James Black (prohibitionist)

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James Black

James Black (September 23, 1823 – December 16, 1893) was an American temperance movement activist and a founder of the Prohibition Party. In 1872 Black was the first nominee of the Prohibition Party for President of the United States.


Early years[edit]

James Black was born September 23, 1823 in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, the son of John Black and Jane Egbert Black. In 1836 the family moved to the city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which would remain his hometown for the rest of his life.[1] In addition to his home in the city of Lancaster, Black also had a residence in Fulton Township, Pennsylvania.[2]

As a boy Black worked for a time in a sawmill before entering the Lewisburg Academy in 1841.[1] In 1844, Black began the study of law, passing into the Pennsylvania state bar in 1846 and setting up a legal practice in Lancaster.[1]

Black married Eliza Murray in 1845.

Political career[edit]

Black was initially a member of the Republican Party but was also deeply committed to anti-alcohol activism, having joined the Washingtonian movement while still a youth.[1]

Black was actively involved in establishing the Good Templars, a temperance organization. In addition, he co-founded the National Temperance Society and Publishing House with Neal Dow, another pioneering temperance leader. In its first 60 years, the publishing house printed over one billion pages. It published three monthly periodicals with a combined circulation of about 600,000. It also published over 2,000 books and pamphlets plus textbooks, flyers, broadsides and other temperance materials.

In 1869, Black and some of his friends founded the Prohibition Party. Three years later he was selected to run as the party’s first Presidential candidate. However, he won no electoral votes and only 5,607 popular votes. Possibly one reason for the low vote he received was that the powerful Anti-Saloon League, under the direction of Wayne Wheeler, would not support third party candidates. The same was true of the influential Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU).

Death and legacy[edit]

Black died of pneumonia at his home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, on December 16, 1893. He was 70 years old at the time of his death.


  1. ^ a b c d William D.P. Bliss (ed.), The New Cyclopedia of Social Reform. New Edition. New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1908; pg. 119.
  2. ^ Brubaker, Jack (2016-07-15). "The Scribbler: Advertising seen as more effective on the bottom of wrecked race car; Lancasterians for President". Lancaster Online. Retrieved 2016-07-16. 


  • Is There a Necessity for a Prohibition Party? New York: National Temperance Society and Publication House, 1876.
  • Brief History of Prohibition and of the Prohibition Reform Party. New York: National Committee of the Prohibition Reform Party, 1880.
  • Hon. James Black's Cleveland address. Address delivered at the opening of the National Prohibition Reform Party Convention, held in Cleveland, Ohio, Wednesday, June, 17th, 1880. New York: Prohibition Reform Party, 1880.
  • History of the National Prohibition Party. New York: National Temperance Society and Publication House, 1893.

Further reading[edit]

  • "Obituary," The New York Times, 17 December 1893, 2.
  • James G. Wilson, et al. (eds.) Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography. NY: Appleton & Co., 1887-1889.

External links[edit]

  • "James Black," OurCampaigns biography, www.ourcampaigns.com/
  • Lawrence Kestenbaum, "James Black," The Political Graveyard, www.politicalgraveyard.com/
Party political offices
Preceded by
Prohibition Party presidential nominee
1872 (lost)
Succeeded by
Green Clay Smith