GARVEY: The Story of a Pioneer Black Nationalist by Elton C. Fax

GARVEY: The Story of a Pioneer Black Nationalist

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An earnestly pro-Garvey study which concedes that its hero ""made mistakes"" but neither conveys the movement's tinsel elan nor analyzes its socio-political character. Instead there is a pedestrian biographical account of the early Jamaica years, the tangles with other black leaders, and the racial strife of the 1910's which helped Garvey's United Negro Improvement Association grow. Fax never quite gets down to brass tacks about the motives and scope of Garvey's financial sins, begging the issue by asserting that there was no question as to his personal sincerity and honesty; he suggests that many of Garvey's accusers were hardly disinterested defenders of justice, but fails to build a specific case against them. As to Garvey's ""unhappy alliance with the Ku Klux Klan,"" he alternately denies it and defends it, without reference to other black separatist pacts with right-wing white groups. Again, when Garvey declares himself the first Fascist, Fax takes it merely as an example of Garvey's ""uncanny faculty for making public statements that did him no earthly good,"" instead of isolating the generic tendency of his movement, After his efforts to build a Liberian base are squelched by the local oligarchy and their imperialist backers, Garvey settled into relative obscurity. His failure is insufficiently analyzed -- Fax apparently lacks enough sympathy with the black masses to demand more than an ""emotional lift"" from their would-be leaders, while in a vacuous black-is-beautiful spirit he links Garvey with every succeeding black voice from Malcolm X to Richard Wright. Researchers will do better with the second Mrs. Garvey's Garvey and Garveyism (1963) on which Fax draws heavily, as a primary source, and Theodore Vincent's Black Power and the Garvey Movement (1971), which shares Fax's perspective but has more documentary extension.

Pub Date: March 20th, 1972
Publisher: Dodd, Mead