Marcus Garvey

Media - 1967.59.648 - SAAM-1967.59.648_2 - 142409
Copied William H. Johnson, Marcus Garvey, ca. 1945, oil on paperboard, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation, 1967.59.648

Artwork Details

Marcus Garvey
ca. 1945
Not on view
35 3428 78 in. (90.873.4 cm.)
Credit Line
Gift of the Harmon Foundation
Mediums Description
oil on paperboard
  • Occupation — other — reformer
  • Figure group
  • Portrait male — Garvey, Marcus
  • History — United States — Black History
  • Architecture — boat
Object Number

Artwork Description

In 1914, Jamaica-born Marcus Garvey (1887--1940) read Booker T. Washington's autobiography Up from Slavery. It raised troubling questions for him. "Where is the Black man's government?" he wondered. "Where is his country?"  The book prompted Garvey to establish the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). In Harlem in 1916, his message of economic and cultural independence and unity struck a chord among people of African heritage. By 1920 UNIA had tens of thousands of members throughout the United States and abroad. UNIA-affiliated restaurants, shops, and store-front factories flourished in Harlem, and Garvey established the Black Star shipping line as part of his Back to Africa philosophy. 

Johnson showed Garvey as an orator, his wife seated at his side. Ships bearing Black Star Line flags float above an image of UNIA's headquarters. Below, a barred window, handcuffed wrists, and the words "deported U.S.A." signal the end of Garvey's time in New York. Charged with mail fraud in connection with the sale of Black Star stock and the object of a politically motivated investigation by the young J. Edgar Hoover, Garvey was deported to Jamaica in 1927. 



Media - 1983.95.53 - SAAM-1983.95.53_2 - 142417
Fighters for Freedom: William H. Johnson Picturing Justice
October 13, 2023February 25, 2024
William H. Johnson's Fighters for Freedom series from the mid-1940s is a tribute to African American activists, scientists, teachers, and performers as well as international heads of state working to bring peace to the world. The exhibition Fighters for Freedom: William H. Johnson Picturing Justice is drawn entirely from the collection of more than 1,000 works by William H. Johnson given to the Smithsonian American Art Museum by the Harmon Foundation in 1967 and reminds us that individual achievement and commitment to social justice are at the heart of the American story.