The Early Years
Richard Nelson, Editor The Freeman's JournalRichard Nelson
The above gentleman, who is editor of the most influential paper published in Texas, was born at Key West, Fla., June 16, 1842. He obtained his education in the schools of Key West, Fla. He moved to Atlanta in 1850, and to Texas in 1859, where he has since resided.
Settling in Galveston in 1866, he went into business, and here it was that his active mind and great energy soon brought him conspicuously before his own people, and the public generally, on the question of Reconstruction. His life has been one of prominence in politics, as a speaker and writer.
Mr. Nelson has held important positions in political life, such as justice of peace and notary public for Galveston; postmaster at Highland Station, in Galveston County; and inspector of customs for the district of Galveston. He was prominently mentioned as a Republican candidate for Congress in 1871, and ran on an independent ticket for Congress in 1884.
Mr. Nelson is a public speaker of wide reputation, and a writer of well-earned repute. He is a race man every inch. Concerning his life in this respect, Flake's Bulletin says of him: "His highest ambition is the elevation of his race from their former despondency and degradation, to high attainments in education and the proper discharge of their duties of citizenship in this great and free republic." He was several times delegate to the state and national conventions of his party.
His experience in journalism has been long and effective. In 1873, he began the publication of The Weekly Spectator, being sole proprietor and editor. The Spectator must have wielded considerable influence. Ex-Gov. E. J. Dana speaks of it as a leading Republican paper in the state.
The Freeman's Journal took the place of The Spectator; March 19, 1887. It is recognized as the leading Republican newspaper in the state. Mr. Edwin Smith, a reputable citizen of Texas, writes about The Journal as follows: "Temperate in tone and conservative in politics, it has gained for the colored people of this state a consideration for their wants and a recognition of their rights, on the part of their white fellow-citizens, that were never before accorded." Trained by experience, he is enabled to make such a wise use of his abilities as to render his paper a recognized power for good among all classes.
His editorial writings, as possibly may be the case with a few other Afro-American editors, are commented on frequently by the leading white organs of the state. There appeared in The Journal, shortly after the beginning of the present administration, an editorial on "The Administration and the Colored Man. Merit and Worth before Political Jugglery." This editorial created a stir all over the country, both white and black papers commenting and criticizing the editor, favorably or unfavorably. A portion of the editorial we publish below, which was freely commented on, as the reader will see, by The San Antonio Express, San Antonio Light, and The Fort Worth Gazette, all white papers of Texas. Editor Nelson writes thus: "The negro must learn one great fundamental truth and act upon it, that his color or previous condition is not a recommendation to office; that when the great Republican party knocked the shackles from his limbs, raised him to citizenship and made him the equal of the white man under the Constitution, and threw around him the full protection of law, its functions ceased, because it could do no more ; and it expected him to work out his own salvation the same as the white man, and to expect no special legislation or favors to his race that were not accorded the white race."
Sketch from The Afro-American Press and Its Editors
by Irvine Garland Penn - 1891