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Thu, 10.01.1903

James R. Stewart, Teacher and Pan-Africanist born

James R. Stewart

*James R. Stewart was born on this date in 1903. He was a Black teacher, administrator, and Pan-African activist.

James Robert Stewart was born in Moorhead, Mississippi, the son of a wealthy plantation owner; his uncle Professor William Stewart taught in Centreville, Mississippi. He began school in Morehead and moved to Cleveland in 1915, where he studied art and commercial business. After school, Stewart served as a mail clerk at the post office, became a Spanish Instructor, and served as an interpreter for the Pennsylvania Railroad. He became an amateur boxing champion in Ohio.

Stewart joined the UNIA as a juvenile in 1919. He became the President of the Cleveland Division in 1933 and State Commissioner in 1937 after taking the course of African Philosophy from President-General Marcus Garvey and graduating with high honors. After Garvey's death in June 1940, the August 1940 Emergency Conference of the UNIA Commissioners in New York City elected Stewart President-General to complete the final two years of Garvey's uncompleted term. As President-General, Stewart transferred the International Headquarters of the UNIA from New York to Cleveland.

He immediately launched a national speaking tour to inspire existing Divisions and create new ones. Stewart held a series of Conferences and Conventions, launched the New Negro World Newspaper, and resumed offering the Course of African Philosophy. By 1943, he obtained sixty-five acres of farmland in Oregonia, Ohio, and within six years, transformed UNIA into a modern community. Unhappy with this development, a rehabilitating committee held a conference in Detroit, Michigan. In 1949, President-General Stewart successfully repatriated his family and other supporters to Zanzu, Gbandela, Liberia, officially establishing the International Headquarters of the UNIA-ACL on African soil.

The move led to a split in the movement. A committee of opponents was formed which denounced Stewart. Thomas W. Harvey led the faction, which split from Stewart's group. Harvey was appointed President-General of the new UNIA group, headquartered in Philadelphia in 1951. Stewart maintained and expanded the UNIA-ACL program and estate in Liberia, establishing a productive farm, restaurant, school, and hospital, which continue to operate today. He maintained a close relationship with President William Tubman of Liberia, who served as the UNIA-ACL Potentate and Supreme Commissioner by 1954. James R. Stewart died in Liberia on April 30, 1964.

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