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Chapter Four “The Silent Work That Must Be Done” The opening parade of the Second International Convention of Negroes of the World stretched two miles, up and down the wide avenues of Seventh and Lenox. Large crowds assembled along the parade route, and residents hung streamers bearing the UNIA tricolor, the red, black, and green. Harlem, the Negro World boasted, had declared an unofficial public holiday. Leading the estimated ten thousand parade participants was Captain E. L. Gaines,the head of the Universal African Legions,astride a horse.The Black Star Line band and Liberty Hall choir played behind him.Then came the officials of the High Executive Council, each riding in their own automobile: Honorable Gabriel M. Johnson, High Potentate and Mayor of Monrovia; the Chaplain General, Reverend Dr. George Alexander McGuire; Leader of American Negroes Reverend James W. H. Eason; International Organizer Miss Henrietta Vinton Davis; and President General of the UNIA and Provisional President of Africa Marcus Garvey.After the executive council came crew members of the S.S.Yarmouth,followed by uniformed members of the New York African Legion, Motor Corps, Black Cross Nurses, and Juvenile Corps. Representatives of divisions, foreign and domestic, stretched into the distance. The infantry band of the 369th regiment—­ the famed Harlem Hellfighters—­ delighted the crowd with jazz music. Banners were unfurled block after block broadcasting fragments of collective Garveyite wisdom: “Scattered Africa united”; “The Negro gave civilization to the world”; “Negroes , hitch your wagon to the Black Star”; “Africa shall be redeemed.”1 The parade offered persuasive visual evidence of the UNIA’s spectacular growth in the year since the convention of 1920. By the Second International Convention, which opened on August 1, 1921, the organization had expanded to over four hundred chartered divisions, with another four hundred awaiting official approval from the parent body. Circulation of the Negro World tripled in 1921, rising to 75,000 and providing the UNIA with a reliable source of weekly income.Garvey’s tour of the Caribbean and Central America from February to July attracted throngs of enthusiastic supporters and left observers marveling at the president general’s fundraising 108 • Chapter Four prowess. The sale of Black Star Line stock certificates continued apace; according to one estimate, from February 1919 to August 1921, the shipping venture raised more than $750,000.2 By late 1921, however, outward displays of UNIA strength were belied by an accelerating and multipronged institutional crisis. In the United States, the return to “normalcy” following the war and its unsettled aftermath was one manifestation of a global wave of conservative readjustment that sharply circumscribed the landscape of black politics for the remainder of the decade . Federal authorities were in the midst of manufacturing a legal case against Garvey that would cast a shadow over his activities from his arrest in January 1922, through his trial, imprisonment, and ultimate deportation in December 1927. Despite repeated assurances to the contrary, the finances of the Black Star Line were in ruin, the impressive fundraising tallies overwhelmed by mismanagement, inexperience, and graft. By December, the Yarmouth had been sold for a fraction of its purchase price, and in February, shortly after Garvey’s arrest, the operations of the Black Star Line were shut down entirely. As the infrastructure of his government-­ in-­ exile began to rot, Garvey’s leadership became increasingly authoritarian, paranoiac, and reckless . Acrimonious feuds with his enemies in the black intelligentsia—­ both real and perceived, both inside and outside his organization—­ were exacerbated by Garvey’s retreat from radical politics, and his increasingly bold embrace of racial purity and separatism. Mounting pressures revealed the UNIA’s ugly, violent subculture, culminating in the assassination of Eason months after his split with the organization. The day after Garvey’s arrest, the New York World declared an end to his “bizarre career.” In February 1923 W.E.B. Du Bois published a smug article in Century Magazine, comprehensively detailing Garvey’s financial and organizational failures, ridiculing his “childish ignorance of the stern facts of the world,” and congratulating members of his generation for surviving the “two grand temptations” of Washingtonianism and Garveyism.3 Such eulogies were premature.Somewhat paradoxically,the Age of Garvey would rise, phoenix-­ like, from the ashes of the UNIA’s imperial dream. The decline of Garvey’s institutional empire provided space for the emergence of a “second period” of modest organization building and consciousness raising, generated as much by the needs and expectations of the Garveyite rank and file...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781400852444
Related ISBN
9780691157795
MARC Record
OCLC
884645721
Pages
320
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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