Julius Garvey, who led the “Justice4Garvey” campaign to exonerate his father, said Friday there was also disappointment in Jamaica, where government leaders, including recent prime ministers, had urged Obama to grant the pardon. Garvey was deported to Jamaica in 1927 after his prison sentence was commuted by President Calvin Coolidge. He is considered a national hero there.
“They had made phone calls,” said Garvey, who was a child when his father died in 1940. “People were making phone calls. Everybody was hopeful right down to the last minute.”
Last year, Garvey filed another petition with the Justice Department and the White House Council to clear his father’s name.
“We worked very hard,” he said. “We had all the evidence. We had great support from the Congressional Black Caucus, from senators and many significant people.”
Thousands of people signed a petition requesting a Garvey pardon and sent letters of support.
Supporters included: Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.); Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.), James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY), Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).
The congressional effort to pardon Garvey was championed for years by former congressman Charles B.Rangel (D-N.Y.), but the proposed legislation never passed. In 2001, Rangel submitted a resolution calling Garvey “innocent of the charges brought against him by the United States government” and wrote “the case against Marcus Garvey was politically motivated, the charges unsubstantiated, and his conviction unjust.”
Marcus Mosiah Garvey was an immigrant from Jamaica who had founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association before arriving in the United States in 1916. Eventually, the UNIA claimed millions of members around the world, though those figures remain in dispute.
In 1918, Garvey established the Negro World newspaper and a year later bought an auditorium in Harlem. He called it Liberty Hall, where thousands flocked to hear him speak.
“Black people are subjects of ostracism,” Garvey said in 1921 to thunderous applause. “It is sad that our humanity has shown us no more love — no greater sympathy than we are experiencing. Wheresoever you go throughout the world, the black man is discarded as ostracized, as relegated to the lowest of things — social, political and economical.”
Garvey preached that the problem could be solved only through black pride and self-reliance.
In 1920, the UNIA elected Garvey “Provisional President of Africa.” In an iconic photo, Garvey and members of the association later marched through the streets of Harlem in military uniforms, carrying banners that read, “We Want a Black Civilization.”
To ferry black people and cargo to Africa, Garvey launched a steamship line, which he called the Black Star Line. The company sold stock for $5 a share, allowing black people to own a piece of the business.
This sale, along with Garvey’s rhetoric and following, attracted government attention. Soon after World War I, Garvey was targeted by Hoover, the future FBI director.
In documents released later, the FBI acknowledged that it began investigating Garvey to find reasons to “deport him as an undesirable alien.”
In 1921, Garvey’s steamship company announced to stockholders it would buy two more ships. But a newspaper that competed with the Negro World published an investigative article claiming the U.S. Department of Commerce had no record of those ships.
Garvey, his treasurer and secretary were arrested and charged with using the Postal Service to defraud stockholders.
Garvey’s lawyer, William C. Matthews, urged him to plead guilty. Instead, Garvey fired Matthews and defended himself. On June 21, 1923, after a month-long trial in the Southern District of New York, Garvey was convicted of mail fraud and sentenced to five years in prison. He served three years before his sentence was commuted.
Julius Garvey said he won’t give up his quest to clear his father’s name. He hopes President Trump’s administration will do what Obama’s didn’t. “We will explore that avenue as time goes on,” he said.