Eighteen members of the U.S. Congress are joining the call for President Barack Obama to exonerate Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey. A letter sent to the Commander in Chief Dec. 9 and signed by politicians like Rep. Yvette D. Clarke of New York and Rep. John Lewis of Georgia makes the case that Garvey’s criminal conviction in 1923 was inspired by racism.
According to a statement issued to WiredJA Online News, Congress asserts in the letter that the fraud charges that led to Garvey’s conviction and imprisonment contained an “utter lack of merit.”
The Atlanta Black Star reported that the U.S. Department of Justice launched a lengthy investigation into Garvey in ’23 after the Jamaica native established the successful Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League. When they were unable to find any wrongdoing, DOJ officials jailed him on trumped-up mail fraud charges.
The Pan-Africanist remained in prison until 1927 when President Calvin Coolidge commuted his sentence. However, Garvey’s businesses had suffered greatly during the probe and his subsequent imprisonment. He was immediately deported to Jamaica upon his release, though he continued his Black liberation efforts from there.
“His efforts to organize the African diaspora across nations in support of freedom and self-determination were critical to the movements for independence in Africa and the Caribbean and to the Civil Rights movement here in the United States,” the statement said.
Congress’ letter, also obtained by WiredJA, noted the impact Garvey’s movement had on such civil rights leaders as Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela and went on to list some of the many other attempts over the years to clear Garvey’s name and record. Those include a 1987 Judiciary Committee hearing hosted by Congressman John Conyers. Other such attempts include a petition that failed to attract enough signatures for consideration by the White House and a plea by several United States-based Caribbean organizations for Garvey’s exoneration.
“The passage of time has confirmed his place in history but has not removed the stain of this injustice from his legacy,” the letter concludes. “We appreciate your consideration of this matter and we look forward to working with you in these final weeks of your Administration.”