Marcus Garvey’s Christmas Message, 1921

Despite the attempts of many black intellectuals to link Marcus Garvey with failure, Garvey's message was never confined to a "Back to Africa movement." Anyone who has read The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey will recognize the smear, which began with the "Garvey Must Go" movement and has been repeated most recently by Eugene Robinson in Disintegration and Charles Johnson, writers for whom I have enormous admiration and respect.

Garvey was Afrocentric and he was a product of his times. Garvey's call of "Africa for Africans" was similar to the other separatist nationalist agendas throughout Europe and the Americas. Garvey's readings of history led him to the conclusion that the white power structures would never willing relinquish power and that peoples of African descent would never secure their human and political rights without a solid economic base. To this end, he built on the foundations of Booker T. Washington with economic self-empowerment while expanding on the intellectual development that W.E. Dubois sought without the divisive idea of a "talented tenth" being the salvation of the race.

The crisis of the "Abandoned" that Robinson delineates in Disintegration is the logical conclusion of the integrationist movement of DuBois and the NAACP, which has secured the political rights of African Americans, but has failed in delivering any method of economic empowerment to the other 90% (or is that 99%?) of the populace. In other words, we have rights, but we have failed to recognize our economic power.

Garvey wanted dignity and freedom for all the "sons and daughters of Africa." It was a message of hope, which he eloquently delivered in December 1921.

Christmas Message to the Negro Peoples of the World.
December 1921

Fellow men of the Negro Race,

Greeting:— To us is born this day the Child Jesus—the Christ. The Shepherds and wise men are now wending their way toward Bethlehem, there to behold the Wonder of God. Because, there, in a manger, is to be found the Baby Christ who is to be the Redeemer of the world.

And so our thoughts go back for more than nineteen hundred years. We hear the shout "Hosanna in the Highest, blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord."

With all the preparation the human race has made to welcome into the world the Christ who is to redeem us, we find ourselves still in confusion, still fighting, still exploiting, still merciless in our onslaught one upon the other. But on this Christmas morn may we not all members and brothers of the great human family, forget our differences, and in one glorious chorus sing put to the world "Peace, perfect peace?".

Christ died to free Mankind.

When we come to consider the Brotherhood of Man and the Fatherhood of God, and that this Child of our own flesh, yet spirit of the Great Creator has been sent to link us nearer to our common Father, will we not admit of the reason that there should be but very little differences between us, What will we gain fighting the battle of man against man? Absolutely nothing but death; and was not this Child Jesus sent into this world to teach us the new life, the life of Love, of Charity, the Life of Mercy? What greater example do we desire than that which He gave in His own Life? He suffered, He died that others might be free. Yet even with the great object of the Cross before us, even though He died on Mount Calvary to make us free; even though He overcame death, the grave and hell to demonstrate to us the new life possible to each and everyone, we have not yet turned from the path of sin to enter into the glory of His Eternal Kingdom.

The Spirit of Christmas.

Instead of planning a career of sin on this Christmas Morn, may we not lift our thoughts to that grand and noble Father who save to us on this day His Royal Son, whom He has made our brother, and ask Him to bless each and everyone of us that our hearts may be touched with the true spirit of the first Christmas morn? That first day in the stable at Bethlehem was a beacon of a new born hope, for with the birth of the Prince of Peace there came to us an age of spiritual grace, which in its course sought to link man nearer to his God, and coming down the ages for more than nineteen hundred years, we have tried to preach Him as He appeared to us in His innocence, His Love and in His Charity.

Christ labored for thirty three years to teach us the way to glory, but in His career man, his brother sought the life that he could not give; he persecuted Him, he derided Him, he jeered Him and at last he crucified Him. But when that which was physical in the Christ died, the spiritual continued, and from earth betook its flight to heaven, there, probably, for all eternity, to look down upon the sinful, wicked world, and still to shower upon us blessings that we really need.

We shall never succeed in taking the Spirit of Christ out of the world, because in some of us, still, there is that spark of love, charity, and mercy that links us to our God. But may we not ask the Great Omnipotent, the Great Creator, our Eternal Father to send once more into the world, just at this time and oh, how we pray that it be on this Christmas morn, our brother Christ, so that He may calm the raging storm and in truth pour out His benediction upon a corrupt world, a soulless human race, and make us subjects fit for Eternal Life?

Hail! the New born King

As with the angels let us sing, "Hail the New Born King, the Prince of Peace, Hail to the Son of Righteousness, for with Thee there is life, without Thee there is death". For as thou died upon Calvary's mount to make us better, to redeem us from our sins, may we not hope for a continuance of that love even for today? and knowing Thee in Thy bountiful love for all mankind, may we not further ask that Thy Spirit lighten up our hearts and bring to us by the touch of Thy grace, the knowledge of the Everlasting Brotherhood of Man, and the Eternal Fatherhood of God?

As the angels now rejoice in heaven over this new birth, so we rejoice on earth, four hundred millions of us, who are members of this Negro race, feeling that Thou art our King, that Thou art our Savior, that thou shalt be our Emanuel. We love Thee because Thou art the Son of God. We praise, worship and adore Thee because Thou art the Prince of Peace.

The Prince of Peace Our Guide to-day.

Let others in their sin, in their wickedness seek after the infant Life that Thou gavest to all mankind. We in our simplicity shall find refuge for Thee even in the land of Egypt. Yes, the world of sinful, wicked men cried out "Crucify Him! Crucify Him! But Lord because Thou art our Master, because Thou art our Prince of peace, because Thou art our Redeemer, we shall render unto Thee all help possible, even in bearing the Cross up the heights of Calvary, for in life Thou hast been our friend; in death we know Thou shalt remember us, and now that Thou art sitting at the right hand of God, the Father, now that Thou hast conquered death, the grave and hell, surely in Thy mercy Thou shalt remember us. So today even though hundreds of years have rolled by since Thy crucifixion, we know that there is in Thine heart, there is in Thy soul a warm spot for the Sons and Daughters of Africa whose forebears bore the cross for Thee up the heights of Calvary to Thy crucifixion.

We sing and shout with the angels; we ring our joy bells; we blow our horns in praise because Thou art indeed the Jesus, the Christ, the Emanuel to us, the Son of Righteousness, the Prince of Peace.

As sons and daughters of Africa, may not four hundred millions of us the world over on this Christmas morn pray for the redemption of that Motherland which sheltered our Blessed Redeemer when the wild, wicked men of the world sought His life; in the same manner wild, wicked men seek the lives of Negroes today, and burn, lynch and kill them because they have not the strength that makes man mighty. But with the Almighty Power of God and with the guidance and mercy of our Blessed Lord we feel that one day Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hand, and whether it be at the second coming or before, we shall all sing our Hosannas, shout our praises to God for freedom, for liberty, for life.

"For Christ is born of Mary,
     And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
     Their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars, together
     Proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God our King,
     And peace to men on earth."

From The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey


Exonerate Marcus Garvey

To be delivered to President Barack Obama


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