Presidents Day in the United States is the third Monday of February. Although the holiday commemorates the birthday of George Washington, the first President of the United States, it is only right that the first Black candidate for the office be commemorated as well.
George Edwin Taylor, born in Arkansas in 1857, was a wildly successful black publisher and business owner, during the 1880s and later became America’s first Black candidate for President as the nominee of the all Black National Liberty Party in 1904.
Taylor, like most Blacks of his day, came from humble origins. Following the death of his mother, the young Taylor purportedly lived in “dry goods boxes” as an orphan before making his way to La Crosse, Wisconsin. There, Taylor received a superior northern education during the day, and was endowed with political acumen by his adopted father (a politically active Black farmer whose name has been lost to history) by night.
Being naturally inquisitive and innately intelligent, the young George Taylor consumed knowledge at a furious pace. By 1876, he earned admission to Wisconsins Wayland Academy where he studied the “classical curriculum.”
Concerning George Edwin Taylor as a young adult, the Encyclopedia of Arkansas writes:
From 1880, Taylor worked as a journalist in the La Crosse area, contributing to numerous local newspapers and eventually owning and editing the Wisconsin Labor Advocate. He was active in local and state politics, especially in the labor movement and in the Wisconsin People’s and Union Labor Parties. He moved to Oskaloosa, Iowa, in 1891, where he owned and edited the Negro Solicitor. While in Iowa, Taylor was President of the National Negro Democratic League, the National Negro Men’s Protective Association, and the National (Negro) Knights Of Pythias. From Iowa (1891 to 1910), Taylor moved to Florida, where he was the Executive Director of Jacksonville’s “colored” YMCA and editor of three local newspapers: The Promoter, The Florida Times-Union (colored section), and The Florida Sentinel.
<span style=”background-color: #FFFF00″> The principles of Taylor’s National Liberty Party influenced the philosophies of contemporary and later leaders like W.E.B. DuBois and Marcus Garvey.</span> His Pan-Africanist views gave Blacks in America greater scope than was available via White news outlets, and in his editorial, he criticized the United State’s support for the war that was then being waged in South Africa. He wrote
“The principle upon which rests the war in South Africa is that of human liberty. Have the Boers the God-given right to govern themselves according to their own dictates, or should they be coerced by England because of her superior strength? Shall we stand for the freedom and liberty guaranteed by our own modern ideal of a Republican form of government, or must we go back to the decayed theory of expansion by conquest, which means the survival of the fittest, or “might makes right?” This is the only principle involved in the British invasion of the Transvaal. The question of who introduced Negro slavery to the territory now known as the United States is not and cannot be made an issue.” – A Colored Democrat – Times Picayune, 12 august 1900, p22.
During his acceptance speech for the Presidential nomination of the National Liberty Party, Taylor highlighted the frustrations of Blacks during that period:
“I perceive that the national liberty party is purely a creature of necessity. The time has come when all Negroes admit that something must be done, and, through this movement, that something can be done.
Until 1892, ninety-nine per cent of the Negroes voted the Republican ticket without a protest. At the general election that year about thirty per cent of the race voted against Harrison. Since then ninety per cent of the race have voted the republican ticket in and out of season, in the hope that something would turn up in consequence. But, alas! that something has fatally turned down instead.”
George Edwin Taylor introduced a new ideal to Blacks in America; one of political awareness, social activism, and the power of the press. Only recently, with the publication of For Labor, Race, and Liberty: George Edwin Taylor, His Historic Run for the White House, and the Making of Independent Black Politics have we been reintroduced to him as one of the founding fathers of modern Black America.
- Bruce L. Mouser
- University of Wisconsin Press
- Kindle Edition
Taylor died in Jacksonville, Florida, on December 23, 1925. The cause of death and his place of burial are unknown.