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Sun, 02.05.1815

Jabez Campbell, Minister, and Abolitionist born

Jabez Campbell

*On this date, in 1815, Jabez Campbell was born.  He was a Black minister, abolitionist, and philanthropist.  Jabez P. Campbell was born free in Slaughter Neck, Sussex County, Delaware.  

Both his grandfathers were soldiers during the Revolutionary War, a rare occurrence since only about 5,000 Blacks served in the Continental Army. His father was Anthony Campbell, a Methodist preacher, and his mother was Catherine Campbell, both of whom were members of the AME church.  

When Campbell was young, his father used him as collateral for his mortgage.  His father left him without paying his mortgage, leaving Campbell to be sold as a slave.  Campbell heard of the attempt to enslave him and ran away to Philadelphia, where his mother lived.  Despite his attempted escape, Campbell was captured and enslaved for four and a half years. He was meant to serve two more years, but he bought the time remaining from his master, and at age eighteen, he was free.  

In 1833, after a brief encounter with Christian Universalism and soon after being freed, Jabez Campbell joined Bethel Church, an AME church, in Philadelphia.  In September 1839, Campbell was licensed to preach by the AME church.  Bishop Morris Brown assigned Campbell to preach in the Frankford and Berks County circuits in Pennsylvania. From 1839 to 1843, he preached in the New England states.  In 1843, Campbell became an ordained elder and taught and preached in New York and Pennsylvania until 1854.  

Campbell was married twice; his first marriage was to Stella Medley on October 23, 1844; they had one child, Catherine Stella Campbell, in 1852.  In April 1854, Stella Medley died.  Campbell married again in 1855 to a widow, Mary Ann Akins.  She was previously married to Joseph Shire and had four children with him.  Akins and Campbell did not have any children together. From 1855 to 1858, he was general book steward to the AME church and editor of the Christian Recorder, the official newspaper of the AME church. After resigning from these posts, he was assigned to Trenton in New Jersey and Bethel Church in Pennsylvania.   

After John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry (1859), Rev. Campbell requested in a letter the bodies of two persons, Shields Green and John Copeland, would be hanged by the Governor of Virginia.  He condemned the raid as reckless, disapproving of violence to obtain freedom for the enslaved.  Campbell continued his religious service as a pastor in Baltimore and Philadelphia until May 1864, when he was elected the eighth bishop of the AME church.  As a bishop, Campbell set up both the Louisiana and California conferences in 1865.  Campbell and his wife Mary had life memberships to the Board of Managers of the Home for Aged and Infirm Colored Persons in West Philadelphia.  Campbell was part of the American Colonization Society (ACS), wherein, in 1876, he was elected vice president of the ACS.  

He also participated in the Colored National Convention held in Franklin Hall, Sixth Street, below Arch, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on October 16, 17, and 18, 1855.  He gave money to Wilberforce University and Jabez Pitt Campbell College, eventually absorbed by what is now Jackson State University.  Wilberforce University and the University of Pennsylvania awarded him the Doctor of Divinity honorary degree in 1876.    From 1864 to 1867, he worked primarily in Indiana, Missouri, California, and Louisiana.   Campbell set up the Ocean Grove Conference in New Jersey in the 1880s.  Rev. Jabez P. Campbell, the eighth bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, died on August 9, 1891. 

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