Black Facts for June 17th

1923 - (1923) Marcus Garvey, “A Last Word Before Incarceration”

In 1923 Marcus Garvey was convicted on federal charges of mail fraud in connection with the sale of stock in the Universal Negro Improvement Association"s Black Star Line.  Sentenced to prison, Garvey delivered his last address before a crowd at Liberty Hall in New York City on June 17, 1923.  That speech appears below.

Among the many names by which I have been called, I was dubbed by another name a couple days ago.  The district Attorney, with whom I have been contesting the case for my liberty and for the existence of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, in his fervid appeal, in his passionate appeal, to the gentlemen of the jury last Friday cried out: “Gentlemen, will you let the tiger loose?”

The tiger is already loose, and he has been at large for so long that it is no longer one tiger, but there are many tigers.  The spirit of the Universal Negro Improvement Association has, fortunately for us, made a circuit of the world, to the extent that harm of injury done to any one, will in no way affect the great membership of this association or retard its great program.  The world is ignorant of the purpose of this association.  The world is ignorant of the scope of this great movement, when it things that by laying low any one individual it can permanently silence this great spiritual wave, that has taken hold of the souls and the hearts and minds of 4000,000,000 Negroes throughout the world.  We have only started; we are just on our way; we have just made the first lap in the great race for existence, and for a place in the political and economic sun of men.

Those of you who have been observing events for the last four or five weeks with keen eyes and keen perceptions will come to no other conclusion than this—that through the effort to strangle the Universal Negro Improvement Association—through the effort to silence Marcus Garvey—there is a mad desire, there is a great plan to permanently lay the Negro low in this civilization and in future civilizations.  But the world is sadly mistaken.  No longer

2015 - Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (1816- )

Emanuel A.M.E. Church is the oldest black A.M.E. Church in the South and contains the oldest black congregation south of Baltimore, Maryland.  The church’s early roots emerged out of slavery in a shared legacy with Charleston (South Carolina) Methodist Episcopal Church in 1791. Due to disputes over burial grounds, enslaved and free black members of the church withdrew their membership, and, under the leadership of Morris Brown, they established a church affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal churches in 1816.  Because of the perceived threat of religious gatherings by enslaved and free blacks in antebellum Charleston and elsewhere in the slave-holding South, Brown and fellow ministers were placed in jail for violating state and local laws just two years after the church’s founding.

In the 19th century, Emanuel formed the hotbed of anti-slavery and political activism, alarming the city’s white population. But nothing perhaps had been more alarming and national in scope than the developments around the largest planned slave revolt that rocked not only the South, but the nation. In 1821, Denmark Vesey, a former slave and one of the church’s leaders, began organizing a major slave rebellion in Charleston to be carried out in June of 1822. Authorities were informed before the plot could take place, and, in 1822, they investigated the church for its participation with the slave revolt.  Rev. Morris Brown became a central target and suspect of the plot but was never convicted. He immediately fled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he later became the second bishop of the A.M.E. denomination. Vesey, along with 35 other conspirators, was executed while over 300 alleged participants were imprisoned.

Due to the church’s connection with the slave revolt in their fight for freedom, local white agitators burned the church, and the state passed a series of stringent laws against the congregating of black churches, including a ban on services conducted without white supervision. However, the church continued its

1871 - Johnson, James Weldon (1871-1938)

James Weldon Johnson, composer, diplomat, social critic, and civil rights activist, was born of Bahamian immigrant parents in Jacksonville, Florida on June 17, 1871.   Instilled with the value of education by his father, James, a waiter, and teacher-mother, Helen, Johnson excelled at the Stanton School in Jacksonville. In 1889 he entered Atlanta University in Georgia, graduating in 1894.  

In 1896, Johnson began to study law in Thomas Ledwith’s law office in Jacksonville, Florida.  In 1898, Ledwith considered Johnson ready to take the Florida bar exam.  After a grueling two hour exam, Johnson was given a pass and admitted to the bar.  One examiner expressed his anguish by bolting from the room and stating “Well, I can’t forget he’s a nigger; and I’ll be damned if I’ll stay here to see him admitted.” In 1898, Johnson became one of only a handful of black attorneys in the state. 

Johnson, however, did not practice law.  Instead he became principal at the Stanton School in Jacksonville where he improved the curriculum and added ninth and tenth grades.  Johnson also started the first black newspaper, the Daily American, in Jacksonville.  With his brother Rosamond, who had been trained at the New England Conservatory of Music in Massachusetts, James W. Johnson’s interests turned to songwriting for Broadway.

Rosamond and James migrated to New York in 1902 and soon were earning over twelve thousand dollars a year by selling their songs to Broadway performers.  Upon a return trip to Florida in 1900, the brothers were asked to write a celebratory song in honor of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.  The product, a poem set to music, became “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” now known as the Negro National Anthem. 

In 1906, Johnson became United States consul to Puerto Cabello in Venezuela.  While in the foreign service he met his future wife, Grace Nail, daughter of the influential black New York city real estate speculator, John E. Nail. The couple’s first year was spent in Corinto, Nicaragua, Johnson’s new diplomatic post.


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