Traveling from Puerto Barrios, Guatemala aboard the SS Suriname, the noted Pan-Africanist Marcus Mosiah Garvey arrived in New Orleans, Louisiana on the morning of July 13, 1921.1 Over the past four months, the Justice Department and the Immigration Office had diligently labored to prevent Garvey’s reentry into the United States, but various circumstances enabled the West Indian to legally return to the country after his extended stay in the Caribbean and Latin America.2 Enormously popular among blacks living in the uptown section of New Orleans, Garvey addressed an enthusiastic crowd of fifteen hundred supporters on his first night in the city. To thunderous applause, the electrifying orator emphasized the need for race pride, improved relations between diasporan and continental Africans, and the development of black-owned industries. “The time has come,” Garvey proclaimed during his opening address at National Park, “for the strongest race of people on earth, barring the Chinese, to break the bonds of oppression.”3 Developing separate and viable bases of economic and political power, he opined, was the only way for blacks to achieve true emancipation. “We have favored and aided by the hundred,” he reminded women and men victimized by the most invidious forms of institutionalized white supremacy, “but favor has not been returned. Time now to pay attention to our own interest . . . The world is without sympathy. You must form your own future. Do for yourselves what others have done for themselves.” Fully cognizant of the American government’s efforts to undermine his influence in the United States, Garvey had a rather ambivalent message for federal intelligence agents and informants dispersed among the hundreds assembled at National Park. “I am not preaching radicalism. We are not organizing to fight the whites, but to protect what is ours, if it takes our lives.”4 Such proclamations hardly appeased federal agents who viewed Garvey and his rapidly growing Universal Negro

Improvement Association (UNIA) as formidable challenges to the racial status quo. Staying in New Orleans for three days, Garvey remained under the watchful eye of the Bureau of Investigation, the Immigration Office, and the New Orleans Police Department until his departure for the UNIA’s headquarters in Harlem.