Charles Octavius Boothe was a prominent black Baptist preacher, educator, and author. He worked with white leaders and philanthropist to help blacks in post-Civil War Alabama.
Boothe was born on June 13, 1845 in Mobile County, and was owned by planter Nathan Howard Sr. Boothe’s maternal great-grandmother was born in Africa, his grandmother in Virginia, and his mother in Georgia. The identity of Boothe’s father is unknown.
Boothe went to live with Nathan Howard Jr. at the age of six, upon the death of Howard Sr. He then worked for Colonel James S. Terrel in his law office as a clerk at the age of 14. Boothe was raised in the African American Baptist faith by his grandfather and mother; he claimed his paternal grandfather had been literate enough to read the Bible.
He pastored the First Colored Baptist Church, Meridian, Miss., Dexter Avenue Church, Montgomery, and held various State positions. The only time he attended school was at Meharry, the medical department of the Central Tennessee College.
Boothe authored many newspaper columns and contributed reports on missionary activities to denominational minutes. He also published two important volumes: The Cyclopedia of the Colored Baptists of Alabama, which documented the efforts of African American Baptists in Alabama, and Plain Theology for Plain People, which was an easy-to-read and concrete explanation of religious concepts for African American Baptist ministers and church members.
Because of the Jim Crow South, Boothe moved north some time in the 1910s, although little is known about his life after he left Alabama. He died in Detroit some time in 1924.