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Garvey was a charismatic leader and an object of ridicule.

He indulged a liking for parades and plumed military uniforms, which drew mockery from his opponents. He launched an array of business enterprises, including the Black Star Line, a shipping company. Bad management undermined Garvey's business schemes. The shipping line foundered. In , Garvey was convicted of mail fraud for Black Star Line stock deals. He served two years in jail and was deported to Jamaica. Garvey was deeply influenced by Booker T. Washington's example of self-reliance and moral uplift, but did not agree with Washington's accommodating stance on race relations.

Rather than compromise with white Americans, Garvey urged blacks to abandon them. He railed against race mixing and openly distrusted light-skinned blacks who often dominated leadership positions in rival organizations such as the NAACP. One of Garvey's most controversial acts was to meet with Ku Klux Klan leaders in Atlanta in to demonstrate his agreement with the KKK's view on miscegenation. By all accounts, Marcus Garvey was a brilliant public speaker. He attracted much of his enormous political following with words.

As a boy in Kingston, Jamaica, Garvey was captivated by raucous street debaters and the stirring cadences of black preachers.

Say It Plain: A Century of Great African American Speeches

He practiced oratory at home, reading aloud from his school reader and watching himself in the mirror. In America, Garvey scolded blacks for abetting their own oppression through moral lassitude. Confidence, conviction, action will cause us to be free men today," he proclaimed. Garvey's home base was the Liberty Hall in Harlem, where nightly meetings drew up to six thousand people at a time.

In July of , Garvey recorded two short speeches on a 78 rpm record at a studio in New York. One side was a version of the UNIA's mission statement, "Explanation of the Objects of the Universal Negro Improvement Association," the other, a complaint about federal efforts to deny Garvey a reentry visa after a foreign trip. These are the only known recordings of the famous public speaker. Garvey's performance on the disc hardly sounds like the work of a stem-twisting orator, but bellowing into a lifeless microphone or a recording horn was nothing like exhorting a throng of excited followers.

Many performers froze up — or at least stiffened — in front of the recording machine. The time limits of three to seven minutes on early discs and cylinders also made true oration difficult. Garvey's recorded speech is hard to hear at times.


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Early 78 rpm discs were prone to a high level of surface noise that competed with the music or voice being played back. Repeated playing made the problem worse as the surface of the disc wore away beneath the weight of a steel needle. COLE — , Chapter See All Customer Reviews. Shop Books. Read an excerpt of this book! Add to Wishlist. USD Sign in to Purchase Instantly. Overview Say It Plain is a vivid, moving portrait of how black Americans have sounded the charge against injustice, exhorting the country to live up to its democratic principles.

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There is no escape through law of man or God from the inevitable: The laws of changeless justice Bind oppressor with oppressed; And close as sin and suffering joined We march to fate abreast. Continues… Excerpted from "Say It Plain" by. Excerpted by permission of The New Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Smith and Ellis will share audio clips and excerpts from the project in honor of Black History Month. Paul, Minn. The project highlights landmark sermons, speeches and broadcasts recorded between and Authors and radio documentarians Stephen Smith and Catherine Ellis will present select recordings at stops on a Minnesota book tour, a set of dates timed to highlight Black History Month. More information about Say it Plain can be found at americanradioworks. Minneapolis: p.

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