Charles H. Wesley

Did You Know Historian Charles H. Wesley Was Born on This Day?

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This Day In History: December 2nd

Scholar and historian, Charles H. Wesley, was an avid supporter of documenting the history of African Americans. Wesley was born on December 2, 1891, in Louisville, Kentucky. The historian explored aspects of Black culture, ranging from the workforce to biographies of notable Black leaders. 

Wesley attended Fisk University and graduated at the age of 19. His academic abilities earned him a graduate fellowship at Yale University, where he graduated with a master’s degree in history in 1913. He continued to further his education and received a doctoral degree from Harvard University in 1925. Wesley published his doctoral thesis, “Negro Labor in the United States 1850 to 1925: A Study in American Economic History” in 1927, and it provided a comprehensive analysis of African Americans from the perspective of laborers rather than enslaved individuals. 

During the early part of the 1930s, Wesley was a Guggenheim Fellow and he conducted research pertaining to slavery in the British West Indies. In addition to his studies, Wesley worked at several HBCUs and fraternal organizations. He served as the dean of the graduate school at Howard University, where he met and was encouraged by Carter G. Woodson to study black history. After working at Howard, Wesley relocated to Ohio and served as the president of both Wilberforce and Central State universities. 

He also served as the 14th General President and National Historian of Alpha Phi Alpha. He wrote the fraternity’s history and also wrote the history for Sigma Pi Phi which is the oldest African American Greek Letter Fraternity. 

Over the course of his career, Wesley published more than a dozen books and articles. His works include “Richard Allen: Apostle of Freedom” (1935), “Ohio Negroes in the Civil War: Ohio Civil War Centennial Commission, No. 6” (1962) and “In Freedom’s Footsteps, From The African Background To The Civil War, (International Library of Negro Life And History)” (1968). Wesley also published works with Woodson. They released “The Story of the Negro Retold / by Carter G. Woodson and Charles H. Wesley” in 1959 as well as “The Negro in Our History” (1962). 

Towards the end of his career, Wesley served as the Director of the Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum in Philadelphia. Although his work life kept him busy, Wesley maintained a close connection to the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He was an ordained minister and served as the pastor of the Ebenezer and Campbell AME churches between 1918 and 1938. 

The renowned scholar and champion of Black history died on August 16, 1987, in Washington, D.C.

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