Return to Africa, By Marcus Garvey The Negro World, New York, Saturday, April 22, 1922
Fellow men of the Negro Race, Greeting:
For four and a half years the Universal Negro Improvement Association has been advocating the cause of Africa for the Africans -- that is, that the Negro peoples of the world should concentrate upon the object of building up for themselves a great nation in Africa.
When we started our propaganda toward this end several of the so-called intellectual Negroes who have been bamboozling the race for over half a century said that we were crazy, that the Negro peoples of the western world were not interested in Africa and could not live in Africa. One editor and leader went so far as to say at his Pan- African Congress that American Negroes could not live in Africa, because the climate was too hot. All kinds of arguments have been adduced by these Negro intellectuals against the colonization of Africa by the black race. Some said that the black man would ultimately work out his existence alongside of the white man in countries founded and established by the latter. Therefore, it was not necessary for Negroes to seek an independent nationality of their own. The old time stories of "Africa fever," "African bad climate," "African mosquitoes," "African savages," have been repeated by these "brainless intellectuals" of ours as a scare against our people in America and the West Indies taking a kindly interest in the new program of building a racial empire of our own in our Motherland.
A "Program" at Last?
I trust that the Negro peoples of the world are now convinced that the work of the Universal Negro Improvement Association is not a visionary one, but very practical, and that it is not so far fetched, but can be realized in a short while if the entire race will only co-operate and work toward the desired end. Now that the work of our organization has started to bear fruit, we find that some of these 'doubting Thomas’s" of the three and four years ago are endeavoring to mix themselves up with the popular idea of rehabilitating Africa in the interest of the Negro. They are now advancing spurious "programs" and in a short while will endeavor to force themselves upon the public as advocates and leaders of the African idea.
It is felt that those who have followed the career of the Universals Negro Improvement Association will not allow themselves to be deceived by these Negro opportunists who have always sought to live off the ideas of other people.
It is only a question of a few more years when Africa will be completely colonized by Negroes, as Europe is by the white race. It is for us to welcome the proffered help of such men as Senators McCullum and France. Though their methods are a little different to that of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, yet it is felt that the same object will be achieved. What we want is an independent African nationality, and if America is to help the Negro peoples of the world establish such a nationality, then we welcome the assistance.
It is hoped that when the time comes for American and West Indian Negroes to settle in Africa, they will realize their responsibility and their duty. It will not be to go to the natives, but it shall be the purpose of the Universal Negro Improvement Association to have established in Africa the brotherly co-operation which will make the interest of the African native and the American and West Indies Negro one and the same, that is to say, we shall enter into a common partnership to build up Africa in the interest of our race.
Your obedient servant, Marcus Garvey, President General Universal Negro Improvement Association New York, April 18, 1922
Questions about “Return to Africa”
1. What does Garvey mean by “Africa for the Africans” (1st paragraph)?
2. In the second paragraph, Garvey writes of “the so-called intellectual Negroes who have been bamboozling the race for over half a century.”
a. Can you identify which leaders he might be referring to?
b. Why does he hold these leaders in such contempt?
c. What does this language tell you about which groups of African Americans Garvey is trying to appeal to?
3. In the third paragraph, Garvey writes that the work of the UNIA “can be realized in a short while if the entire race will only co-operate and work toward the desired end.” What factors might have made it difficult for all African-Americans to work together in Garvey’s day? Today?
4. In the fifth paragraph, Garvey writes, “it is only a question of a few more years when Africa will be completely colonized by Negroes.” Who controlled Africa at the time he was writing? Was his prediction correct?
5. Why does Garvey believe it is the “responsibility and duty” of both American and West Indian Negroes to settle in Africa? Do you agree or disagree with this assertion?
6. In the last paragraph, Garvey asserts that “the interest of the African native and the American and West Indian Negro” should be “one and the same.” What assumptions is this assertion based on? Are they valid assumptions?