Distinctions Between the Distinct
Marcus Garvey and W.E.B. Dubois
|W.E.B.- Web of Consciousness|
There’s no debate but these words are an examination of two important men in our history. From a historic perspective, this was the post-holocaust period, where a new epoch or Renaissance of ideas and thought patterns with regard to Black life and nationalism emerged.
Multitudes of Brothers fought in World War I during the second decade of the twentieth century and though they were frequently cast on front lines in combat, they returned home dismembered to mentally dismembering discrimination,facing lynching in their own uniforms.
Abroad, they were housed in segregated housing units and mess halls. Domestically, organizaitons sprang up across America, particularly Eastern, Southern and MidWestern areas.
Two men emerged from and through this era that defined Black life and lifestyles for centuries and scholarly journals to come.For Marcus Garvey and W.E.B. Dubois, their rivarly was legendary,and for Dubois, it was necessary.
A myriad of differences kept the men worlds apart in their beginnings, brought them together in debate and exiled them from their respective home countries toward the ends of their lives.
Their conflict typified the dissension that remains in our community. The battle of the youth versus elderly,foreign born versus domestic,love for our people versus love of a select sect of our people and scholar versus street.
Marcus Mosiah Garvey was born in St. Anns Bay Jamaica, Aug.17,1887, in what appeared to be a place a world away from the experience of American bigotry. However, for Garvey, as a descendent of the Maroons,he encountered his first scratch of racism on the island in his teenage years when white peers informed him they could no longer be friends because of puported “racial hierharchies”.
A self educated scholar and entreprenuer, the young Garvey moved to Kingston Jamaica when he was fifteen,a place of sweltering political activity.
He and his sister Indiana,were the only children of his parents that survived to adulthood and such burned the zeal of Garvey to succeed at all costs.With money loaned from relatives, Garvey traveled to Panama, Colombia, Peru and London, attending lectures at Birbeck College in the latter location.
His voyage to each country allowed him to see the condition of melanated people and he participated in the politics of each area, leading strikes, petitioning the local leaders and publishing newspapers that discussed the atrocities committed against our people.
With funds low,he returned to Kingston Jamaica,where he began correspondence with Booker T.Washington, the founder and leader of Tuskegee Institute,an industrial school. Garvey, with his future wife, Amy Ashwood, established the Universal Negro Improvement Association on his native island, in the hopes of modeling the program after Washington’s successes in the states.
Garvey arranged to meet Washington,but upon his arrival to America by banana boat in 1916,learned that Washington had died sometime earlier.Still,Garvey remained in America, building his UNIA branch in Harlem, expanding it to several business ventures that assisted our people,such as the Negro Factories Corporation, The Negro World Newspaper, The Negro Times Daily Newspaper,a chain of hotels,restaurants, grocery stores,a doll line,two colleges,a publishing house,the Black Cross Navigation and Trading Company,five hundred acres of farm land in Liberia,The Black Cross Nurses and the Black Star Line Steamship company.
It was through these economic activities that Garvey liberated our people as he said, “ liberate the minds of men and ultimately you will liberate the bodies of men.”
How did this little Jamaican from a small town amass a global following of six million in the 1920s? It was because he mastered three areas when liberating our people:
The first arm of the UNIA was the business enterprise of the Negro Factories Corporation. Garvey understood that though there was a wish and a need to house all of our people in academic fields, our people couldn’t eat textbooks at the end of the day. He analyzed that Blacks had major hands in manufacturing and prepared a business that gave them the practical from the beginning.
In regards to the turmoil of our people today, we must provide them with practical resources if there is to be any liberation.Sure,we can lecture them on Kemet, Kush, Carthage or Lemuria all day, but providing our people with ways to live is how they resurrect the glories of our ancestral empires.
Once people have the practical,their minds must be given images that build them instead of break them. They must see images or read stories of their people in glory than disgrace. Understanding this, Garvey, with a background in printing and publishing, created the Negro World, a weekly newspaper and later The Negro Times, a daily newspaper.
Through this media arm of his organization,he reported weekly on the strides of the UNIA, recruiting membership through these means.
His parades were the largest,with hundreds of thousands marching through Harlem in celebration of steps towards liberation. UNIA members of each branched were resplendent in their uniformed garb.
At the Pan-Africanist conventions, delegates for the UNIA from all over the planet flew,swam and even risked death to hear the reports of the UNIA and a lecture from its founder, Marcus Garvey.
Whereas other groups campaigned for “integration” it was the fierce nationalism of the UNIA that touched the core of American born Blacks.
Not everyone was enthused about this new leader that had emerged to lead his people into liberation. The loudest opponent of Garvey’s program was William Edward Burghardt Dubois. Where historians distort research is that Dubois isn’t given his credit as a Pan-Africanist.
Both men were Pan-Africanists,where they differed was that one was a Pan-African nationalist and the other was a Pan-African integrationist. Both are race minded, racially sincere individuals, but the nationalist seeks the building up of one’s own community, resources, land ownership and businesses.
The integrationist is race minded, but seeks the inclusion of his people into the existent society to prove the relevance of his people. His focus isn’t on ownership, but opportunities extended from the race that economically dominates at the time(i.e. whites).
W.E. B. Dubois was born on Feb.23, 1868 in Great Barrington Massachusetts where he spent much of his childhood. Like Garvey, Dubois had a background in journalism,reporting for publications when he was a teenager. He graduated in 1884 as valedictorian from high school and attended Fisk University thereafter.
He acquired his Bachelors degree and taught at several Nashville Tennessee area schools. Dubois made history as the first Black man to receive a Doctorate from Harvard University.
His doctorate dissertation is still the number one published doctorate paper at Harvard University and has yet to be surpassed. It was his ability to pen the condition of our people in his famous works, “The Souls of Black Folk”,”Black Folk Then and Now” and “The Reconstruction of Black America” that lifted the consciousness of our people.
Dubois had made excellent accomplishments in the realm of journalism, in terms of getting our people a voice in that regard. He was one of the founders of the Niagara Movement,which later morphed into the NAACP.
It was here that Dubois began to produce and edit a new publication, the Crisis Newspaper. His greatest adversarial tension came from his public debate with Marcus Garvey.Dubois was instrumental in initiating,along with A. Phillip Randolph and Chandler Owen, the “Garvey Must Go Campaign”.
Dubois mastered three areas:
He symbolized the educated Brother that is not only deemed equal to his white counterparts but surpasses his white counterparts and contemporaries. It was Dubois zeal to create a new standard of Black excellence that endears him to us today. When we consider him today and the crisis of the Black intellectual, it should stand as testament that we have far to go as a people.
He understood the social advancement of our people was a requirement and since he’d done it, anybody could. He created the “talented tenth” philosophy from this thought pattern, that suggested the race needs an uppercrust of Black leaders that serve as societal examples. It suggested that those that have bettered themselves financially or politically can teach the race to gain more by following their mold.
Dubois befriended new Ghana leader Kwame Nkrumah, who was a student of Garvey’s. The pair exchanged ideas and it was Nkrumah that created a home abroad for the ailing activist. Dubois, after years of editing and writing for the Crisis Newspaper, lost his twenty-four year tenure and was labeled Anti-American after he joined a Communist League.
In his declining years, Dubois had many house guests, one of which being Malcolm X, who later extolled him in his 1964 Autobiography.
Dubois died on August 27,1963, just one day before Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream”speech on the steps of the nation’s capitol. He was a champion, an orator and he moved our people into higher realms of intellectualism in a period when Black students didn’t have access to standard textbooks and were subject to dilapidated educational facilities.
May both of these lions of our history be an inspiration to us all.