ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



Roy Wilkins would remember of McGhee that “it was through him that the National Association

 for the Advancement of Colored People reached St. Paul and [our house at] 906 Galtier Street



Frederick McGhee  


Lawyer & Social Critic


 Frederick McGhee (1861-1912) — born of Mississippi slave parents about six months after the opening of the War Between the States — was as one of America’s  first African-American lawyers a pioneer in early desegregation, anti-lynching, and civil rights cases, and a tireless activist and organizer for African American civil rights.

His father Abraham,  a  literate slave from Blount County, Tennessee, was sold 13 years before and sent to the John Walker cotton plantation near Aberdeen, Mississippi. 

Fredrick’s mother, Sarah, already a slave on the Walker plantation, was the daughter of an African slave. uring the Civil War Abraham , between 1864 and1869, managed to get out of Mississippi and later return to Knoxville with Sarah and their three sons Matthew, Barclay, and Frederick. Skilled as a blacksmith, Abraham died a year after his returned, leaving his wife alone with three sons. Illiterate, Sarah  was reduced to a washerwoman. She soon expired leaving her sons orphans.

By this time, Barclay, the oldest, and Matthew had positions in Knoxville hotels as waiters, prized jobs at the time. Like their father, both were literate, able to read and write. An 1880 Knoxville directory shows that Fredrick was also a laborer. Somehow Frederick attended and completed his studies at Knoxville College. Seemingly he become the fist colored lawyer in Tennessee, Illinois, and later Minnesota.

Distinguished by his hawk-like gaze and shock of silver hair, his forceful oratory and fierce advocacy, Fredrick McGhee rose to fame as Minnesota’s first black criminal lawyer and the owner  by 1899 of forty acres of land in St. Cloud. He began his legal career in Chicago, where he primarily represented whites, gaining a reputation for competence. McGhee also converted from the Baptist faith to Catholicism and seemingly became an associate of Archbishop John Ireland to use the church as a positive vehicle for racial equality.

At some point during his public career, McGhee, a respected social critic, changed his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat. And though initially allied with Washington, McGhee later sided with DuBois when the two giants in the struggle for racial equality clashed on tactics and philosophy. 

Like T. Thomas Fortune, Frederick McGhee was a race man. He was sincerely concerned about the fortunes and misfortunes of the freed slaves and the turning back of the clock by the U.S. Supreme Court and rabid state’s righters of the South. He became immediately involved in Fortune’s National Afro-American League organized in 1890  to combat disenfranchisement, lynching and other injustices and to encourage separate black businesses.

McGhee, Du Bois and others formed the, Niagara Movement the forerunner of the NAACP, in 1904.


Founders of The Niagara Movement at Niagara Falls: Left to right: Top row: H. A. Thompson, New York; Alonzo F. Herndon, Georgia; John Hope, Georgia; _?_.2nd row: Fred McGhee, Minnesota; unidentified boy; J. Max Barber, Illinois; W.E.B. Du Bois, Atlanta; Robert Bonner, Massachusetts; 3rd Row: Henry L. Baily, Washington, D.C.; Clement G. Morgan, Massachusetts; W.H.H. Hart, Washington, D.C.; and B.S. Smith, Kansas

Fredrick McGhee died in 1912 a few weeks shy of his 51st birthday. Had he lived we do not what role he might not have played in the NAACP. Years later, NAACP chairman Roy Wilkins would remember of McGhee that “it was through him that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People reached St. Paul and [our house at] 906 Galtier Street.”

Nelson, Paul D. Frederick McGhee: A Life on the Color Line, 1861-1912.  Feb. 2002. 261p. illus. index. Minnesota Historical Society,

Booker T. Wshington Papers Vol.14l Booker T. Washington Papers Vol.8

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books



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Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered

the World and Threatened Civilization as We Know It

By H. W. Brands

In Greenback Planet, acclaimed historian H. W. Brands charts the dollar’s astonishing rise to become the world’s principal currency. Telling the story with the verve of a novelist, he recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. Brands explores the dollar’s changing relations to gold and silver and to other currencies and cogently explains how America’s economic might made the dollar the fundamental standard of value in world finance. He vividly describes the 1869 Black Friday attempt to corner the gold market, banker J. P. Morgan’s bailout of the U.S. treasury, the creation of the Federal Reserve, and President Franklin Roosevelt’s handling of the bank panic of 1933. Brands shows how lessons learned (and not learned) in the Great Depression have influenced subsequent U.S. monetary policy, and how the dollar’s dominance helped transform economies in countries ranging from Germany and Japan after World War II to Russia and China today. He concludes with a sobering dissection of the 2008 world financial debacle, which exposed the power–and the enormous risks–of the dollar’s worldwide reign.  The Economy

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label ‘trafficked’ does not accurately describe migrants’ lives and that the ‘rescue industry’ serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. “Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality.”—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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update 19 December 2011




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