William Hannibal Thomas
William Hannibal Thomas
|Born||May 4, 1843|
|Died||November 15, 1935|
Western Theological Seminary
|Occupation||Teacher, journalist, judge, writer, legislator|
William Hannibal Thomas (4 May 1843 – 15 November 1935) was an American teacher, journalist, judge, writer and legislator.
William Hannibal Thomas was born in Pickaway County, Ohio. His family had been formerly enslaved, although Thomas insisted that "most of his ancestors were white." In 1859, he was the first black student admitted to Otterbein University. He served with distinction in the 5th United States Colored Infantry Regiment during the Civil War of 1861-1865, suffering a gunshot wound that led to the amputation of his right arm. After the war, he attended Western Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania.
In 1871, he taught for some time and then he earned a license to practice law in South Carolina in 1873. He worked briefly at Wilberforce University in Ohio. He then served as a member of the South Carolina Legislature during the Reconstruction period. During Reconstruction, he was an open advocate for armed Black self-defense against white supremacist violence.
He is now most remembered for The American Negro (1901), a bombastic work brought out by the Macmillan publishing company. In this book, he maintained that not skin color but the black population's traits of character and behavior were the cause of prejudice. "The negro," he wrote, was "an intrinsically inferior type of humanity." He declared that the black individual in America was slowly and steadily deteriorating, and was "immersed in poverty, steeped in ignorance, stifled with immorality, inherently lazy, and a born pilferer." His writings were used by white racists to support their own ideas of "white superiority and black inferiority."
Several black intellectuals such as Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois and Charles W. Chesnutt, attacked the author and sought to suppress his book. Washington even used spies to gather damaging information about Thomas.
He died in Columbus, Ohio in 1935.
- Land and Education (1890).
- The American Negro (1901).
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- Councill, W.H. (1902). "The American Negro: An Answer," Publications of the Southern History Association, Vol. 6, pp. 40–44.
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