From “The Negro Has Made History for Himself.” Convinced by his travels through Central America and Europe that black self-determination was the only path to equality, Garvey in 1914 established the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Five years later he began soliciting funds for a steamship company that could serve and profit the people of the African diaspora. “I know no national boundary where the Negro is concerned,” he wrote after the company’s collapse, while appealing a mail-fraud conviction that would result in him being deported to his native Jamaica. “The whole world is my province until Africa is free.”
Fellow Men of the Negro Race, Greeting—
The eternal has happened. For centuries the black man has been taught by his ancient overlords that he was “nothing,” is “nothing,” and never shall be “anything.”
We black folks believe so much in the omnipotence of the white man that we actually gave in all hope and resigned ourselves to the positions of slaves and serfs for nearly five hundred years. But, thank God, a new day has dawned, and all black men of the twentieth century see themselves the equal of all men.
Five years ago the Negro Universal was sleeping upon his bale of cotton in the South of America; he was steeped in mud in the banana fields of the West Indies and Central America, seeing no possible way of extricating himself from the environments; he smarted under the lash of the new taskmaster in Africa; but alas! today he is the new man who has proclaimed to the world that the despised and rejected shall rise, not only from his serfdom and slavery but to rule and to teach man how to live. The New Negro has risen in the might of his manhood, and he has now determined within himself to hold fast to the material glories of life and play his part as a man. There is no going back today in the progress of mankind. The white man has been going forward for thousands of years; the yellow man within the last century made a sprint for commercial, industrial, political, and scientific glory, and he is now regarded as the equal of his white brother on all lines. The Negro who slept and wallowed in the mire for centuries has just begun to turn, and he has now placed his hope in God and himself, and he is going forward to achieve.
On October 31 the Negro people of the world, acting through six thousand of their representatives in New York, purchased a steamship which they are rechristening the SS Frederick Douglass; and they said, “We are doing this because we desire to get our share of the world’s goods, so long as creation lasts.” The object was to run a line of steamships between the United States, Africa, Canada, the West Indies, and Central America. Thousands of black men and white men said that it could not be done. They said that the Negro had no initiative, that he was not a businessman but a laborer, that he had not the brain to engineer a corporation, to own and run ships, that he had no knowledge of navigation, therefore the proposition was impossible.
“Oh! ye of little faith.” The eternal has happened. The Negro incorporated a steamship enterprise by the name of the Black Star Line; he placed $500,000 of common stock on the market at $5 a share, and in ten weeks he sold so many shares to his own people that he was able on October 31 to take over the first steamship ever owned by the race in modern times. On November 23 the ship sailed out of New York harbor with a Negro captain and Negro crew—a sight that was witnessed by nearly fifteen thousand people, and at the time of writing, she is now discharging a load of cement at Sagua, Cuba, in the West Indies.
Verily, the Negro has arisen, and today he has entered the race of life. He means to play his part and play it well. No more lack of faith, no more lack of confidence, no more belief in the omnipotence of others. The Negro is now a full-grown and wide-awake man.
Sons and daughters of Ethiopia, I say unto you, arise! The hour has struck, and Ethiopia is now calling you to achievements and to glory. Let no other sound attract your notice. Heed not the call of any other “voice,” for Ethiopia has caught a new vision, and Ethiopia now says, “On to glory.”
I beseech you, men and women of the race, to steel your hearts, your minds, and your souls for the coming conflict of ideals. The whole world is in turmoil, and a revolution threatens. Asia and Europe are preparing for this revolution. It will mean the survival of the fittest, and I now declare that Africa must also prepare; for in the triumph of the forces of white, yellow, or black men in this coming revolution will hang the destiny of the world.
Sons and daughters of Africa, scattered though you may be, I implore of you to prepare. Prepare in all ways to strengthen the hands of Mother Africa. Our mother has been bleeding for centuries from the injuries inflicted upon her by a merciless foe. The call is for a physician to heal the wounds, and there can be no other physician than the dark-hued son of the mother, and there can be no other nurse as tender and kind as the daughter of this afflicted mother.
Let us not turn back in this determination of ours. Africa must be redeemed, but before her redemption, we have to prove to the world that we are fit. The chance to make ourselves fit is now presented to every son and daughter of Africa. We must now achieve in commerce, science, education, art, industry, and politics. The Black Star Line Steamship Corporation of 56 West 135th Street, New York, is leading the way for the success of the race in commerce and industry. This corporation desires the assistance of every black man, woman, and child. The hope of this corporation is to have the ships of the Negro float on every sea. Our commerce shall extend to every nook and corner of the world, through the Black Star Line. It is therefore up to each and every one of the race to do his and her duty by buying shares in this corporation to make it a powerful agency for good. You may buy your shares today and help to found the empire of greatness for the race. Send in or call right now for your shares. Buy five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, one hundred, or two hundred. Get busy, every man, for the eternal has happened.
The biggest thing for the Negro today is the Black Star Line Steamship Corporation, 56 West 135th Street, New York, United States of America. With very best wishes for your success, yours fraternally,