|Marcus - Why I Have not Spoken in Chicago Since 1919|
|WHY I HAVE NOT SPOKEN IN CHICAGO SINCE 1919 |
In 1919 the "Chicago Defender," published by Robert S. Abbott, libeled the Black Star Line Corporation and me. Abbott has always, through rivalry and jealousy, been opposed to me, especially through my not being born in America and my criticism of his dangerous newspaper policy of always advising the race to lighten its black skin and straighten out its kinky hair. I am also hated by him because of my determination to dignify the term Negro as against his policy of referring to the race only as "race men" or "race women" without defining what race, whether Caucasian, Mongolian, African or Negro.
Action was brought against Abbott in New York and subsequently on other charges in Chicago. The libel suit of the Black Star Line was tried in New York in the Fall of 1920 and judgment was returned in favor of the company. My suit in New York was deferred on the calendar for 1921 and the cases in Chicago against Abbott were listed for the Fall of 1921.
In the Fall of 1919 I visited Chicago to address a series of meeting in the interests of the Universal Negro Improvement Association. During my stay in the city the following incidents happen: When the Black Star Line was incorporated in June, 1919, I was told by its colored attorney in New York that among the States the corporation was permitted to sell stock was Illinois. On my preparing to visit Chicago in the Fall he again assured me that it was legal for the company to sell stock in Chicago. On my going to the city the corporation sent one of its stock salesmen along with my party, consisting of five person, my private secretary, my stenographer, the American leader of the Association and the International organizer and myself. At the meetings where I spoke it was customary for the company, through its salesman, to sell stock to the members of the organization. Not knowing the laws of Illinois and believing the advice of the attorney for the company, I allowed the salesman to sell stock for the corporation at the first meeting I address in the series. My name as President of the corporation, along with that of the Treasurer or Secretary, had already been signed to stock certificates in the New York office, and one of the books containing these stock certificates was given to the stock salesman by the New York office. He sold about $90.00 worth of stock at the meeting by filling in the people's names above the signatures and made his own entries on the counterfoil. The "Chicago Defender," I was informed, employed a colored man, connected with a detective agency, to approach me at my lodgings the following morning after I had addressed a large assembly the night previous at the public school where the meetings were being held, to request me to sell him two shares of stock ($5.00 per share) in the Black Star Line. I told him that I did not sell stock, but that there was a stock salesman somewhere about the city who represented the company and who would attend to him. He said his wife attended the meeting I addressed the previous night and she was so impressed with the speeches and had become so interested to join m and help the race and the organization that she sent him right off as he came home from work to get the stock, and that he must take it home, for, "you know," he said, "when a woman wants a thing, she must have it." He implored me to try and find the address where he could locate the salesman. I hadn't the address, so I advised him to be at the meeting that night, when the salesman would be there. He said he would be at the meeting, but he wanted to give his wife the stock before for her satisfaction. My secretary, who had the telephone number of the local division of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, was out, and I advised the man, if he was in such a hurry, to wait in the parlor for the arrival of the secretary, who might give him the telephone number or address of the office. I left the man waiting. About five minutes later my secretary returned, and she informed me that she had given a man on the main floor the address of the local office, as he informed her that I stated he might find the stock salesman there. I dismissed the matter from my mind and never gave it another thought until at eight o'clock that night, five minutes before I was scheduled to speak to a large audience of thousands that had assembled, when I was suddenly called from the platform by two white men in company with the colored man and, informed that I was under arrest for violating the Blue Sky law or something to that effect. I never knew, at that time, that there was such a law as a "blue sky law" or "grey sky law." I had been in the country just over a couple of years and all my time and attention were given to organization work, depending on others to inform me about the law. I was more interested in the good of humanity than the law. When I arrived at the police station, dressed in my evening clothes, I found out what it was all about. My secretary had me released under bond of $2,000 to appear in court the next morning. My release was at ten o'clock that night, which was too late to address the meeting from which I was taken. The plan was to spoil my meetings and humiliate me--the colored man's way of revenging his adversary.
The next morning, when I arrived in court with a lawyer, who was attorney to a banker friend of mine in Chicago, who arranged the bail, I found the courtroom crowded with representatives of the "Chicago Defender." The lawyer explained the situation of my not knowing that there was such a law to be violated. The Court sensed the plot, and with the consent of the representative of the State Attorney's office, the amount paid for stock was refunded by the stock salesman, and I believe I was fined $100.00 or the case dismissed. It was all done by the attorney in consultation with the Judge, and I made no further inquiries. Three days after this incident, on preparing to leave Chicago for Pittsburgh, where I had ail appointment, I was served with notice of suit filed against me for libel by Robert S. Abbott, editor and proprietor of the "Chicago Defender." I was at a loss to know whereat or how I libeled the man. I took the notice to an attorney (colored) whom I met on my first visit to Chicago in 1917, and whose wife had spoken in New York on special invitation before the members of the Universal Negro Improvement Association. The notice or summons did not state in detail the nature of the offense. He was paid a retainer of $100 and instructed to register his appearance on my behalf immediately. He stated to me that no particulars were filed and that it was just an attempt to scare me. However, he would attend to the matter and keep me informed at my home in New York. I wrote to this attorney several times in 1920, and he informed me that nothing had been filed against me. The two cases I had against Abbott in Chicago were also deferred on the calendar and I was told by the attorney that I be would informed of the time of trial. I planned a thirty-day trip to the West Indies and Central America in the Spring of 1921. A month before I wrote to the attorneys in Chicago about the cases, and I was informed that they would not be called in my absence. I also had the assurance of the New York colored attorney that the New York case against Abbott would not be called. As I have explained many times before, I was forcibly kept out of the United States for five months, during which time the two cases against Abbott in Chicago and the one in New York were allowed to go by default, without any information notice to me about them, and the Abbott case against me in Chicago was allowed to go to trial and a default judgment taken for $5,000. A month after Abbott took out a body execution warrant against me. On my learning of the matter, I sought to open the case, and I was advised that a reopening would not be allowed. This accounts for my non-appearance in Chicago since 1919.
|Haile Selassie I|