Marcus Garvey’s descendants call for Biden to pardon civil rights leader posthumously

The living descendants of civil rights leader Marcus Garvey are urging the president to issue a posthumous pardon for Garvey’s 1923 conviction for mail fraud, The Washington Post reported.

In June 1923, Garvey was convicted of mail fraud after Black Star Line, the shipping company he founded, sent out advertisements showing a ship that the company did not yet own but was in the process of buying, according to the Post. He received a $1,000 fine and five-year prison sentence that was later commuted by former President Coolidge.

“I think the pardon and indeed complete exoneration of Marcus Garvey is warranted given the sham prosecution that resulted in his conviction,” Anthony Pierce, a lawyer representing the descendants, told The Hill in a statement.  

He called for a resolution introduced by Rep. Yvette Clark (D-N.Y.) earlier this year to exonerate the Black nationalist of his mail fraud to be passed “with bipartisan support as all who stand for freedom and democracy should want the wrongs done Mr. Garvey reversed.”

“President Biden has an easy decision to make when it comes to this pardon,” he added. 

The Black Star Line was one of the first Black-owned companies of its kind globally, the Post noted. Garvey also established the Negro World newspaper and founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), for which he authored the “Declaration of Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World.” 

Garvey was well-known for his promotion of the Pan-African movement, which sought to unify people with African descent across all sides of the globe, as well.

He was also the subject of the FBI’s attention, and the agency later admitted that they had been investigating his activities and looking to expel him from the country as “an undesirable alien,” according to the Post. 


The request from Garvey’s descendants comes over a month after a parole board in Louisiana voted to pardon Homer Plessy, a Creole man who was arrested after he boarded a whites-only train car and whose arrest later took center stage in the Supreme Court case that established the infamous “separate but equal” standard for segregated facilities.

The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment.

Tags Joe Biden Marcus Garvey Pardon Yvette Clark

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