More Stemons, Less of Me
on July 28, 2006
So today is my last day working for Amy. I did a little writing this morning working on a "feature" on James S. Stemons. For most of this week I was at HSP looking through the JSS papers, specifically his correspondence. The coolest stuff was from the years 1906 and 1907 when Stemons edited two different newspapers, the Courant and the Pilot. He was a very confident writer and lecturer, who thought he didn't get enough credit for what he was doing. Stemons wanted to make both of these papers national known, and in fact did get some of his editorials published in black newspapers in Chicago and Richmond. Furthermore, he caught the attention of figures like Booker T. Washington and William Jennings Bryan. Washington wrote a letter to Stemons agreeing with one of his editorials and even said that he always reads Stemons' newspaper. Ironically Stemons disliked many of these national figures, like Washington (and maybe Du Bois, but he doesn't mention him), and called them "the Big Bugs" and called Washington specifically a "pet god". Stemons disliked them mostly because he felt they were holding him down from prominence, wanted to see him fail, and thought they were jealous of his possible successes. But that should not get in the way of Stemons' writings, which were actually very good, maybe overlooked, and interesting in the context of Philadelphia. His best essay was written in 1897 and basically enumerated, two years before Du Bois, the problem with keeping blacks out of industrial work. Throughout his life he waited, worked as a janitor, worked at Willow Grove Park (close to my hometown of Horsham) and found other jobs that paid poorly for anyone, especially an educated man like Stemons.
Thanks Amy, for having me work with everyone. Good luck and I hope to see some cool stuff on the web in a couple of years.