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Grassroots Garveyism

The Universal Negro Improvement Association in the Rural South, 1920-1927

Mary G. Rolinson

Publication Year: 2007

The black separatist movement led by Marcus Garvey has long been viewed as a phenomenon of African American organization in the urban North. But as Mary Rolinson demonstrates, the largest number of Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) divisions and Garvey’s most devoted and loyal followers were found in the southern Black Belt. Tracing the path of organizers from northern cities to Virginia, and then from the Upper to the Deep South, Rolinson remaps the movement to include this vital but overlooked region. Rolinson shows how Garvey’s southern constituency sprang from cities, countryside churches, and sharecropper cabins. Southern Garveyites adopted pertinent elements of the movement's ideology and developed strategies for community self-defense and self-determination. These southern African Americans maintained a spiritual attachment to their African identities and developed a fiercely racial nationalism, building on the rhetoric and experiences of black organizers from the nineteenth-century South. Garveyism provided a common bond during the upheaval of the Great Migration, Rolinson contends, and even after the UNIA had all but disappeared in the South in the 1930s, the movement's tenets of race organization, unity, and pride continued to flourish in other forms of black protest for generations. Although Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) is largely associated with urban, working-class blacks in the North, some of the group's largest chapters and most devoted followers were in the rural South. The southerners (mostly landless farmers) adopted the most pertinent elements of the movement and developed strategies for avoiding the need to submit to white supremacy. Rolinson demonstrates that Garvey's southern followers maintained a spiritual attachment to their African identities as well as practical yet radical approaches to self defense and self determination. She also suggests that Garveyite values were sustained for generations in the south, and also became part of urban ideology through the Great Migration. The black separatist movement led by Marcus Garvey has long been viewed as a phenomenon of African American organization in the urban North. But as Mary Rolinson demonstrates, the largest number of Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) divisions and Garvey’s most devoted and loyal followers were found in the southern Black Belt. Rolinson remaps the movement to include this vital but overlooked region, and offers a view of what southern Garveyites were like. Even after the UNIA had all but disappeared in the South in the 1930s, she says, the movement's tenets of race organization, unity, and pride continued to flourish in other forms of black protest for generations. The black separatist movement led by Marcus Garvey has long been viewed as a phenomenon of African American organization in the urban North. But as Mary Rolinson demonstrates, the largest number of Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) divisions and Garvey’s most devoted and loyal followers were found in the southern Black Belt. Tracing the path of organizers from northern cities to Virginia, and then from the Upper to the Deep South, Rolinson remaps the movement to include this vital but overlooked region. Rolinson shows how Garvey’s southern constituency sprang from cities, countryside churches, and sharecropper cabins. Southern Garveyites adopted pertinent elements of the movement's ideology and developed strategies for community self-defense and self-determination. These southern African Americans maintained a spiritual attachment to their African identities and developed a fiercely racial nationalism, building on the rhetoric and experiences of black organizers from the nineteenth-century South. Garveyism provided a common bond during the upheaval of the Great Migration, Rolinson contends, and even after the UNIA had all but disappeared in the South in the 1930s, the movement's tenets of race organization, unity, and pride continued to flourish in other forms of black protest for generations.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-8

Contents

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pp. vii-9

Illustrations and Maps

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pp. viii-10

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

After more years than I care to emphasize, I am delighted to finally have the opportunity to thank the people who have helped me in so many ways to make this book possible. I met my husband, Frank, in 1988, about the same time I began researching the Garvey movement in the South. ...

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Introduction: Rediscovering Southern Garveyism

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pp. 1-23

Garveyism did not disappear after Marcus Garvey’s deportation from the United States in 1927. Although it now goes by different names, Garveyism’s meanings remain essential to popular black nationalism and fundamental to many other strands of contemporary black thought. Garvey, a Jamaican of African ancestry, ...

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1. Antecedents

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pp. 24-47

Many of Marcus Garvey’s inspiring words and ideas sounded familiar to his followers because they were not necessarily new.1 Many of the most important themes of Garvey’s speeches, both spoken and transcribed weekly in the Negro World, echoed the voices of generations of black clergymen, journalists, and other influential black leaders of the American South. ...

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2. Lessons

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pp. 48-71

Marcus Garvey traveled, read, and listened prodigiously and possessed a remarkable learning curve for organization and politics. The strategies and ideas he learned from Booker T. Washington, Henry McNeal Turner, and others with a southern perspective provided a model of leadership but did not give him the ability to go into any community he wanted to organize the UNIA. ...

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3. Growth

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pp. 72-102

In his first year of organizing in the United States, Garvey took a logical and practical approach in deciding how to expand the UNIA. The New York division took off, word spread to Philadelphia, and soon the Negro World and enthusiastic leaders and recruiters mobilized black activism throughout urban centers of black population. ...

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4. Members

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pp. 103-130

The Garvey movement attracted a very diverse group of southern blacks from urban and rural locations, coastal and interior cities, and the upper and lower South. But the archetypal American Garveyite lived in a majority-black community, farmed cotton on someone else’s land, and struggled to maintain a stable and safe family. ...

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5. Appeal

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pp. 131-160

The Garvey movement was not a radical fringe organization despite some of the controversial tactics of its leader. The UNIA had broad popularity and was able to start divisions everywhere it was known in the South, beginning with the Virginia peninsula in 1919 and ending with the Delta of eastern Arkansas in late 1922. ...

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6. Transition

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pp. 161-191

Although the strategies and objectives of the UNIA appeared diametrically opposed to those of organizations that were seeking legal equality and American citizenship for black people, the UNIA’s organizational success and popularity in the South helped rival groups by teaching them important lessons. ...

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Epilogue: Legacy

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pp. 192-196

The Garvey movement’s direct intellectual legacy appears more discreetly in the integrationist tendencies of the modern civil rights movement than in the discourse of black nationalism, yet its influences are an important part of both. Activists at the local, state, regional, and national levels have had direct personal and community ties to the UNIA , ...

Appendix A. UNIA Divisions in the Eleven States of the Former Confederacy

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pp. 197-199

Appendix B. Numbers of Southern Members of UNIA Divisions by State

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pp. 200-216

Appendix C. Numbers of Sympathizers Involved in Mass Meetings and Petitions for Garvey’s Release from Jail and Prison, 1923–1927

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pp. 201-217

Appendix D. Phases of Organization of UNIA Divisions in the South by State

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pp. 202-218

Appendix E. Ministers as Southern UNIA Officers, 1926–1928

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pp. 203-219

Appendix F. Profiles of UNIA Members in Georgia, Arkansas, and Mississippi, 1922–1928, and NAACP Branch Leaders in Georgia, 1917–1920

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pp. 204-213

Appendix G. Women Organizers in the UNIA in the South, 1922–1928

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pp. 214-216

Notes

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pp. 217-250

Bibliography

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pp. 251-268

Index

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pp. 269-286


E-ISBN-13: 9781469602257
E-ISBN-10: 1469602253
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807830925
Print-ISBN-10: 0807830925

Page Count: 304
Illustrations: 5 illus., 5 maps, 9 tables
Publication Year: 2007

Series Title: The John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture