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“Speak, Garvey, Speak!”A Follower Recalls a Garvey Rally

The Jamaican-born Marcus Garvey, a brilliant orator and black nationalist leader, turned his Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) into the most important black organization in the United States in the early 1920s. Garvey’s speeches often drew huge audiences, and stories of Garvey’s stubborn resistance in the face of white hostility proliferated among his supporters. In an oral history interview, devotee Audley Moore remembered the Jamaican’s defiant behavior at a rally in New Orleans caused “the [white] police [to] file out . . . like little puppy dogs with their tails behind them.” She proudly recalled the crowd intimidating the police by raising their guns and chanting “speak, Garvey, speak.”

Listen to Audio:

Queen Mother Audley Moore: They didn’t want Garvey to speak in New Orleans. We had a delegation to go to the mayor, and the next night, they allowed him to come. And we all was armed. Everybody had bags of ammunition, too. So when Garvey came in, we applauded, and the police were lined man to man along the line of each bench. So Mr. Garvey said, “My friends, I want to apologize for not speaking to you last night. But the reason I didn’t was because the mayor of the city of New Orleans committed himself to act as a stooge for the police department to prevent me from speaking.” And the police jumped up and said, “I’ll run you in.”When he did this, everybody jumped up on the benches and pulled out their guns and just held the guns up in the air and said, “Speak, Garvey, speak.”And Garvey said, “As I was saying,” and he went on and repeated what he had said before, and the police filed out the hall like little puppy dogs with their tails behind them. So that was radical enough. I had two guns with me, one in my bosom and one in my pocketbook, little 38 specials.

Source: Interview done by the Oral History of the American Left, Tamiment Library, NYU for the public radio program Grandma Was An Activist, producers Charlie Potter and Beth Friend.