President Donald Trump seems to have embarked on a unique personal mission to pardon those we can ascertain were unjustly treated by the federal justice system. Not long ago President Trump posthumously pardoned famed African American world heavyweight champion boxer Jack Johnson, 105 years after his 1912 conviction of violating the Mann Act. Clearly, the President understands by the legal and symbolic power of his pardon authority.
I think it is vital that the President use his pardon authority to clear the names of people who were convicted of non-violent crimes for largely race-based or political reasons. There is no greater example than that of Marcus Garvey.
Last year, I wrote to President Trump to urge him to issue a posthumous pardon for Marcus Garvey, an early civil rights leader who was the founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Garvey, who would become the greatest proponent of black responsibility, black education, black pride and black liberation, experienced a racially motivated department of Justice sponsored sting operation designed to neutralize his activism, destroy his organization, and eliminate his public voice.
Garvey was later convicted and received a five-year sentence. President Calvin Coolidge, a Republican, commuted Garvey’s sentence and had him deported in 1927. I fervently hope that President Donald Trump will pardon Marcus Garvey and clear his name.
An ardent student of the teachings of the “Sage of Tuskegee”, Booker T. Washington, who emphasized the idea of black people being self reliant and proud of their heritage, Garvey came to America to seek to uplift and transform the lot of black people worldwide. Mr. Garvey witnessed the intense racial discrimination and violence inflicted on African-Americans, and added to his mentor’s conservative black ideology a strong infusion of race-pride and nationalism. His movement garnered mass support from American blacks in particular, though it gained traction among blacks worldwide.
While a posthumous pardon of Marcus Garvey, along with those of Jack Johnson and the more recent pardon of Alice Johnson has obvious political implications, the real reason for them is to right historic wrongs committed by the American justice system. It is for these same reasons that I have urged the President to reform America’s racist and draconian drug laws, which have been used disproportionally against poor people of color. I am hopeful that the President heeds this request.