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Congress members seek posthumous presidential pardon for Marcus Garvey

Garvey, who played a role in the Harlem Renaissance, was convicted in 1923 of mail fraud and sentenced to five years in prison.

Rep. Yvette Clarke of Brooklyn is leading a group of 18 Congress members who are asking President Obama to posthumously pardon Marcus Garvey for his 1923 fraud conviction.

“The passage of time has confirmed his place in history but has not removed the stain of injustice from his legacy,” Clarke wrote in a Dec. 9 letter to the president. Seventeen other House members signed the letter, including New York congressmen Charles Rangel, Gregory Meeks and Hakeem Jeffries, and others from Georgia, California, Michigan and Washington, D.C.

The Jamaican-born Garvey ran his Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League in New York for several years and played a large role in the Harlem Renaissance following World War I, with such other leaders as W.E.B. Du Bois.

Garvey's Black Star Line shipping corporation was a proponent of the Back-to-Africa movement and became the subject of an FBI investigation that eventually charged Garvey with mail fraud in connection with the company’s stock sales.

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Garvey was sentenced to five years in prison in 1923, and served two years before President Calvin Coolidge commuted his sentence. Garvey was subsequently deported to Jamaica.

“We believe that Marcus Garvey meets the criteria for a posthumous pardon, based on his efforts to secure the rights of people of African descent and the utter lack of merit to the charges on which he was convicted,” Clarke said.

Garvey died in 1940 in London. There are several memorials to him in Jamaica, Africa, England, Canada and the U.S., including Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem and Marcus Garvey Boulevard in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.