Key Highlights About Nathaniel J. Frederick:
- Prominent attorney and activist who fought for equal rights for African Americans
- His work as an activist is considered a forerunner to the civil rights movement.
- Served as principal of Howard School, the only public black school in 1901
- Argued 33 cases before the United States Supreme Court
Nathaniel J. Frederick was a prominent activist, attorney, and educator. Frederick fought for equal rights for African Americans in the early 1900’s. His work as an activist is considered a forerunner to the civil rights movement.
Frederick was born in 1877 in Orangeburg, S.C. His father was a Methodist Episcopal minister who was a former slave, as was his mother. He earned a bachelor’s degrees from Claflin University and the University of Wisconsin- Madison, the latter in history and Latin. Claflin and Benedict College also honored Frederick with honorary master’s degrees.
After completing his studies, Frederick to the job as principal of the Howard School in 1901. The school was the only public school for black children at that time in Columbia, S.C. Frederick also became the first African American to practice law in Richland County and remained the only practicing black attorney until 1940.
As an attorney, Frederick argued 33 cases before the United States Supreme Court, and many of them received national recognition.
Frederick also served on the executive committee of the Capitol Civic League, an organization whose sole purpose was to contest and contend for constitutional rights and privileges.
Frederick led efforts to merge the league with the NAACP, and the Columbia chapter of the organization grew to more than 750 members. He also founded and edited the Palmetto Leader, a major black newspaper in South Carolina that spoke out against lynching. Nathaniel J. Frederick died in 1938.