“If you believe that the Negro has a soul, if you believe that the Negro is a man... then you must acknowledge that what other men have done, Negroes can do.”
Perhaps I’m too easily excited. But I get a genuine thrill whenever I find a voice recording of a historical figure. Especially on the black side.
It’s one thing to familiarize yourself with a name on a page; it’s another to hear that person speak across the canyon of time in his or her own voice.
So I’m streaming a 3½-minute recording by Marcus Garvey from 1921. Click here to hear him explain the objectives of his Universal Negro Improvement Association.
The Jamaican-born Garvey was a pioneering black nationalist. His Harlem-based movement of the 1920s would influence the later development of the Nation of Islam, Rastafarianism, Afrocentrism and the Black Power movement. (The red, black and green – or the “black liberation flag” – originated with Garvey’s UNIA.)
Mainstream Negro leaders of the era rejected Marcus Garvey as a self-aggrandizing extremist. The NAACP’s Robert Bagnall, for example, described him as “a bully... a sheer opportunist and a demagogic charlatan.”
But as historian C. Eric Lincoln pointed out, Garvey’s radicalism attracted tens of thousands of working-class blacks, making the UNIA “the largest mass movement in the history of the American Negro” to that point.
To download a WAV file of this 1921 Garvey speech, you can find it here. This is one of only two known recordings of Marcus Garvey’s voice.