Petition to pardon Marcus Garvey launches first day of Black History Month

The 30-day campaign seeks to nab 100,000 signatures from across the globe to elicit an official White House response.

A new campaign is renewing the decades-long calls for a posthumous presidential pardon of Black revolutionary leader Marcus Mosiah Garvey.

The global effort — which launched on Feb. 1, the first day of Black History Month — seeks to garner 100,000 signatures over a 30-day period in order to elicit an official response from the White House.

Marcus Garvey,
Marcus Garvey, the revolutionary pioneer of the pan Africanism and Black nationalist movement in the early 20th century. (Photo: New York Public Library)

The campaign is part of ongoing efforts by the living descendants and supporters of the civil rights leader, urging the U.S. government to clear his name.

Garvey, a Jamaican-born Black nationalist, was a revered activist, newspaper owner and the leader of the Pan-Africanism movement, which sought to unify and connect people of African descent worldwide. Garvey promoted Black pride and self-sufficiency, economic independence and Black unity across the African diaspora. His legacy continues to echo around the world today.

In May 1923, Garvey was convicted of mail fraud in connection with the operation of The Black Star Line, his signature program for Black economic independence. He was imprisoned and eventually deported to his native Jamaica in 1927. He never returned to the U.S. after that.

“President Biden has made statements in his inaugural address about the dream for justice not to be delayed any longer,” Dr. Julius Garvey, Marcus Garvey’s 88-year-old son, told The Washington Post in December. “We will take him at his word. Racial injustice was done to my father more than 100 years ago. He committed no crime. What he was trying to do was elevate the status of African Americans and Africans across the world.”

The FBI later acknowledged that their probing of Garvey was to eventually “deport him as an undesirable alien.”

Supporters of this exoneration movement — which includes activists, scholars and community leaders — say Garvey was unjustly persecuted by the U.S. government for the civic leader’s work to uphold racial justice for Black people. They believe a posthumous presidential pardon is long overdue. 

“We will ask President Biden to honor the voices of our global citizens and make amends for the 1923 unjust persecution and imprisonment of the Honorable Marcus Garvey, ” says Dr. Goulda Downer. “Marcus Garvey’s descendants believe that a Presidential pardon will acknowledge, and begin to right, the wrong committed against him, and by extension, the global community of African peoples.” 

The leadership team behind the “Justice 4 Garvey” campaign is also inviting students of all ages from around the world to write letters to Biden requesting a posthumous Garvey presidential pardon. The link for the signatures was posted as of Feb. 1, and the campaign will be conducted throughout Black History Month until March 2.  

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