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"The Black Star Line": Singing a Song of Garveyism
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“The Black Star Line”: Singing a Song of Garveyism

African-American soldiers returned from World War I to face intensified discrimination, segregation, and racial violence. Drawing on this frustration, Marcus Garvey attracted thousands of disillusioned black working-class and lower middle-class followers to his Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). The UNIA, committed to notions of racial purity and separatism, insisted that salvation for African Americans meant building an autonomous, black-led nation in Africa. By the mid-1920s, the UNIA boasted more than 700 branches in 38 states and more than 200 offices outside the United States. The Black Star Line, an all-black shipping company chartered by the UNIA, was the movement’s boldest and most important project. To many of Garvey’s supporters, it represented the promise of economic autonomy and escape from prejudice and discrimination in America. The UNIA vigorously promoted the sale of Black Star Line stock with advertisements and colorful stock certificates in Garvey’s popular newspaper, the Negro World. It also celebrated the shipping line in poems and songs, such as "The Black Star Line."

Listen to Audio:

Brothers, sisters, countrymen,

You’d better get on board.

Six steam ships want to sail away,

Loaded with a heavy load.

It’s gwina [gonna] take us all back home,

Yes, every native child.

And when we get there,

What a time

Down on the West Indy isle.

Get on board The Countryman,

Get on board to leave this land.

Get on board The Countryman,

Come along, 'cause the water’s fine.

All aboard, bring the dough,

All aboard, don’t be slow,

All aboard, bring the dough,

Flying home on the Black Star Line,

Flying home on the Black Star Line

Take my polly knife in hand,

And lay around the dock.

Jump right in the deep blue sea,

And take a bite with the sharks.

I’m guina [gonna] see [inaudible] April hand,

Gwina [gonna] catch that sly mongoose.

I’m gwina [gonna] see my downtown gal,

And then we’ll raise the dew.

Get on board The Countryman,

Get on board and leave this land,

Get on board The Countryman,

Come along 'cause the water’s fine.

All aboard, bring the dough,

All aboard, don’t be slow,

All aboard bring the dough,

Flyin' home on the Black Star Line,

Flyin' home on the Black Star Line.

You-do doodle-do doodle-do-do-do. You-do-doodle-do-do. You-do doodle-do do-do-do, do-do doodle-do-do.

We’ll eat monkey, hips and rice,

Some tomato, garlic too.

Then we’ll grab our favorite food

The child take the monkey, too.

Say, I done put my lastest dime down on this great steamship.

Good Lord, I hope that it won’t sink, I want to take this trip.

Oh, Get on board The Countryman,

Get on board and leave this land,

Get on board The Countryman,

Come along 'cause the water’s fine.

All aboard, bring the dough,

All aboard, don’t be slow,

All aboard, bring the dough,

Flyin' home on the Black Star Line,

Flyin' home on the Black Star Line.

Source: “Black Star Line,” 1924. Recording: Edison Collection, Library of Congress.

See Also:Robert Bagnall on "The Madness of Marcus Garvey"
"The Collapse of the Only Thing in the Garvey Movement Which Was Original or Promising": Du Bois on Garvey
"Declaration of the Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World": The Principles of the Universal Negro Improvement Association
"If You Believe the Negro Has a Soul": "Back to Africa" with Marcus Garvey