A national coalition of African American booksellers and independent Black publishers are teaming with the Caribbean-American Political Action Committee in a global petition calling for the exoneration of Marcus Garvey, an early Black Nationalist political activist and entrepreneur, who was jailed after a controversial conviction for mail fraud in the 1920s. The petition organizers include Dr. Julius Garvey, the son of Marcus Garvey.

The Justice4garvey movement launched the online petition drive today, February 1, the first day of African American History Month, in an effort to gather 100,000 signatures on a petition to pardon Garvey that they hope to present to President Joe Biden. The signatures must be collected over 30 days between February 1 and March 2, 2022.

The organizing group includes such noted African American book professionals as Troy Johnson of the African American Literature Book Club, Wade and Cheryl Hudson of Just Us Books, W. Paul Coates of Black Classic Press, Donna and Donya Craddock of The Dock Bookshop, Shirikiana Gerima of Sankofa Video Books & Café, James Fugate and Tom Hamilton of Eso Won Books, and Derrick and Ramunda Young of MahoganyBooks.

The petition organizers held a national conference call in January about plans to launch the petition, and the group has scheduled a second conference call on February 6 that will feature presentations by Julius Garvey, Greg Carr, a professor of African American studies, Nkechi Taifa, an activist, and Justin Hansford, a law scholar

In a prepared statement, organizers said, “Marcus Garvey, who was wrongly convicted and punished almost one hundred years ago is a foundational part of our tradition. On February 1, 2022, a global Justice 4 Garvey effort begins which calls for the posthumous pardon of Marcus Garvey.”

The statement continues: “We call on everyone, but especially Black booksellers and publishers to join with us by encouraging people within your network to sign the Justice 4 Garvey petition when it begins circulating on the first day of Black History Month. Additionally, we ask that you create and sponsor activities and events during the month of February to heighten awareness of the sacrifice, and achievements of Marcus Garvey, and all those ancestors who stood for our freedom.”

Garvey was a noted Black Nationalist political activist during the early 20th century who was based in Harlem and argued for Black pride, Black political independence and Black entrepreneurship during a period of vicious anti-Black racism in the U.S. He was an an early proponent of Pan-Africanism, a political and cultural movement emphasizing the bonds between African diaspora people around the globe. Garvey was also the founder of the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), at that time a celebrated Black fraternal and activist association started in 1914, and in 1919 he founded the Black Star Line, an effort to build an international Black-owned shipping and passenger boat line that was later central to Garvey’s disputed 1925 conviction, subsequent jailing, and later deportation.