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Emmett Till James Baldwin Marcus Garvey Frederick Douglas Fanny Lou Hammer
 

 

MARCUS GARVEY

 

The Man and the Movement   Poetry and Oral Tradition   Liberty University
         
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Boosterism   The Ideal State and the UNIA   Racial Success
         
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Vanity Fair   Racial Education   Dissemination of the Lessons
         
The Place Next to Hell   Booker T. Washington University   The Legacy
 
 
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Marcus Garvey

The Ideal State and the UNIA

"Governing the Ideal State" emerges as an essay in self-vindication and wish fulfillment and draws thinly disguised parallels between Garvey's vision of the ideal state and his desires for the correct operation of the UNIA. Just as the philosopher-ruler is the central theme of Plato's Republic, so is Garvey the focus of the essay. Garvey's character might also be adduced from the authoritarian type of society he proposes---an exercise that would be consistent with Plato's attempt to sketch the four types of character corresponding to the four types of society depicted in book 8 of the Republic.

Written from prison, at a period in his life that called for reflection about the course of his career and the factionalization and corruption that had overtaken the movement, Garvey's essay takes on an autobiographical quality, with significant psychohistorical connotations. Garvey clearly identified with the extreme authoritarianism of the supreme leader who appoints subordinate officials and exercises absolute authority over them. Just as Garvey impeached or expelled UNIA officers who disagreed with his policies or digressed from his vision of the organization's goals (often publicly disgracing them in the process), so Garvey's Spartan utopia would ensure strict accountability, as well as define the boundaries of conduct for subordinates. The role of the president's wife as his personal accountant in the ideal state closely parallels that of Amy Jacques Garvey as business manager at the UNIA headquarters as well as overseer of her husband's---the president general's---personal accounts.

Garvey suggests, through his philosophical musing on the austerity of the ideal state, his own, as well as his wife's, exculpation by sketching draconian consequences for fraud and mismanagement. At the same time, Garvey's call for the disgrace of public officials who do not correctly perform their duties reflects a desire for retribution and revenge against fellow UNIA officers and staff members, many of whom he felt had deceived him and whom he charged with graft. Similarly, the call for clemency toward a family member who defied and reported corruption acknowledged Garvey's feelings toward those who remained loyal to him and who had testified in his defense during the mail fraud trial, offering evidence against the "disloyal" actions of others. The recommendations that the president of the ideal state be freed from pecuniary obligations are natural wishes from a man whose struggles to gain world renown as the head of a movement were always compromised by debt and material need. In addition, Garvey's description of the absolute leader as a man without friends is also a poignant reflection of his own, perhaps deliberate, isolation from close companionship, a theme that reappears in his advice to prospective UNIA leaders in his lessons for the School of African Philosophy.

 

 

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