The Afro Texan Press 

The Early Years

 


 With the assistance of Rev. I. B. Scott, afterward  Bishop Scott, of the M. E. Church, and Rev. A. Grant, bishop of the A. M. E.  Church, Mr. Easton organized the Texas Blade Publishing Company and became its  editor. 

 

 

William Edgar Easton 

Dessalines, a Dramatic Tale: A Single Chapter from Haiti's History

Christophe; a tragedy in prose of imperial Haiti - Easton, William Edgar, 1861-

William Edgar Easton (Senior) was born in New York City March 19, 1861, of  Charles F. Easton, Sr., son of the American Revolution, and Marie Antoinette Leggett-Easton, a descendant of a hero of the Revolutionary War, of Haiti. There were three  children, Marie A., born in Plymouth, Massachusetts; Charles, Jr., born in New Orleans,  and the subject of this sketch. At the age of thirteen, bereft of his mother, William  became the charge of his godmother, Baroness de Hoffman, who entrusted him to the  care of a Catholic priest and he was entered in the Seminary de Troise Rivieres, Canada,  afterwards entering the La Salle Academy of Providence, Rhode Island, and completing  his education in a college of the Congregation de Saint Croix. 

At the age of twenty-two he took up his residence in Texas, where he taught school,  married and became prominent in the Republican politics of that State, having for  twelve years served as secretary of the Republican State Executive Committee, chairman  of the Executive Committee of the Republican party of the County Travis, the location  of Austin, the capital of the State. With the assistance of Rev. I. B. Scott, afterward  Bishop Scott, of the M. E. Church, and Rev. A. Grant, bishop of the A. M. E.  Church, Mr. Easton organized the Texas Blade Publishing Company and became its  editor, giving the race a fearless advocate and defender. 

In the year 1895, Mr. Easton was appointed storekeeper of the bonded stores of  the Galveston custom house. Prior to that, in 1886, he had been appointed, along with  Rev. A. Grant, a commissioner to the New Orleans and South American Exposition.  In the year 1895, Mr. Easton was appointed night police clerk of San Antonio, Texas,  and served the administration with honor during his incumbency.

Though for many years a write of short, humorous stories for weekly and daily papers, Mr. Easton elected to write his first book as a tribute to the magnificent courage and achievements of the Negro. Hence his first book,  "Dessalines" came from the press, its theme the heroic struggles of the Haitians for independence. The late Judge Tourgee, "Bystander" of the Chicago Inter-Ocean, styled  "Dessalines" the first evidence of a high order of literary excellence by the American Negro. The Haitian government attested its historical accuracy in a warm letter of appreciation. In the year 1910, Mr. Easton publish his second book in Los Angeles, California, having been a resident of the state of California since July, 1901. This book was entitled "Christophe," a continuation of the heroic struggles for a stable government of the Haitian people. It was successfully staged in Los Angeles, having its initial performance in  New York City by the foremost actress of the race, Miss Henrietta Vinton Davis. This  lady had the leading character in the first performance of "Dessalines," afterward  staging her own version of the drama in a Pennsylvania circuit. Mrs. Spear-Bass, editress of the California Eagle, and a lady of keen literary perception, wrote of Mr.  Easton's books that they were a quarter of a century ahead of the race for whom they  were written, and probably his literary work would not be properly appreciated in the  author's life time. 

Mr. Easton has been very active in public life here, editing a newspaper. He was  the first of the race to serve as either a city or county deputy field assessor, and, at  several tax collection periods, acted as a clerk in the county clerk's office. In politics  Mr. Easton has always been found where he could do the most good for his race, and  in the campaign of Mayor Harper, demanded and received for the race, in acknowledgement  of its loyalty at the polls, an ordinance making the refusal to serve members of  the race! a misdemeanor with, as a penalty, loss of license to do business.  In the year 1915 Mr. Easton was appointed to the responsible position of custodian  of the State offices, in Los Angeles, and, though furnished with white janitors at the  start, he has succeeded in making the janitorial force of the State offices and Exposition  Park partly colored. These positions pay ninety dollars per month. After serving  seven months as custodian he entered into a competitive examination with sixteen others,  all white but himself, and was reappointed under the State civil service. A short time  ago Mr. Easton was appointed the manager of the Los Angeles branch of the State  purchasing department and had an increase in salary. 

Hon. Emmett J. Scott selected Mr. Easton as a member of the National Bureau of  Speakers for the War Department, the first appointment of the race west of the  Mississippi, and since, he was selected a member of the "Four Minute Speakers" by  Hon. Marshall Stimson, the director for Southern California. The most recent honor to  come to Mr. Easton has been his appointment as chairman historian for the race's war  activities during the trying times of this great international struggle, worthy of a place  in the volumes that will be published by the State Council of Defense. 

Mr. Easton showed his appreciation of women's work by having Governor William  D. Stephens make a forceful and sympathetic address to the California State Federation  of Colored Women's Clubs, and escorting him to the rostrum, having himself the day  before, in his capacity as a member of the National Speakers' Bureau, delivered an  address that was received with marked attention and resounding applause. Mr. Easton  believes in the good women of the race and tells me that he treasures, above all other  testimonials (and they are numerous) the following letter, herewith reproduced:


California State Federation of Colored Women's Clubs. 
Oakland, California, August 21, 1918. 
Mr. William E. Easton, National Representative, All American League of California, 
Los Angeles, California.

Dear Sir: We, as an earnest body of women striving for self -betterment and the  betterment of all humanity, wish to congratulate you for the honor bestowed upon you  as a member of the Special Speakers' Bureau of the War Department. We feel proud  of you, and we know in selecting you to act in that capacity they have chosen one  who is able to convey to the public the meaning and significance of this great and  terrific conflict not for a world's supremacy and the murdering of innocent women and  children, but a world 's fight for democracy. " We sincerely wish you continued success and attention with your able addresses  and noble plea for justice for all humanity. You will overlook our delay in sending  you our congratulations, for we have just returned to our homes from your beautiful  city, where we had the pleasure of listening to your very interesting as well as  instructive remarks during one of the sessions of our Federation. "

Yours for 'Deeds, not Words,' (Signed)
 "MRS. HETTIE B. TILGHMAN, President 
(Seal of Federation)
 "MRS. EDYTHE NICHOLAS, Secretary." 

Sketch from The Negro Trail Blazers of California: A Compilation of Records.
by Bancroft Library - 1919 

 

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