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John Edward Bruce

John Edward Bruce: Politician, Journalist, and Self-Trained Historian of the African Diaspora

Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 243
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  • Book Info
    John Edward Bruce
    Book Description:

    John Edward Bruce, a premier black journalist from the late 1800's until his death in 1924, was a vital force in the popularization of African American history. "Bruce Grit," as he was called, wrote for such publications as Marcus Garvey's nationalist newspaper, The Negro World, and McGirt's Magazine. Born a slave in Maryland in 1856, Bruce gained his freedom by joining a regiment of Union soldiers passing through on their way to Washington, DC. Bruce was in contact with major figures in African American history, including Henry Highland Garnett and Martin Delany, both instrumental in the development of 19th century Black nationalism and the struggle for Black liberation. Close relationships with Liberian statesman Edward Wilmot Blyden and with Alexander Crummell, a key advocate for the emigration of Blacks to Africa, assisted in Bruce's development into a leading African American spokesman. In 1911, Arthur Alfonso Schomburg and Bruce co-founded the Negro Society for Historical Research, which greatly influenced black book collecting and preservation as well as the study of African American themes.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-7232-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: Appreciating Neglected Voices: John Edward Bruce and the Struggle to Liberate the Race
    (pp. 1-4)

    Nearly a half-century ago, George Shepperson, a pioneer in the study of Africa’s relationship with the Black Diaspora, argued that a “commerce of ideas and politics” existed between African Americans and Africans. Shepperson concluded that “one thing is clear: Negro Americans … have played a considerable part ideologically in the emergence of African nationalism.” This commerce of debate, organizations, institutions, and nationalist agitation shared by Africans and African Americans was particularly influential from the late nineteenth century through the 1920s.¹

    Shepperson identified John Edward Bruce (1856–1924), a self-trained historian, journalist, Republican stalwart, and the personal secretary to Marcus Garvey,...

  5. 1 From Slavery to Freedom: John Edward Bruce’s Childhood and Adolescence
    (pp. 5-24)

    In March 1897, Charles W. Anderson requested that Levi P. Morton, New York’s Republican governor, appoint John Edward Bruce to a minor political post. Anderson, a respected Black Republican stalwart, had been a member of the New York Republican State Committee for sixteen years and was a primary dispenser of Black political patronage in New York City. If Anderson gave his seal of approval to a Black nominee, white politicians usually fell in line. This appointment, however, was somewhat different, and Morton’s aides encouraged him to be cautious.¹

    Bruce was an ambitious forty-one-year-old man, of dark brown complexion, just under...

  6. 2 Blyden, Crummell, and Bruce: Mentors, Patrons, and the Evolution of a Pan-African Intellectual Network
    (pp. 25-48)

    Martin Delany, Henry Highland Garnet, Edward Wilmot Blyden, and J. Robert Love are generally recognized by scholars as among the most important Pan-African nationalists during the late nineteenth century. All were well educated, and all were articulate advocates for Black self-determination. They were also intellectually self-reliant, and they were at the center of an international commerce of issues and ideas among Africans, African Americans, and West Indians. In addition, all these men voiced a profound respect for understanding the forces of history and its implications for Africa and the African diaspora.

    Bruce’s political values and career were shaped by his...

  7. 3 Race, Politics, and Patronage: John Edward Bruce and the Republican Party
    (pp. 49-74)

    On September 8, 1879, theWeekly Argusboasted that it was “Republican at all times and under all circumstance.” Despite the Great Compromise with the South nearly two years earlier, John Edward Bruce, co-owner and associate editor of the paper, believed the destiny and welfare of African America was tied to the Republican Party. Bruce’s conclusion was a mixture of political opportunism and Republican loyalty. TheWeekly Argus, founded by Bruce to promote Republican candidates and party leaders, received financial support from the GOP during the 1880 campaign. Bruce sold his interest in theArgusto a stock company in...

  8. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  9. 4 Frederick Douglass, Booker T.Washington, and John Edward Bruce’s Career as a Journalistic Hired Gun
    (pp. 75-90)

    John Edward Bruce had a tentative and sometimes volatile relationship with both Frederick Douglass (1817–95) and Booker T. Washington (1856–1915). An aging giant in the struggle to liberate African Americans, Douglass was the generally acknowledged leader of the race until his death in 1895. On a hot September afternoon in the same year, Washington’s speech at the Atlanta Exposition, which advocated a Black retreat from social and political equality while calling for economic self-determination and industrial education, catapulted him to fame, power, and ultimately a position of enormous influence in African America. Bruce corresponded with both men, curried...

  10. 5 The Popularization of African American History: John Edward Bruce as Historian, Bibliophile, and Black History Advocate
    (pp. 91-134)

    John Edward Bruce covered the room with smoke as he enjoyed his favorite Cuban cigar. Three officials, David Bryant Fulton, W. Wesley Weeks, and William Ernest Braxton, gathered at his home to discuss the work of the Negro Society for Historical Research (NSHR). Arthur Alfonso Schomburg, the secretary/treasurer, was unable to attend the meeting. Bruce and his colleagues were charter members, having founded this organization in 1911. In the previous five years they had sponsored several activities to promote the preservation of and encourage interest in African American history. They had achieved community recognition, published occasional papers, and established a...

  11. 6 “Grand Old Man of the Movement”: John Edward Bruce, Marcus Garvey, and the UNIA
    (pp. 135-158)

    Mrs. Florence Bruce was the only woman among a group of middle-aged Black men gathered around the gravesite. All of the mourners were dressed in black while Florence wore a large hat with a long black veil to hide the tears in her eyes. Marcus Garvey stood next to her resembling an aristocrat in his Black tux with two medals on the lapels. He had been a man who had always found the right words for difficult times, but now he stood quietly gazing on the casket and reflecting upon the loss of a valuable member of his movement. Arthur...

  12. Conclusion: The Making of a Race Man:The Meaning and Significance of John Edward Bruce’s Life
    (pp. 159-164)

    In August 1924, Mrs. Florence Bruce addressed a dedication ceremony sponsored by the Boston division of the UNIA, which was naming its meeting hall in honor of her late husband, John Edward Bruce. During the previous three weeks a series of tributes had been sponsored by community groups and the UNIA faithful to commemorate her husband’s life and contributions to the race. Mrs. Bruce was not a regular public speaker but she believed that these events kept her mind occupied and her husband’s memory alive. The audience was packed with Garveyites of all ages, an outpouring of Boston’s Black working...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 165-218)
  14. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 219-228)
  15. Index
    (pp. 229-242)
  16. About the Author
    (pp. 243-243)