This article examines the diasporic political linkages between the U.S. Midwest and West Africa through the largely unknown encounters of James R. Stewart, William L. Sherrill, and Clarence W. Harding, Jr., on the continent. They were leaders in the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) founded by Jamaican black nationalist Marcus Garvey. During its heyday in the early 1920s, the UNIA claimed six million members worldwide, including in the American heartland and West Africa. Stewart of Cleveland, Ohio, emigrated to Liberia in 1949. Sherrill of Detroit, Michigan, attended the 1957 independence ceremonies in Ghana, whereas Harding of Chicago, Illinois, moved to Liberia in 1966 and built a dynamic, grassroots Garvey movement in the West African nation. Their sojourns to the continent extend the analytical, geographic, and temporal parameters of the history of West Africa and the black diaspora through tracing the transnational linkages between the American heartland and continent, the gendered contours and paradoxes of Pan- Africanism, and the endurance and uneven results of Garveyism in Africa from the 1920s through the 1970s.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-114
JournalJournal of West African History
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2016


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