Marcus Mosiah Garvey was an eccentric man with arguably impossible dreams. But none of these things compare to the stranger-than-fiction story of how the pioneering Pan-Africanist read a newspaper’s announcement of his death two weeks before he actually kicked the bucket.
The paper was the Chicago Defender, founded in 1905 by Robert S. Abbott, an African-American lawyer and businessman born to parents who had been freed from slavery. By the 1940s when Garvey died, the Chicago Defender was highly regarded among America’s Black people as a leading source of news as well an outlet for the intellectual defense of Black humanity in America.
The Chicago Defender could count among its published authors some of the most illustrious African-Americans to sit behind a typewriter. They included Ida B. Wells, Langston Hughes, Louis Lomax and Gwendolyn Brooks.
Clearly a distinguished publication, it does beat the imagination if the Defender’s premature declaration of Garvey’s death was because editors were no friends to Garvey’s radical Black nationalism and thus rushed to press with a rumor. Or perhaps, it was a genuine blunder.