January 13, 2017
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) respectfully urges you to grant the petition filed with the Department of Justice in June 2016 requesting a posthumous pardon for Marcus Garvey. In recognition of his lifelong and substantial contributions to society, his efforts to uplift peoples of African descent the world over, and his work to promote economic independence as a means of social progress, MMTC stands in strong support of a posthumous presidential pardon for Marcus Garvey.
Marcus Garvey lives in history as one of the first leaders of the American civil rights movement. In the early twentieth century, he was an advocate for the social, political, and economic independence of those of African descent across the world, and Garvey staked his name and his movement on the development of economic opportunity as a source of black empowerment. To unite his followers toward a common goal of social progress, Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (“UNIA”), which at its height boasted nearly 6 million members in 40 countries. In many ways, he was American’s first communications mogul. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “He was the first man on a mass scale and level to give millions of Negroes a sense of dignity and destiny.”
Because of these achievements, Garvey was viewed as a threat to the established order. Decades before Dr. King would become targeted for his activism, J. Edgar Hoover led the Federal Bureau of Investigation in its surveillance of Garvey and actively sought methods to disrupt and destroy Garvey’s civil rights movement. In 1923, based on intelligence gathered from undercover agents who were posing as Garvey supporters and aided by judicial proceedings that have largely been condemned as factually unsound and politically and racially motivated, Garvey was convicted of mail fraud and sentenced to five years in federal prison. In partial recognition of the unsettling facts underlying the prosecution of the case, President Calvin Coolidge commuted the sentence in November 1927, but deported Garvey from the country, never to return.
The posthumous pardon petition now filed on Garvey’s behalf seeks to exonerate him from the stigma of this conviction. More than 90 years after the imposition of this injustice, it is time to pardon Marcus Mosiah Garvey and let history reflect the true nature of his legacy.
President and CEO, MMTC