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News Americas, WASHINGTON, D.C., Tues. June 6, 2023: As the US celebrates another Caribbean American Heritage Month, Caribbean American Democratic Congresswoman, Yvette D. Clarke, has joined forces with 22 of her Congressional colleagues to send a compelling letter to President Joe Biden, urging the exoneration of Jamaica’s first national hero, Marcus Mosiah Garvey.

The letter expresses strong support for the posthumous pardon request submitted on April 18, 2023, seeking to rectify Garvey’s 1923 conviction for fraudulent use of the mail. They emphasized Garvey’s significant contributions to American history, inspiring leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.

Statue of Marcus Mosiah Garvey in St. Ann, Jamaica.

Congressional efforts for exoneration have been ongoing since 1987, with resolutions introduced by former Congressman Charles Rangel and Clarke. Garvey’s vision of racial justice and his impact on society are praised. In February, Clarke and Congressman Hank Johnson introduced legislation calling for Garvey’s exoneration. Garvey, a Jamaican-born Black nationalist and civil rights activist, founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and was wrongly convicted in 1923. The congresswoman seeks to reclaim Garvey’s legacy and honor his work for the Black community.

The Congress members emphasize the injustices surrounding Garvey’s conviction, which occurred nearly 100 years ago and was plagued by prosecutorial and governmental misconduct. Acknowledging President Calvin Coolidge’s commutation of Garvey’s sentence, they argue that the charges brought against him were not only fraudulent but also executed in bad faith.

Granting a presidential pardon to Marcus Garvey holds great significance, as it would correct the historical record and counter the erasure of African American history, which is being threatened by radical state legislatures. Moreover, the exoneration would reaffirm the Congress members’ commitment to a criminal justice system that upholds de facto equity under the rule of law.

The Congressional members highlightedGarvey’s indelible contributions and enduring influence on American history. They underscore how his works have shaped leaders across generations, including renowned figures like Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. As the founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League, Garvey inspired nearly six million people in 40 countries with his message of social progress through economic prosperity.

Additionally, the letter highlights the fact that despite President Coolidge commuting Garvey’s sentence, he was immediately deported and never allowed to return to the United States. Calls for Garvey’s exoneration have persisted since his conviction, gaining support during his lifetime and continuing posthumously. Congressional efforts to rectify this injustice began in 1987, with Congressman John Conyers holding a Judiciary Committee hearing to address Garvey’s unfair trial. Former Congressman Charles Rangel introduced Congressional resolutions on this matter, and most recently, Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke has taken up the cause, seeking to clear Garvey’s name.

Given Garvey’s unwavering dedication to uplifting and empowering people of African descent, his commitment to building communities through economic independence, and his lasting impact on society, the Congress members deem it imperative to grant him a posthumous pardon. Although time has solidified his place in history, the stain of this injustice remains, and it is the US government’s opportunity to honor Garvey’s work for the Black community and eliminate this unjust mark on his legacy.

Further, the Congress members see this as an opportune moment for the Biden Administration to fulfill its promise of delivering racial justice, renewing their faith in the administration’s commitment. They express their gratitude for President Biden’s time and consideration in this vital matter.

In February, Congresswoman Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, partnered with Congressman Hank Johnson to introduce legislation in the United States House of Representatives, advocating for Garvey’s exoneration and recognizing him as a champion for the liberation of people of African descent. Clarke, who represents the predominantly Caribbean 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, New York, emphasizes the importance of revealing the truth about Marcus Mosiah Garvey and Black history. Raised under the teachings of Marcus Garvey, Clarke was instilled with the belief in coming together to improve communities and the Garvey commitment to social service, rooted in faith in God. She fervently believes it is time to reclaim Garvey’s legacy and accomplishments as a human rights activist before Congress, America, and the world.

Garvey, born in 1887, was a Jamaican-born Black nationalist and leader of the Pan-Africanism movement, which aimed to unify and connect people of African descent worldwide. In the United States, Garvey was a prominent civil rights activist who founded the Negro World newspaper, the Black Star Line shipping company, and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). In 1922, Garvey and three other UNIA officials were charged with mail fraud related to the Black Star Line. On June 23, 1923, Garvey was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison.

Despite appealing his conviction, asserting that it was politically motivated and unjust, Garvey’s plea was denied. In 1927, he was released from prison but was immediately deported back to Jamaica. There, he continued his unwavering political activism. Eight years later, Garvey relocated to London, where he passed away in 1940 after suffering from several strokes. Due to travel restrictions imposed during World War II, Garvey’s body was initially interred in London. However, in 1964, his remains were exhumed and returned to Jamaica, where the government declared him the country’s first national hero, honoring him with a re-interment at a shrine in the National Heroes Park.

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