John C. Bowers – founding member of the first Grand United Order of Odd Fellows for African Americans in Pennsylvania
John C. Bowers (February 9, 1811 – October 5, 1873) was an African American entrepreneur, organist and vestryman at St. Thomas African Episcopal Church, and a founding member of Unity Lodge No. 711, the first Grand United Order of Odd Fellows for African Americans in Pennsylvania, on June 5, 1845. He served repeatedly as a Director, for three terms as Deputy Grand Master (1855, 1857, 1858), and for one term as Grand Master (1870). He was active in the anti-slavery movement in Philadelphia, and involved in the founding of several organizations including the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society.:154 “A fervent abolitionist and outspoken opponent of colonization.
Robert Melville Bailey, pioneer music educator in the Bahamas and a proud member of the Odd Fellows. He joined the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows as a young man, and remained an active member all his life. He rose to the rank of Past Noble Grand
Oscar Stanton De Priest, past member of U.S. House of Representatives
Oscar Stanton De Priest (March 9, 1871 – May 12, 1951) was an American Republican politician and civil rights advocate from Chicago who served as a U.S. Representative from Illinois’ 1st congressional district from 1929 to 1935. De Priest was the first African American to be elected to Congress from outside the southern states and the first in the 20th century. During his three terms, he was the only African American serving in Congress.
Born in Alabama to freedmen parents, De Priest was raised in Dayton, Ohio. He studied business and made a fortune in Chicago as a contractor, and in real estate and the stock market before the Crash. In Congress, he spoke out against racial discrimination, including at speaking events in the South; tried to integrate the House public restaurant; gained passage of an amendment to desegregate the Civilian Conservation Corps, one of the work programs under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal: and introduced anti-lynching legislation to the House (it was not passed because of the Solid South Democratic opposition).
Benjamin Jefferson Davis – Founder of Atlanta Independent newspaper
Benjamin J. Davis Jr. – known to his friends as “Ben” – was born September 8, 1903, in Dawson, Georgia. The family moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where Davis’s father “Big Ben” Davis established a weekly black newspaper, the Atlanta Independent, which was successful enough to allow for a comfortable middle-class upbringing for the family. The elder
Benjamin Davis emerged as a prominent black political leader and served as a member of the Republican National Committee for the state of Georgia.
Joseph Henry Thomas (circa 1824-April 30, 1908), Notable Bahamian Educator, founding father of the Odd Fellows in Bahamas Islands
Edward Giles Irvin – Founder of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity
Edward Giles Irvin (August 13, 1893 – November 4, 1982) was an active member of the Methodist Church of Chicago, a member of the Prince Hall Masonic and Grand United Order of Odd Fellows Lodges, and a founder of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated founded January 5, 1911. He was a recipient of the Laurel Wreath, the highest recognition of achievement for the fraternity. Irvin later became a member of the fraternity’s first alumni chapter, the Chicago Alumni Chapter, established on April 6, 1919.
Irvin left Indiana University in 1911 and pursued a career in journalism. He served on the staff of the Indianapolis Freeman, the first black illustrated newspaper. and in March 1922, established his own newspaper called The Shining Star in Anderson, Indiana.
Irvin was a veteran of World War I, and served on the Selective Service Board during World War II and the Korean War. He was a recipient of a Distinguished Service Medal from both President Harry S. Truman and President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Irvin died on November 4, 1982, having been the last surviving founder of Kappa Alpha Psi
Moses Dickson (1824-1901) -Past Most Worshipful Grand Master of Missouri; Founder of Knights of Liberty, The International Order of Twelve Knights and Daughters of Tabor and was a co-founder of Lincoln University.
Moses Dickson was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on April 5, 1824. At 16, he began a three-year tour of the South which persuaded him to work for the abolition of slavery. On August 12, 1846, Dickson and twelve other men gathered in St. Louis to devise a plan to end slavery in the United States. They formed a secret organization known as the Knights of Liberty which planned to initiate a national insurrection against slavery. The men took an oath of secrecy: “I can die, but I cannot reveal the name of any member until the slaves are free.
Dickson married widow Mary Elisabeth Butcher Peters who worked in the Underground Railroad at Galena, Illinois on October 5, 1848. They had one daughter, Mamie Augusta, and a year later the family located permanently in St. Louis. Mary Elizabeth traveled with her husband on abolitionist speaking tours across the country, was co-founder of The Order of Twelve, and a “faithful and zealous worker in the AME Church. She was known as Mother Dickson, while her husband was referred to as Father Dickson. Mary Elisabeth died in 1891, and has been cited as an early female pioneer of black philanthropy
Beginning in 1850, the network created by the Knights of Liberty was also used in the Underground Railroad to help escaped slaves to freedom. A smaller secret organization, the Order of Twelve, was created on August 1856 in Galena, Illinois, which used St. Louis as its headquarters and aided hundreds of slaves to freedom.
Dickson raised funds for the Railroad and also directly arranged individual escape plans.
“Strange as it may seem, he told the Denver Post reporter, “some of our most generous supporters were slave owners. They did not approve of the system but they had inherited slaves and treated them so well they had no desire to run away. They had nothing to fear from the railroad.” One of these men, he said, was General Cassius Clay of Kentucky who gave him $1,000 for the railroad. Contributions also came from England, from people who knew of the Knights and worked with them. When the Civil War broke out, “there was a shipload of arms and ammunition in Mobile harbor and another in Galveston harbor, sent to us by Englishmen.” Dickson said.
Dickson also tells of watching a mother and daughter being sold on the auction block in New Orleans and then arranging for their escape by having them “stolen”, dressing them as boys, and getting them hired onto a steamer upriver and finally to freedom in Canada. Another man was helped to escape by putting him into a wooden box and shipping him out of Charleston, SC. After his escape to the north, the man called himself Henry “Box” Brown, attended Harvard University, and published a memoir, A Life in Slavery and Freedom.
By 1856, according to Dickson and his followers, 47,240 members of the Knights of Liberty throughout the nation stood ready to fight for freedom. These armed men met secretly at night and drilled for the uprising. “Plans were complete for a rising,” Dickson told the Post reporter, “a concentration of the forces was ordered at Atlanta, GA. We expected to have nearly 200,000 men when we reached Atlanta.” In July, 1857, the men were ready to march. Dickson’s orders to them were to “spare women and children”, parole non-combatants, treat prisoners well, and capture all ammunitions. “March, fight and conquer, or leave their bodies on the battlefield.” he said.
A day was set for the national insurrection but before the time came it had become apparent to the leaders that the relationship between the North and South was becoming so strained that it was decided to postpone the uprising. Civil War was about to break out. Dickson decided “a higher power” was a work, and told the Knights of Liberty to ‘wait, have patience, hold together, not break ranks, trust in the Lord.
Having changed his mind about the uprising, Dickson spoke to the abolitionist John Brown at Davenport just before Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry with 16 black men in October 16, 1859. and tried to dissuade him, telling him it was too early. But Brown went ahead anyway.
During the war, the Knights disbanded and many of their members joined the Union Army.
After 1865 Dickson turned his attention to education and economic development among the freed people. He joined the A.M.E. church in 1866 and became an ordained minister. In 1871 Dickson became Grand Master of the Prince Hall Masons for the state of Missouri. An early supporter of the “Lincoln Institute” (later Lincoln University) in Jefferson City, Missouri, Dickson also organized the Knights and Daughters of Tabor, an African American self-help organization. The new organization touted African American advancement through “Christian demeanor,” the “getting of homes and acquiring of wealth” and “man’s responsibility to the Supreme Being.”
In 1879-1880 when approximately 16,000 Louisiana and Mississippi African Americans migrated to Kansas in what was called the Exodus Movement, Rev. Dickson served as President of the Refugee Relief Board which provided them aid and support. The Revered Moses Dickson died a decade later on November 28, 1901 and was buried at St. Louis, Missouri.
Norris Wright Cuney First Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Texas in 1875.
Norris Wright Cuney, or simply Wright Cuney, (May 12, 1846 – March 3, 1898) was an American politician, businessman, union leader, and African-American activist in Texas in the United States. Following the American Civil War, he became active in Galveston politics, serving as an alderman and a national Republican delegate. Appointed as United States Collector of Customs in 1889 in Galveston, Cuney had the highest-ranking appointed position of any African American in the late 19th-century South. He was a member of the Union League and helped attract black voters to the Republican Party; in the 1890s, more than 100,000 blacks were voting in Texas.
Cuney is regarded by many as the most important black leader in Texas in the 19th century and one of the most important in the United States. Of mixed race and majority-white ancestry, he was born into slavery. He was freed by his white planter father and sent north to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for his education. The war interrupted his plans to attend Oberlin College, but he continued to learn all his life. Cuney became active in black fraternal organizations such as Knights of Pythias and the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, and Prince Hall of the Freemasons.
This was a period of dramatic growth in the South and nationally of black fraternal organizations, part of the political organizing by freedmen. Cuney recruited new members and contributed to the growth in the number of black Freemasons, which struggled to be recognized by white chapters in Texas. In 1875 Cuney was elected as the first grand master of the Grand Lodge of Texas organized by black Masons from 1875 to 1877.
Edward H. Morris
The Hon. Edward H. Morris #oddfellow #guoof
Edward H. Morris, born a slave in Kentucky, in 1859, and went on to become one of the most successful Black attorneys in Chicago.
-Morris was a graduate of St. Patrick’s College (Chicago) and was admitted to the Chicago Bar in 1879. Morris served as the attorney for the town of South Chicago in 1892 and 1896, and in 1895 served as an assistant attorney for Cook County. Morris, referred to as Chicago’s “dean of colored lawyers” helped several young Black lawyers and law students, including Fredrick L. McGhee. In 1885, McGhee went into practice with Morris. McGee later moved to St. Paul, Minnesota and became the first Black lawyer admitted to the Minnesota bar.
From his first Odd Fellows convention Edward H. Morris became the power and the connecting link between England and America. He was first elected grand master In 1899.