Caribbean American Democratic Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke on Wednesday introduced a resolution to the United States House of Representatives calling for the exoneration of Jamaica’s first national hero and human rights activist Marcus Mosiah Garvey.
Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, who represents the largely Caribbean 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, New York highlighted Garvey’s accomplishments, identifying him as a champion for the liberation of people of African descent.
The resolution, H. Res. 148, hails Garvey as a human rights activist and seeks to preserve his legacy by exonerating him of unfounded charges brought against him by the US Government.
The resolution also called on newly-elected US President Joe Biden to exonerate Garvey.
“Marcus Garvey is an iconic figure and champion for the liberation of people of African descent worldwide,” Clarke said. “As an inspirational teacher, he became the critical link in the fight for Black freedom and justice due to his vast accomplishments as an advocate for human rights.
“I call for the President to exonerate Mr. Garvey on the grounds that the case against him was politically motivated, unsubstantiated, and unjust,” she added.
Garvey was a Jamaican-born Black nationalist and leader of the Pan-Africanism movement, which sought to unify and connect people of African descent worldwide.
In the United States, he was a noted civil rights activist who founded the Negro World newspaper, a shipping company called Black Star Line, and the Universal Negro Improvement Association.
Because of his outspoken activism and Black nationalism, Clarke said Garvey became a target of J. Edgar Hoover at the Bureau of Investigation (BOI), a precursor to the FBI.
The BOI began investigating Garvey on unfounded charges of mail fraud. Hoover, who referred to Garvey as a “notorious negro agitator,” even hired the first Black FBI agent in 1919 to spy on Garvey.
In January 2017, Clarke, who had taken the lead, with 17 other members of the US House of Representatives, in calling on then outgoing President Barack Obama to posthumously pardon Garvey, had expressed disappointment with Obama’s non-action.
On his last day in office, Obama granted commutation of sentence to 330 individuals, however, Garvey – who was convicted for mail fraud in the US in 1923, was not among them.
In their letter to Obama, in 2017, the 17 congressional representatives noted that Garvey, who was born in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica, had “inspired generations of leaders, from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to President Nelson Mandela.
“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 letter said.