Marcus Garvey On The "Colored" Or Negro Press
Marcus Garvey is one of the greatest Black leaders we have ever had - yet and still so many of us know so little about him. As a guest last Friday on Davey D's radio program on KPFA, 94.1 FM, I realized this as I connected the history of J. Edgar Hoover (who was the field agent with the most evil intentions toward Marcus Garvey) in the early '20s; National Security Memorandum 46; the campaign race of Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney; and the demise and struggle of Black media across the country (on this front we spoke of the compromised nature of the Black media juxtaposed to political parties; and the plight of the San Francisco Bay View, one of the most important Black newspapers in the country, that is a victim of redlining.)
Saturday, while attending the Millions For Reparations March, 115 years from the date of Marcus Garvey's birth, the importance of Marcus Garvey's contribution to the Black electorate - particularly in the Western hemisphere and Africa, became even more clear to me, as Marcus Garvey, more than many Blacks suspect or admit, paved much of the way for the spread of progressive activism, self-love, Black nationalism, and Pan-Africanism that many of us take for granted today. Pound for pound, his impact cannot be minimized or marginalized, in any discussion of identity and the evolution of the thinking and behavior of Black people in the Western hemisphere toward Africa.
From time to time, we will continue to feature the writings and speeches of the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey. Some will be offended, others will say, "Amen," but a review of his writings, especially at this critical hour, is important, I think. Below is a sample from, The Philosophy & Opinions Of Marcus Garvey of just one of the seemingly countless subjects upon which Mr. Garvey opined. His words may seem harsh to some. But not to me - someone who has witnessed Black newspaper publishers and editors, as a united front, exchange endorsement editorials and favorable articles in exchange for cash from political parties. This is 2000 and 2001 that I am referring to, not the 1920s - when Mr. Garvey wrote what he did.
August 19, 2002
Here is Mr. Garvey's take on the Black Press:
The Colored Or Negro Press
The "Colored" or Negro press is the most venal, ignorant and corrupt of our time. This is a broad statement to make against an entire institution, and one so essential to the educational and corporate life of a people; but to be honest and to undeceive the Negro, whom I love above all God's creatures, the truth must be told. I make and again emphasize the statement without any regard for friendship, and with the full knowledge that the said false, vicious and venal press will unmercifully crticise me for telling the truth to the unfortunate of my race.
Unfortunately, the "Colored" or Negro press of today falls into the hands of unprincipled, unscrupulous and characterless individuals whose highest aims are to enrich themselves and to find political berths for themselves and their friends, or rather, confederates.
The white press of today has its element of venality and corruption, but the higher ethics of the profession are generally observed and maintained, and at no time will find the influence of white journalism used to debase or humiliate its race, but always to promote the highest ideals and protect the integrity of the white people everywhere.
The Negro press, to the contrary, has no constructive policy nor ideal. You may purchase its policy and destroy or kill any professed ideal if you would make the offer in cash.
Negro newspapers will publish the gravest falsehoods without making any effort to first find out the authenticity; they publish the worst crimes and libels against the race, if it pays in circulation or advertisements. A fair example of the criminality of the Negro press against the race is reflected through the most widely circulated sensational publications, namely, "The Chicago Defender" of Chicago, and "The Afro-American" of Baltimore. These newspapers lead all others in their feature of crime, false news and libels against the race.
The primary motive of Negro newspaper promoters is to make quick and easy money. Several of such promoters are alleged to have made large fortunes through their publications, especially through corrupt politics and bad advertisements that should have been refused in respect for the race.
It is plain to see, and is well known, that the sole and only purpose of these promoters is to make money - with absolutely no race pride or effort to help the race toward a proper moral, cultural and educational growth, that would place the race in the category so much desired by the masses and those honest leaders and reformers who have been laboring for the higher development of the people.
To attempt reform or the higher leadership that would permanently benefit the race, is to court the most vicious and cowardly attack from the promoters of Negro newspapers. If you are not in a "ring" with them to support their newspapers of "split" with them, what they would term the "spoils" then you become marked for their crucifixion. All the Negro leaders or organizations that escape the merciless criticism and condemnation of the Negro press are those who stoop to "feed" their graft or who as fellows of the same fold, "scratch each other's backs." To be honest and upright is to bring down upon your head the heavy hammer of condemnation, as such an attitude would "spoil" the game of the "gang" to enrich itself off the ignorance of the masses, who are generally led by these newspapers, their editors and friends.
When I arrived in this country in 1916, I discovered that the Negro press had no constructive policy. The news published were all of the kind that reflected the worst of the race's character in murder, adultery, robbery, etc. These crimes were announced in the papers on front pages by glaring and catchy headlines; other features played up by the papers were dancing and parlor socials of questionable intent, and long columns of what is generally called "social" or "society" news of "Mrs Mary Jones entertained at lunch last evening Mr So and So" and evening at their elaborate apartment Miss Minnie Baker after she met a party of friends." Miss Minnie Baker probably was some Octoroon of questionable morals, but made a fuss of because of her "color," and thus runs the kind of materials that made up the average Negro newspaper until the Negro World arrived on the scene.
"The Chicago Defender," that has become my archenemy in the newspaper field, is so, because in 1918-1919 I started the "Negro World" to preserve the term Negro to the race as against the desperate desire of other newspapermen to substitute the term "colored" for the race. Nearly all the newspapers of the race had entered into a conspiracy to taboo the term "Negro" and popularize the term "colored" as the proper race term. To augment this they also fostered the propaganda of bleaching out skins to light complexions, and straightening out kinky or curly hair to meet the "standard" of the new "society" that was being promoted. I severely criticized "The Chicago Defender" for publishing humiliating and vicious advertisements against the pride and integrity of the race. At that time the "Defender" was publishing full page advertisements about "bleaching the skin" and "straightening the hair." One of these advertisements was from the Plough Manufacturing Company of Tennessee made up as follows:
"There are many degrading exhortations to the race to change its black complexion as an entrant to society. There were pictures of two women, one black and the other very bright and under the picture of the black woman appeared these words: 'Lighten your black skin,' indicating perfection to be reached by bleaching white like the light woman. There were other advertisements such as 'Bleach your dark skin,' 'take the black out of your face,' 'If you want to be in society lighten your black skin,' 'Have a light complexion and be in society,' 'Light skin beauty over night,' 'Amazing bleach works under skin.' 'The only harmless way to bleach the skin white,' 'The most wonderful skin whitener,' 'Straighten your kinky hair,' 'Take the kink out of your hair in five days,' etc. These advertisements could also be found in any of the Negro papers published all over the country influencing the poor, unthinking masses to be dissatisfied with their race and color, and to 'aspire' to look white so as to be in society. I attacked this vicious propaganda, and brought down upon my head the damnation of the 'leaders' who sought to make a new race and a monkey out of the Negro."
"The Negro World" has rendered a wonderful service to Negro journalism in the United States. It has gradually changed the tone and make-up of some of the papers, and where in 1914-1915 there was no tendency to notice matters of great importance, today several of the papers are publishing international news and writing intelligent editorials on pertinent subjects. It has been a long and costly fight to bring this about.
I do hope that the statements of truth I have made will further help to bring about a reorganization of the Negro press. I fully realize that very little can be achieved by way of improvement for the race when its press is controlled by crafty and unscrupulous persons who have no pride or love of race,
We need crusaders in journalism who will not seek to enrich themselves off the crimes and ignorance of our race, but men and women who will risk everything for the promotion of racial pride, self respect, love and integrity. The mistake the race is making is to accept and believe that our unprincipled newspaper editors and publishers are our leaders, some of them are our biggest crooks and defamers.
Situated as we are, in a civilization of prejudice and contempt, it is not for us to inspire and advertise the vices of our people, but, by proper leadership, to form characters that would reflect the highest credit upon us and win the highest opinion of an observant and critical world.
Monday, August 19, 2002