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  • The Moral Anthropology of Marcus Garvey: In the Fullness of OurselvesAuthor(s): Maulana KarengaSource: Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 39, No. 2, Marcus Garvey and the UNIA: NewPerspectives on Philosophy, Religion, Micro-Studies, Unity, and Practice (Nov., 2008), pp. 166-193Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40282557 .Accessed: 28/11/2013 16:26

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  • The Moral Anthropology of Marcus Garvey In the Fullness of Ourselves Maulana Karenga California State University, Long Beach

    Journal of Black Studies Volume 39 Number 2

    November 2008 166-193 2008 Sage Publications

    10.1 177/0021934708317360 http://jbs.sagepub.com

    hosted at http://online.sagepub.com

    This article retrieves and articulates key elements in Marcus Garvey's philosophy that point toward a moral anthropology. The author discusses these in the context of ancient and modern concerns for issues of human dignity and human rights and the right and responsibility of the struggle for freedom as a particular African and universal human project. This article is also part of the author's

    ongoing effort to expand ethical discourse and discussion in Africana studies by critically engaging new subjects and sources of ethical thought beyond the Judeo-Christian tradition, especially the classical African ethics of ancient

    Egypt (the Maatian tradition) and ancient Yorubaland (the Ifa tradition). Finally, the article is conceived as a way of putting the author's Kawaida philosophy in renewed conversation with Garvey's philosophy, from which it borrows and on which it builds, in search of new links and lessons to expand and enrich the Kawaida philosophical and practical initiative.

    Keywords: moral anthropology; redemption; Kawaida; Afrocentric; ethics; philosophy; liberation

    I. Introduction

    This is part of an ongoing Kawaida project of recovering and exploring historical and current African texts as a way of dialoging with African cul- ture, asking it questions, and seeking answers from it to the fundamental issues of humankind. Moreover, its thrust is to discover and develop con- ceptual resources that aid in expanding and deepening the Afrocentric ini- tiative to understand self, society, and the world, in particular African ways, and similarly and effectively address modern moral and social issues (Asante, 1998; Karenga, 1997). My intention is to retrieve and articulate key elements in the philosophy of Marcus Garvey that point toward a moral anthropology, that is, concepts of human beings that include assumptions about their nature, purpose, obligations, and destiny. In the process, I discuss

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  • Karenga / Moral Anthropology of Marcus Garvey 167

    these in the context of ancient and modern concerns for issues of human dignity and human rights and the right and responsibility of the struggle for freedom as a particular African and universal human project.

    Moreover, this article is also a part of my ongoing effort to expand eth- ical discourse and discussion in the discipline of Africana Studies by criti- cally engaging new subjects and sources of ethical thought beyond the Judeo-Christian tradition, especially the classical African ethics of ancient Egypt, that is, the Maatian tradition (Karenga, 2006a) and of ancient Yorubaland, that is, the Ifa tradition (Karenga, 1999). Also in this article, I continue initiatives to understand and engage varied forms of Black social thought and various Black social thinkers, such as Marcus Garvey, Fannie Lou Hamer, Malcolm X, Mary McLeod Bethune, and others, as important sources of ethical insight and to employ these insights to address moral and social issues (Karenga, 2008). In addition, this article is conceived as a way of putting my philosophy Kawaida in a renewed conversation with Garvey's philosophy, from which it borrows and on which it builds, in search of new links and lessons in a continuous effort to expand and enrich the Kawaida philosophical and practical initiative. Finally, my aim is also to bring Garvey's anthropology and ethics in conversation with both classi- cal and modern African ethical thought, Continental and Diasporan. For Kawaida, as it defines itself, is "an ongoing synthesis of the best of African thought and practice in constant exchange with the world" (Karenga, 1997, p. 21). And it is these ethical texts in which Kawaida is self-consciously grounded and out of which it grows and continues to develop.

    To pursue this project, I focus on Garvey's (1967) early two- volume work, Philosophy and Opinions, as edited by his coworker and wife Amy Jacques Garvey, although I also recognize his subsequently published works as important resources, most notably his More Philosophy and Opinions (1977) by Amy Jacques Garvey and E. U. Essien-Udom and the multivolume work on Garvey and his organization, the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNI A), edited by Robert Hill (1983-2006, 7 vols.). Moreover, although these works clearly add to variations and devel- opment in Garvey's thinking according to time and context, the core of his conceptual initiatives is found in this original volume, which is varied and wide ranging and the foundation on which his philosophy as a whole is based and developed.

    It is important to note here that when we talk of Marcus Garvey's phi- losophy, we are not talking about a critically constructed and coherent sys- tem of thought. Rather, we refer here to his worldview that is not always critical or coherent or even always African centered but is unapologetically

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  • 1 68 Journal of Black Studies

    and unalterably African focused and African committed. This is the mean- ing of his assertion that he cannot be convinced or converted away from his beliefs that are founded in the racial experience of being criminalized as a people and that he is unalterably committed to reversing that process and making being African a virtue or excellence in the world. Thus, he says,

    No man can convince me contrary to my belief, because my belief is founded upon a hard and horrible experience, not a personal experience, but a racial experience. The world has made being Black a crime, and I have felt it in common with men who suffer like me and instead of making it a crime, I hope to make it a virtue, (quoted in Martin, 1976, p. 23)

    Again, then, there can be no doubt that he is African focused and African com- mitted and that his life's work is, as he defined it, dedicated to the redemption of Africa and African people in the most expansive sense of the word.

    In addition to his clear and high-level commitment to African redemp- tion, Garvey is the father of modern Black Nationalism, a productive writer, and a constant lecturer who focuses intensively on the well-being and flour- ishing of African people and humankind and who led the largest movement of African peoples in history. Thus, his writings contain a wealth of essays, observations, remarks, and lectures produced over time that provide a rich resource of ideas from which to extract and articulate his moral anthropol- ogy. Given the nature of his work, he of necessity engages in an ongoing historical conversation as old as philosophy or deep thinking itself, reach- ing from ancient Egypt to modern times (Asante, 2000; Gordon & Gordon, 2006; Harris, 2000; Karenga, 2006a, 2006b).

    Garvey, like the early nationalist activist intellectuals before him, is con- cerned with issues of human nature, purpose, destiny, obligations, and dig- nity and the ethical and spiritual measure and meaning of the human person in the world. And like them, his philosophy and opinions contain important insights as well as similar contradictory contentions. This situation rises as a general intellectual vulnerability to error and contradiction in both philo- sophical and ordinary human reasoning. But it is also derived from the eclectic nature of unsystematic philosophy that borrows from various sources without integrating the borrowed concepts into a coherent system of thought. Garvey's philosophy, like many other philosophies created in the midst of activism rather than a focused and sustained philosophical pur- suit, is highly eclectic and thus runs the constant risk of contradictory assumptions and assertions. But this does not negate the insightfulness and enduring relevance of his thought on essential points or as a whole.

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