Peter Humphries Clark was one of Ohio’s most effective black abolitionist writers and speakers. He became the first teacher engaged by the Cincinnati black public schools in 1849, and the founder and principal of Ohio’s first public high school for black students in 1866.
Clark was born on March 29, 1829, in Cincinnati, Ohio. His father Michael Clark was a successful barber who worked to provide his son with a private education. After the death of his father, Clark took over the barbershop briefly. The same year black schools were authorized by the Ohio legislature and Clark became the first teacher in the black school. However, he was fired in 1853 by the white board of Education for publicly praising Thomas Paine. Clark received a masters degree from Wilberforce University later in life.
Clark continued his work as an abolitionist publisher, editor, writer, and speaker. He often traveled to participate in conventions and edited and published his own weekly newspapers.
He was appointed secretary of the 1853 National Convention of Colored Men in Syracuse, New York, by Frederick Douglass, where he drafted a constitution of the National Equal Rights League. He also served as a conductor for the Underground Railroad.
By 1856, he was working on the staff of the Frederick Douglass’ Paper. In 1857, the black trustees of the colored schools rehired him and made him principal of the Western District School in Cincinnati.
He was a member of the Republican Party from about 1856 to 1872 but left the party. In 1876 he joined the Workingmen’s Party of the United States, the forerunner to the Socialist Labor Party of America, shortly after the Party’s foundation. In 1883, Clark had so much influence on Cincinnati’s African American community that he helped elect a Democratic governor in a Republican stronghold. That’s after Gov. George Hoadly promised to repeal some of Ohio’s notorious Black Laws. Clark died on June 21, 1925.