“Declaration of the Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World”: The Principles of the Universal Negro Improvement Association
After fighting World War I, ostensibly to defend democracy and the right of self-determination, thousands of African-American soldiers returned home to face intensified discrimination, segregation, and racial violence. Drawing on this frustration, Marcus Garvey attracted thousands of black working-class and lower middle-class followers to the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). The UNIA insisted that salvation for African Americans meant building an autonomous, black-led nation in Africa. The Black Star Line, an all-black shipping company chartered by the UNIA, was the movement’s boldest and most important project, and many African Americans bought shares of stock in the company. A 1920 Black Star Line business meeting in Harlem’s Liberty Hall brought together 25,000 UNIA delegates from around the world, and produced an important statement of principles, the “Declaration of Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World.”
“The first ten days of the convention were occupied with reports of the delegates from all parts of the world, each delegate was given from five to ten minutes to report on the state of affairs in his part of the world. Harrowing tales were told from Africa, the West Indies, and the southern sections of the United Stated; the outcome of which was the drafting and adopting of a Bill of Rights setting forth the grievances of the race to be remedied.”
Be It Resolved, That the Negro people of the world, through their chosen representatives in convention assembled in Liberty Hall, in the City of New York and United States of America, from August 1 to August 31, in the year of Our Lord one thousand nine hundred and twenty, protest against the wrongs and injustices they are suffering at the hands of their white brethren, and state what they deem their fair and just rights, as well as the treatment they propose to demand of all men in the future.
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