African Americans Returning to the U.S. from Honduras [Jimmy Johnson]Jimmy Johnson was born in either 1911 or 1913 in Louisville, KY, and lived later at 99 W. Springfield Street in Roxbury, MA. Not many African Americans from Kentucky had migrated to Massachusetts before or after the Civil War. The U.S. Census shows just one free African American from Kentucky living in Massachusetts in 1850, 28 in 1870, and in 1920, 184. Among those 184 there were three Johnson families, but Jimmy Johnson was not listed as a member of any of those families.
According to the La Perla (ship) passenger list for July 1932, Johnson was described as a "USC (United States Citizen)=Stowaway=From Boston." The La Perla was owned by the United Fruit Company, a U.S. Corporation based in Boston, MA; the company traded in tropical fruit grown in the West Indies and Central American countries and sold in the U.S. and Europe. United Fruit Company was the largest employer in Central America and managed the postal service in Guatemala. Its steamers transported the fruit, mail, passengers, and cargo between the United States and Central America.
In 1928, Roy T. Davis, the U.S. Minister to Costa Rica, wrote the Secretary of State, Frank B. Kellogg, to say the State Department had been informed that Marcus Garvey (UNIA) had received a large donation and monthly subscriptions from Negro employees of the United Fruit Company in Costa Rica. Garvey was denied a return visit to Costa Rica and prohibited from visiting Honduras.
The exact number of American Negroes living in Honduras prior to the 1930s is not known. May Ford, a former slave from New Orleans, LA, had sailed to Honduras in 1868 with his former owner, George Henry Friarson, aboard the steamship Trade Winds. Friarson had plantation interests in Honduras; he returned to the U.S. after a brief stay. May Ford decided to remain in Honduras and had various jobs, including work on fruit plantations. He was about 76 years old when he returned to the U.S. in 1904 aboard the Anselm (owned by the United Fruit Company); May's passage was paid for by Friarson's son.
In 1910, six-year old Beresford L. Grant, a U.S. citizen, returned from Honduras with his mother, Wilhelmina Grant (born in England). The Grants and two other Negroes born in England arrived at the Tampa, FL, port on June 6, 1910, aboard the Carrie W. Babson. The Grants and one of the other passengers had been living in Belize, British Honduras.
There were other American Negroes who returned to the U.S. from Honduras as stowaways.
In 1932, Kentucky native Jimmy Johnson returned to the Boston, MA, port aboard the La Perla; he had boarded the ship at the Puerto Castilla port in Honduras. The port had been built by the United Fruit Company and was used to transport goods from the Castilla Division of the United Fruit Company. The Castilla Division operated until the late 1930s.
It is not known why Jimmy Johnson went to Honduras, what his occupation was while there, or why he stowed away on the La Perla to return to the United States. Two other stowaways from Honduras were 20-year old Amos Bailey from Hattiesburg, MS, and a man who went by the name Vans Miller (18 or 19 years old) and claimed to be a U.S. citizen from Philadelphia, PA. According to the Galveston, TX, Passenger List, Bailey and Miller had been laborers in Honduras, and both left from the Puerto Castilla port aboard the Comoyagua (owned by the United Fruit Company) and returned to the U.S. at the Galveston port on June 24, 1936. Bailey was admitted to the country as an American Negro citizen, but Miller, who spoke both English and Spanish, was denied.
For more about the United Fruit Company see Bananas: how the United Fruit Company shaped the world, by P. Chapman. For more about the United Fruit Company in Honduras see M. Moberg, "Crown colony as Banana Republic: the United Fruit Company in British Honduras, 1900-1920," Journal of Latin American Studies, vol. 28, issue 2 (May 1996), pp. 357-381. For more about the fleets owned by the United Fruit Company, see The Ships List website for the United Fruit Company. For more about Marcus Garvey and Honduras, see The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers, vol. 12, edited by R. A. Hill. For more about May Ford, see "Back to slavery home," The Washington Post, 08/22/1904, p. 12.