Emmett Till James Baldwin Marcus Garvey Frederick Douglas Fanny Lou Hammer




The Man and the Movement   Poetry and Oral Tradition   Liberty University
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Marcus Garvey

The Lessons and the Gospel of Success

Garvey's course in African philosophy displays a strong affinity with the "how-to" lessons of New Thought therapeutics, exemplified in the titles of such well-known New Thought treatises as W. W. Atkinson's The Secret of Success: A Course in Nine Lessons (1908), Elizabeth Towne's Lessons in Living (1910), Fenwicke L. Holrnes's Being and Becoming: Lessons in Science of Mind (1920), Nona L. Brooks's Short Lessons in Divine Science (1928), and Brown Landone's The ABC of Truth: Fifty-five Lessons for Beginnings in New Thought Study (1926). Garvey's course in racial leadership could be justly described as a black version of New Thought, offering a similar system of practical metaphysics geared to achieving mental emancipation and personal success.

Garvey may also have been influenced by the phenomenal success of Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People, which was first published in November 1936. By the time that Garvey started the course in African philosophy, over half a million copies of Carnegie's treatise had been sold, making it the national best-seller for the preceding five months. The Carnegie Institute in New York, where Carnegie conducted courses for people who hoped to become leaders in the business and professional world, may well have served as a model for Garvey's own school for UNIA leaders. Garvey and Carnegie both emphasized the need to arouse enthusiasm in order to assume leadership and earn power and recognition. Both preached a gospel of self-improvement and practical study of a set of success-oriented principles. Both used examples of great leaders and businessmen, citing how many of the same favorites--- Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, John Wanamaker, John D. Rockefeller, Benjamin Disraeli, Edward VIII, and P. T. Barnum---had succeeded, stressing the principle of hard work. Both shared the common phraseology of success, including a penchant for the terms fundamental, self-improvement, and self-education. Both taught their lessons in order to change behavior, practicing the dictum of Herbert Spencer that Carnegie quoted in his 1936 introduction: "The great aim of education, is not knowledge but action."  Carnegie told his readers that he was "talking about a new way of life" while Garvey termed his lessons in African philosophy a "New Way to Education." Both included trickster-like advice on how to manipulate and persuade others. While Carnegie saw human relations as a kind of game of disarming potential enemies, in which an appearance of sincerity was key, Garvey gave lessons in what he called "diplomacy," or the artful deception of opponents. While Carnegie noted the power of a "captivating smile" in swaying people, Garvey advised his students to "win the world to you with a smile."  He echoed the title of Carnegie's book when he told his students to "Never approach anybody that you want to get anything out of or any good results from, in an offensive manner; to the contrary, win them with the perfect smile . . . the idea is to make friends and to get results."  Both men were interested in the organizing power of what Carnegie called showmanship and style; and Carnegie illustrated the concept by the example of Garvey's hero, Napoleon, who stimulated a feeling of importance among his followers by awarding them exalted titles he had himself created. Each of the graduates of the first class of Garvey's School of African Philosophy received a new title and appointment as a regional commissioner for the UNIA.




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