Jamaican political leader, who was a staunch proponent of the Black nationalism and Pan-Africanism movements, founder the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL), founder of the Black Star Line, which promoted the return of the African diaspora to their ancestral lands.

Unia Petition
UNIA Petition

New York, September 2, 1924


GREETING:

We your Petitioners, representing four million members of the Negro Race, citizens of the United States, being mindful of the ever present race problem that exists in these United States of America which has acted as a deterrent to the higher aims and aspirations of the Negro, beg to lay before you the following statement of facts, and hereby ask your help and co-operation to the end that our race be assisted in establishing a nation of its own on the continent of Africa, where our members may be given the fullest opportunity to develop themselves, and that such encouragements be given by you as to enable the race to assist in the development of already existing Negro nations, of which we may become a part.

Statement of Facts

1. The Negro was brought to this country much against his will from Africa, and held as a slave.

2. The averred purpose was to exploit his labor and incidentally to civilize and Christianize him.

3. He worked as a slave for over two hundred and fifty years.

4. He was emancipated fifty-nine years ago by President Abraham Lincoln of grateful and imperishable memory.

5. Since his emancipation, he has developed, and has become a part of American civilization, and a part of the Christian systems of our age, to the extent, however, that a new racial problem has been created.

6. The race now forms one tenth of the population of the American nation.

7. In its effort to rise, there have been handicaps placed in the way on account of race and other prejudices which cannot be easily removed.

8. This has to a great extent bridled the higher ambitions of millions of the race, as far as aspirations to higher office and position are concerned.

9. The race’s ambition, however, cannot be permanently bridled; therefore, it is felt that if sufficient outlet is not given to the rising ambition of the Negro, there are likely to be continued scenes of unpleasantness, harmful to both race sin their rivalry and contact with each other, for the higher places of usefulness in the nation.

10. A large percentage of the Negro race now feels with your Petitioners that with the civilization imbibed, they are able to use it in helping to develop the land of Africa from whence they were taken more than three hundred years ago.Your Petitioners, therefore, request that you give a sympathetic consideration to the program of the Universal Negro Improvement Association of which we are members, which is that of creating for the Negro People, a nation of their own in Africa, and assisting in the developing of already existing independent Negro nations of which your Petitioners could form a part.



Your Petitioners are mindful of the fact that great inconvenience may be caused in the immediate arrangements of the plans for the successful prosecution of the object herein outlined, but the end to be served will more than justify such inconveniences and arrangements.We are petitioning that Your Excellency use your good influence on the State and other Departments of your Government, to facilitate in every way the efforts of those of the race who are desirous of repatriation to Africa to assist in the development of such independent Negro nations as are now existing, and that you further, personally, use your good office to help us in establishing a nation separately and distinctly in Africa, where we may enjoy freedom among ourselves.


Your Petitioners beg to draw to your Excellency’s attention, that our sole desire in this direction is to permanently improve and help the Negro Race, and to lessen the terrible friction and evil that may eventually threaten American civilization, without a friendly, sympathetic, and considerate settlement.



We also pray that Your Excellency will be good enough to submit to Congress at its next sitting, a message embodying the sentiment of this petition, and the desire of these your humble Petitioners.We also beg to inform Your Excellency that among the four millions of us who send you this petition, are numbered two million five hundred thousand voters. The rest of us are rendered vote-less because of our domicile in States where we are not permitted to vote.^1We also beg to draw to Your Excellency’s attention, that each epoch has its leaders, who have advanced the solution of vexing problems. We know and believe that no race problem is solved unless its solution brings lasting benefit to both groups, the majority and minority alike.We have contemplated the future of the Negro in the western world and we have studied history and reached a logical and sensible conclusion, that no two races can reside side by side unless the stronger rules the weaker.


We also know and believe that the majority race in America has done all that is possible to assist us as a minority, and that there is very little more that it can do to assist us further, and that the responsibility of any further progress rests upon our own shoulders.Realizing and believing this, makes us determined in finding a solution for the problem, and our only conclusion is that a proper solution rests in our repatriation to our Motherland Africa, and we would look favorably to your helping us in the creating of an open door through the Republic of Liberia, which was founded through the efforts of liberal white Americans, who banded themselves together in the organization known as the American Colonization Society, which was founded more than one hundred years ago


Believing that the economic struggles between races will become keener in the United States of America, and that there is every promise and belief that the native white population will increase preponderantly, we feel that there can be no other solution of this vexing problem of race than that advanced by your Petitioners, through the Universal Negro Improvement Association.


We also beg to draw to Your Excellency’s attention that the leader of this movement, Honorable Marcus Garvey its President-General[,] has been wickedly persecuted by Agencies under the control of your Government, used as they have been by jealous rivals of our own race, and that any effort on your part in preventing any agencies of the Government under your control being further used to unfairly handicap us in this endeavor of ours to solve the race problem, will be highly appreciated.


We further beg to draw to Your Excellency’s attention, the unfriendly attitude of two of Your Excellency’s recent representatives in Liberia, Solomon Porter Hood and W. E. B. Du Bois, in working against the interest of the Universal Negro Improvement Association in that country, being members of a rival organization and who used their official positions to create prejudice against our cause because of jealousy and rivalry.


Believing that Your Excellency will take into full consideration that your humble petitioners are from diversified sections of these United States of America, and that it is our wish and desire that the things referred to in this petition be done, we your Petitioners, therefore, representing millions of others whose names it is not convenient to herewith submit, do pray and evoke, and request of you His Excellency, Calvin Coolidge, President of the United States of America, in the name of God the Creator of all mankind, in the principles of Christianity, the advancement of civilization, and the enhancing of the Brotherhood of Man in universal love, that you do take cognizance of this our petition, and that you further send a message to Congress embodying our sentiment, and using every power vested in you to assist us in building up in Africa a national home for our race, and for this and other considerations that you may give, we do humbly pray, and to you offer thanks. Respectfully submitted, for four million Negro American citizens, members of the Universal Negro Improvement Association.



WM. L. SHERRILL, CHAIRMAN

HENRIETTA VINTON DAVIS

D. H. KYLE

J. D. BARBER

FREEMAN L. MARTIN

JOSEPH H. STEWART

G. EMONEI CARTER, SECRETARY

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