Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

December 10, 1927

Guest post by Avi Buckles, History MA student at Arizona State University.

On December 10, 1927, the Chicago Defender, one of the nation’s preeminent African-American newspapers, published a front page article entitled “Garvey Sails with Pledge to Fight On.” Marcus Garvey, the founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and father of the “Back to Africa” movement, had in a short span during the early 1920s seen his fortunes fade from self-styled “Provisional President of Africa” to felon convicted on charges of swindling African-American investors out of their chance to sail to Africa on his Black Star Line. And in early December 1927, after serving part of his 5‑year prison sentence for mail fraud related to the sale of Black Star Line stock, Garvey was deported on a rainy winter’s day from New Orleans to his native country of Jamaica. While some 500 of his supporters flocked to the wharf to say their goodbyes, this show of support paled in comparison to the glory and pomp evident seven years earlier during the UNIA’s First International Convention of the Negro Peoples of the World in Harlem.

Unlike the 1920 convention, Garvey’s farewell in December 1927 did not include the singing of inspirational hymns or the “military spectacle” of 50,000 UNIA members marching through the streets. Nevertheless, Garvey, dressed in a “snappy tailored light brown checked suit” and holding a “silver-headed Malacca cane,” did give a rousing speech to his remaining supporters that proclaimed his innocence and continued the call for the founding of a homeland in Africa for the world diaspora.

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