WASHINGTON – The Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Caribbean Studies (ICS) has resurrected the notion of a presidential pardon for Jamaica’s first national hero, Marcus Mosiah Garvey.
The think-tank is conducting a poll on whether United States President Donald Trump should pardon Garvey.
In a message posted on its website, on Friday, the ICS gives viewers two options regarding the proposed pardon: “Option 1: Ask President Trump for a pardon (this assumes Garvey did something wrong); or option 2: hold out for exoneration (this assumes Garvey did nothing wrong).”
In January 2017, Caribbean American Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, who had taken the lead, with 17 other members of the United States 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, with Garvey not included.
Garvey was convicted for mail fraud in the US in 1923.
“While the exoneration and/or pardon of the Right Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey remains elusive, unresolved and unfinished business, we must continue our education and organising efforts in the pursuit justice for the legendary icon,” said Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, New York, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).
She said it was important that “we build upon the efforts waged over the years, most recently in pursuit of a presidential pardon, and that we continue to maintain and elevate the integrity of” Garvey’s contributions to American history.
“His is a case of unjustified persecution that continues to cry out for justice,” said Clarke, stating that Garvey was “widely viewed as the Father of the 20th Century Civil Rights Movement.
“His leadership and intellectual contributions inspired the movements for independence in Africa and the Caribbean,” Clarke said. “However, it was the establishment of the UNIA [United Negro Improvement Association] here in the United States and its affiliates throughout African Diaspora nations that drew the ire of the FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] under J. Edgar Hoover, and that ultimately led to the frivolous charges, prosecution and persecution against him.”
Clarke said it was “all in an attempt to displace” Garvey “from the positive role he played in advancing the civil and human rights in American history.”
In their letter to Obama, the 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 organise 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 states.
Despite that legacy, the Members of Congress lamented that Garvey “has never been fully exonerated from racially-motivated charges of mail fraud.”
“Recognising that prosecutors and the government mishandled the case, President Calvin Coolidge commuted the sentence at the earliest possible opportunity,” the letter says.
The congressional representatives’ call came on the heels of a similar one, issued in November 2017, by Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Professor Sir Hilary Beckles.
“Marcus Garvey was the victim of trumped up charges orchestrated by the late J. Edgar Hoover, the famously anti-black director of the US’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI),” said Sir Hilary in a statement, calling on Obama, “himself the victim of racist campaigns to de-legitimise his presidency, to exonerate Garvey before he leaves office.
A global petition campaign demanding that Garvey’s US federal record be expunged had generated tens of thousands of signatures.
The campaign was supported, among others, by the Jamaica Government, the Caribbean Reparations Commission, the New York-based Institute of the Black World 21st Century and by members of the Congressional Black Caucus in the US House of Representatives. (CMC)