Marcus Garvey

William H. Johnson, Marcus Garvey, ca. 1945, oil on paperboard, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation, 1967.59.648
Copied William H. Johnson, Marcus Garvey, ca. 1945, oil on paperboard, 35 3428 78 in. (90.873.4 cm.), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation, 1967.59.648

Artwork Details

Title
Marcus Garvey
Date
ca. 1945
Dimensions
35 3428 78 in. (90.873.4 cm.)
Credit Line
Gift of the Harmon Foundation
Mediums
Mediums Description
oil on paperboard
Classifications
Keywords
  • Figure group
  • Architecture — boat
  • History — United States — Black History
  • Portrait male — Garvey, Marcus
  • Object — other — flag
  • Occupation — other — reformer
Object Number
1967.59.648

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. 


Exhibitions

Media - 1967.59.1146 - SAAM-1967.59.1146_2 - 141130
Fighters for Freedom: William H. Johnson Picturing Justice
March 8, 2024September 10, 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 leaders working to bring peace to the world.