Visionary yet enigmatic, brilliant yet manipulative, Marcus Garvey is one of the most controversial figures in American history. Both a powerful orator and a pompous autocrat, Garvey inspired the loyalty of millions of Af... more »rican-Americans while infuriating many black leaders. He was a strong advocate of black self-help, yet was willing to collaborate with the Ku Klux Klan. He inspired African-Americans to support his economic enterprises, then lost their hard-earned money through mismanagement. This film uses a wealth of archival footage, photographs and documents to uncover the story of this Jamaican immigrant who between 1916 and 1921 built what was the largest black mass movement in world history.« less
"My two major areas of criticism are (1) Factual inaccuracies and slanderous statements without even attempting to substantiate them and (2) The absence of any in-depth analysis of what Marcus Garvey stood for or was trying to do. I will attempt to deal with some of the former that I consider to be of major importance. (1) The early incident of Marcus Garvey being left in the grave is dramatized and the statement is made that his father was teaching him `Never to rely on anyone'. The incident is factual, but the reason given to me by my mother is that my grandfather was teaching Marcus not to be afraid of anything! It may seem initially like a small difference, but it sets the stage for later gratuitous statements that Marcus Garvey was always alone, never confided in anyone, did not take advice and was dictatorial. So right from the beginning we have psychodrama and psychohistory. Incidentally the technique of leaving someone in a graveyard for an extended period of time is a well-known Tibetan Buddhist practice, used for centuries to test an initiate's fearlessness and stability of mind. (2) Statements that Amy Ashwood was the cofounder of the UNIA is an exaggeration in that Marcus Garvey returned from England to Jamaica on July 15th 1914 and within 5 days founded the UNIA. It is unlikely that a 17-year-old girl had the vision to be anything more than an early member. It is said that Amy Ashwood's mother did not consider Marcus Garvey the right type of person for her daughter to date, as he did not have a solid income. Well at this point he was a world traveler, a master printer, a journalist and the founder of an organization that had her daughter as one of fifteen members of the "board of management". Incidentally, both Amy Ashwood's mother and brother were on the UNIA payroll. Marcus Garvey was elected president and TRAVELLING COMMISSIONER of the UNIA at its founding. I emphasize this latter with good reason. Incidentally both Amy Ashwood's mother and brother were on the UNIA payroll. (3) Marcus Garvey grossly mismanaged the funds of the organization and used them for his own purposes. Again, not only is there no proof of this, but the opposite is true in that Marcus Garvey gave a public accounting of how the funds were used. At this early stage the organization was mostly uplift and philanthropy. It was a literary and debating society, did charitable work such as feeding and entertaining hundreds of poor and sick people, especially on Emancipation Day and at Christmas. Garvey never ran away from Jamaica or left in a hurry. This was carefully planned and there are letters to Booker T. Washington and his successor, Moton, to prove that Garvey's visit to the U.S. was to see Tuskegee Institute, which he viewed as a model industrial institute, and to raise funds for a similar institute and farm in Jamaica. I think he was clearly carrying out his duties as TRAVELLING COMMISSIONER. Also he never abandoned Amy Ashwood in Jamaica, as she had already left for Panama.(4) Marcus Garvey is portrayed as being awed by the bright lights, richness and tall buildings of Harlem. He had already had 4 years of world travel under his belt, 2 in the Caribbean (Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and 2 in Europe (England, France, Spain, Germany and Italy). I do not think he was overly impressed with Harlem, New York, U.S.A.He is said to have been so nervous at an early speaking engagement that he shook like a leaf and LITERALLY fell on his face. Marcus Garvey even prior to leaving Jamaica in 1910 took part in debates and elocution contests and he trained himself in this area. He studied the speaking style of many ministers in Kingston, he spoke in public on many occasions in Costa Rica and Panama. He studied the speakers in London's Hyde Park, at Speaker's Corner. He participated himself. He also sat in the gallery of the House of Commons and studied the speakers there engaged in parliamentary debate. He did not have to go to the U.S. to copy the speaking style of someone named Billy Sunday and he certainly would not have "shaken like a leaf". His topic, by the way was `Jamaica' and the audience was largely West Indian. As to literally `falling flat on his face'. This is an outright lie, as to fall flat on one's face, one would have to be in an altered state of consciousness so that the normal defense mechanism of putting out one's hands to break the fall would not be operational. The one fact in all this is that Marcus Garvey fell off the platform while speaking on May 9th, 1916 at St. Mark's Roman Catholic Church Hall at 57 West 138th Harlem, N.Y. How one gets from this one fact to the tissue of lies and fevered mental projections is quite a leap. By the way he got up and continued his speech. He needed no medical attention for a broken nose, busted lip or bruised head as he would have done if he `literally fell flat on his face' from the platform. (5) Garvey is said to have been authoritarian, antidemocratic, naming himself and others with fancy titles, etc. THE UNIA IS AN ORGANIZATION WITH A CONSTITUTION. Marcus Garvey was elected Provisional President of Africa by 25,000 delegates from all over the world at the first international convention of the Negro peoples of the world in N.Y. in 1920. He was opposed by Dr. Lewis from Nigeria, but he won the election. Important matters relative to the objectives of the organization and how they should be carried out were discussed at convention and by the delegates in committee and the recommendations voted upon democratically by the delegates present. Not autocratically dictated by Marcus Garvey. There were 8 such conventions. The first in 1920 and the last in 1938 in Toronto Canada. WWII started in 1939. Garvey died in 1940. (6) He is said to have fired his lawyer and no reason is given for this except to say that Garvey wanted to impress the jury with his oratory. The fact is that his lawyer wanted to plea bargain and Garvey refused, protesting his innocence and therefore fired him. Nevertheless he hired lawyers to advise him on court proceedings, as he pleaded his case. He did this well enough to have a hung jury. At which time the presiding judge instructed the jury not to `turn the tiger loose'. They came back in 15 minutes with a guilty verdict. The only piece of evidence was an empty envelope; the address was not in Marcus Garvey's handwriting. (7) A handbill is shown advertising and seeking subscriptions to buy a boat called the `Phyllis Wheatley'. This is said to be a gross misrepresentation, as the ship did not exist. Well the ship did exist, and $20,000 had been paid down on it and the organization was raising funds to complete the purchase and rename the ship the `S.S. Phillis Wheatley'. The fist ship of the Black Star Line was the `Yarmouth', renamed the `Frederick Douglas'. The third ship was the `Kenawha', renamed the `Antonio Maceo'. The fourth ship was to be named the `Phillis Wheatley' after Afro-Americas first female poet and one of its most celebrated. How this can be called misrepresentation requires a wide stretch of the imagination. (8) Finally, the last scene that was dramatized showing Garvey, `the failure, who had come down, in the world', being stoned by children and walking toward a hovel, presumably his home. A despicable lie. We lived at 53 Lady Musgrave Rd., St. Andrew from 1927 to 1937. My brother and I were both born there. The house still stands and was lived in by the Hendricks family and subsequently housed the Indian High Commission. I do not need to tell a Jamaican readership of the many accomplishments of Marcus Garvey between 1927 and 1935 in Jamaica. To end a documentary on Our 1st National Hero, Hero of the Americas and a Hero to millions of Africans, those at home and those abroad, climaxes the many distortions of fact, lies and character assassinations that are so numerous that I cannot include them all here. One can only ask, Why? Perhaps it is a situation of `who pays the piper calls the tune'. I prefer to be charitable and say, `My father forgive them for they know not what they do'. Sincerely,
Julius W. Garvey, M.D."
I thought it was pretty good myself
Andre M. | Mt. Pleasant, SC United States | 12/30/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am a historian by profession. I did my senior thesis on the Garvey movement during my college days.Overall, I thought this was an excellent documentary. The DVD is particularly good as it expounds upon things like Malcolm X's parents' role in the Garvey movement, J. Edgar Hoover's vendetta against Garvey, and it contains two complete speeches from Garvey recorded in 1921, the latter of which states the goals of his UNIA.As for the controversy, one should not expect a serious documentary aimed for adults to show a historical figure as an idealized, angelic being with no human flaws. Let's face it, Garvey had his faults and this documentary deals with that. But it also makes it clear that Garvey made a positive impact on many people from the testimonies of people who actually remembered the Garvey movement. Incidentally, in response to one of the previous posters, this DVD DID mention that Garvey created the Red, Black and Green flag.Next to reading "Black Moses" or "The Philosophy of Marcus Garvey," this is a good introduction for anyone who wants to learn about Marcus Garvey. See this, read Garvey's own writings, and judge for yourself."
-1 stars = Not the best "American Experience"
derekhuff | Washington, DC | 12/27/2003
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Usually, American Experience can counted on to present intensely fact-based documentaries. This one does not fit the ususal mode of American Experience product. Apparently, Frankthek didn't read the other reviews. One is from Julius Garvey, MD son of Marcus Garvey. That review led me to realize that there was more to the story. I went and did my own research. It seems that there is a great deal of bias in the documentary. The documentary doesn't begin where Garvey's life begins and it doesn't end where it ends. But it seems to want to impress upon you that it does. Nowhere are there facts presented for the viewer to make their own determination. That's why i watch American experience so much. Normally they present the facts, without so much as a critique. In my own research I confirmed some of what Dr. Garvey says in his review. The fraud trial originally ended in a hung jury, a fact left out of the documentary. Garvey met up with an expert elocutionist in Henrietta Vinton Davis, who may have been more influential on him than Billy Sunday. Garvey's second wife, Amy Jacques Garvey was from a well-to-do Jamaican family. Garvey finished his days in London, England; a plaque marks the house where he lived. He was interred in a crypt in England; and his body was brought back to Jamaica in the 60's. This was a very significant time in world history. Africa was getting its independence, the civil rights movement was taking off. Martin Luther King even laid a wreath at Garvey's mausoleum during a vacation in Jamaica. I watched this with a few other people and the consensus was the same. It is not the usual standard for American Experience. So many contradictory statements and so little facts. If anything this documentary will inspire others to go do their own research to get the real facts like I did."
A Most Powerful Witness
L. C. Menyweather-Woods | Winston-Salem, NC | 12/26/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD produced by PBC is an excellent treasure for those who are interested in understanding the historical events in the development of Black American culture. This documentary of the American experience exemplifies the best of investigation of the birth of movements which affected Black life and provides answers for questions still being raised today. E.g., when White America wonder why Blacks and law enforcement doesn't appear to be successful in developing a positive relationship, this documentary provides insight when it discusses the thoughts of the late FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover, antagonist attitude toward Blacks and their selective leadership. Hoover's hatred of Martin King is seen in his hatred of Marcus Garvey. Hoover's personal belief toward Blacks was discussed and his attitude is reflected in law enforcement across the Nation to this day. This video is quite valuable as an edition to an individual's search for the truth of why things are the way they are. I highly recommend without reservation this PBS series for anyone's library who is interested in learning the historical movements in Black American Culture."
Opened my eyes
Linda Smiles | Oak Park, IL | 12/15/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I knew little of this incredibly fascinating man until I saw this film. It should be required viewing, I don't understand how one person could post so many negative reviews all on the same day."