1 minute read

Marcus Mosiah Garvey Trial: 1923

Super Salesman In Fancy Dress, "a Loss In Money But … A Gain In Soul", Suggestions For Further Reading

Defendants: Elie Garcia, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Orlando Thompson, and George Tobias
Crime Charged: Using the U.S. mail to defraud
Chief Defense Lawyers: Armin Kohn, William C. Mathews, Cornelius W. McDougald, and Vernal Williams (Garvey also represented himself)
Chief Prosecutor: Maxwell S. Mattuck
Judge: Julian W. Mack
Place: New York, New York
Dates of Trial: May 18-June 19, 1923
Verdicts: Guilty (Garvey); not guilty (Garcia, Thompson, Tobias)
Sentence: 5 years' imprisonment and $1,000 fine

SIGNIFICANCE: The trial of Marcus Garvey for defrauding his followers destroyed the "Back to Africa" movement. Garvey's conviction resulted more from his unpopular concepts than from the evidence, which was slight.

Marcus Mosiah Garvey, born in Jamaica in 1887, emerged as the leader of black Americans at the end of World War I. He organized the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), a mass movement of people of African descent larger than any seen before or since. By 1922, its several million members in the United States, the West Indies, Latin America, and Africa were considered a significant threat by the European powers that controlled Africa. Garvey not only pioneered the idea that "Black is beautiful!" He set Africa's liberation from white domination as his goal.

To implement his plan to redeem Africa, Garvey established his own newspaper, The Negro World. Preaching the absolute separation of blacks from all forms of white domination, his eloquent speeches and articles promised hope and prosperity to black people. When he proposed a practical step—that the Black Star Steamship Line move passengers and cargo to and from African wharves—stock in the corporation was sold only to blacks. As money poured into UNIA divisions nationwide, the line bought several old freighters, none of which was entirely seaworthy (at least one sank), and paid for costly repairs.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940