" Blacks and escaped slaves began to have second thoughts about the future of African people in this country. These Blacks, in large numbers, responded to the program of the "African Colonization Movement." Superficially, the program was good, but a number of Blacks, mainly, Frederick Douglass and some of the men around him, examined the program and began to have some serious questions about it.
The stated intent of the American Colonization Society was to solve the problems of slavery by advocating the removal of freed slaves to colonies along the West Coast of Africa. The founders of the society believed this course would atone for the evil of the African slave trade, help put an end to slavery, restore the "Africans" to their divinely ordained homes, and help "civilize" Africa. By "civilize" the white supporters of the movement really meant "Christianize." Some of the most able Black men and women of the 19th century were attracted to this movement and its concept.
It is generally believed, according to Professor Essien-Udom, that Paul Cuffee set in motion the ideas that led to the founding of the American Colonization Society. Cuffee was one of the most unusual men of his time. He was rarity, being a Black ship owner in New Bedford, Massachusetts, who made a small fortune hauling cargo to different parts of the world. A free man whose father had been a slave, he founded the Friendly Society for the Emigration of Free Negroes from America. One of his early acts was to change his family name from Slocum to Cuffee (Kofi), a Ghanaian name.
In 1811, Paul Cuffee sailed one of his ships, "The Traveller," to Sierra Leone on Africa's West Coast where he hounded "The Friendly Society from America." In 1812, he used his personal funds to take 38 Black emigrants to Sierra Leone. But the most active years of "The American Colonization" came after the death of Paul Cuffee in 1817.
A Mandingo descendant, Martin Delaney was proud of his African heritage. So much so, that, in a recent book by Dorothy Sterling, he is referred to as "the father of Black Nationalism." Delaney was a multi-talented freedom fighter who seemed to have crammed half a dozen lifetimes into one. Dentist, writer, editor, doctor, explorer, scientist, soldier and politician, he was a Renaissance man of his day. In an article in the supplement to the newspaper Tuesday, of November 1871, the writer Phillip St. Laurent has this to say about the present day relevance of Martin R. Delaney:
Delaney was … an articulate advocate of ideas that today, 85 years after his death are topical. Even while the vast majority of his brothers remained in slavery, he was proud of his race and his blackness, resented his surname as a hand-me-down from a slave-holder, advocated Black people's right to self-defense, demanded equal employment opportunities, urged a self-governed state for Blacks in which they could control their own destinies and, yes argued for women's liberation.
He was one of the leaders of the great debate following the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, and as spokesman for Black people who felt that the bitter racial climate in America had made life for them there unbearable, he advocated the establishment of a state by Black Americans in the Niger Valley of present-day Nigeria. Said he of Black Americans at the 1852 Emigration Convention, "Settle them in the land which is ours," he said, "and there lies with it inexhaustible resources. Let us go and possess it. We must establish a national position for ourselves and never may we expect to be respected as men and women until we have undertaken some fearless, bold and adventurous deeds of daring, contending against every consequence."
In 1859, he led the first and only exploratory party of American-born Africans to the land of their forefathers. In the region of the Niger River, in the area that became Nigeria, Delaney's party carried out scientific studies and made agreements with several African kings for the settlement of emigrants from America. He was accompanied on this expedition by Robert Campbell, a Jamaican, who had been Director of the Scientific Department of the Institute for Coloured Youth in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and a member of the International Statistical Congress in London, England. His account of the expedition can be found in his book A Pilgrimage to My Motherland, an account of a journey among the Egbas and Yorubas of Central African 1859–60.
About his report, Robert Campbell has said, "After what is written in the context, if I am still asked what I think of Africa for a coloured man to live and do well in, I simply answer, that with as good prospects in America as coloured men generally, I have determined with my wife and children, to go to African to live, leaving the inquirer to interpret the reply for himself."
What needs to be remembered about this mid-19th century back-to-Africa movement, is that, to a moderate degree, it was successful. There was, of course, no mass exodus to Africa. Individual families did go to Africa at regular intervals for the next 50 years.
However, the emigration movement was not without its opposition. Frederick Douglass and several of his supporters thought that the emigration efforts would divert attention from the more important task of freeing the slaves from the plantations.
General interest in Africa continued though the pre-Civil War emigration efforts to establish an autonomous nation for Black Americans did not succeed. The Civil War and the promises of Black Americans that followed lessened some of the interest in Africa. Pat Singleton started an internal resettlement scheme. His plan was to settle Blacks in free separate communities in the unused areas of American—mainly, at this time, the State of Kansas.
But the betrayal of the Reconstruction and the rise in lynching and other atrocities against Black Americans made a new generation of Black thinkers and freedom fighters turn to Africa again. New men and movements entered the area of struggle. The most notable of the new personalities was Bishop Henry McNeal Turner. In his book, Black Exodus, (Yale University Press, 1969) Edwin S. Redkey, gives this view of Bishop Turner's importance to the history of this period. He says:
Bishop Henry McNeal Turner was, without a doubt, the most prominent and outspoken American advocate of Black emigration in the years between the Civil War and the First World War. By constant agitation he kept Afro-Americans aware of their African heritage and their disabilities in the United States. Turner possessed a dominating personality, a biting tongue, and a pungent vocabulary which gained him high office and wide audiences, first in Georgia's Reconstruction politics and later in the Africa Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church. In his bitter disappointment with the American treatment of Blacks, the Bishop has an all-consuming nationalism which demanded emigration to Africa. To understand his forceful agitation in the years following 1890, one must know Turner's background and the nature of vision of Africa.
Like most Afro-Americans who can be called Black nationalists, Turner's vision of Africa grew out of his heartbreaking discovery that his love for America was unrequited. Earlier in his life, he thought that the status of a "free" Black man should be no different from that of a white man. His awakening to reality was not long in coming. The new cause that he had found for himself and his energies during the Civil War, and the new hope that he had for the future of Black Americans was consumed in the bitter disappointments that followed the end of that war.
Like Turner, Edward Wilmot Blyden agitated during the latter part of the 19th century, calling attention to the important role that Africa could play in emerging world affairs. Blyden was born in the then Danish West Indian island of St. Thomas in 1832, but reacted against treatment of his people in the New World by migrating to Liberia in 1851. He was convinced that the only way to bring respect and dignity to his people was by building progressive new "empires" in Africa. He was of the opinion that the "New World Negro" had a great future in Africa. He saw Liberia in West Africa as the ideal placed where African-Americans could build a great new civilization by making use of the things that they had learned in the West and preserving the best of the African way of life. Because of his, and the work of many others, African consciousness was translated into useful programs of service to Africa. Afro-American institutions of higher learning joined in this service through their training of personnel for churches, as well as their support of Africans studying in their institutions.
The idea of uniting all Africa had its greatest development early in this century. In 1900 a West Indian lawyer, H. Sylvester Williams, called together the first Pan-African Conference in London. This meeting attracted attention and put the word "Pan-African" in the dictionaries for the first time. The 30 delegates to the Conference came mainly from England, the West Indies and the United States. The small delegation from the latter was led by W.E.B. DuBois.
From the beginning this was a movement that was brought into being by Africans in the Western World. Years would pass before it would have any deep roots in Africa itself. The first Conference was greeted by the Lord Bishop of London, and a promise was obtained from Queen Victoria through Joseph Chamberlain not to "overlook the interest and welfare of he native races." The British were long on politeness and short on commitment.
The aims of he Conference were limited. They were obviously worded in order to appeal, without offending. The aims were:
At this conference, there was no demand for self-government for African nations, though the thought pattern was set in motion for later development. In the book, African and Unity: The Evolution of Pan-Africanism, by the Nigerian writer Vencent Bakpetu Thompson (1969), this observation was made:
As a forum of protest, the conference showed that Africa had begun jointly, through some of her sons, to make her voice heard against the excesses of western European rule—a sentiment which has been re-echoed in the second half of the twentieth century.
Thompson further observed that, "both protest and fellowship were to re-emerge in the "African Redemption" movement formed by the Afro-Jamaican, Marcus Garvey, to uplift his down-trodden brethren. Garvey said: "I know no national boundary where the Negro is concerned. The whole world is my province until Africa is free." Assessing the Conference, Thompson further says:
First, it achieved the idea of oneness in experience and ideal. The spirit of fellowship reaffirmed at this 1900 Conference was never lost. It has reasserted itself again and again. This was demonstrated when in the post-war period, Afro-Americans and Afro-West Indians joined forces with those who clamored for the dismantling of colonialism in Africa. The spirit lives on, though today the Afro-American interest in the freedom of Africa and the success of Pan-Africanism has three main themes:
A number of African-oriented cultural and historical societies were formed before and after the active ears of the American Society of African Culture (about 1957 through 1968). The long Afro-American interest in Africa is best reflected in publications of the American Society of African Culture, such as: Africa as Seen by American Negroes (1958), and The American Negro Writer and His Roots, (1959).
In the preface to African as Seen by American Negroes, Alioune Diop, President of the International Society of African Culture, states: "It is not without emotion that we welcome this evidence of solidarity between Negro intellectuals of America and Africa. What links us first of all is assuredly our common origin" … Furthermore, he went on to say,
The struggle that African people are waging for their independence and entry upon the scene of international responsibility, is followed with understandable sympathy by Negro Americans. The liberation, unification and development of African countries will be a real contribution to the success of the struggle of Black people in America for their rights as citizens."
In The American Negro Writer and His Roots (selected papers from the First Conference of Negro Writers), the historian, novelist and teacher, Saunders Redding, addressed himself to the role of the writer in the self-discovery and the restoration of a people's pride in themselves. He said:
The human condition, the discovery of self, community identity—surely, this must be achieved before it can be seen that a particular identity has a relation to a common identity, commonly described as human. This is the ultimate that the honest writer seeks. He knows that the dilemmas, the perils, the likelihood of catastrophe in the human situation are real and that they have to do not only with whether men understand each other but with the quality of man himself. The writer's ultimate purpose is to use his gifts to develop man's awareness of himself so that he, man, can become a better instrument for living together with other men. This sense of identity is the root by which all honest creative effort is fed, and the writer's relation to it is the relation of the infant to the breast of the mother.
What we have here is a continuation of the search for identity, definition and direction that started among Black Americans early in the 18th Century. This search led to the founding of the first Black societies, publications and institutions in America. In the years following the betrayal of the Reconstruction (1876–1900), these Black societies and institutions were in serious trouble. Most of the white defenders of the Blacks had either died or had given up the fight. Black leadership was in transition. The great Frederick Douglass was losing his effectiveness at the end of he century. A worldwide imperialism and the acceptance of the Kipling concept of "the white man's burden" gave support to American racism. Like England, France and some other European nations, the United States had now acquired overseas colonies.
A new "leader," approved by the whites, appeared among the Blacks. His name was Booker T. Washington. Washington took no action against the rising tide of Jim-Crow, lynching and mass disenfranchisement of Black voters. He advised his people to put their energies into industry, improved farming and the craft trades. He said, "agitation of questions of social equality is the extreme 'folly' because an opportunity to earn a dollar in a factory first, now is worth infinitely more than the opportunity to spend a dollar in an opera house."
White America, mostly editorial writers in white newspapers, responded favorably to the works of Booker T. Washington and made him the leader of Black America. These words, taken from his famous Atlanta Cotton Exposition Speech, were still re-echoing early in this century when an anti-Booker T. Washington school of thought was developed and led by W.E.B. DuBois.
In what can still be referred to as "The Booker T. Washington Era" (1895–1915), new men and movements were emerging. The Niagara Movement, under the leadership of W.E.B. DuBois and Monroe Trotter, was born in 1905. Some of the ideas of the Niagara Movement went into the making of the NAACP in 1909.
During the years leading to the eve of the First World War and those that immediately followed, the flight from the South continued. Over half a million Blacks migrated Northward in search of better-paying war-time jobs, better schools for their children and better housing. For a short while, they entertained the illusion that they had improved and that they had escaped from the oppression of the South. The illusion was short-lived. Race riots during wartime (East St. Louis, 1917), and in the post-war period (Chicago, 1919) awakened the new urban settlers to reality. In Washington, D.C., the President, Woodrow Wilson, and the Southern Democrats who had come to power with him introduced segregation in federal facilities that had long been integrated. Booker T. Washington had died in 1915. An investigation into his last years revealed he had privately battled against disenfranchisement, and had secretly financed lawsuits against segregation, but publicly he maintained his submissive stance. With Washington gone and the influence of the "Tuskegee Machine" in decline, a new class of Black radicals came forward. For a few years, W.E.B. DuBois was at the center stage of leadership. As founder-editor of the NAACP's Crisis Magazine, DuBois urged in 1918, "Let us, while this war lasts, forget our special grievances and close ranks shoulder to shoulder with our fellow citizens…" The continued discrimination against Black Americans, both soldiers and civilians, soon made W.E.B. DuBois regret having made this statement. The end of the war brought no improvement to the lives of Black Americans, and the then prevailing conditions made a large number of them ripe for the militant program of Marcus Garvey.
In his book New World A-Coming, Roi Ottley (1943) has observed,
Garvey leaped into the ocean of Black unhappiness at a most timely moment for a savior. He had witnessed the Negro's disillusionment mount with the progress of the World War. Negro soldiers had suffered all forms of Jim-Crow, humiliation, discrimination, slander, and even violence at the hands of a white civilian population. After the war, there was a resurgence of Ku Klux Klan influence; another decade of racial hatred and open lawlessness had set in, and Negroes again were prominent among the victims. Meantime, administration leaders were quite pointed in trying to persuade Negroes that in spite of their full participation in the war effort they could expect no changes in their traditional status in America.
This attitude helped to create the atmosphere into which a Marcus Garvey could emerge.