The following is a transcript of remarks made in 2004 by Charles B. Rangel before the United States House of Representatives in support of the exoneration of Marcus Garvey.
HON. CHARLES B. RANGEL
OF NEW YORK
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
•Mr. RANGEL. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to ask again for the exoneration of one of our greatest civil rights leaders, Marcus Garvey. I have felt inspired by Marcus Garvey since I was a young boy. I grew up and still live in Harlem where Garvey founded the first branches of his Universal Negro Improvement Association. When I was born in 1930, the traces Garvey left in Harlem were still very fresh. I remember meeting Garveyists, ardent supporters of Marcus Garvey’s ideas, in Harlem as a young man. They encouraged me to do my own reading and research on this great Jamaican hero and the more I read and heard, the more I became convinced of Garvey’s innocence and the need to restore his reputation. The injustice done to him reminded me every day of the injustice done to all Black people, including myself, during that time.
•In the 1970s, I met Jamaica’s energetic Prime Minister Michael Manley and became very close to him, professionally but also personally. He taught me more about Marcus Garvey and about his status as a hero in Jamaica. In 1987, the centenary of Marcus Garvey’s birth, I introduced legislation asking for the exoneration of Marcus Garvey for the first time and have reintroduced the same bill into every following Congress since.
•The passage of this bill is long overdue. It is well-proven today that Marcus Garvey was innocent of all the charges brought forward against him. J. Edgar Hoover, who is today notoriously famous for his racism, his corruption and his misuse of powers, perceived Garvey as a threat to white supremacy. After years of harassing the black leader, he infiltrated the Garvey organization and had an agent fabricate evidence of mail fraud with which he charged Garvey in 1922. Garvey’s trial was a mockery and he was imprisoned and deported back to Jamaica in 1927.
•But with Garvey’s deportation, Hoover could only delay but not stop the civil rights movement. Garvey’s teachings about the equality of all men and women remained firm and lively in the heads of the following generations. Garvey stood as a shining example on the horizon of those people who were longing for a better future. He inspired many of the leaders that were to come. Our American hero, Martin Luther King, called Garvey “the first man, on a mass scale to give millions of Negroes a sense of dignity and destiny” and Malcom X wrote that “each time you see another independent nation on the African continent you know Marcus Garvey is alive.” Garvey taught Black men and women to take pride in their race and to rely on themselves–economically, politically and religiously.
•But he did not only speak out for the rights of Black men and women all around the world, but for all those who were poor and disadvantaged. He is not only the hero of Black people, but of everybody who believes in equality and social justice.
•I commend the members of The International Foundation for the Exoneration of Marcus Garvey on their tireless efforts to achieve that the injustice done to Marcus Garvey is redeemed. I also congratulate the city councils of Hartford in Connecticut and Lauderhill in Florida on the recent passage of their resolutions supporting the exoneration of our great Jamaican hero.
•I will continue to work hard to ensure that my resolution, reaffirming Marcus Garvey’s innocence and asking the President of the United States to exonerate him, will pass the United States Congress. It is high time that our country joins the many other nations that have already recognized Marcus Garvey as an extraordinary leader and thinker in the global struggle for human rights and as a person who gave hope and inspiration to millions of oppressed men and women all around the world.
•But it is in the hands of the President of the United States to finally clear Marcus Garvey’s name. I hope that President Bush will consider taking this step. The Justice Department in the past advised Presidents not to exonerate posthumously. But President Clinton, in 1999, granted the first posthumous Presidential pardon in our nation’s history to Lt. Henry Ossian Flipper, the first Black graduate of West Point. He had been dismissed from service in 1882 for racial and unjust reasons. President Clinton set a strong and positive precedent and I hope that President Bush will perceive the Garvey conviction as an equally compelling case for justice to be done at this time.
•The exoneration would be another step towards healing the race divisions that are still existent in our country. It is high time that our country recognizes Marcus Garvey for his great leadership and bravery.
*Read the transcript of the hearing held on Garvey’s exoneration in 1987.