African American Men in Politics

African American Men in Politics

In my last post, Campaign Buttons, I highlighted a new donation to the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce, Ohio. The collection consists of political memorabilia from President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. This post will highlight more political items from our collection as well as the stories of the individuals represented in each object.

C. J. McLin was an Ohio State Representative from 1966-1988. He was born Clarence Josef (C. J.) McLin in 1921 and moved with his parents from Illinois to Dayton in 1931. He attended Virginia Union University as well as the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science and worked at his family funeral home in Dayton, Ohio. After experiencing discrimination in the United States Army, McLin decided to enter politics and, in 1958, he founded the Democratic Voter’s League. In 1966, he was elected into the Ohio House of Representatives and he served in this position for nearly 22 years.

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Photograph of C. J. McLin from the C. J. McLin Manuscript Collection at the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center.

While serving as a representative he was dedicated to modernizing infrastructure, providing low-income housing to families in need, and supporting local universities. McLin pushed the state to fund the Dunbar House in Dayton as well as the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce in efforts to preserve African American history. C. J. McLin passed away in 1988 after a three-year battle with cancer. His political legacy was carried on by his daughter, Rhine McLin, who followed in his footsteps. She was appointed and re-elected twice to the same Ohio House seat her father held, elected to the Ohio Senate, and she was elected as the mayor of the city of Dayton in 2000.

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Hard Hat labeled for Rep. C. J. McLin. From the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center’s collection.

For more information on the McLin family, see the C. J. McLin Manuscript Collection at the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center.

Jesse Jackson is a civil rights activist, Baptist minister, and politician. Jesse was born in Greenville, South Carolina in 1941. He graduated from high school in 1959, attended the University of Illinois on a football scholarship, and graduated from North Carolina A&T State University in 1964 with a B. S. in sociology. Among numerous honorary doctoral degrees, Jackson was also ordained in June of 1968 and received his Master of Divinity degree from the Chicago Theological Seminary in 2000. During his college years, he was active as a leader and participant in the sit-in movement. In 1960, he led a sit-in at the local library in his hometown, Greenville, South Carolina, to advocate for desegregation.

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Photograph of Jesse Jackson from the C. J. McLin Manuscript Collection at the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center.

His activist work did not stop with the sit-in movement. In 1971, Jackson founded Operation PUSH or Operation People United to Serve Humanity in Chicago, Illinois. PUSH continues to expand educational, business, and employment opportunities for people of color. In, 1984, Jackson became the second major effort for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, following Shirley Chisholm’s attempt in 1972. He was not elected as the nominee but made a second attempt in 1988. Though he was ultimately unsuccessful, he paved the way for future African American’s in politics and continues to be a significant leader in the field of civil rights.

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President campaign button featuring Jesse Jackson, 1984. From the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center’s collection.

William Calvin Chase was a lawyer, newspaper editor, and politician. Chase was born in 1854 in Washington, D. C. and took work early as a newsboy. He attended various schools including the Preparatory Department at Howard University. Chase later took law classes from the same university and was admitted to the bar in Virginia and the District of Columbia. Chase is best known for creating and editing the Washington Bee in June 1882 until his death in 1921. The motto for the paper, fondly known as “The Bee”, was “Honey for Our Friends – Sting for Our Enemies.”

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Picture of William Calvin Chase. Couresty of the New York Public Library Digital Collections.

The paper covered national events, but largely focused on African American society in Washington, D. C. Chase used his editorial skills to provide critical commentary on race relations and civil rights issues. The Bee fought for equal rights through publication of eyewitness accounts and photographs that documented resistance to segregation and discrimination. Chase was also an active Republican and assisted the party as the District of Columbia’s national convention delegate in 1900 and 1912. He did not serve in elected office but was significantly influential in politics, especially through his newspaper. Chase continued to combat segregation and racial violence through publication until his death in 1921.

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Political Ribbon picturing William Calvin Chase. From the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center’s collection.

This post was written by Wright State University Public History graduate student Alyssa Stark. She just completed an internship in Collection Management at the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center. She is currently processing this collection of campaign memorabilia for her capstone project.

Posted December 6, 2019
Topics: African American History

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