Malcolm X…Marcus Garvey…Bob Marley…Martin Luther King, Jr. Those four names are synonymous with Keyamsha, the Awakening. Interestingly, their names all have the letter “M.” In this post we look at several facts that connect these men. What led to such connections? Coincidence? Synchronicity? Fate? Destiny? Something we can not begin to comprehend? All of the above?
We start with the connection between Malcolm X and Marcus Garvey. Malcolm’s parents Louise Langdon Norton Little and Earl Little met at a 1918 convention in Canada of the organization over which Marcus Garvey was President General: the Universal Negro Improvement Association or UNIA. Louise’s uncle Edgerton Langdon was a UNIA member. Malcolm’s father Earl held numerous leadership positions with the UNIA. His father also petitioned United States of America President Calvin Coolidge for the release of Marcus Garvey from prison. The first chapter of “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” is about essentially three topics:
- Malcolm’s father, the Reverend Earl Little
- Marcus Garvey and,
- the UNIA.
Malcolm was born May 17, 1925. That was seven years to the day after the lynching of eight months pregnant Mary Turner in Valdosta, Georgia on May 17, 1918. The Black Star Line was formed as a Delaware Corporation on June 27, 1919, just one month beyond the one year anniversary of Turner’s lynching. Her lynching may also have been a catalyst for Red Summer, the attacks of blacks in the USA by whites during 1919. One year after Red Summer the first International UNIA Convention took place beginning August 1, 1920 . That convention led to what has been referred to as the “Second Emancipation Proclamation,” the Declaration of Rights of the Negro People of the World. In the Declaration of Rights declaration 39 pronounces the colors Red, Black and Green to be the colors of all black people worldwide.
Bob Marley and Marcus Garvey were both born in the Jamaican parish of Saint Ann. Marcus Garvey was born in 1887 in the capital of St. Ann’s Bay, while Marley was born in the town of Three Mile.
Martin Luther King was born in Atlanta Georgia on January 15, 1929. Just two years earlier Marcus Garvey was released from Atlanta Federal Penitentiary where he had been held on bogus charges of mail fraud.
Martin Luther King was a member of the Montgomery Improvement Association. The organization Marcus Garvey led as President-General was named the Universal Negro Improvement Association also known as the UNIA.
Malcolm X was a member of the Nation of Islam. Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad was a former member of the UNIA.
Martin Luther King wrote a famous letter from jail in Montgomery Alabama where he uses the sentence “We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.” Marcus Garvey wrote a famous letter while held in Atlanta penitentiary. “The First Message to the Negroes of the World” is the statement in which he encourages his audience to “Look for me in the whirlwind.”
On March 26, 1964 Dr. King and Malcolm met on the occasion of the United States Senate debating the Civil Rights Bill. They shook hands and laughed after a press conference held by Dr. King on the debate.
Prior to his assassination in February 1965, Malcolm met with Coretta Scott King in Selma, Alabama. He spoke on his personal struggles. He also expressed an interest in working with the nonviolent movement and made a speech at a church while there.
In February 1965, Dr. King sent a telegram to Malcolm’s widow, Betty Shabazz expressing his sadness When Malcolm X was assassinated. Dr. King stated that although they did not see eye to eye on methods to address the race problem, he had a deep affection for Malcolm and that he had a great ability to put his finger on the existence and root of the problem .
In June 1965 Martin Luther King, Jr. visited Jamaica with his wife Coretta Scott King. While there Dr. King laid a wreath at the shrine of Marcus Garvey on June 20, 1965. He was the first international dignitary to visit Jamaica and pay his respects at Garvey’s grave. King stated that Garvey was the first to give Black people “a sense of dignity.” During his remarks at the University of the West Indies Dr. King told his listeners that it was in Jamaica that he felt like a human being.
When Marcus Garvey’s body was brought to Jamaica on the occasion of his being named Jamaica’s first national hero and enshrined at National Heroes Park in Kingston, his casket was paraded through the streets of Jamaica prior to ceremonies in honor of his interment. Bob Marley, too, is a National Hero of Jamaica. He likewise was paraded through the streets of Kingston in his coffin prior to his internment at his home in Saint Ann.
In his well known “Redemption Songs” Bob Marley sings “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.” That is a paraphrased quote from Marcus Garvey. In his speech entitled “The Work That Has Been Done” given in 1937 at Sydney, Nova Scotia’s Menelik Hall Marcus Garvey said, “We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery, for though other may free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind. Mind is our only ruler; sovereign.” During the video for “Redemption Song” at 2:15 Marley sings the lyric “we got to fulfill the book.” It could be assumed the book sung about is the Christian Bible. However as the words are being sung, the image of Marcus Garvey appears, removing all doubt that the book mentioned is none other than “The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey.”
In a speech entitled “Where Do We Go From Here” given before the Eleventh Annual Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) Convention on August 16, 1967 Dr. King stated:
Remarkably, that is exactly what the members of the UNIA and Marcus Garvey did on August 13, 1920. On that date they produced the document known as the Declaration of Rights of the Negro People of the World. In the declaration of Rights, one of the declaration 39 states:
“That the colors, Red, Black and Green, be the colors of the Negro race.”
For over thirty years, the Empire State Building has been lit Red, Black and Green in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The practice began on the very first King Day celebration and has continued ever since.