In pursuit of his foremost goal, full and equal citizenship for African Americans, Peter Humphries Clark (1829--1925) defied easy classification. He was, at various times, the country's first black socialist, a loyal supporter of the Republican Party, and an advocate for the Democrats. A pioneer educational activist, Clark led the fight for African Americans' access to Ohio's public schools and became the first black principal in the state. He supported all-black schools and staunchly defended them even after the tide turned toward desegregation. As a politician, intellectual, educator, and activist, Clark was complex and enigmatic.
Though Clark influenced a generation of abolitionists and civil rights activists, he is virtually forgotten today. America's First Black Socialist draws upon speeches, correspondence, and outside commentary to provide a balanced account of this neglected and misunderstood figure. Charting Clark's changing allegiances and ideologies from the antebellum era through the 1920s, this comprehensive biography illuminates the life and legacy of an important activist while also highlighting the black radical tradition that helped democratize America.
""Clark's various ideological shifts in nineteenth century Ohio (and nationally) made him an unusual figure that has not been fully examined in depth. This extended biography corrects this omission." -- John Hardin, Professor of History at Western Kentucky University and author of Fifty Years of Segregation: Black Higher Education in Kentucky 1904-1954" --
""Clark played an important role in nineteenth century African American history and the culture and history of the nation as well. Taylor exposes Clark, warts and all." -- William E. Ellis, Foundation Professor Emeritus at Eastern Kentucky University and author of A History of Education in Kentucky" --
"Nikki M. Taylor's America's First Black Socialists: The Radical Life of Peter H. Clark makes an impressive contribution to the study of African American life in the 19th century as well as in fields of African American and American History. This meticulously researched and lucidly written book also is a must read for anyone interested in the histories of Cincinnati, the state of Ohio, and the country at-large. Without question, the author should be congratulated for producing such a powerful and path-breaking biography of such an important man in this history of our nation, whose political ideology and allegiance shifted numerous times throughout his adult life. Hopefully this volume will move scholars to explore the legacy of Clark rather than the current state of analysis where he has received only scant attention. -- Eric R. Jackson, Editorial Board and Book Review Editor - Journal of Pan African Studies" --
"Peter Clark is a name long known to a minority of specialists, but despite his record of intellectual and political achievement, his career has been overlooked even by many experts in nineteenth century studies. Professor Taylor has performed a service to the profession with her brilliant restoration of this important figure to his deserved prominence." -- Wilson J. Moses, Penn State University
"Providing a much needed corrective to the assumption that the socialist tradition in America was born in the early twentieth century, Nikki Taylor's study of Peter H. Clark simultaneously brings to life the interesting career of this important African American leader. Overshadowed in American memory by contemporaries such as Frederick Douglass and John Mercer Langston, this important study explores Clark's role as a sometimes-controversial African American leader, successfully demonstrating not only that he deserves a seat at the historical table, but also that biographic analysis provides a critical lens through which we can better understand the past. Uniquely influenced by the radicalism of Cincinnati's German immigrant community and his family's communitarian as well as traditional religion and nationalism, Clark was well-established as a socialist by the Civil War era, later shifting to become a socially and politically conservative Democrat at a time when most African Americans stood by the party of Lincoln. Taylor's examination of Clark's dynamic life story contributes much toward a greater understanding of the complexities of race relations in late nineteenth and early twentieth century America. The book is a welcome addition to a growing field revealing that biography can illuminate much more than a single life. -- L. Diane Barnes, Professor of history at Youngstown State University and editor of Ohio History" --
"The book's account of Grant makes him come right off the page and explains his decisions in sympathetic detail." -- San Francisco Book Review
"This work adds a valuable insight into Ohio political history as well as African American history and is worth reading, particularly by students of those fields." -- H-USA
"In the end, Nikki Taylor paints not only a picture of Peter Clark, the race man, radical abolitionist, educator, and socialist, but also one of the complexities of black leadership and politics between 1850 and 1885. Her portrayal of the extraordinary life and role of Clark shows that, contrary to the historical record, the Gilded Age was not a barren period for black thought and leadership until the rise of Booker T. Washington, but quite the opposite." -- Journal of American Ethnic History
"Taylor's lucid and informative biography covers Peter H. Clark's lengthy life, her exploration of his socialist leanings provides an important dimension to black thought. Students of American and African American organizational life and activism will find this book immensely useful." -- Journal of American History
"Nikki M. Taylor has [...] piec[ed] together a wonderful political biography of Clark. In the process, she has produced an important book that reveals much about politics on the local and national level in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and African Americans' response to the changing social and political landscape of the period.
With America's First Black Socialist, Taylor makes several important contributions to African American history, not least of which is the recovery of Peter H. Clark's life for a new generation of scholars. Through Clark she also reveals the vibrancy and complexity of African American social and political thought in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. With clarity she demonstrates how Clark's intellectual thought was influenced by a vast variety of traditions, from both within and outside the black community" -- Journal of the Civil War Era
"Nikki Taylor's America's First Black Socialist: The Radical Life of Peter H. Clark rescues from obscurity theCincinnati African American activist and politician who until now was known only to a handful of specialistsin that city's history or in African American or labor history." -- New Politics
"Taylor does an excellent job of reconstructing and analyzing Clark's life.
Taylor reminds us that even admirable, charismatic individuals can make poor decisions that can cause all their previous accomplishments to be overlooked and forgotten." -- Ohio History
"Nikki M. Taylor's America's First Black Socialist: The Radical Life of Peter H. Clark is a fascinating study of an important figure in nineteenth-century African American history.
[...] In the final analysis, Taylor's biography of Peter H. Clark is recommended reading for any who wish to understand nineteenth-century African Americanpolitics. Clark was an enigmatic figure, a radical black thinker whose leadership and outspoken oratory greatly commended him to his community. Yet, he was also a leader whose flaws, political missteps, and shifts greatly diminished his earlier reputation. As Taylor's work clearly shows, the life of Peter H. Clark deserves more scholarly attention." -- Ohioan Quarterly
"Taylor excellently traces the various ideological threads that influenced and were influenced by Peter H. Clark throughout his long life, thus showing why he matters in our conception of nineteenth-century black political and intellectual history.
[...] [T]his is a fine study of an inappropriately forgotten black leader, useful to any reader who wants to better understand nineteenth-century black Midwestern history; black intellectual, educational, and political history; and the connections between African Americans and radical white thinkers." -- The Historian
"In her new book examining the life of Peter Humphries Clark (1829-1925), Taylor continues to shine as a social historian as she reveals other historical moments when African Americans demonstrated their ability to make their own choices, despite laws that attempted to subjugate them.
[...] There are many reasons to like this book. It is written in an accessible style and is extremely informative. Taylor reminds us of an entrepreneurial spirit in the African American community in the 19th century.
[...] Taylor demonstrates a mastery of the biographical style. Her work is essential for anyone who wishes to understand African American life and civil rights activism in 19th-century Ohio." -- Journal of African American History