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Mon, 04.03.1826

James M. Bell, Poet, and Abolitionist born

James Madison Bell

*On this date, in 1826, James Bell was born. He was a Black poet, laborer, and abolitionist.

James Madison Bell was born in Gallipolis, Ohio, and was a brick mason and plasterer. For 40 years, he wrote, published, and gave public readings of his orations in verse. Bell, who called Chatham, Canada home for a decade, recited his poetry to the refugees and Chester A. Arthur, the 21st President of the United States of America.  After moving to Canada, Bell married Louisiana Sanderline.  He also became acquainted with John Brown, assisting in raising funds for Brown's efforts to assist the Negro slaves.  Some of Bell's support helped in funding Brown’s in the raid at Harper's Ferry in 1859.

As a writer, Bell's early poems frequently addressed the issue of emancipation as a constant theme in his poetry.  He moved to California in 1860 until the end of the American Civil War. Throughout the war, he spoke out against slavery and for the emancipation of slaves in the US and the West Indies.  Bell’s Publications included: "The Day and the War," an Emancipation Day poem dedicated to John Brown, and "Valedictory of Leaving San Francisco California." He wrote his most famous poem, The Progress of Liberty, celebrating the Emancipation Proclamation.  A biography of Bell can be found in Griffith Brawley's Work "The Negro Genius." (1931).

Bell was also active in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and became the AME Sunday School superintendent from 1870 to 1873. His wife and oldest son are thought to have died in 1874. Bell continued traveling as an orator until 1890, when he settled in Toledo, Ohio with his family.  In 1901 Bell published 27 of his poems, which he called "The Poetical Works of James Madison Bell" 1901. James Madison Bell died in Toledo, Ohio, in 1902.

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