John Dancy, prominent leader in the American Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and the Republican Party, was born in Tarboro in 1857 as the son of a freedman whose parents had been manumitted. Dancy’s father was a builder and contractor who also served as a county commissioner after the war. Dancy was educated first at home and later entered Howard University in 1873. He left school before completing his requirements due to the death of his father. Dancy returned home and began a short career as an educator since he soon became involved in politics.

Dancy served in various political capacities throughout his lifetime, most notably as a participant in activities of the Republican Party from 1880 to 1890 as candidate for office, national convention delegate, and campaign spokesman. His most lucrative and politically important position came in 1891 when President Benjamin Harrison appointed him collector of customs for the port of Wilmington, the highest paying federal position in the state. He served as port collector until 1893 when President Grover Cleveland replaced him; in time he was re-instated by President William McKinley. Dancy’s appointment was seen by many Democrats as another example of “negro domination” and was used as part of the racially charged 1898 election campaign. When Wilmington city government was overthrown by whites in November 1898, Dancy and other leading black officials were forced to leave town. Dancy, however, returned to the city to resume his post and served as collector until 1901, when he was appointed recorder of deeds for Washington, D.C. by President Theodore Roosevelt, working in that position until 1910.Brother Dancy was quite the influencer as well, often sought to side with one cause or another. This is especially true in the case of elections within the African American community and among fraternal brothers. He maintained a strong family kinship with Booker T. Washington whilst remaining neutral in controversial entanglements.  A strong orator, brother Dancy delivered the opening address at the Ninth B.M.C. held in St. Louis, Missouri circa 1898 with over 289 delegates present.

Deeply involved in church affairs, Dancy made significant contributions through his involvement with the AME Zion Church and editorship of the church newspaper, Star of Zion, for many years. Dancy served as a trustee for Livingstone College. He died in 1920 and details of his life can be found in his son’s memoirs, Sand Against the Wind. His son shared Dancy’s commitment to public service and was active in the Detroit Urban League for many years.

William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, II, 7-8—sketch by Marvin Krieger
John C. Dancy III, Sand Against the Wind (1966)
John C. Dancy, ed., AME Zion Quarterly Almanac (1894)