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THE MARCUS GARVEY AND UNIVERSAL NEGRO IMPROVEMENT ASSOCIATION PAPERS, VOLUME IV edited by Robert A. Hill (University of California: $67; illustrated).

February 23, 1986|JOSEPH BOSKIN

The Garvey Movement, itself designated as the Universal Negro Improvement Assn., was the most powerful grass-roots black movement in the 20th Century. Led by Jamaican-born Marcus Garvey (1887-1940), a distinctive individual whose eloquence provoked intense nationalist and controversial feelings among Afro-Americans and deep anxieties among whites, the UNIA reached out to more than 1,000 chapters in more than 40 nations. Its main power base, however, was in the United States, and at its peak, its offices and followers could be found throughout the country from small towns to large cities.

Until recently, scholars working in the field of 20th-Century Afro-American studies faced a serious disadvantage because the materials relating to the man and movement were scattered. This problem has been solved with the publication of the Marcus Garvey and UNIA papers by Prof. Robert A. Hill, a historian at UCLA. This is the fourth volume in a series begun three years ago.

This work covers a particularly difficult period for Garvey and his organization. The movement was buffeted by internal dissension arising from Garvey's economic policies and his strategy of Ku Klux Klan association, criticism from black spokesmen such as W. E. B. DuBois and the Pan African movement, and harassment by the Department of Justice and FBI. Fearful of its growing power, the federal government acted swiftly to confound the movement and eventually indicted Garvey for mail fraud. The state's actions would eventuate in Garvey's imprisonment.

The materials relating to this crucial occurrence, however, will appear in a future volume. This particular one is characterized by its breadth of information and clarity of organization. No one can understand the significance of this social movement without consulting these volumes.

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