Congress pushes Obama to posthumously pardon Marcus Garvey

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Eighteen members of Congress have penned a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to grant a posthumous pardon to Marcus Garvey.

Garvey, who was born in Jamaica, led the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League organization in the 1920s before he was convicted of mail fraud in what many now see as a conviction motivated by politics and race.

A proponent of the back-to-Africa movement, Garvey incorporated such business ventures as the Black Star Line into the movement in order to aid its goals.

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However, when the business ventures began to suffer from financial difficulties, and when the speeches and political movement began to catch the attention of the Justice Department, an investigation was launched, and Garvey was convicted of mail fraud and sentenced to five years in prison.

President Calvin Coolidge commuted Garvey’s sentence and deported him to Jamaica two years later, in 1927, and Garvey died in England in 1940.

“The passage of time has confirmed his place in history but has not removed the stain of this injustice from his legacy,” Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-Brooklyn) wrote in the letter signed by 17 other members of Congress.

“We believe that Marcus Garvey meets the criteria for a posthumous pardon, based on his efforts to secure the rights of people of African descent and the utter lack of merit to the charges on which he was convicted,” Clarke added.