Poindexter did much to promote the interests of the Republican Party among Negroes in Ohio. While he reserved the right to withdraw his support from his party when it advocated "bad measures" or "nominated unworthy candidates," he lacked confidence in the Democratic Party. Franklin County, of which Columbus is the county seat, gave a majority vote for Vallandigham, the Copperhead candidate for Governor of the State, while the Civil War was in progress. A petition to the legislature after the war from the same county prayed that "the immigration of the Negro into Ohio be stopped." The petitioners lamented the economic situation brought about by the resulting competition in labor.24 In addition this county cast a two-to-one vote against giving the colored people in Ohio the right of suffrage. Later on, of course, that right was granted by the State.
While the seating of the President was still in question early in 1877, Frederick Douglass and Poindexter conferred with Rutherford B. Hayes in Columbus. Hayes wrote in his diary for February 18, 1877:
The indications still are that I am to go to Washington. I talked yesterday with Fred[erick] Douglass and Mr. Poindexter, both colored, on the Southern question. I told them my views. They approved Mr. Douglass gave me many useful hints about the whole subject. My course is a firm assertion and maintenance of the rights of the colored people of the South according to the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, coupled with a readiness to recognize all Southern people without regard to past political conduct, who will now go on with me heartily and in good faith in support of these principles.25
It may be mentioned parenthetically that it was the general opinion at the time that Poindexter recommended Douglass for the federal office he received from President Hayes. Like Douglass, Poindexter believed that the Negro's destiny was interwoven with that of the Republican Party. Four years before, in 1873, a group of colored citizens met at the Shiloh Baptist Church to take action on the "Chillicothe resolutions," which urged bolting the Republican Party. The resolution in answer to the Chillicothe resolutions was written by Poindexter and said in part:
"Although we have our grievances, growing out of our party affiliations, it is not in our heart to denounce the Administration and the Republican party."26
Poindexter served on a committee of resolutions to negate the resolutions of a national meeting of Negroes at Nashville, Tennessee, in I876. The Nashville convention likewise was considering bolting the Republican Party. Again it was declared that the time for such action was not yet ripe. . Poindexter expressed himself freely and boldly in the press, many of his letters commending the acts and words of some of his contemporaries and condemning those of others.
This parceling out of praise and blame irritated a local white politician by the name of Furay, who considered the tone of Poindexter's letters presumptuous. He therefore wrote of him in sarcastic vein as follows:
"Brother Poindexter talks and writes as if he carries the fifteen thousand colored votes of Ohio in his breeches pocket. He will wake up some day to a discovery of the fact that his assumption and arrogance are very offensive, and especially so to those voters whom he imagines he owns." The elderly clergyman answered this caustic paragraph in mild but effective language: "I claim no authority over the votes of the colored man, and if I have any influence with my own people it is the fruit of a long life of devotion to our cause as an oppressed race and this, I think, no generous white man will grudge."27
That Poindexter's influence with the Negroes of Columbus was in no way affected by the remarks of Furay was attested by the fact that he was elected to membership on the city council in the year 1880, being the first of five Negroes up to 1902 who served in that capacity. He was re-elected in 1882 and became the vice president of that body by vote of his fellow members. Poindexter was well informed of the uncompromising attitude of the Democratic Party in the southern states toward political rights for colored men there. He wrote:
"When it was proposed to make colored men in the South voters, the cry was raised: This is a white man's government and white men should run it. Democrats opposed making colored men voters because they believed they [Negroes] would vote solid for the Republicans and take from the Democracy the Southern states . . . and . . . put it in a hopeless minority in national affairs. Now many of the colored man's best friends deplore the fact that he was made a voter; the measure [the Fifteenth Amendment] they thought would protect him and preserve the South in the hands of those who had kept it in the Union has been made the pretext for inflicting untold suffering upon the colored man and despite of it, the southern states, with largely increased electoral votes, have been captured by the Democracy.28
24 Sara G. Rider, The Negro in Ohio with Especial Reference to the Influence of the Civil War
Return To The Homepage