One hundred years after Jamaica’s Marcus Mosiah Garvey formed the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in his birth island, his legacy is being touted. Recently a tribute to Dr. John H. Clarke, one of Garvey’s shepherds marked the 17th annual tributes to the US-born historian who taught the message, philosophies and hopes Garvey advocated for the African race.
Garvey proposed “One God, One Aim, One Destiny” for all Africans living on the continent or dispersed throughout the world, when he organized the consciousness-raising unit in 1914.
Seven years later, while living in Harlem Garvey held an international convention at Madison Square Garden. More than 50,000 members reportedly attended that historic Manhattan gathering. Among them were organizations such as the Universal Black Cross Nurses, the Black Eagle Flying Corps, and members of the Universal African Legion. No other Black group has managed to unite that amount of patronage at that venue since Garvey’s massive convention. His message resonated with intellectuals and grassroots support. So too were the consistent teachings of former Harlem-resident Dr. John H. Clarke.
Perhaps, that was reason the Eastern Region’s Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations (ASCAC) hosted a tribute to one of the most revered Pan-African advocate.
Dr. Clarke became a life-long Harlem resident.
He was a lecturer and full time professor at Hunter College (CUNY)). Throughout his lectures he quoted and supported the work of MM Garvey.
For the 17th consecutive year, Dr. Clarke was regaled with reflections and accolades marking his dedicated contribution to advancing African history and culture.
Held at the Countee Cullen Library, 104 West 136th St. near Lennox Ave., the tribute featured a keynote address by Dr. Gregg Kimathi Carr, Chairman of Afro-American Studies at Howard University and the first vice president of ASCAC.
Dr. Clarke died at age 83 in 1998.
Born in Alabama, and raised in Georgia, he was a high school dropout who by his own effort received a Ph.D and became a scholar and intellectual. He wrote six books, edited 17, and is revered for composing more than 50 short stories. His articles and pamphlets led to the regular distribution of quarterly Black publications. He lectured throughout the country and around the world. In his travels, the only African country he eluded was South Africa. That was because of its racist apartheid practices. He was a student of Garvey’s and traveled to Jamaica to lecture there.
Garvey was born in 1887.
In 1910 he left Jamaica and began traveling throughout Central America. His first stop was Costa Rica. His mother’s brother resided there. Allegedly he lived there for a time and worked as a time keeper on a banana plantation. In 1911, he also worked there as editor of a daily newspaper called “La Nacionale.” But that same year he moved on to Colon, Panama where he edited a bi-weekly newspaper before returning to Jamaica in 1912. He died in London, England at age 52.