Peter H. Clark

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Peter H. Clark
Born (1829-03-29)March 29, 1829
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
Died June 21, 1925(1925-06-21) (aged 96)
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Occupation Writer, orator, civil rights activist
Political party Socialist Labor Party of America
Religion Unitarian

Peter Humphries Clark (March 29, 1829 – June 21, 1925) was one of Ohio's most effective black abolitionist writers and speakers. He became the first teacher engaged by the Cincinnati black public schools in 1849, and the founder and principal of Ohio's first public high school for black students in 1866. Because of these accomplishments, he was named the nation’s primary black public school educator. Clark is also remembered as the first African-American socialist in the United States, running for Congress in 1878 under the banner of the Socialist Labor Party of America.


Early years[edit]

Peter Humphries Clark was born March 29, 1829 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Peter’s father, Michael Clark, was a successful barber and sent his son to private schools because of the absence of public schools. After his father's death in 1849, Peter took over the barber shop for a short time. Later that same year black schools were authorized by the Ohio legislature. This was largely due to the efforts of Peter's uncle, John Gaines. Peter became the first teacher in the black school. He was fired in 1853 by the white Board of Education for publicly praising Thomas Paine.

Later in his life he received a masters (A.M.) degree from Wilberforce University.[1]


During the next four years, Peter was an abolitionist publisher, editor, writer, and speaker. He participated in the Ohio Conventions of Colored Men, and edited and published his own weekly newspaper. He was appointed secretary of the 1853 National Convention of Colored Men in Syracuse, New York, by Frederick Douglass, where he drafted a constitution of the National Equal Rights League.[1] In 1854 he married Francis Ann Williams.

In 1855 he formed the journal, Herald of Freedom, which quickly failed. He then became editor of a Free-soil Party journal published in Newport, Kentucky owned by William S. Bailey. In 1856 he was on the staff of Frederick Douglass' Paper. In 1857 he was rehired by the black trustees of the colored schools and made principal of the Western District School in Cincinnati.[1]

He became principal of Gaines High School in 1866 and held that post until 1886, when he was fired on political grounds.[2] He left Cincinnati in 1887 to serve as principal of the Alabama State normal and Industrial School, and in 1888 went to St. Louis where he taught at the segregated Sumner High School for twenty years.[3]

Political activity[edit]

He was a member of the Republican Party from about 1856 to 1872 but left the party.[1] In 1878 he ran for congress on the Socialistic Labor Party ticket, then called the Workingmen's Party, one of the party's first congressional candidates.[4] He ran in Ohio's 1st congressional district, garnering 275 votes, or 1.09%.[5] In 1882, he aided county Democrats in organizing a civil rights bill, which passed into law.[1]

Death and legacy[edit]

Clark had three children, daughters Ernestine and Consuelo, and son Herbert. Consuelo was a doctor and graduated from the School of Medicine at Boston University.[1]

Clark died on June 21, 1925.


  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. p374-383
  2. ^ Gaines High School & Peter H. Clark, historical marker at school site, Ohio Historical Society.
  3. ^ Walter Herz, Reflections on a Journey Toward Racial Reconciliation, sermon delivered April 4, 2004.
  4. ^ , Platform, Constitutions and Resolutions, together with a condensed report of the Proceedings of the National Convention... p. 10.
  5. ^ "OH - District 01 - History", Our Campaigns.


Further reading[edit]

  • Philip S. Foner, "American Socialism and Black Americans: From the Age of Jackson to World War II", The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 63, No. 3 (Jul., 1978), pp. 253–257.
  • Walter Herz, "Peter H. Clark". Unitarian Universalist Historical Society, 1999.
  • J. Reuben Sheeler, "The Struggle of the Negro in Ohio for Freedom", The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 31, No. 2 (April 1946), pp. 208–226.
  • Nikki M. Taylor, America's First Black Socialist: The Radical Life of Peter H. Clark. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2013.

External links[edit]