Fr. Raphael Morgan against Marcus Garvey

Marcus Garvey

Marcus Garvey was a widely influential black nationalist from Jamaica. He promoted black pride and championed the “back to Africa” movement. In 1916, when he was just 29 years old and at the outset of his public career, he visited the United States and embarked on a 38-state speaking tour. Not all of the black Americans who attended his lectures liked what they heard. Among those unhappy with Garvey was Fr. Raphael Morgan, the first black Orthodox priest in America. As we’ve discussed in the past, Morgan was born in Jamaica, and in 1916, he was living in Philadelphia, affiliated with the city’s Greek Orthodox church. In response to Garvey’s speeches, Morgan and some associates addressed the following letter to the editors of the Jamaican newspapers:   

Philadelphia, U.S.A.   

September 19, 1916   

The Editor, Dear Sir, –   

We the undersigned Jamaicans, residents of the United States for several years beg your permission to call to your attention and the public of Jamaica a matter affecting the welfare of Jamaicans at home and abroad.   

Under the caption of Journalist and President of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, Jamaica, W.I., one Marcus Garvey, Jr., is giving an extended series of lectures in this Country, pertaining to the social and economic conditions of Jamaica.   

We, having attended his lectures, found them to be pernicious, misleading, and derogatory to the prestige of the Government and the people.   

Among the many assertions of the speaker are the following: –   

1. Governmental misrule, causing economic depression, poverty, and misery with their detrimental consequences.   

2. The falsity and hypocrisy of the existing social condition between the white and black races – to wit:   

Absorption by inter-marriage of the intellectually superior and advanced blacks with whites, with the view of estranging and nullifying their usefulness to their race.   

Result – Acquiescence, arrogance, and unapproachableness, on the part of these blacks who inter-marry. The white wife tires. There is an ultimate separation. Wife returns to her native land. Husband in Jamaica contributes to her support abroad.   

3. The Governmental and Commercial interests connive to keep the scale of wage so low that the labouring classes are unable to meet the necessary demands to sustain their needsand wants. The girls of Jamaica are resorting to vice and immorality through lack of industrial opportunities and poor economic conditions. Praedial larceny is rampant and the jails are filled[.] Education is restricted and limited to the children of the poorer classes causing intellectual deficiency to the masses.   

4. He drew a deplorable picture of the prejudice of the Englishman in Jamaica against the blacks, portraying hypocrisy and deceit of his attitude towards the blacks, and stated his preference for the prejudice of the American to that of the Englishman.   

Mr. Editor, the above are only a few of the damaging statements being disseminated by the aforesaid Marcus Garvey, Jr., among the American public.   

Further details would be a repetition of the demoralising utterances of the speaker.   

The bad effects of these lectures on the minds of the American public are deplorable and are causing great indignation among Jamaicans here, who feel greatly humiliated.   

Thanking you for space and hoping through this medium Jamaicans will be enlightened on the seriousness of this matter. We are,   

Father Raphael, O.C.G., Priest-Apostolic, the Greek Orthodox Catholic Church, Dr. Uriah Smith, Ernest P. Duncan, Ernest K. Jones, H.S. Boulin, Phillip Hemmings, Joseph Vassal, Henry H. Harper, S.C. Box, Aldred Campbell, Hubert Barclay, John Moore, Victor Monroe, Henry Booth and many others.   

Fr. Raphael Morgan

This letter was published in the Kingston Gleaner (10/4/1916) and the Jamaica Times (10/7/1916). A month later, Marcus Garvey issued a reply. According to the Gleaner (11/14/1916), “Mr. Garvey said that the letter which is a concoction and a gross fabrication, was written by his enemies in Jamaica and sent to Philadelphia to be transmitted to the Gleaner, for the purpose of prejudicing him in the eyes of the Government and those who have always wished him well in his efforts in Jamaica, as well as with the intention of interfering with his success in America.”   

The original letter, by Morgan and friends, raises all sorts of questions. Take, for instance, the letters after Morgan’s name — “O.C.G.” From other sources, we know that this stands for “Order of the Cross of Golgotha,” a body of which Morgan was the “founder and superior.” But what, exactly, was the Order of the Cross of Golgotha? Roman Catholicism has all sorts of religious “orders,” but the concept is exceedingly rare among the Orthodox. I suspect, but cannot prove, that Morgan may have created the Order for black Americans. Were the other 13 signers of the Garvey letters members of this Order? Was its membership restricted to Orthodox Christians, or did Morgan welcome non-Orthodox to join? Was its establishment blessed by the Church of Greece — of which Morgan was a priest — or was Morgan operating independently? The whole Order is almost a complete mystery.   

Could Morgan’s fellow signers provide clues, both about the Order and about Morgan’s whereabouts after 1916? Many of the signers seem to have been working-class people. Here are a few of them, with ages and occupations from the 1910 or 1920 Censuses:   

  • Ernest K. Jones, 37, construction worker
  • Philip Hemmings, 43, sailor
  • Henry H. Harper, 29, waiter
  • John Moore, 51, contractor
  • Henry Booth, 32, laborer

I found another signer, Hubert Barclay, on an Ellis Island passenger manifest dated March 31, 1915 (i.e., about 18 months prior to the Garvey letter). Barclay, a 42-year-old coachman, was coming to the US from Jamaica. He was born in Chapelton, Clarendon, Jamaica — the same town as Fr. Raphael Morgan. The two men probably grew up together.  

H.S. Boulin was the owner of a black doll company in Harlem. And while he signed the 1916 letter against Garvey, he eventually became one of Garvey’s closest confidants. Unbeknownst to Garvey, though, Boulin was also Agent P-138 — a spy for J. Edgar Hoover’s new Federal Bureau of Investigation. Here’s some background on Boulin, from Robert A. Hill’s multivolume collection of Garvey documents:  

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1873, Herbert Simeon Boulin served in the British army from 1902 until 1907. After spending most of his term of service in Africa, he returned to Jamaica in 1907. In 1908 he visited Philadelphia, where he decided to make his home. He opened up a school for teaching shorthand, but it soon failed. Afterward, he worked as a laborer at a local shipyard and then as an employee of the Pinkerton Detective Agency between 1915 and 1920. In January 1920 Boulin became a U.S. citizen. In July 1920 he was hired by the Bureau of Investigation to investigate the Garvey movement. After J. Edgar Hoover sent him a letter terminating his services in August 1921, Boulin opened his own detective agency, promoting his services by advertising his status as a former employee of the Department of Justice.  

Boulin infiltrated Garvey’s organization, funneling information back to FBI headquarters. I’d guess that Boulin met Morgan in 1908, upon his arrival in Philadelphia. It’s entirely possible that there is information on Morgan — by way of Boulin — in the FBI archives. 

Philip Hemmings also became close with Garvey, although in his case, he was no secret agent. In 1920, he was one of the signers of Garvey’s famous “Declaration of Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World.” Another signer of the 1920 Declaration was a man named George Alexander McGuire. Of course, we’ve talked about McGuire before — he was a black Episcopal priest from the West Indies, and he almost certainly knew Fr. Raphael Morgan. Later, in 1921, he established a noncanonical body called the “African Orthodox Church.” McGuire and Marcus Garvey eventually had a falling-out, but the African Orthodox Church spread to Africa itself, and the group in Africa ultimately joined the canonical Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria.   

The 1916 letter against Marcus Garvey is the last thing I’ve found on Fr. Raphael Morgan. After that, Morgan vanishes from the historical record. His end is one of the great mysteries of American Orthodox history.