What was the National Afro-American League?

The National Afro-American League (NAAL), was an organization that focus to obtain full citizenship and equality for  African Americans.

The NAAL was established in 1887, it’s founders was Timothy Thomas Fortune (October 3, 1856 – June 2, 1928) and Bishop Alexander Walters (August 1, 1858 – February 2, 1917), with Joseph Charles Price (February 10, 1854 – 1893), serving as the league first president. The league first was named Afro-American League (AAL), but two years after the organization was established the name was changed to National Afro-American League. The purpose behind the organizing of the NAAL was to sought equal opportunities in voting, civil rights, education, and public accommodation. The organization also fought to end lynching’s in the South, but the league mainly focused on obtaining full citizenship and equality for African Americans.

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NAAL had it’s first meeting on January 25, 1890, and during the meeting the members adopted an constitution to not allow politician to join in order to stay away from political control. That same year Jim Crow was created and the league had a whole new problem to fight. The league began fighting Jim Crow on legal grounds.

The NAAL had several successful lawsuits including a legal victory involving the bar of a New York City hotel where Fortune himself was refused service. However, due to many who have supported the NAAL stop donating to the League and began donating to National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the organization was unable to continue its efforts and disbanded in 1893. Five years later, the NAAL revived again, but became the Afro American Council (AAC) with Fortune again in a leadership role and Alexander Walters  (August 1, 1858 – February 2, 1917), as president.

 

Who was Timothy Thomas Fortune?

Timothy T. Fortune was an prominent Black American civil rights leader, journalist, writer, editor, and publisher.

Fortune was born into slavery in Marianna, Jackson County, Florida on October 3, 1856, to parents Emanuel and Sarah Jane Fortune. The Fortune’s was emancipated in 1863, by United states 16th President Abraham Lincoln. Fortune began his education at Stanton High School for Negros (now Stanton College Preparatory School). After graduating Fortune moved North to Delaware where he found work as an customs inspector. Fortune enrolled into Howard University where he studied law, but after one year of school Fortune decided he wanted to be an journalist.

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Fortune moved to Alexandria, Virginia where he meant his wife Carrie C. Smiley. And in 1876, he found his first newspaper People’s Advocate. After receiving a lot of racial discrimination, Fortune decided to moved his family to New York in 1881. Settled in New York, Fortune established another newspaper called New York Globe, ended up changing the name twice. First to New York Freeman and finally to New York Age. Fortune became known as the greatest black newspaper writer.

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After what Fortune witnessed what was happening to Black Americans throughout the South he used his journalist popularity and began to fight for civil rights for black Americans. In 1887, Fortune established the National Afro-American League (NAAL), along with another prominent black American Bishop Alexander Walters (August 1, 1858 – February 2, 1917). The league main focus was to obtain full citizenship and equality for Black Americans. The league was short lived disbanding in 1893, due to lack of support and funds.

In 1927, at the age 67 Fortune was made editor of Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr., (17 August 1887 – 10 June 1940), newspaper called Negro World. He held that position until his death.

Timothy Thomas Fortune died on June 2, 1928, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was 72.

Who was Bishop Alexander Walters?

Bishop Alexander Walters was an American clergyman and noted civil rights leader.

Alexander Walters was born August 1, 1858 in Bardstown, Kentucky the oldest son of Henry and Harriet Walters, the sixth of eight children.  By the age of ten, Walters had shown such academic progress that he was awarded by the African Episcopal Zion Church a full scholarship to attend private schooling. In 1877 at the age of nineteen, Walters received his license to preach and began his pastoral duties in Indianapolis, Indiana. In his career as a pastor, Walter served in cities across the country including Louisville, San Francisco, Portland (Oregon), Chattanooga, Knoxville and New York. In 1892, as a minister at the Seventh District of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Walters was selected as bishop.

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In 1898, Bishop Alexander Walters began to devote his attention to the ongoing African American civil rights struggle.  In partnership with T. Thomas Fortune, the editor of the New York Age, Walters founded the National Afro-American Council and served as its president.  This organization focused primarily on challenging racially discriminatory legislation and in particular the “separate but equal” Plessy vs. Ferguson U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1896.  Walters also challenged Booker T. Washington’s ideas of accommodation to segregation and discrimination.

Bishop Walters, in partnership with W.E.B DuBois, was a member of the 1908, Niagara Movement from which he helped in organizing the founding conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).  Walters became vice president of the NAACP in 1911. Bishop Walters declined an invitation by President Woodrow Wilson to be minister (ambassador) to Liberia in order to prompt AMEZ Church education programs in the United States.

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Until his death in 1917, Bishop Alexander Walters continued to remain active in his leadership of AMEZ Church affairs and maintained his devoted support as a formidable civil rights advocate of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Bishop Alexander Walters died February 2, 1917, at the age 59.

Contribution: BLACKPAST.ORG

Who was Joseph Charles Price?

Joseph Charles Price, founder and first president of Livingston College, in North Carolina, was born free on February 10, 1854 in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. His mother, a free black woman named Emily Paulin, moved with her son to New Bern, North Carolina which was then occupied by Union forces, to escape the violence of the Civil War. Shortly after, she married David Price and Joseph took his stepfather’s name.  In New Bern Joseph Price studied at St. Cyprian Episcopal School founded for the children of ex-slaves by Boston educators.  He later attended Shaw University in Raleigh in 1873 but transferred to Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in 1875.  Price graduated as valedictorian in 1879 after winning several oratorical prizes.  Impressed with the young Price, Bishop James Walker Hood of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church appointed him to its delegation to the World Ecumenical Conference meeting in London, England.

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In London Price amazed audiences with his powerful speaking.  Called “The World’s Orator” by the British press, Price was encouraged by the delegation to stay in England and raise funds for the reestablishment of Zion Wesley Institute, later to be Livingston College.  The original school was founded in 1870 as a seminary for training A.M.E. Zion ministers, but closed after only three years in operations.  Over the next year, Price was able to raise $10,000 for the school, and returned to North Carolina in 1882.  The town of Salisbury offered the school $1,000 and 40 acres called “Delta Grove” belonging to J.M. Gray.  The school opened later that year with 28-year-old Joseph Price as its president.

For the next ten years Price served as president of Livingston College. In 1890 he became involved in the Afro-American League and was elected president of the National Protective Association.  That same year he was voted one of the “Ten Greatest Negroes Who Ever Lived.” Price advocated education to help ameliorate the damages done by generations of slavery and discrimination for whites as well as blacks. He died in Salisbury, North Carolina in 1893.

Contribution: BLACKPAST.ORG

 

Black Americans Hunted and Killed Phoenix Election Night Riot

The Phoenix Election riot beginning on November 8, 1898, was a riot and mass lynching initiated by white South Carolinians in the name of Redemption in Greenwood County, South Carolina. Over a dozen prominent black leaders were murdered and hundreds were injured by the all white mob.

The small town of Phoenix was the home of the land-owning white Tolbert family. Its patriarch John R. Tolbert had risen to Colonel in the Confederate Army, but held to liberal principles, voted Republican, and encouraged the local black population to assert their rights. The state legislature had closed all Phoenix polls in 1868 to block the Tolbert’s influence.

On election night 1898 an altercation at a Tolbert-owned store, a white Democratic partisan named J.I. Etheridge was shot and killed. This triggered four days of violence directed mainly at the black population. On the 9th the white mob on horseback encountered a four-year-old Benjamin Elijah Mays (August 1, 1894 – March 28, 1984), and his father, a moment that Mays “never forgot”.Three hundred heavily armed men gathered. An estimated twelve African-Americans were fatally shot or hung, through the 13th. An elderly black woman named Eliza Cooke was also shot and killed. Whites who refused to join were also threatened.

U.S. Senator Benjamin Ryan Tillman (August 11, 1847 – July 3, 1918) was a politician of the Democratic Party and who was the Governor of South Carolina from 1890 to 1894, spoke on the riot a year later, and was quoted as saying, “If you want to uproot the snake [of black voting] and kill it, go and kill the Tolbert’s.”

 

Booker T. Washington and the Atlanta Compromise

The Atlanta compromise was an agreement struck in 1895 between Booker Taliaferro Washington (April 5, 1856 – November 14, 1915), president of the Tuskegee University, and other Black American leaders, and Southern white leaders. The compromise was announced on September 18, 1895, at the Atlanta Exposition Speech. The agreement was that Southern Blacks would work and submit to white Political rule, and Southern whites guaranteed that blacks would receive basic education and due process in law. The compromise also was that blacks would not agitate for equality, integrations or justice, and whites would fund blacks educational charities.

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The agreement was never written down. Essential elements of the agreement were that blacks would not ask for the right to vote. The Compromise agreement had it’s critics, none more than two prominent black leaders of that time W.E. Du Bois (February 23, 1868 – August 27, 1963) and William Monroe Trotter (April 7, 1872 – April 7, 1934). Both men ), took issue with the compromise, instead believing that African-Americans should engage in a struggle for civil rights. W. E. B. Du Bois coined the term “Atlanta Compromise” to denote the agreement. The term “accommodationism” is also used to denote the essence of the Atlanta compromise.

After Washington’s death in 1915, supporters of the Atlanta compromise gradually shifted their support to civil rights activism, until the modern Civil Rights Movement commenced in the 1950s.

Why would Booker T. Washington find the Atlanta Compromise acceptable is unclear. His motives behind it is also unclear.

 

Lynching at the Peoples Grocery

The People’s Grocery was owned by prominent blacks in Memphis. The store was located outside of Memphis. One of the owners were Thomas or Tommie Moss an friend to Ida B. Well.

It all began on a Wednesday afternoon of March 2, 1892 when a young black boy named Armour Harris and a white boy named Cornelius Hurst got into a fight over a game of marbles outside of the Peoples Grocery. Hurst father stepped in and began beating Harris. Two black worker at the Peoples Grocery Will Stewart and Calvin McDowell came to Harris defense. When a white grocer William Barrett, who store were located right across the street from the Peoples Grocery, saw that the Hurst was outnumbered he also intervened. At one point during the altercation Barrett was clubbed. After everyone disperse and the police was on scene Barrett identified Steward as the one who assaulted him.

On the following day the police returned to Peoples Grocery to arrest Stewart, but was met by McDowell who told the officers that no one matching Steward description was within the store. Barrett became frustrated and hit McDowell in the face with his revolver knocking McDowell to the floor and dropping his revolver. It was said that McDowell picked up the revolver and fired at Barrett missing. McDowell was taken into police custody.

Hearing about McDowell arrest and the police looking to arrest Steward the black community rallied together to discuss what they should do. Barrett and other whites brought it to the authorities attention of blacks conspiracy against whites.

On the night of March 5, 1892, armed white men marched down to the Peoples Grocery a few were police officers in plain clothing. The black men were waiting inside the store anticipating a attack from whites and they were also armed and ready. What the black men did not know was some of the mob were police officers. When the white mob entered the store shots were fired and several whites were hit. Over powered the injured whites retreated to Barrett store and called in other police officers. When the Black men surrendered to the officers believing they had an arguable case in the court.

Thomas Moss was also arrested even through he was not involved, but because he was an owner of the store whites believed he was the ringleader and he was also indicted for his attitude when he was arrested.

None of the injured Officers died from their wounds.

On Wednesday, March 9, 1892, at about 2:30 a.m. seventy-five men in black masks surrounded the Shelby County Jail and nine entered. They dragged Thomas Moss, Will Stewart, and Calvin McDowell from their cells and brought them to a Chesapeake & Ohio railroad yard a mile outside of Memphis.

At the railroad yard McDowell “struggled mightily” and at one point managed to grab a shotgun from one of his abductors. After the mob wrested it from him they shot at his hands and fingers “inch by inch” until they were shot to pieces. Replicating the wounds the white deputies had suffered they shot four holes into McDowell’s face, each large enough for a fist to enter. His left eye was shot out and the “ball hung over his cheek in shreds.” His jaw was torn out by buckshot. Where “his right eye had been there was a big hole which his brains oozed out.” The Appeal-Avalanche  newspaper added his injuries were in accord with his “vicious and unyielding nature.”

Will Stewart was described as the most stoic of the three, “obdurate and unyielding to the last.” He was also shot on the right side of the neck with a shotgun, and was shot with a pistol in the neck and left eye.

Moss was also shot in the neck. His dying words, reported in the papers, were, “Tell my people to go West, there is no justice for them here.”

This event sparked an emigration movement that eventually saw 6,000 blacks leave Memphis for the Western Territories.

 

 

What was the True Reformers Bank?

The Savings Bank of the Grand Fountain United Order of True Reformers was the first bank owned by African Americans in the United States. It was founded on March 2, 1888 by Reverend William Washington Browne and opened on April 3, 1889.

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Born in 1849, Browne was a former Georgia slave who escaped joined the Union Army in the North. After the American Civil War, he founded the Grand Fountain United Order of True Reformers, a black fraternal organization. In 1887 when Browne visited Charlotte County, Virginia to establish a local branch of the True Reformers, he encountered problems. The branch arranged to keep its savings with a white shopkeeper in the county, but with racial tensions high after an 1887 lynching, the shopkeeper told other white residents that local blacks were organizing and raising funds, and the branch was forced to disband. Browne decided the True Formers would have to found and run a bank itself so that its finances could not be monitored by whites.

The Savings Bank of the Grand Fountain United Order of True Reformers Bank opened a year after its founding, initially operating out of Browne’s home at 105 West Jackson Street in the Jackson Ward district of Richmond, Virginia. The first day’s deposits totaled $1,269.28. In 1891, the bank moved several blocks away to 604-608 North Second Street. The bank grew and survived the financial panic of 1893, during which it was the only bank in Richmond to maintain full operation, honoring all checks and paying out the full value of accounts.

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Rev. Browne died in 1897 but the bank continued to thrive after his death, expanding into a number of other services including a newspaper, a real estate agency, a retirement home and a building and loan association. New branches opened as far away as Kansas, and by 1900 the bank was operating in 24 states, owning property valued at a total of $223,500.

After the turn of the century, the bank’s prospects began to falter under its new president, Reverend William Lee Taylor. Distant branches were poorly regulated, and the strict rules the bank had required for its operations in its first years were allowed to grow lax. Under Taylor, the bank made large, unsecured loans to finance lodge projects. Those loans often defaulted. When the bank’s cashier, R.T. Hill, was discovered to have embezzled $50,000 from the company, the resulting scandal brought down the bank, and most account holders lost their savings.

The bank examiner of the banking division of the State Corporation Commission ordered the closure of the bank on October 20, 1910. True Reformers Bank was placed into receivership six days later.

Contributor: BLACKPAST.ORG

 

African Americans attacked and killed during the Thibodaux Massacre

The Thibodaux Massacre was a racial attack by local whites against blacks in Thibodaux, Louisiana in November of 1887.

It all began when the Knight of Labor (K of L), one of the largest and important American labor organization of the 1880’s were informed of the mistreatment and underpaid workers on sugar plantations in Thibodaux. The major issue on the sugar plantations were, the workers were begin force by the plantation owners to accept scrip for pay instead of currency, and the scrip were only redeemable at the owners store. Most of the workers were black and even through slavery had been abolished by this time over twenty years the black workers found themselves still in a form of slavery as they worked on these plantations.

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In October, about a month before the strike the Knight of Labor (K of L) made demands to the plantation owners to increase the sugar cane workers wages to $1.25 a day, bi-weekly payments and demanded they pay their works in currency and not in scrip. After the plantation owners ignored all of Knight of Labor(K of L) demands a strike was called. The strike threatened the sugar cane harvest for that year. The plantation owners seek help from the Governor Samuel Douglas McEnery, who was also a sugar cane planter and the Governor called in the Militia.

On the morning the November 22, most of the sugar plantation workers along with the Knight of Labor(K of L) began their strike against the owners and their regulations. The militia attacked the strikers and the attack lasted three days. Although the number of casualties is unknown, at least 35 whites were killed and as many as 300 blacks were said to be killed, wounded or missing.