Negro with a Hat: The rise and the fall of Marcus Garvey and his dream of mother africa



Marcus Mosiah Garvey was once the most famous black man on earth. A brilliant orator who electrified his audiences, he inspired thousands to join his “Back to Africa” movement, which aimed to create an independent homeland through Pan-African emigration. At the pinnacle of his fame in the early 1920s, Garvey was a power to be reckoned with. His Universal Negro Improvement Association boasted millions of members in more than forty countries, and he was an influential champion of the HarlemRenaissance, publishing Claude McKay and Langston Hughes in his newspaper The Negro World. To his admirers, Garvey was the “Black Moses,” though he made enemies almost as easily as friends: early in his career both Winston Churchill and J. Edgar Hoover deemed him enough of a threat to warrant continual surveillance. Indeed, so alarmed by Garvey was Hoover that he labored for years to discover a way to prosecute him, finally settling on dubious charges of mail fraud, for which Garvey servedseveral years in an Atlanta prison. W.E.B. DuBois, a bitter rival, believed Garvey to be merely an outlandish “negro with a hat.” In the first full-length biography of Garvey in a generation, Colin Grant captures the full sweep and epic dimensions of Garvey’s life, the dazzling triumphs and the dreary exile. He spent most of his adult life outside of Jamaica, but was crowned the island’s first national hero after his death. He advocated for a return to Africa, but was barred by colonial powers from ever setting foot on the continent. As Grant shows, Garvey was a man of contradictions: a self-educated, poetry-writing aesthete and unabashed propagandist, an admirer of Lenin, and a dandy given to elaborate public displays. Above all, he was a shrewd promoter whose use of pageantry evoked a lost African civilization and fired the imagination of his followers. Negro With a Hat restores Garvey to his place as one of the founders of black nationalism and a key figure of the 20th century.

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