Plea for Marcus Garvey
22 US House members seek pardon for Jamaica’s first national hero
TWENTY-TWO United States House members have written to President Joe Biden, asking that he pardon Jamaica’s first national hero, Marcus Garvey. Led by Jamaican-American Congresswoman Yvette Clarke and including Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee,...
TWENTY-TWO United States House members have written to President Joe Biden, asking that he pardon Jamaica’s first national hero, Marcus Garvey.
Led by Jamaican-American Congresswoman Yvette Clarke and including Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee, whose grandparents were Jamaicans, the House members said that, although President Calvin Coolidge commuted his sentence, the time has come for him to be pardoned.
“Nearly 100 years ago, Marcus Garvey was convicted of mail fraud in a case marred by prosecutorial and governmental misconduct. The evidence present and available at our disposal makes it abundantly clear that the charges brought against Mr Garvey were fraudulent and executed in bad faith. A presidential pardon for Mr Garvey would not only correct the historical record, but also shift the narrative at a time when African-American history faces the existential threat of erasure by extreme, far-right state legislatures,” said Clarke.
She said that “during President Biden’s inaugural address, he made a promise of delivering on racial justice and equity, and we intend to ensure he keeps his promise. Marcus Garvey’s contributions and works have influenced leaders from Martin Luther King Jr to Nelson Mandela – inspiring generations and planting the seeds of the civil rights movement. I am proud to be joined by my colleagues to honour Mr Garvey’s work and remove this stain on his legacy.”
In their letter, the US House members said they were writing to express their strong support for the April 18, 2023, request for a posthumous pardon of Marcus Mosiah Garvey’s 1923 conviction for fraudulent use of the mail, submitted to the administration.
The letter went on to say that, nearly 100 years ago, Marcus Garvey was convicted of mail fraud in a case that was marred by prosecutorial and governmental misconduct. As a result of this injustice, Coolidge commuted Garvey’s sentence upon eligibility. The evidence available paints a clear narrative that the charges brought against Garvey were not only fraudulent, but executed in bad faith.
A presidential pardon for Garvey, the legislators said, would correct the historical record and shift the narrative during a time when African-American history faces the existential threat of erasure by radical state legislatures. More importantly, their letter continued: “Exoneration would reaffirm our commitment to a criminal justice system that guarantees de facto equity under rule of law.”
The letter further stated that Garvey’s contributions and influence are interwoven into the fabric of American history.
“His works have influenced leaders from Martin Luther King Jr to Nelson Mandela, inspiring generations of leaders and planting the seeds for the civil rights movement. As the founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League, Mr Garvey inspired nearly six million people across 40 countries with a message of social progress through economic prosperity,” according to the letter.
They said in their letter that many people had supported pardon efforts during Garvey’s lifetime and have continued to do so posthumously.
Congressional efforts to rectify this matter began in 1987, the letter pointed out.
It went on to note that, since then, Congressional resolutions have been introduced by Congressman Charles Rangel and, most recently, by Clarke, seeking to clear Garvey’s name.
“In light of Marcus Garvey’s sustained efforts to uplift and empower peoples of African descent, his determination to build communities through economic independence, and his lasting impact on society, we find it imperative that Mr Garvey be exonerated by way of a posthumous pardon.
The passage of time has confirmed his place in history but has not removed the stain of this injustice from his legacy. Mr Garvey’s vision of racial justice has been honoured by governments around the world – this is the US government’s opportunity to honour his work for the black community and remove the unjust stain on his legacy. Furthermore, this is an opportunity for the Biden administration to renew and deliver on its inaugural promise of delivering racial justice.
“We appreciate your time and consideration regarding this pertinent matter,” the letter concluded.