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C. H. J. Taylor

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

C.H.J. Taylor
C.H.J. Taylor

Charles Henry James Taylor,[1] usually styled C.H.J. Taylor (1857–1899), was an African American journalist, editor, lawyer, orator, and political organizer. An early supporter of Democratic Grover Cleveland, he was appointed Minister to Liberia in Cleveland's first presidential term.

During Cleveland's second term, Taylor was the first African American ever nominated for a diplomatic appointment to a "white" country (Bolivia), although he was not confirmed by the Senate. He was subsequently made Recorder of Deeds for the District of Columbia, a position he held until early in the McKinley administration. After leaving Washington, Taylor edited an Atlanta newspaper, The Southern Appeal, as well as being dean of the Law Department at Morris Brown College.

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Early life

Taylor was born in slavery on a plantation near Marion, Alabama, possibly in 1856, although sources differ on the year of his birth, as about many details of his life. After the Civil War he went with his family to Savannah, where he was educated at Beach Institute, a school of the American Missionary Association.[2] He may have attended Oberlin College, in Ohio, and have studied law at the University of Michigan. He claimed to have graduated from the latter institution, although there is no record of his having done so.[3] He was admitted to the bar in Marion County, Indiana, in 1882, and served as a deputy district attorney in Indiana’s Nineteenth Judicial District.[4] In 1883, while teaching school in Palmyra, Missouri, Taylor met and married Julia Shropshire,[5] and in the following year moved to Kansas, where he began his career as an orator and political organizer.

First Cleveland administration

Although Taylor, like most African Americans at the time, initially supported Republican candidates and campaigned for Kansas Republican gubernatorial candidate John Martin in 1884, he was disappointed at the lack of patronage positions Republicans offered blacks.[6] In 1884 he began publishing a newspaper, “in the interests of democracy,”[5] and in 1886 ran for local office in Wyandotte County as an independent. In 1887, Cleveland appointed Taylor U.S. Minister to Liberia. He stayed in Liberia only five months, claiming he had returned to campaign for Cleveland’s re-election, although he later made statements strongly critical of Liberian politics, and of the emigration schemes of the American Colonization Society.

In the run-up to the 1888 presidential election, Taylor participated in founding the National Negro Democratic League at a meeting in Saint Louis, together with Herbert A. Clark and J. Milton Turner. The primary purpose of the League, according to Bruce Mouser, was to prepare lists of African American candidates for “high level patronage positions” in the event of a Democratic administration.[7] In the same year, Taylor gave speeches at the Kansas and Missouri state Democratic conventions and was elected as an alternate in the Kansas delegation to the national Democratic convention in St. Louis, “the first and only Negro ever sent to a Democratic National convention,” according to one contemporary account.[5] Taylor campaigned for Cleveland’s re-election in several swing states, including Iowa, Indiana, Missouri and New York.

Cleveland interregnum

After Cleveland’s defeat, Taylor settled in Atlanta, where he built up a large legal practice; a contemporary newspaper account described him as the first black lawyer in the history of Atlanta to appear in city court as an attorney.[8] In 1889, he published a lengthy pamphlet, Whites and Blacks, or The Question Settled, which criticized the loyalty of African Americans to the Republican party and argued that blacks in the South would only achieve civil liberty by cultivating better relations with white southerners: “The Southern white men,” Taylor wrote,” will give the Negro all he merits.”[9]

In the following year, however, Taylor returned to Kansas, perhaps due to the deteriorating racial climate in Georgia as well as the changing political scene in Kansas with the rise of the Populist Party.[10] He became editor of a black newspaper in Kansas City, Kansas, The American Citizen, and ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the Kansas legislature on the “fusion” Democratic-Populist ticket in the 1890 election.[11] As the 1892 presidential election approached, Taylor spoke frequently in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and neighboring states against prohibition, the so-called “McKinley tariff,” and in support of Democratic candidates. He became head of the National Negro Democratic League in 1892, giving him considerable national influence over the awarding of patronage positions to African Americans following the Cleveland victory.

Second Cleveland administration

Cleveland nominated Taylor as Minister to Bolivia in September, 1893. After almost five months of delay, the Senate refused to confirm the nomination, claiming the Bolivians would not accept a black representative. Cleveland then nominated Taylor to be Recorder of Deeds for the District of Columbia, also a highly controversial nomination since District Democrats wished one of their own to have the position.[12] Taylor’s nomination was ultimately confirmed by the Senate, owing partly to the intervention of the venerable Frederick Douglass, who had previously been Recorder.[13] Throughout his tenure as Recorder, Taylor continued to face intense criticism. The Civil Service Commission, among whose members was Theodore Roosevelt, found him guilty of unfair campaign levies on African American civil servants and recommended his dismissal to President Cleveland. He was also accused by the editor of the Washington Bee, Calvin Chase, of immoral relationships with women.

Taylor successfully sued Chase for libel, resulting in a jail term for Chase.[14] Cleveland did not act on the Commission's recommendation, and Taylor continued as Recorder of Deeds through the rest of the Democratic administration.

Post-Cleveland life

Following the Democratic defeat in 1896, Taylor practiced law for a time in Baltimore before becoming dean of the Law department at Morris Brown College in Atlanta. He continued to practice law, give speeches, and edit a newspaper, the Southern Appeal, until his health went into decline. He died in May, 1899, and was interred in Baltimore.

Taylor’s personal relationship with Grover Cleveland became the subject of controversy in 1904 when a Republican congressman from Kansas, attempting to counter Democratic criticisms of Theodore Roosevelt for dining with Booker T. Washington, claimed that Cleveland had dined with Taylor. Weeks of claims and counter-claims followed, including a letter from Cleveland himself denying he had ever lunched with Taylor. There was suspicion that Cleveland was thinking of running for a third presidential term and wanted to curry favor with white southerners, for many of whom "social equality" between blacks and whites was a taboo.[15]

As late as 1936, a white Democratic politician from Kansas City, Joseph B. Shannon, on the occasion of the dedication of a series of portraits of District of Columbia Recorders of Deeds, praised Taylor for his “courage and convictions”: “It took courage for a colored man to take the stand that Taylor took at that time,” Shannon said. “And I want to say here that he had that courage, coupled with an intelligence and independence of thought that in my opinion links his name with such men of his race as Booker Washington, Paul Dunbar, Paul Robeson, Countee Cullen and others whose names have brought honor to the Negro race of the country.”[16]


  1. ^ "Charles Henry James Taylor (1857–1899)". Office of the Historian, United States Department of State.
  2. ^ Woods, Randall (Summer 1982). "C.H.J. Taylor and the Movement for Black Political Independence, 1882-1896". The Journal of Negro History. 67 (2): 123. doi:10.2307/2717570.
  3. ^ Smith, J. Clay (1999). Emancipation: The Making of the Black Lawyer, 1844-1944. University of Pennsylvania. p. 433. ISBN 978-0812216851.
  4. ^ Smith, J. Clay (1999). Emancipation: The Making of the Black Lawyer, 1844-1944. University of Pennsylvania. p. 387. ISBN 978-0812216851.
  5. ^ a b c "Short Review of the Career of the Late C.H.J. Taylor and Favorable Mention of His Widow, Mrs. Julia A. Taylor". Broad Ax (Salt Lake City). January 2, 1904.
  6. ^ Taylor, Nikki (2013). America's First Black Socialist:The Radical Life of Peter H. Clark. University Press of Kentucky. p. 286. ISBN 978-0813140773.
  7. ^ Mouser, Bruce L. (2011). For Labor, Race, and Liberty: George Edwin Taylor, His Historic Run for the White House and the Making of Independent Black Politics. University of Wisconsin Press. p. 67. ISBN 978-0299249144.
  8. ^ Charlotte (NC) News, January 12, 1889, p. 2.
  9. ^ Taylor, C.H.J. (1889). Whites and Blacks, or The Question Settled. Atlanta: Harrison.
  10. ^ Woods, Randall (Summer 1982). "C.H.J. Taylor and the Movement for Black Political Independence, 1882-1896". The Journal of Negro History. 67 (2): 128. doi:10.2307/2717570.
  11. ^ Woods, Randall (Summer 1982). "C.H.J. Taylor and the Movement for Black Political Independence, 1882-1896". The Journal of Negro History. 67 (2): 123. doi:10.2307/2717570.
  12. ^ "Discussed Taylor's Case". Kansas City Times. May 9, 1894.
  13. ^ Wichita Daily Eagle, August 24, 1894, p1.}
  14. ^ "Admitted to Bail". Washington Evening Star. March 8, 1895.
  15. ^ "Keeping His Record Straight". Washington Evening Star. April 13, 1904.
  16. ^ "Former Kansas Recorder Lauded by J.B. Shannon". Plaindealer (Kansas City, Kansas). December 25, 1936.
  • "Admitted to Bail." Washington Evening Star, March 8, 1895, p. 12.
  • Charlotte (NC) News, January 12, 1889, p. 2.
  • “Death of C.H.J. Taylor,” The Broad Ax (Salt Lake City), June 6, 1899, p. 1.
  • "Discussed Taylor's Case." Kansas City Times, May 9, 1894, p. 1.
  • "Former Kansas Recorder lauded by J.B. Shannon." Plaindealer (Kansas City, Kansas). December 25, 1936, p. 2.
  • "Keeping His Record Straight." Washington Evening Star, April 13, 1904, p. 4.
  • Mouser, Bruce. For Labor, Race, and Liberty: George Edwin Taylor, His Historic Run for the White House, and the Making of Independent Black Politics. 2011: University of Wisconsin Press.
  • “Short Review of the Career of the late C.H.J. Taylor and Favorable Mention of his Widow, Mrs. Julia A. Taylor.” The Broad Ax (Salt Lake City). January 2, 1904, p. 2.
  • Smith, J. Clay. Emancipation: the Making of the Black Lawyer, 1844-1944. University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999.
  • Taylor, Nikki. America’s First Black Socialist: The Radical Life of Peter H. Clark. University Press of Kentucky, 2013.
  • "To Bounce Negro Taylor." Wichita Daily Eagle, August 24, 1894, p. 1.
  • Woods, Randall B. “C.H.J. Taylor and the Movement for Black Political Independence, 1882-1896. The Journal of Negro History, Vol 67, No. 2 (Summer, 1982), pp. 122–135.
This page was last edited on 18 July 2018, at 05:36
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