America's First Black SocialistThe Radical Life of Peter H. Clark

America's First Black SocialistThe Radical Life of Peter H. Clark

Nikki M. Taylor

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780813140773

Publisher: University Press of Kentucky


America’s First Black Socialist: The Radical Life of Peter H. Clark is a political and intellectual biography of one of the foremost activists, intellectuals, orators, and politicians in 19th century African-American history whose life is a testament to the black radical intellectual and political traditions. As a black radical intellectual, Peter H. Clark (1829-1925) used education, oratory, and editorials to confront the American conscience, critique the hypocrisies in the national discourse, and articulate a radical, more inclusive, democratic, and egalitarian vision of America. As a pioneer of the black radical political tradition, he used radical political ideas to forge a path to full and equal citizenship for his people. He embraced everything from radical abolitionism to revolutionary armed violence to socialism. As the first known black socialist, Clark was just one of a few native-born American leaders in a movement dominated by German immigrants. He became one of the most influential of the American socialists and his socialist lectures between 1876 and 1879 stand as the foundation of early black socialist thought. Although he never held a formal political position, Clark proved to be an astute politician who used both parties as tools to get what he wanted for African Americans and himself: political power. He exerted great influence on legislators, Ohio governors, Presidents, and Supreme Court Justices-- all of whom knew him personally and sought his help in courting the African-American vote. In his quest for power, he employed every strategy imaginable, including critiquing his party from within, joining factional and third parties, playing machine politics, advocating political realignment and political independence, and bribery. This book ultimately chronicles the rise and fall of a man who became corrupted by an unrelenting quest for political power.