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Today June 27, marks years since the incorporation of the Black Star Line by Marcus Garvey and members of the UNIA. The Black Star Line was incorporated in Delaware on June 27,
Date of incorporation
The initial authorized capital of the Black Star Line was $, The initial shares were only , selling for $5 each. In six months the Market Capitalization of the Black Star Line was increased to $10,, at a Board of Directors meeting held on November 14,
The first directors of the Black Star Line were Marcus Garvey, Edgar M. Grey, Richard E. Warner, George Tobias, Jeremiah Certain, Henrietta Vinton Davis, and Janie Jenkins.
The Officers of the corporation elected at the first Directors meeting were:
- President Marcus Garvey
- First Vice Preseident Jeremiah Certain
- Second Vice President Henrietta Vinton Davis
- Treasurer George Tobias
- Secretary Richard E. Warner
- Assistant Secretary Edgar M. Grey
- Assistant Treasurer Janie Jenkins
The Black Star Line is more than just a commercial venture In addition to it being a model for teaching Black children the details of corporations and how they operate from a Black perspective, the BSL possibly is not only the first members owned corporation but also an early example of an employee owned corporation. The directors and officers were required to be members of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, an organization founded by Marcus Garvey. Additionally, any member of the UNIA could be employed in the Black Star Line. As this potentially provided employment for UNIA members it had an economic benefit in that it was sustainable through membership fees from members who were both employees of the corporation and its shareholders. It was the UNIA policy to control the corporation to help the UNIA Parent Body carry out its objectives.
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Stock certificate for one share (five dollars) of the Black Star Line, Inc. dated November 21,
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The Black Star Line (BSL) was a steamship company that was completely owned, operated and financed by people of African descent. Marcus Garvey (), a Jamaican national and master propagandist, was the leader of the Black Star Line. Garvey was a “Black nationalist and a leader of the pan-Africanism movement, which sought to unify and connect people of African descent worldwide.” Garvey also headed the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA); he told UNIA members in , that “If you want liberty, you yourselves must strike the blow. If you must be free, you must become so through your own effort … Until you produce what the white man has produced you will not be his equal.”
The company only lasted a few years (−). Garvey and other UNIA started the shipping line “to facilitate the transportation of goods and eventually African-Americans throughout the African global economy.” The name of the company – Black Star Line – was a play on the success of the White Star Line. Garvey believed he could duplicate the success of the White Star Line.
The Black Star Line was part of Garveys contribution to the Back-to-Africa movement. However, the company was mostly unsuccessful, partially due to infiltration by federal agents. The Black Star Line was one of many businesses begun by the UNIA, including the Universal Printing House, Negro Factories Corporation, and the “widely distributed and highly successful” Negro Worldweekly newspaper.
As noted above, the Black Star Line and its successor, the Black Cross Navigation and Trading Company, only operated between and However, the company remains as a key symbol for Garvey followers and Pan-Africanists.
The Black Moses
At the height of his popularity, people referred to Garvey as the “Black Moses.” This nickname had new meaning after October 14, George Tyler, a disgruntled investor in one of Garvey’s ventures, walked into the UNIA offices and shot Garvey. However, the bullet only grazed Garvey’s temple. Against his doctor’s orders, Garvey left the hospital where he was being treated, and used the failed murder attempt as an opportunity to sell stock and promote the Black Star Line in Philadelphia. The shooting garnered world-wide publicity in both the white and Black media, which increased Garvey’s popularity as well as the sale of Black Star Line stock.
Garvey envisioned the Black Star Line as part of the solution to the Black community’s problems – a company completely owned, operated and financed by black people would create pride, lessen economic dependency on the white community, provide opportunities for social and political advancement and create a strong economic base in Liberia, the only independent nation (at the time) in West Africa.
The Black Star Line also gained popularity because of its pledge to provide non-discriminatory travel for people of African descent. At that time in history, many steamship companies did not allow Blacks to purchase first-class tickets. The Black Star Line empowered Blacks across the world. However, colonial governments in Africa, the Caribbean and Central America were threatened by this symbol of Black freedom and power. In the Caribbean, many countries banned The Negro World. These governments believed that financial success for the Black Star Line would cause Blacks “to recognize their oppression and fight for economic independence and political freedom.”
At a time when employment opportunities were scarce, Black seamen were offered employment by the Black Star Line. With the exception of a few white officers, the Black Star Line employed an all-black crew. In addition, Black stevedores (dock workers who load and unload cargo from ships) saw the company as a workplace where they could receive honest wages and a chance at fair treatment.
Stock in the Black Star Line was priced at $5 per share, but the company also allowed installment payments, giving all a chance to invest in the company. Many investors purchased stock, believing that they could invest their money in a Black-owned business and help to uplift and improve conditions for members of their race.
Garvey started to solicit funds for the BSL from UNIA members at meetings in and soon raised enough money to establish the corporation. BSL shares sold for $5, which allowed Blacks of modest means to own a piece of the UNIA’s largest economic venture. In the UNIA sold $, in stock. The Black Star Line was incorporated in Delaware on June 27,
The Black Star Line’s first directors were Marcus Garvey, Edgar M. Grey, Richard E. Warner, George Tobias, Jeremiah Certain, Henrietta Vinton Davis and Janie Jenkins. The company’s officers were: President Marcus Garvey, First Vice President Jeremiah Certain; Second Vice President Henrietta Vinton Davis; Treasurer George Tobias; Secretary Richard E. Warner; Assistant Secretary Edgar M. Grey; and Assistant Treasurer Janie Jenkins. Six months after incorporation the company’s board voted to increase the Black Star Line market capitalization to $10 million (equivalent to about $ million today).
Lack of experience costs the company
Although Garvey was popular, neither he nor the other BSL officers had experience in the shipping industry – or in business in general. Also, Garvey’s mishandling of funds caused problems for BSL. Garvey hired Joshua Cockburn, one of the only Black men in the United States legally qualified to captain a ship. Having a Black man serving as captain was also good for promotion and sales.
However, Cockburn’s personal greed caused a number of financial mishaps for BSL. He purchased the S.S. Yarmouth, a small, 1, ton-ship built in and rebuilt in Cockburn took a $1, bribe from the ship’s owners, who then grossly inflated the cost of the ship.
When the BSL took possession of the SS Yarmouth in New York City, it had a number of unfixed repairs and there had also been attempted sabotage by various crew members. They SS Yarmouth was renamed by the BSL as the Frederick Douglass.
However, the SS Yarmouth was not the only ship that was purchased in poor condition and completely oversold. Garvey spent another $, for more ships (equivalent to more than $ million today). One, the SS Shady Side, sailed the cruise to nowhere on the Hudson River one summer and sank in the fall because of a leak. Another was the steam yacht Kanawha; the once well-maintained yacht had seen service during World War I. After it was renamed the SS Antonio Maceo by the BSL, it blew a boiler and killed a man.
On its first trip as a BSL vessel, the Frederick Douglass carried a shipment of whiskey from the U.S. to Cuba (before Prohibition) in record time. However, the ship did not have docking arrangements in Havana, and the company lost money as the ship sat at the docks during a longshoremen strike. On another voyage a load of coconuts rotted in a ship because Garvey insisted that the company’s ships make ceremonial stops at politically important ports.
These largely symbolic port visits in the Caribbean and Latin America were meant to celebrate Black self-determination, business ownership and economic potential. BSL ships visited various ports in Panama, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Cuba and other countries. However, no BSL vessel ever reached Africa.
Despite the mismanagement, the BSL’s receptions at its ports of call demonstrated the hope and pride that Blacks had about the company. When the Frederick Douglass docked in Cuba on December 2, , Cockburn noted, “People are just crazy about the organization.” Cuban stevedores purchased $ in stock – believing in the potential of an all-Black corporation as well as a chance to battle racist white shippers. Thousands invested in the company, including people from Cuba, West Africa and the Panama Canal Zone.
The Frederick Douglass made three voyages as a BSL vessel. It failed to turn a profit and her defective boilers could not be repaired. Unseaworthy, the ship was sold at auction in November for $1, The ship’s operating losses totaled $,, excluding her exorbitant purchase price. Both the Shady Side and Kanawha suffered similar fates.
Targeted by the federal government
Despite (or perhaps because of) the promise of the BSL, the federal government targeted Garvey. The Bureau of Investigation (BOI) was a precursor to the FBI. Agents opened a file on Garvey in , and the BOI surveilled Garvey from that point until A July 10, BOI report called Garvey, “the most prominent Negro radical agitator in New York.” Many did their best to discredit and stop Garvey’s endeavors, including the bureau’s J. Edgar Hoover, the Justice Department’s Edwin P. Kilroe, black integrationists like W.E.B. Du Bois of the NAACP, Secretary of the NAACP James Weldon Johnson, and A. Philip Randolph, editor of TheMessenger. The BOI planted spies at UNIA rallies and in the Black Star Line office.
The bureau’s focus was to deport foreign radicals and it tried to revoke the second-class mailing permit of the UNIA’s newspaper, the Negro World, claiming that “Garvey preached race hatred and promoted conflict in Africa.”
All of this took place during the period known as the First Red Scare, which occurred from about There was widespread fear of Bolshevism and anarchism across the nation. At its height in , “concerns over the effects of radical political agitation in American society and the alleged spread of communism and anarchism in the American labor movement fueled a general sense of concern.”
The bureau used Black informants in an attempt to find evidence of crimes in order to deport Garvey. James Wormley Jones was a bureau informant who worked his way up the ranks of the BSL. Jones suggested that Garvey be indicted under the Mann Act, a federal law in which traveling with a woman for illicit or immoral reasons over a state line is against the law. It is the same law that was used against heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson in when he married a white woman.
According to historian Winston James, other Bureau agents sabotaged BSL ships by adding foreign matter to the fuel, damaging the engines. Jones was followed by Jamaican Herbert S. Boulin, who was known as agent P While Boulin became a confidante of Garvey, he never found evidence of crimes. Other Bureau agents posed as newspaper reporters or church representatives. Although agents searched for disgruntled customers, the BOI found investors were mostly satisfied with the BSL.
The Black Star Line brochure for the SS Phyllis Wheatley was a key exhibit in the BSL mail fraud case. The ship did not exist – the BSL used a doctored photograph of the SS Orion, which had been put up for sale by the United States Shipping Board. The Black Star Line had proposed to buy her, but the transaction was never completed.
Garvey was arrested by federal agents on January 15, for the SS Orion mailing circular. Although the BSL was negotiating to buy the ship and had deposited $22,, the federal government still indicted him.
Because the ship was not owned yet by the BSL, Garvey was charged with mail fraud. “In , Garvey and three other Black Star Line officials were indicted by the U.S. government for using the mails fraudulently to solicit stock for the recently defunct steamship line.” When he testified, Garvey admitted that $, (nearly $ million in ) had been “blown to the wind.”
The jury convicted Garvey in on the federal mail fraud charges, and he was sentenced to five years in prison. After appealing his sentence, Garvey was imprisoned in
John Sargent, the Attorney General of the United States, received a petition with 70, signatures urging Garvey’s release. President Calvin Coolidge was warned by Sargent that “African-Americans regard Garvey’s imprisonment not as a form of justice against a man who had swindled them but as an act of oppression of the race in their efforts in the direction of race progress.” Coolidge agreed to commute Garvey’s sentence on November 18, Garvey was deported to Jamaica after his release.
The Black Star Line ceased sailing in February The Shady Side was abandoned on mudflats at Fort Lee, New Jersey. The companys losses were estimated to be between $, and $ million (equivalent to $ million in ).
Stock certificate star line black
Stock certificate issued by Black Star Line to Amy McKenzie
- Created by
- Black Star Line, Inc., American, -
- Owned by
- McKenzie, Amy
- Signed by
- Garvey, Marcus, Jamaican, -
- Smith-Green, Edward David, Guyanese, -
- September 18,
- ink on paper
- H x W: 8 x 10 5/8 in. ( x 27 cm)
- Stock certificate issued to Miss Amy McKenzie for two shares of stock in the Black Star Line, Inc. on September 18, The certificate has a green border with light green rays extending from the bottom border to the middle of the page. In the top, center, is a black and white graphic of a man on the left pointing to a globe with the continent of Africa prominent. Black text on the globe reads: [AFRICA / THE LAND OF / OPPORTUNITY]. To the right of the globe is an ocean liner with two smoke stacks. On the bottom of the certificate, centered, is an embossed seal for Black Star Line Incorporation overlaid with a red five-cent revenue stamp. The text in ink, stamp, and by hand reads: [No. / 2 Shares / INCORPORATED UNDER THE LAWS OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE / BLACK STAR LINE, INC. / CAPITAL STOCK $, / SHARES $5. EACH / This Certifies that Miss Amy McKenzie is the owner of / Two Shares of the Capital Stock of / BLACK STAR LINE, Inc. full paid and non-assessable / transferable only on the books of this Corporation in person or by Attorney / upon surrender of this Certificate properly endorsed. / IN WITNESS WHEREOF. the said Corporation has caused this Certificate to be signed / by its duly authorized officers and its Corporate Seal to be hereunto affixed / this 18 day of Sept. A.D / Ed Smith-Green / Secretary / J. Meyers Inc. B'way / Marcus Garvey / President.]. The back of the certificate has black text regarding the transference of the shares with blanks provided for inserting the appropriate information. The text in black ink reads: [For value Received__hereby sell, assign, and transfer unto / Shares / of the Capital Stock represented by the within Certificate. / and do hereby irrevocably constitute and appoint / Attorney / to transfer the said stock on the Books of the within named / Corporation with full power of substitution in the premises. / Dated____19__ / In Presence of]. To the right of the text are two vertical lines of text regarding the appropriate people who may sign the reverse of the certificate. The text in black in reads: [NOTICE. THE SIGNATURE OF THIS ASSIGNMENT MUST CORRESPOND WITH THE NAME AS WRITTEN UPON THE / FACE OF THIS CERTIFICATE IN EVERY PARTICIULAR, WITHOUT ALTERATION OR ENLARGEMENT, OR ANY CHANGE WHATEVER.]
- Place depicted
- Delaware, United States, North and Central America
- Documents and Published Materials-Business and Legal Documents
- stock certificates
- U.S. History,
- Credit Line
- Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
- Object number
- Restrictions & Rights
- Public domain
- Not determined
Black Star Line
The Black Star Line (−) was a shipping line incorporated by Marcus Garvey, the organizer of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), and other members of the UNIA. The shipping line was created to facilitate the transportation of goods and eventually African Americans throughout the African global economy. It derived its name from the White Star Line, a line whose success Garvey felt he could duplicate. The Black Star Line became a key part of Garvey's contribution to the Back-to-Africa movement, but it was mostly unsuccessful, partially due to infiltration by federal agents. It was one among many businesses which the UNIA originated, such as the Universal Printing House, Negro Factories Corporation, and the widely distributed and highly successful Negro World weekly newspaper.
The Black Star Line and its successor, the Black Cross Navigation and Trading Company, operated between and It stands today as a major symbol for Garvey followers and Pan-Africanists. It is not to be confused with the Black Star Line, the state shipping corporation of Ghana.
The Black Star Line was incorporated as a Delaware corporation on June 27,  Having a maximum capitalization of $,, BSL shares were sold at UNIA conventions at five dollars each.
The first directors of the Black Star Line were Marcus Garvey, Edgar M. Grey, Richard E. Warner, George Tobias, Jeremiah Certain, Henrietta Vinton Davis, and Janie Jenkins. The officers of the corporation were President Marcus Garvey, First Vice President — Jeremiah Certain, Second Vice President Henrietta Vinton Davis, Treasurer George Tobias, Secretary Richard E. Warner, Assistant Secretary Edgar M. Grey and Assistant Treasurer Janie Jenkins. Six months after incorporation the Board of Directors voted to increase the Black Star Line market capitalization to $10million (equivalent to $million in ).
The Black Star Line surprised all its critics when, only three months after being incorporated, the first of four ships, the SSYarmouth was purchased with the intention of it being rechristened the SS Frederick Douglass. The Yarmouth was a coal boat during the First World War, and was in poor condition when purchased by the Black Star Line. Once reconditioned, the Yarmouth proceeded to sail for three years between the U.S. and the West Indies as the first Black Star Line ship with an all-black crew and a black captain. Later Joshua Cockburn, the captain of the Yarmouth, was accused of receiving a "kick back from the purchase price".
The SS Yarmouth was not the only ship to be purchased in poor condition and to be completely oversold. Garvey spent another $, for more ships (equivalent to $million in ). One, the SS Shady Side, sailed the "cruise to nowhere" on the Hudson River one summer and sank the next fall because of a leak. Another was the steam yacht Kanawha, once owned by Henry Huttleston Rogers. Booker T. Washington had been an honored guest aboard the ship when it was owned by his friend and confidant, Rogers. However, Rogers had died in , and the once well-maintained yacht had also served in the first World War. After having been renamed the SS Antonio Maceo by the Black Star Line, it blew a boiler and killed a man.
Besides oversold and poorly conditioned ships, the Black Star Line was beset by mismanagement and infiltration by agents of J. Edgar Hoover's Bureau of Investigation (the forerunner to the Federal Bureau of Investigation), including the first African-American agent hired by the bureau, James Wormley Jones, who became an intimate of Garvey, and other agents who − according to historian Winston James − sabotaged it by throwing foreign matter into the fuel, damaging the engines.[bettersourceneeded] On its first commission, the Yarmouth brought a shipment of whiskey from the U.S. to Cuba (before Prohibition) in record time, but because it did not have docking arrangements in Havana, it lost money sitting in the docks while the longshoremen had a strike. A cargo-load of coconuts rotted in the hull of a ship on another voyage because Garvey insisted on having the ships make ceremonial stops at politically important ports.
In , J. Edgar Hoover and the BOI charged Marcus Garvey and three other officers with mail fraud. The prosecution stated that the brochure of the Black Star Line contained a picture of a ship that the BSL did not own. The ship pictured was the Orion, which in the brochure was renamed the Phyllis Wheatley. The BSL was attempting to purchase the vessel at the time, but did not own her yet. The fact that the ship was not owned yet by the BSL warranted mail fraud. "In , Garvey and three other Black Star Line officials were indicted by the U.S. government for using the mails fraudulently to solicit stock for the recently defunct steamship line." On the witness stand, Garvey admitted that $, ($9,, in ) had been "blown to the wind." The jury convicted only Garvey, but not the other three officers, and he was sentenced to five years in prison. In , President Calvin Coolidge deported Garvey back to Jamaica.
The Black Star Line ceased sailing in February The Shady Side was abandoned on mudflats at Fort Lee, New Jersey. The company's losses were estimated to be between $, and $ million. ($19,, in )
In popular culture
- Reggae singer Fred Locks re-introduced the Black Star Line to a Jamaican audience with his hit "Black Star Liners" (which has been called one of "the most important songs in reggae music of the s"), portraying Garvey as a Moses-like prophet: "Seven miles of Black Star Liners coming in the harbor  I can hear the elders saying. These are the days for which we've been praying Marcus Garvey told us that the Black Star Liners are coming one day for us".
The flag of Ghana adopted a black star as an homage to their own shipping line, The Black Star Line, which was the national shipping corporation of Ghana.
- ^"American Experience | Marcus Garvey | People & Events". www.shoppbs.pbs.org. Retrieved
- ^Grant , p.
- ^ ab"The Black Star Line was incorporated 96 years ago today". Keyamsha the awakening. Retrieved 28 June
- ^"Joshua Cockburn: First Captain of The Black Star Line The Essential Writing of Thomas Quirk". Thomas-quirk.com. Retrieved
- ^"Captain Joshua Cockburn: The Black Star Line, The Whiskey Cruise and The Origin of Rum Row The Essential Writing of Thomas Quirk". Thomas-quirk.com. Retrieved
- ^ abcde"American Experience Marcus Garvey People & Events". Pbs.org. Archived from the original on Retrieved
- ^Transcript of "Marcus Garvey: Look for Me in the Whirlwind", American Experience
- ^Garvey , p.
- ^The Broad Ax , p.1
- ^Murillo-Chaverri , p.
- ^"Black Star Line (Limón)". Retrieved
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- ^"Black Star Line se reconstruirá con donativos de los ciudadanos". La Nación, Grupo Nación (in Spanish). Retrieved
- ^Archived March 4, , at the Wayback Machine
- ^"Article: Fred Locks". Reggae-vibes.com. Retrieved
- ^"Fred Locks - Black Star Liners Lyrics". Jah Lyrics. Retrieved
- ^"Culture - Two Sevens Clash (Vinyl, LP, Album)". Discogs.com. Retrieved
- ^"Reggae Regular - The Black Star Liner". YouTube. Retrieved
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- ^Kellman, Andy (). "In God We Trust - Brand Nubian Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved
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- ^Song Review by Jo-Ann Greene. "Train to Zion - U-Brown Song Info". AllMusic. Retrieved
- ^"Mercury Music Prize shortlist announced". List.co.uk. 22 July
- ^"Burning Spear - Social Living - 05 - Marcus Senior". YouTube. Retrieved
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- ^Kaufman, Jason (). "Black Star - Black Star,Talib Kweli,Mos Def Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved
- ^"Ghana Flag". Ghanaweb.com. Retrieved
- ^"Ghana". Crwflags.com. Retrieved
- The Broad Ax (May 13, ). "Col. Marcus Garvey , President of the Black Star Line Steam ship Company, Admitted on the Witness Stand in New York City That More Than $, Has Been Blown to the Wind". The Broad Ax. Julius F. Taylor. ISSN OCLC Retrieved June 27,
- Garvey, Marcus & Editor: Robert Abraham Hill (). The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers, Vol. IX: Africa for the Africans June December . University of California Press. ISBN.- Total pages:
- Grant, Colin (). Negro with a Hat: The Rise and Fall of Marcus Garvey. Vintage. ISBN.- Total pages:
- Murdock, George W. (April 4, ). "Hudson River Steamboats. NoShady Side". The Kingston Daily Freeman. Retrieved June 27,
- Murillo-Chaverri, Carmmen (). "Vaivén de arraigos y desarraigos: Identidad afrocaribeña en Costa Rica "(PDF). Revista de Historia. vol. 39 (enero–junio, ). ISSN Archived from the original(PDF) on February 16, Retrieved June 27,
- Springer, Robert & Randall Cherry, John Cowley, David Evans (). Nobody Knows where the Blues Come from: Lyrics and History. University Press of Mississippi. ISBN.- Total pages:
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