Notes on African-American History Since 1900

Who was Frederick Douglas?

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Who was Frederick Douglas?

Frederick Douglas was the only African-American leader to lead the National Movement through two economic formations (cultural capitalism) chattel slavery and industrial capitalism. Douglas correctly foresaw the major contradictions from 1848 on and foretold of the north engaging in a civil war to destroy slavery.

Frederick Douglass was born into slavery on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in 1818, and was given the name Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey (Baly), after his mother Harriet Bailey. During the course of his remarkable life he escaped from slavery, became internationally renowned for his eloquence in the cause of liberty, and went on to serve the national government in several official capacities. Through his work he came into contact with many of the leaders of his times. His early work in the cause of freedom brought him into contact with a wide array of abolitionists and social reformers, including William Lloyd Garrison, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, John Brown, Gent Smith and many others. As a major Stationmaster on the Underground Railroad he directly helped hundreds on their way to freedom through his adopted home city of Rochester, NY.

Renowned for his eloquence, he lectured throughout the US and England on the brutality and immorality of slavery. As a publisher his North Star and Frederick Douglass' Paper brought news of the anti-slavery movement to thousands. Forced to leave the country to avoid arrest after John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry, he returned to become a staunch advocate of the Union cause. He helped recruit African American troops for the Union Army, and his personal relationship with Lincoln helped persuade the President to make emancipation a cause of the Civil War. Two of Douglass' sons served in the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, which was made up entirely of African American volunteers.

All of Douglass' children were born of his marriage to Anna Murray. He met Murray, a free African American, in Baltimore while he was still held in slavery. They were married soon after his escape to freedom. After the death of his first wife, Douglass married his former secretary, Helen Pitts, of Rochester, NY. Douglass dismissed the controversy over his marriage to a white woman, saying that in his first marriage he had honored his mother's race, and in his second marriage, his father's.

In 1872, Douglass moved to Washington, DC where he initially served as publisher of the New National Era, which was intended to carry forward the work of elevating the position of African Americans in the post-Emancipation period. This enterprise was discontinued when the promised financial backing failed to materialize. In this period Douglass also served briefly as President of the Freedmen's National Bank, and subsequently in various national service positions, including US Marshal for the District of Columbia and diplomatic positions in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

The Hayes-Tilden Compromise of 1877

The 1876 presidential election gave a majority to neither the Republican candidate, Hayes nor the Democrat Tilden.

Both Democrats and Republicans claimed to have won in Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina, the last three Southern states that had not been redeemecLThis created a stand off between the two presidential candidates, the Republicans Rutherford B. Hayes and the Democrat Samuel J. Tilden. Hayes had won 167 electoral votes, Tilden had 185. Whoever took the nineteen electoral votes of the three contested states would be the next president. The controversy precipitated a constitutional crisis in 187712

By 1876, the year of the disputed Hayes-Tilden presidential election, only Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina still had Reconstruction governments. In Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia, where the former Confederates were quickly re-enfranchised, Reconstruction ended early. The Reconstruction governments in Mississippi, Louisiana, and South Carolina, which were among the last to fall, met with particularly violent fates. For as long as 30 years after the end of Reconstruction, the blacks of the Southern states continued to vote and to hold office, but as a beaten people.

Rutherford B. Hayes was responsible for the Compromise of 1877. As President he consolidated the acquiescence to white supremacy in the south by removing troops in the South and by promising federal subsidies for the construction of the Texas and Pacific railroads and other improvements. He feared a renewal of the Civil War if he did not build cooperative linkages between the regions.

After secret negotiations between leaders of the two parties, the republicans were recognized winners and set their men in the presidency. As a sign of gratitude, the new republican government agreed to withdraw federal troops from the final three states where the republicans still maintained power. The troops were withdrawn and in April 1877 and the racists seized power in these states and all of the south.

Perhaps more than any other single factor, the failure of Reconstruction to provide land for the freedmen contributed to their loss of political power and their continued status as an economically dependent people. Just as the failure of the United States to rid itself of slavery paved the way for civil war, so its failure to solve the problems and maintain the gains of Reconstruction led directly to the race problems of a later day.

At the end of Reconstruction, lynchings of African-Americans and often their allies were carried out to subordinate African-American labor and to curtail business competition from African-Americans. Lynching occurred mostly in South averaging about 100 lynchings a year climaxing in 1892 with 161. Between 1882 and 1968, 4,743 lynchings were recorded, including fifty African-American women, between 1889 and 1918.13

11"Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution 1853-1877 [NewYork: Harper & Row, 1988]

1 3 Jacqueline Jone Royster (ed). Southern Horrors and other Writings: The Anti-Lvnching. Campaign of Ida B. Wells. 1892-1900 {Boston: Bedford Books, 1977] pp 1

The Nadir (low) period 1877-1895 and mass terror:
At the end of Reconstruction, lynchings of African-Americans and often their allies were carried out to subordinate African-American laborers and to curtail business competition from African-Americans. Lynching occurred mostly in the South averaging about 100 lynchings per year climaxing in 1892 with 161. Between 1882 and 1968, 4,743 lynchings were recorded, including 50 African-American women, between 1889 and 191829
African-Americans resisted this period of organized terrorism by organizing themselves into the Knights of Labor along with progressive whites in the cities north and south as trade unionists. By 1896 there were 90,000 African-American members of the Knights of Labor (KOL). The KOL were smashed by the agents of big business.
Colored Farmers’ Alliance (CFA)

  • formed by black farmers in the South who faced many economic problems, and they were barred from joining the Southern alliance because they were African American. They formed it in Houston County, Texas, on December 11, 1886

  • tried to help its members in a variety of ways:

    • educated members on how to become better farmers, it established a weekly newspaper, the National Alliance

    • received goods at reduced prices and obtained loans to pay off mortgages.

    • raised funds to provide for longer public school terms, and in some places it founded academies.

    • urged members to uplift themselves by hard work and sacrifice

    • made up of landless people who picked cotton for white farmers.

    • tried to have cotton pickers in the South to strike, but it failed to materialize in most places. Colored Alliance started to decline rapidly. So the strike contributed to its demise.30

African-American farmers in the rural areas of the South organized themselves into the Colored Farmers Alliance in Houston County, Texas on December 11, 1886 in conjunction with (white) Farmers Alliance. Known as populists, 1.5 million African-Americans joined what they thought would be permanent white agrarian allies in forming the People’s Party to challenge the reactionary racists of the Democratic Party in the South. In 1891 when the CFA supported an African-American cotton pickers strike and the Farmers Alliance didn’t, the unity between the alliances was weakened.

Who, were Tom Watson and Ben Tillman?
Tom Watson

  • made small fortune as a lawyer and landowner prospered and entered politics in the 1880s. He was elected to the Georgia Legislature in 1882, elected to Congress as an Alliance democrat in 1890.

  • attended first Populist Party congressional caucus. At that meeting, he was nominated for Speaker of the House

  • founded Georgia Populist Party in early 1892

  • Watson was nominated for Vice President

  • was vigorous anti-Catholic crusader who called for the reorganization of the KKK

  • elected to the U. S. Senate as a Democrat in 1920. 31

Ben Tillman

  • a farmer who left school at 17 to enlist in the Confederate States Army, got very sick and lost his left eye in 1864

  • became Senator for South Carolina, was censured for assaulting fellow Senator from South Carolina in the US Senate chamber in 1902

  • during WWI, Chairman of U. S. Senate Committee on Naval Affairs

  • known as “Pitchfork Ben”

    • because of defense of farmers’ interests or

    • because he wanted to stick a pitchfork into President Grover Cleveland32

Tom Watson of Georgia and Ben Tilden of South Carolina were leading white populists leaders when the populists lost in the presidential election of 1896 and also positions on the state level. Watson and Tilden turned and became two of the South’s leading racists, eventually joining the Democratic Party. Watson became a racist Senator advocating segregation on the democratic ticket.

Local leaders and organizations emerged which generated into a national movement of the period.
Who were Ida B. Wells and T. Thomas Fortune?
Ida B. Wells

  • African-American civil-rights advocate and feminist

  • famous for her anti-lynching crusades

  • became editor and co-owner of a local African-American newspaper called, The Free Speech and Headlight, wrote under pen-name “Iola.”

  • moved to England because she got word that she was in dangerreturned to U.S., lived in Chicago and formed the Women’s Era Club, later changed to the Ida B. Wells Club

  • in June of 1895 she married Ferdinand Barnett, a prominent Chicago attorney

  • continued crusade for African American civil rights until her death in 198133

T. Thomas Fortune. Name of his last newspaper? Organization led?

  • prominent African-American journalist during post-Civil War era

  • Howard University for two years

  • started as printer for the New York Sun, edited the Globe, later became chief editor writer for the Negro World, and founded New York Age

  • organization in the 1890’s led the Afro-American League/Council

  • coined term “Afro-American” (instead of Negro in New York newspapers)

  • died in 1928, was writing for the Negro World34

T. Thomas Fortune

  • born in 1856 (the same year as Booker T. Washington)

  • editor of New York Age, considered the best Black Newspaper

  • in 1879, he came to New York City

  • became editor of the Globe first, then it later turned into The Freeman

  • in 1887 T. T. Fortune called for organization to fight for rights of Blacks

  • led the Afro-American League later called the National Afro-American Council, advocated mass direct action against Jim Crow and disenfranchisement, economic cooperation and advocated self defense to stop lynching.

National Afro-American League held Six Major Grievances (NAAL):

    1. Fight against suppression of voting rights

    2. Fight against lynch and mob law

    3. Fight against unequal funding allocations between African-American and White Schools

    4. Fight penitentiary system: i.e. chain gangs, convict leases, and indiscriminate mixing of male and female prisoners

    5. Fight tyranny practiced by southern railroads, which denied equal rights to African American passengers and permitted the indignities of whites

    6. Fight against the denial of accommodation in hotels, theaters, restaurants etc.

T. T. Fortune wanted to organize national and state chapters:

In the North – New England, Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois, Minnesota

In the West – San Francisco

In the South – Virginia, Texas, N. Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia

  • Whites were not invited.

  • 143 delegates met in 1890

Aug 1893:
The NAAL. became defunct due to lack of funds and physical support.
With Booker T. Washington’s beckoning and finance, T. Thomas Fortune reorganized.
National Afro-American Council founded
Ida B. Wells Barnett began her political career as a school teacher and fought the Jim Crow system of segregation on trains in Tennessee. She took her case to court and won $500.00 but was forced to return it when the case was overturned by the State Supreme Court. After losing her job as a school teacher, she became editor of her own newspaper. As conditions became worse and some of her friends were lynched because they had a grocery store competing with a white proprietor, she made a scientific study of lynching and launched an anti-lynching crusade. The African-American Colored Women’s Club movement came about to help launch the anti-lynching campaign. Mary Church Terrell emerged as one of the leaders of this anti-terrorism crusade. T. Thomas Fortune editor of the New York Age Newspaper worked with Ida B. Wells Barnett and helped form the African-American League/Council whose objective was to overturn Plessy vs. Ferguson, a case in which the Supreme Court upheld Separate but Equal as the law of the land in 1896.
The National African-American League failed for lack of adequate financial support. In this period of time, ex-slaves; those who had actually lived under slavery, petitioned the U.S. government for reparations, six times. The biggest lie told is that African-Americans never demanded reparations.
Who was Callie House?
Callie Guy House (1861-1928) was born into slavery in Rutherford County near Nashville, Tennessee in 1861 to parents Thomas and Ann Guy.
Callie grew to adolescence during Reconstruction and the reaction that followed it. In 1880, she lived in Rutherford County with her widowed mother, Ann Guy in the household of her sister, Sarah, and Sarah’s husband, Charles House, a labor and minister. Callie attended school, and her mother, who could not read or write, took in washing.35
In 1883, at the age of 18, Callie left her sister’s household, marrying William House, a laborer, who may have been related to her brother-in-law, Charles. Callie and William House had six children, five of whom, three girls and two boys, survived. Thomas, the eldest was born in 1885 and Annie, the youngest in 1893. Callie House’s mother apparently died sometime before the 1900 census was taken. She no longer lived in the household of any of the relatives, and she does not appear in the census anywhere thereafter.36
It is my firm belief that honest labor should be rewarded, regardless the color of the man or women who performs that labor – Callie House (1898)37
After the Civil War, Sojourner Truth led an unsuccessful petition campaign to obtain free public land for former slaves. During the 1890's Callie House organized the Ex-Slave Pensions and Bounty Society in Tennessee and filed lawsuits. The Ex-Slave Pension and Bounty Society was a reparations movement of former slaves seeking reparation payments for their forced free labor during slavery. The movement had about 1.5 million members. Ms. House petitioned Congress six times, proposing bills for reparations to ex-slaves. Before his death, Frederick Douglass endorsed the petition.38
House grew up in a poor family in central Tennessee. In 1898 she was a member of five, earning $2 a week as a Nashville washerwoman but finding time to organize the first convention of the National Ex-Slave Mutual Relief Bounty and Pension Association in Nashville, Tennessee, an organization that provided direct aid to ex-slaves and lobbied Congress for bounties and pensions.39
This was the first organization that was a mass reparation movement led by African-Americans.
House, who became the longtime secretary of the association, launched a petition drive to collect the signatures of all ex-slaves – about two million were still alive in 1898 – by using the local chapters to contact them40
If the Government had the right to free us she had a right to make some provision for us and since she did not make it soon after Emancipation she got to make it now. – Callie House – (1899)41
Callie House died in 1928 of uterine cancer.
From Accommodation to Protest 1895-1915
Starting in 1891 and extending to 1896, Walter R. Vaughan put forth the Freedmen’s Pension Bill: A national proposition to grant pensions to persons of color emancipated from slavery. The bill was introduced by W. J. Connell, M.C. from the first Nebraska District.
. . . the proper thing for the government to do in the premises would be the placing of all ex-slaves upon a civil pension listing a sum sufficient to enable them to live without the fear of certain want in their old age. The government has suffered them to be taxed as chattel since its organization and as such they have contributed directly to the public support. To right a great wrong the government can do no better, it seems to me, than to make them pensioners for the residue of their existence, especially the aged and dependent.42
Who were The Knights of Labor (KOL) & Their Mistake?

  • secret organization founded in 1869 by Uriah Stephens and five other former members of the Garment Cutters’ Association of Philadelphia

  • not open to bankers, lawyers, stockbrokers, doctors and liquor manufacturers

  • first union to attempt to unionize women and African-Americans on a national scale

  • went into decline after the formation of American Federation of Labour in 1886

  • organized African Americans in its membership. The KOL grew from 200,000 in 1879 to one million in 1896

  • in 1886 there were 60,000 African American members out of a membership of 700,000; by 1896 there were 90,000 African American members.

  • Their mistakes were they had too many strikes at the same time that were unsuccessful and businesses through goons broke the back of the union.43

Who Was Booker T. Washington?

  • born 1856

  • passed exam to get into Hampton Institute, convinced Dr. Armstrong that he should have a scholarship, and worked as a janitor to pay for school

  • graduated and got his PhD in 1875

  • began teaching at Hampton to teach Native Americans


  • given opportunity to be president of the Tuskegee Institute Industrial Education College

  • encouraged students not to bother whites


  • in 1895 at Atlanta, Georgia, Washington made a highly controversial speech on the place of the African Americans in American life. It was denounced by the African American leaders, including W. E. B. DuBois. He emerged as the first spokesmen for African Americans since Frederick Douglas

  • was the organizer of the National Negro Business League44

Booker T. Washington in 1895 urged that African-Americans stay in their land and try to advance there. He incorrectly stated that we should not strive for political rights. He accurately indicated though that the tempting Northern economic benefits would be short lived. His efforts established and maintained some African-American trade schools and universities.

Between 1882 and 1968, 4,743 lynchings were recorded, including fifty African American women between 1889 and 1889 and 1980.45
In the 1890’s the average number of African-Americans lynched were 111 per year with highest being in 1892 (161 lynchings) and 1894 (134). Mississippi had the highest rate leading the nation of a recorded total of 539 African-Americans lynched between 1882 to 1968.46
Who was Benjamin “PAP” Singleton ?

  • called himself the “Father of the Black Exodus”

  • made a living building cabinets and coffins

  • preached to former-slaves about going west to farm & own federal Homestead lands

  • called a convention in order to start the “Black Exodus”

  • the convention formed the Tennessee Emigration Society

  • established a colony at Dunlap, Morris County, Kansas, in June of 1879

  • 1882 Black Exodus had stopped

  • died out West during the late 1880s and was buried in an unidentified grave.47

Who was Edward Blyden?

  • Liberian born in St. Thomas, moved to U.S. in 1850 to become a clergyman, but was turned down because of his race when he tried to enter theological college, so he emigrated to Liberia in 1851

  • statesman, educator

  • became an able handy linguist, classicist, theologian, historian, and sociologist

  • Secretary of State in Liberia

  • 1885 unsuccessful candidate for the Liberian presidency

  • 1901-1906 director of Moslem education trying to build bridge of communication between the Moslem and Christian communities

  • Produced more than two dozen pamphlets and books and edited many African American magazines.48

Who was Alexander Crummell?

  • Born March 3, 1819 in New York City.

  • Parents: Boston Crummell and Charity (Hicks) Crummell born to free African parents

  • 1820 attended the New York African Free School and had private tutors

  • Attended the Oneida Institute in Upstate New York. He was refused admission because of race to the General Theological Seminary [Episcopal] in New York.

  • Ordained by Bishop Lee of Delaware in 1844.

  • Attended Queen’s College of Cambridge University, while working with the abolition empowerment in England in 1853.

  • Went to Liberia in 1853 and spent 15 years from 1853 to 1872, working as a farmer, educator, small businessman and Episcopal Missionary.

  • Made two trips to the United States, during the time, kept in touch with the abolitionist movement and later the new emancipated “Freedmen”

  • Returned to the United States in 1872.

  • Settled in Washington, D.C. and established St. Lukes Episcopal Church in 1879

  • Served as pastor until 1894.

  • In 1897 he founded the American Negro Academy as a challenge to the increasing power of Booker T. Washington (DuBois was a member of the ANA).

  • He wrote over 400 sermons and political essays.49

  • He rejected the get happy philosophy of “feel good religion”. He believed in self-help and self-discipline

  • He influenced the young W. E. B. DuBois. Two of his protégés John E. Bruce and William H. Ferris became senior officials in the Garvey Movement of the 1920’s

  • He passed in September 1898

Who was Mary Church Terrell?

  • a writer, lecturer, educator

  • born into one of the wealthier families in Memphis, Tennessee

  • graduate of Oberlin college in 1884… one of the African American women to complete college education

  • married Robert Terrell, then resigned her teaching post to spend the rest of her life as a lecturer, women’s rights activist, and leader of the African American Women’s Club movement

  • one of the first women presidents of the Bethel Literary and Historical Association.50

Who was Henry McNeal Turner?

  • one of the first Bishops in the African (AME) Episcopal Church

  • an army chaplain, political organizer, magazine editor, college chancellor, and preacher

  • introduced bills for:

    • higher education for African Americans

    • creation of the African American militia to protect African Americans from KKK

  • encouraged African Americans to return to Africa

  • theologian

  • declared: “God is a Negro”

  • was an agitator and a prophet who addressed the hopes and frustrations of African Americans’ struggling in the 19th century.51

Who was George Washington Williams?
Born in Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania in 1849, he ran away at the age of 14 in 1864 and joined the Union army. After the civil war he went to Mexico and fought with Republican forces that overthrew Maximillien. Returning to the United States he enlisted in the Tenth Calvary, one of the four all Negro units of the regular United States Army, from which he received a medical discharge from, in 1868. He attended the Newton Theological Institution and by the age of 25 was installed as a pastor of the Twelfth Baptist Church in Boston. The following year he went to Washington to edit The Commoner whose purpose was to replace The National Era published by Frederick Douglas which had gone bankrupt.
He soon settled in Cincinnati where he pursued various careers as pastor; columnist for The Cincinnati commercial. He became the first African American member of the state legislature of Ohio since Reconstruction. In 1882, he wrote a two-volume history titled A History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1880; Negroes as Slaves, as Soldiers and as Citizens published by Harper and Brothers.
In 1890 Williams went to study conditions in the Belgian Congo under the patronage of the railroad magnate, Collis P. Hungton. After an extensive tour of the country, he wrote an Open Letter to King Leopold II, assailing him for his inhuman policies in the Congo.52
It was the first time King Leopold II had been publicly attacked for his policies of Genocide against the Congolese people.
Williams then went to England with the intention to write a book on Africa but became ill and passed in Blackpool at the age of fort-one in 1891.

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