Emmett Till James Baldwin Marcus Garvey Frederick Douglas Fanny Lou Hammer




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Marcus Garvey

New Thought

Garvey's pragmatic philosophy, with its emphasis on self-mastery, determination, and willpower, also contained elements of New Thought, which emerged during the Gilded Age out of the allied branches of the mental healing phenomenon. With its emphasis on mind mastery, New Thought offered a set of metaphysical theories that proffered to its millions of adherents a system of mental hygiene to equip them for the journey along the road to success. In 1920 Hodge Kirnon commented on the pervasiveness of ideas from the teachings of Christian Science and the New Thought movements in the black community. "The Negro has been seized by this spirit," Kirnon declared, "he has taken a real change of attitude and conduct. So great has been the change," he continued, "that he has designated himself under the name of The New Negro."  Another member of the New Negro phalanx, William Bridges, also alluded to the subsistence of a link between the "spirit of radicalism and new thought."  Garvey was assessed by one of his closest colleagues in the leadership of the UNIA, Robert L. Poston, as "the man who is truly the apostle of new thought among Negroes."  Indeed, what was deemed a new racial philosophy was in fact Garvey's wholesale application of the dynamics of New Thought to the black condition. "I have come to you in Jamaica," Garvey announced on his tour of the Caribbean in spring, 1921, "to give new thoughts to the eight hundred thousand black people in this land."  Speaking before the UNIA's fourth international convention, he declared: "The Universal Negro Improvement Association is advancing a new theory and a new thought . . .;" and in 1937 he stated that "to rise out of this racial chaos new thought must be injected into the race and it is this thought that the Universal Negro Improvement Association has been promulgating for more than twenty years."

Metaphysics and politics were explicitly linked in Garvey's mind. Turning to New Thought to explain the "African vision of nationalism and imperialism," Garvey advised that "the African at home must gather a new thought. He must not only be satisfied to be a worker but he must primarily be a figure."  This New Thought philosophy permeated many UNIA functions and was a strong influence in the literature surrounding the movement. In 1930 the Black Cross Nurses of the Garvey Club of New York City held a medical demonstration at the facilities of the New York branch of the Field of New Thought on 94th Street.  The Negro World regularly advertised books that showed New Thought influences, including I. E. Guinn's Twelve of the Leading Outlines of New Thought.  Alonzo Potter Holly's popular book on black people in sacred history, God and the Negro, was, according to Holly, inspired by Ella Wheeler Wilcox. Wilcox, whom Holly described as "an impassioned apostle of 'the New Thought,"' was in turn one of Garvey's favorite poets.




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