Preserving American Freedom

The Evolution of American Liberties in Fifty Documents

James Samuel Stemons

Birth: 
1870
Death: 
1959
Affiliations: 
Editor, Philadelphia Courant, 1906
Founder and Editor, The Pilot, 1907-1909
US Post Office, 1908
Director and Organizer, Mutual Association of Post Office Employees, 1913
Born in Clarksville, Tennessee, to former slaves, James Stemons moved to Kansas with his family in search of better economic opportunity in 1876. Faced with racial discrimination in Kansas, Stemons moved to Boston in 1893. After initial travels around Ohio and Pennsylvania, where Stemons lectured about racial relations, he eventually settled in Philadelphia, taking up odd jobs to make ends meet. Stemons is remarkable for the diversity of his employment: editor of the short-lived Philadelphia Courant by 1906, clerk in the US Post Office in Philadelphia by 1908, director and organizer of the Mutual Association of Post Office Employees by 1913, and editor of his own newspaper, The Pilot, during its 1907-1909 run.
Stemons worked as field secretary for the joint organization of the Association for Equalizing Industrial Opportunities and the League of Civic and Political Reform in Philadelphia, organizations unique in their approaches in mending racial interactions across the country. They believed that colored people would garner higher wages and wider social berth if the African American crime rate dropped significantly and if true economic and political opportunity—not just education and vocational training—were offered to black workers.