James Wormley Jones “was one of the first—if not the first—of the early African American agents” employed by the FBI. Of the five listed as the first African American FBI agents along with Jones, four were specifically assigned to infiltrate and investigate the workings of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and its President General Marcus Garvey. The following is extracted from page 201 and 202 of “The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers, Volume 2 Marcus Garvey & Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers: June 1921-Decemeber 1922.” It is the first report to the FBI from James Jones on his activities as an infiltrator of the UNIA.
Report by Special Agent Jones
Norfolk, Va. Feb. 9, 1920
UNIVERSAL NEGRO IMPROVEMENT ASSOCIATION (Marcus Garvey) at Newport News, Va.
This investigation [18-21 January 1920] in reality centers around the activities of one Marcus Garvey. Agent has been informed that the Bureau has a file covering to a considerable extent the activities of this man Garvey. Attached hereto will be found GARVEY’S history. This was secured by Mr. Reynolds of the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company from some source in New York City.
On January 18th Agent attended two meetings of the above mentioned organization at the Lincoln Theatre Newport News, Va. Agent was introduced to R.H. Taylor of the Association by Maj. Joseph King, 630 22nd Street, Newport News, Va. Who is the head of the military branch of the association. I talked to Major King who outlined the purpose of the organization as follows: MARCUS GARVEY, President General of this association with headquarters at New York collecting enough money to pay off the indebtedness of Liberia to this country, and after this has been done the headquarters of this association will be transferred to Monrovia Liberia. In order to be prepared for this movement in Liberia he is going to organize a military branch in this country. I was allowed to read a letter that he had received from Marcus Garvey designating him as Major and instructing him to proceed with the organizing of companies of 64 men each with the proper non-commission officers, officers to be appointed later. Companies to be formed on strictly U.S. Army basis.
King at present has the names of about 200 men who have joined the military branch of the association and who drill every Thursday night at Elk’s Hall 23rd Street, Newport News, Va. At present I am assisting King in the training of these men, also KING, HENRY PLUMBER [sic] and myself are rewriting the U.S. Army Drill Regulations to suit this organization. The part of the General Orders that read: “to take charge of this post and all government property in view” will be changed to read: “to take charge of this post and all Black Star Line property in view.” The oath of allegiance that every U.S. Soldier takes will be changed to read: “To the Hon. Marcus Garvey”, instead of “To the President of the United States”, and other changes to suit this organization.
The financial end of this organization is in very bad shape and last night a meeting was called to go over the books. I have been appointed a member of the committee to go over the books. Taylor seems to be losing hold on these people because of the loose way in handling the finance.
Marcus Garvey is to be here on the 1st of February when he will start his drive for another boat of the Black Star Line of which he has one by name “Yarmouth” to be rechristened the “Frederick Douglas.”
I will attend both meetings of the association on the 25th.
3. Jones, along with King and Plummer, compiled “The Official Drill Regulations of the African Legion of the Military Branch of the U.N.I. Association and A.C. League”
4. James Wormley Jones (d. 1958) was a Bureau of Investigation confidential informant who infiltrated the UNIA. Adopting the code number 800 for his later reports, Jones used his access to UNIA correspondence and his position in the African Legion to gather data. Born in Virginia, Jones was made a captain in the Ninety-second Division of the United States Army during World War I. In March 1920 when Jones addressed an audience in Liberty Hall, his very light complexion led the audience to assume that he was white. According to the Negro World, “he took the opportunity…at the beginning of his speech to allay the anxious fears and suspicions of the audience by revealing the fact that he was a Negro” (NW, 13 March 1920). Jones was soon placed in charge of registering all incoming mail at UNIA headquarters, and by June 1920 he was adjutant general, or chief administrative officer, of the African Legion (26 June 1920). Jones also infiltrated the African Blood Brotherhood in August 1921 (DJ-FBI, 61-826).