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John C. Dancy
John C Dancy 1902.jpg
Dancy in 1902
Born(1857-05-08)May 8, 1857
DiedDecember 5, 1920(1920-12-05) (aged 63)
Washington, DC
OccupationPolitician, educator, journalist
Political partyRepublican
ReligionAfrican Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

John C. Dancy (May 8, 1857 – December 5, 1920) was a politician, journalist, and educator in North Carolina and Washington, DC. For many years he was the editor of African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion church newspapers Star of Zion and then Zion Quarterly. In 1897 he was appointed collector of customs at Wilmington, North Carolina, but was chased out of town in the Wilmington insurrection of 1898, in part for his activity in the National Afro-American Council which he helped found that year and of which he was an officer. He then moved to Washington, DC where he served as Recorder of Deeds from 1901 to 1910. His political appointments came in part as a result of the influence of his friend, Booker T. Washington

Early life

John Campbell Dancy was born a slave in Tarboro, North Carolina on May 8, 1857.[1] His father was also named John Campbell Dancy, but he was not called junior, although his son would be.[2] He began attending school after the American Civil War (1861–1865). In 1873 he began working as an office boy at the Tarboro Southerner, and within a few months was working as a typographer. However, he faced discrimination on account of his race and soon left the position to enroll in Howard University in Washington, DC. He soon left the school to return home to take care of his family when his father died. Back in North Carolina he briefly taught school, but then was appointed to a position in the United States Treasury Department and returned to the capital, through the influence of John A. Hyman. Less than a year later he resigned to return to Tarbaro to become principal of a school there.[1]

Early career

Dancy in 1895
Dancy in 1895

In 1877 he was secretary of the State convention of colored men, a part of the Colored Conventions Movement,[1] and was the chief secretary of the State Republican convention in 1880, 1884, 1886, 1888, and 1890.[3] In 1880 and 1882 he was elected recorder of deeds of Edgecombe County, and was chairman of the county Republican Committee for many years. In 1884, he was a delegate to the Republican National Convention, where he supported John A. Logan.[1] He was again a delegate at the 1888 Republican National Convention where he supported John Sherman and at the 1892 Republican National Convention. He was a prominent campaigner in all three elections.[3]


He edited a newspaper, the North Carolina Sentinel, based in Tarboro for three years. He resigned that position at the request of AME Zion bishops to become editor and business manager of the church's paper, the Star of Zion[1] in 1885. He resigned that position at the General Conference of the AME Zion church in 1892, to be succeeded by George W. Clinton. Instead, that year Dancy took the position as editor of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Quarterly, which had been edited by Clinton.[3] At the Quarterly Review he was closely associated with Booker T. Washington, who subsidized the paper.[4]

Later career

Dancy in 1908
Dancy in 1908

With the support of Booker T. Washington, He was appointed collector of customs at Wilmington, North Carolina in 1897, serving the position under presidents Harrison and McKinley.[4] That year, he was also involved in the founding of Coleman Manufacturing Company, the first cotton mill in the United States owned and operated by African Americans[5] In 1898, Dancy was a part of the founding of the National Afro-American Council, formed after the collapse of the National Afro-American League. T. Thomas Fortune was initially elected president, but he declined the position and Alexander Walters was selected. Dancy was elected Vice-President, Ida B. Wells secretary, and John W. Thompson treasurer. Washington was also a primary player in the group.[6] Tensions rose in Wilmington during this period, and Dancy's position on an organization in opposition to legislation which prevented interracial marriages increased the tension. Tension came to a head in August with the Wilmington massacre of 1898, a riot during which thousands of the cities African Americans were attacked, and Dancy was forced to flee the city.[7] Dancy then was appointed to the position of recorder of deeds from 1901 to 1910.[4] His home in Washington became a center of Southern black society in the nation's capital.[8]

Other activities

Dancy was a prominent layman in the A. M. E. Zion church and was a lay delegate to the general conferences of the church in 1880 and 1884. He was also a prominent freemason.[1] He was a trustee of Livingstone College and served as chairman of the Executive Committee of the National Afro-American Press Association.[3]

Personal life and death

His first wife was Laura G. Coleman of Morganton, North Carolina. They had five children, two boys and three girls, two of whom died in infancy. Laura died in December 1890. In March 1893 he married Florence Virginia Stevenson, from Allegheny City, Pennsylvania.[3] Dancy's son, John C. Dancy Jr. was executive director of the Detroit Urban League.[9][10] His surviving daughter was Lillian G. Reed, and his other son was Dr. Joseph Price Dancy.[10]

Dancy died on the morning of December 5, 1920 at his home on 2139 L Street NW in Washington, DC. His funeral was on December 7, 1920 at Galbraith A. M. E. Zion church. The eulogy was read by his friend, Rev. William Harvey Goler and led by Bishop J. S. Caldwell. Honorary pallbearers were Robert Heberton Terrell, John E. Traylor, Whitefield McKinlay, S. M. Pierre, E. D. Williston, P. B. S. Pinchback, J. Finley Wilson, Simon Green Atkins, Emmett Jay Scott, D. C. Suggs, Thomas E. Jones, and Nathan Williams.[10] He was survived by two sisters, Ella and Martha.[11]

In 1889, Dancy's niece, Cottie S. Dancy, married Aaron McDuffie Moore, the first Black medical doctor of Durham, North Carolina.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Simmons, William J., and Henry McNeal Turner. Men of Mark: Eminent, Progressive and Rising. GM Rewell & Company, 1887. p1101-1104
  2. ^ Justesen, Benjamin R. George Henry White: An Even Chance in the Race of Life. LSU Press, 2012. p64
  3. ^ a b c d e Hood, James Walker. One Hundred Years of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church: Or, The Centennial of African Methodism. No. 131. AME Zion Book Concern, 1895. p482-489
  4. ^ a b c Meier, August. Negro thought in America, 1880–1915: Racial ideologies in the age of Booker T. Washington. Vol. 118. University of Michigan Press, 1963. p234, 252
  5. ^ Durden, Robert F. The Dukes of Durham, 1865–1929. Duke University Press, 1975. 147
  6. ^ Alexander, Shawn Leigh. An Army of Lions: The Civil Rights Struggle Before the NAACP. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011, p83
  7. ^ Alexander, 2011. p87-88
  8. ^ Yellin, Eric S. Racism in the Nation's Service: Government Workers and the Color Line in Woodrow Wilson's America. UNC Press Books, 2013. p50
  9. ^ Woodford, Arthur M. This is Detroit, 1701–2001. Wayne State University Press, 2001. p175
  10. ^ a b c John C. Dancy Died at Washington Home, The New York Age (New York City) December 11, 1920, page 2. Retrieved February 2, 2017 at
  11. ^ John C. Dancy Dead, The Washington Post (Washington, DC) December 6, 1920, page 16. Retrieved February 7, 2017 at
This page was last edited on 18 May 2019, at 01:04
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