Monday, July 2, 2007

Marcus Garvey speaks

“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.

2 comments:

Bryan Wilhite said...

UMB! You might remember a PBS documentary about Marcus Garvey, The American Experience—Marcus Garvey: Look for Me in the Whirlwind. . Garvey’s son, Dr. Julius W. Garvey, M.D., has some detailed critiques: “Letters to the Editor about a PBS Documentary.”

Undercover Black Man said...

Cool, Bryan. I never did see the PBS doc.

I wish Hollywood would tell some of these stories... just for the human drama involved. But the U.S. is so damned anti-historical.

The British storytelling tradition is so much about British history. Americans are into the myths of the American past (the Old West in particular) but not the facts of the American past.