Marcus Garvey Presidential Pardon Petition Seems Doomed

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

By NAN Staff Writer

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Weds. Sept. 28, 2016: A petition to urge President Obama to pardon the Jamaican-born 20th-century black nationalist and proponent of the Pan-Africanism movement, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr., ONH, seems doomed to fail yet again.

Today, September 28, 2016 is the deadline for the ‘We The People’ petition that was recently started to get the White House to posthumously pardon Garvey for his wrongful conviction for use of the mails in furtherance of a scheme to defraud, but as of yesterday it still lacked more than 80,000 signatures needed, News Americas Now found.

Caribbean-Americans and Caribbean nationals have been slow to respond to the petition started to posthumously pardon Garvey, managing to only secure 15,093 signatures as of yesterday.

However, the uptick was significant from September 9, 2016 when there were only 763 signatures. A social media and radio promotion in the past two weeks as well as an announcement by Jamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Dr. Julius Garvey, the son of Marcus Garvey at last week’s Jamaican Diaspora town hall forum seemed to have helped but it was undoubtedly a little too late.

The petition still needs a whopping 84,907 more signatures by September 28, 2016 to get a response from the White House.

Garvey is recognized as a fore bearer of the Civil Rights Movement by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X and his legacy today is celebrated globally.

The St. Ann, Jamaica-born Garvey was a political leader, publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, and orator who was a proponent of the Pan-Africanism movement, to which end he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL).

He also founded the Black Star Line, a shipping and passenger line which promoted the return of the African Diaspora to their ancestral lands.

Sometime around November 1919, The Bureau of Investigation, now the FBI, began an investigation into the activities of Garvey and the UNIA. Although initial efforts by the BOI were to find grounds upon which to deport Garvey as “an undesirable alien,” a charge of mail fraud was brought against Garvey in connection with stock sales of the Black Star Line after the U.S. Post Office and the Attorney General joined the investigation.

On 23 June 1923, Garvey was sentenced to five years in prison.

His sentence was later commuted by President Calvin Coolidge on recommendation by the U.S. Attorney General and with the support of 9 of the 12 jurors who voted to convict and he was released in November 1927 and deported back to Jamaica.


The petition was archived Wednesday afternoon because it did not meet the signature requirements.

Publisher and orator Marcus Garvey seated at his desk, August 5, 1924. (Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images)

A petition of signatures was submitted to the White House in 2013 but the response from the White House has been consistently negative. Obama’s Justice Department has signaled its reluctance to consider pardons for people who are already dead. “It is the general policy of the Department of Justice not to accept for processing applications for posthumous pardons for federal convictions,” the department’s website reads. “The limited resources available to process applications for Presidential pardon are best dedicated to applications submitted by living persons who can truly benefit from a grant of clemency.”

When Obama visited Jamaica last year, Portia Simpson-Miller, the prime minister, officially asked him to grant Garvey a pardon but the White House did not respond to the plea.

However, Hisham Aidi, who teaches at Columbia University, recently wrote that if “Jamaica could get the support of African states and Muslim-majority states, the US may have to respond and Garvey’s name would be cleared once and for all.”