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Black Moses

The Story of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association

E. David Cronon; Foreward by John Hope Franklin

Publication Year: 1969

In the early twentieth century, Marcus Garvey sowed the seeds of a new black pride and determination. Attacked by the black intelligentsia and ridiculed by the white press, this Jamaican immigrant astonished all with his black nationalist rhetoric.  In just four years, he built the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), the largest and most powerful all-black organization the nation had ever seen.  With hundreds of branches, throughout the United States, the UNIA represented Garvey’s greatest accomplishment and, ironically, the source of his public disgrace.  Black Moses brings this controversial figure to life and recovers the significance of his life and work.

“Those who are interested in the revolutionary aspects of the twentieth century in America should not miss Cronon’s book. It makes exciting reading.”—The Nation

“A very readable, factual, and well-documented biography of Marcus Garvey.”—The Crisis, NAACP

“In a short, swiftly moving, penetrating biography, Mr. Cronon has made the first real attempt to narrate the Garvey story. From the Jamaican's traumatic race experiences on the West Indian island to dizzy success and inglorious failure on the mainland, the major outlines are here etched with sympathy, understanding, and insight.”—Mississippi Valley Historical Review (Now the Journal of American History).

“Good reading for all serious history students.”—Jet

“A vivid, detailed, and sound portrait of a man and his dreams.”—Political Science Quarterly

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. vii

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pp. xi-xv

Much has happened in the decade and a half since I wrote Black Moses. At the time the book appeared in 1955, few scholars were concerned with Negro history. In fact I felt obliged in the Preface I wrote then (coincidentally finished less than a week after the Supreme Court's landmark 1954 decision outlawing school segregation) ...

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pp. xvii-xix

On one Sunday afternoon in the summer of 1954, I heard two speakers in London's Hyde Park mention Marcus Garvey. These references to a man who had been rather thoroughly discredited at the time of his death more than a decade ago emphasized once more for me the considerable impact he had on the outlook of darker peoples ...

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pp. xxi-xxiii

A debt of appreciation is due to the many persons who have helped in the preparation of this work. Mrs. Amy Jacques Garvey has given freely of both her time and her great store of information to supply needed facts that she alone was in a position to give. Mrs. Garvey kindly prepared a biographical account of her husband's early life ...

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1. A Son Is Given

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pp. 3-20

In the years immediately following World War I there developed among the Negroes of the world a mass movement of considerable influence and importance. Under the leadership of a remarkable Jamaican Negro, Marcus Garvey, the Universal Negro Improvement Association attracted the attention of the colored world ...

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2. How Long, O Lord, How Long?

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pp. 21-38

When Marcus Garvey, as yet an obscure foreigner, stepped ashore in New York on that bleak March day early in 1916, the American Negro world was undergoing a series of profound social changes that would play no small part in the acceptance of Garvey's leadership by large numbers of American Negroes. ...

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3. Up, You Mighty Race!

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pp. 39-72

Harlem in 1916 was the logical place to begin any organization of American Negroes. Within the crowded confines of the Negro section of New York City a would-be leader could find support for almost any type of movement. A compact black ghetto, Harlem boasted more publications than any other Negro community ...

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4. Black Stars and Empty Dreams

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pp. 73-102

In spite of the colorful triumphs of the 1920 convention, Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association soon began to draw criticism, and this opposition grew in volume and strength as the weaknesses of Garveyism became more apparent. Part of the difficulty of organizing American Negroes stemmed from the ...

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5. Weighed in the Balance

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pp. 103-137

With the arrest and indictment of the four officers of the Black Star Line there quickly came a new high in the organized opposition to Marcus Garvey and his Negro improvement schemes. Finanical failure, coupled with undenied rumors of Garvey's secret negotiations with officials of the hated Ku Klux Klan, ...

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6. Days of Decline

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pp. 138-169

Marcus Garvey's confinement in Atlanta penitentiary did not bring about the collapse of his hardy Universal Negro Improvement Association. Amy Jacques Garvey, the loyal second wife of the imprisoned leader, directed the efforts to rally the faithful membership, and Garvey himself sent frequent messages of ...

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7. One Aim! One God! One Destiny!

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pp. 170-201

Although Marcus Garvey never set foot on African soil, the basis for his race philosophy was Africa, the Negro homeland. For out of the moist green depths of the African jungle had come the endless files of hapless Negro slaves, a seemingly inexhaustible labor force to be devoured by the hungry plantations of the Americas. ...

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8. Echoes and Reverberations

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pp. 202-226

Even today it is probably easier to track down a yellowed stock certificate of the long-defunct Black Star Line than to give a balanced evaluation of Marcus Garvey and his amazing Negro movement. Strident demagogue or dedicated prophet, martyred visionary or fabulous con man?—these are a few of the difficult questions ...

References and Notes

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pp. 227-265


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pp. 266-278

E-ISBN-13: 9780299012137
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299012144

Publication Year: 1969