The family of Marcus Garvey is asking President Obama to pardon the black nationalist, founder of the early 20th century “Back to Africa” movement, NBC News reports. Dr. Julius Garvey, 82, used what would have been his father’s 129th birthday on Wednesday to launch a campaign to clear his name. Marcus Garvey's 1923 mail fraud conviction still leaves “a whiff of subversion about the idea" of supporting his father's teachings, Garvey told the National Press Club, per the AP. Garvey, who died in London in 1940, was a landmark figure in American civil rights and founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association in 1914. His fiery black-pride philosophy included the belief that blacks could never achieve racial justice in white America and should therefore separate and return to Africa.
Critics lined up against him, including NAACP founder WEB Du Bois, who called Garvey "the most dangerous enemy of the Negro race in America," according to NBC. Nevertheless, Garvey created the Black Star Line shipping company to bring his people—and commerce—to Africa. His efforts to solicit donations and stocks from investors by mail prompted an FBI investigation, and Garvey was convicted of mail fraud. After serving more than two years in prison, Garvey opted to be deported to Jamaica, where he was born. Julius Garvey, joined by several congressmen and NAACP officials, says it's time his father is cleared. "Everyone stands on the shoulders of everyone who comes before.There would be no black president if it wasn't for the Civil Rights movement," said Garvey, a New York surgeon. There was no comment from the White House.