John Newton Templeton, A.B. 1828



The Claims of Liberia



Chillicothe, Ross Co., Ohio

July 4th 1829



Athens, OH : Maurice Press, 1980

Electronic Edition


Private Distribution

Not for sale!

Dedicated to Brandon and Maurice for a better 21st Century

and the past recipients of the John Newton Templeton award

Clifton Mason (1978)

Jeffrey Richardson (1979)

Donna Harris (1980)


Source of speech:

Chillicothe Gazette, July 22nd, 1829

Xenia Farmer’s Record, July 30th, 1829

Reproduced, with commentary from the above sources.




For further information contact:

Connie & Michel Perdreau

92 Grosvenor Street

Athens, Ohio 45701

John Newton Templeton


1828 -- A Tribute -- 1978

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the graduation of the first Afro-American student at Ohio University. John Newton Templeton class of 1828, was a freed slave who later played a significant role in the education and emancipation of Black Americans.

Born on a cotton plantation in South Carolina, Templeton was freed in 1813, at which time he and his family migrated to Ohio, eventually settling in Adams County. With the aid and encouragement of Rev. Robert G. Wilson, president of Ohio University (1824-1839), Templeton enrolled at the University in 1824. It is noteworthy that Ohio University, unlike many institutions of higher education at this time, had no restrictive clauses pertaining to race; any male youth who qualified for acceptance was admitted. While working his way trough college, Templeton maintained a superior academic record and was an especially active member of the Athenian Literary Society. One of ten graduating students in the commencement exercise of 1828, Templeton delivered a speech entitled "The Claims of Liberia." After graduation he taught in Chillicothe, Ohio. In 1834, reversing his pro-Colonization stance, Templeton became one of the officers of the Chillicothe (Colored) Anti-Slavery Society. He finally settled in Pittsburgh in 1836, where he became the first teacher and principal of the African School, the first school for Black children in the city. In addition to his relentless political activities, Templeton was co-editor of The Mystery, an Afro-American newspaper dedicated to the fight for freedom and political emancipation. He died unexpectedly in 1851, but his memory lingered on in the hearts and minds of the local community. In 1915, Edward C. Berry, a prominent Black businessman and resident of Athens, donated a substantial contribution in honor of Templeton for the construction of the Alumni Gate.

Ohio University can indeed be proud of John Newton Templeton, the first Black American to receive a college degree in the State of Ohio and in the entire area encompassing the old Northwest Territory. On a national scale, Templeton is the fourth Black college graduate, preceded by Edward A. Jones (Amherst College, 1826), John B. Russwurm (Bowdoin College, 1826), and Edward A. Mitchell (Dartmouth College, 1828). In Ohio, Oberlin College began to admit Afro-Americans in 1835.

One hundred and fifty years ago, President Robert C. Wilson stated in the Baccalaureate Address:

… the man who labors to improve the condition of his neighbors, whether it be by increasing their knowledge, removing their prejudices, or directing their efforts in attempts to improve their condition, will acquire their esteem in all cases where he is successful, and where he is not, credit will usually be given him for aims and desires that were benevolent …

Certainly, the life and achievements of John Newton Templeton, an illustrious Ohio University graduate, deserves both our esteem and credit as we honor him.

Connie & Michel Perdreau

The following address was delivered by John Templeton -- a colored youth, and a graduate of Athens College -- on the 4th inst., in the Methodist Meeting-house in this place. As a literary performance, it is highly creditable to its author, and forever explodes the idea, that the Negro is nothing more than a mere animal.

Respected audience:

It is with the greatest reluctance that I appear before you this day in behalf of the claims of Liberia. But for the few moments which I shall occupy I solicit your most serious attention.

You are a people blessed with a residence in the midst of the temperate zone, where the fertility of the soil, the salubrity of the climate, and the felicity of the government under which you live, might furnish the noblest theme for declamation; but the benevolence of your hearts will lead you to sympathize with the ill-fated sons of Africa, and if it be possible, to give your assistance in placing them in that land where they may enjoy the rights and privileges of a free people.

At a very early period of human existence, Africa was known and inhabited, and in the catalogue of great nations, Egypt and Carthage, were enrolled; -- but even from these parts of this vast continent the glory has long since departed -- the Crescent has waved over the Cross, and by banishing the Bible, has found the way for the errors and gross darkness of the false Prophet.

Since the discovery of America, another evil of unbounded extent, and inexpressible weight, has lighted upon hapless Africa. Her children are cruelly dragged into bondage, and sold into hopeless slavery in the West India islands, and in North and South America. In these United States, the genius of liberty weeps over their chains and hard bondage; and on this day, therefore, the anniversary of your independence, when so many thousands are assembled to celebrate that period, in which providence so highly distinguished them as a nation, we have thought it the properest time to lay before you the oppressed state of the Africans, and entreat the patronage and liberality of the humane.

Slavery is one of the greatest evils existing in our day, and for the abolishing of which, was the object in forming the Colonization Society; it is an evil which has long existed, its decline must therefore be gradual, in order that its total overthrow be permanent. You will, therefore, hear me while I urge upon your patronage and liberality the claims of Liberia. It promises a home to the oppressed children of Africa.

The present condition of the colored people in the United States, I presume, is known to most in this house. The slave population is scattered over a wide extent of country, and, like other property, liable to be transferred from the hands of one to another, in endless sucession, without regard to their own choice or predilection. -- In the same condition in which they were when they left their native wilds of Africa; their minds are suffered to remain without the least degree of improvement, or the acquisition of knowledge -- in a land of civil and religious liberty, they enjoy neither -- in a land where men are stimulated by interest, the love of distinction, and future felicity, the lash of a task-master is the only stimulus which excites them to action. Now, I would ask you, if God had designated the man of color for this degraded condition, can we suppose that he would have blessed him with powers capable of intellectual improvement, and eternal joy; and not have created him so unlike that genius of animals, of which, by some, he is considered to be a species? Why would he have made him in form, statue and appearance so much resembling that being (whom we call man) who was pronounced lord of this lower world. If there is an individual here who can prove, that the African is nothing superior to other animals, then we will submit that by the laws of God and the customs and manners of men, he is bound to be in subjection to a more excellent being. I am aware that it has been said by some, that the Africans are incapable of intellectual improvement and self-government, and perhaps would urge this as a plea, why they are so reluctant in the cause of the colony. To such individuals, I would ask this question, were not AEsop and Terence Africans, whose writings are read in almost all institutions of learning to this day? And have not recent events brought into view, multitudes who are capable of the highest improvement in all the arts and elegancies of life. Cast your eye back for half a century, and scarcely an African could be found who could read, and fewer still who could write; now there are multitudes who can do both -- the genius of Africa begins to shine forth in spite of every obstacle, and dispel that rubbish which has for ages concealed her beauty; and ere long will exhibit to the world, those productions which have been disputed to have existed in the African race. Yes, that time spoken of by the Prophet of old, is not far distant, when Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hands unto God.

The colony of Liberia promises also to close forever that detestable traffic in human flesh, which has so tarnished the reputation of Europe and America, and wasted the population of Africa. The right of the Africans to the unmolested enjoyment of life and liberty, in the country of their nativity, is now so fully established, that I would insult the understanding of my audience by offering arguments to prove it. Let it suffice to say, that the slave trade has depopulated one of the most fertile regions of the globe, with the blood of Africa’s children has reddened the waters of the Atlantic, and the monsters of the briny deep, have been glutted with their dead bodies. Now the object of the Colonization Society is to place such as shall put themselves under its care, on the west of the African continent, where that nefarious practice has been principally carried on. -- The emigrants who have already gone to that region, exclude slave-ships from their wonted barbaries. Would to God, we were able to say to you, that this execrable practice is abolished. Surely the day is near, when civilized and Christianized man, will arise in the majesty of his strength, and rid the world of such a stain. Now the opportunity of accomplishing this end will soon be afforded you.

There is, at this instant, in North Carolina, about 2,000 slaves, who are ready to be set at liberty and placed under the care of the Colonization Society, as soon as means sufficient shall be obtained for their transportation. If there is then a true philanthropist or a patriot in the house, one who wishes to be ranked high in the annals of history, on account of his exploits, and to immortalize his name, let him evince it by his liberality and bounty, by undertaking the cause of the oppressed, and exhibiting to the world a true spirit of republicanism. Providence is at the helm of affairs, and I dare venture to say, that the cause of the colony will ultimately prevail.

Your patience, I hope, will not be exhausted, while I remark once more, that by your benevolent exertions this day, you may diffuse throughout Africa, the knowledge of Christianity, civilization, and the arts. With the exception of a few Missionary Stations, in South Africa, the whole continent is enveloped in the darkness of Paganism, and the errors of Mahomet. Since the first institution of the Colonization Society, it is astonishing to see what rapid progress has been made in the arts and sciences, in that part of Africa, called Liberia, nor has its powerful effects been confined to this section of the globe. America has likewise felt its influence -- the slaveholder has relinquished his claims -- the statesman has become its advocate – and even those who before, Gallilleo like, are now its warmest friends -- and why? because reason teaches us the cause is a just one, conscience approves it, and the experience of ages will attest the expediency of such an undertaking. There is an instinctive principle which manifests itself very perspicuously in the acts of animals, in their showing a regard for all beings resembling them in nature, and endeavoring to render them assistance whenever they find them oppressed. Shall then men be more unfeeling than mute creation? Shall neither the cries of innocence, nor the wants of the needy move them to compassion? Nay, I presume there is not an individual in the house, whose heart is so hard, and conscience, as it were, so seared to all feelings of nature. Well, then, may I urge upon you, the claims of Liberia, and whilst you are surrounded with peace and affluence, I entreat you to consider the degraded state of the slave. Cast your eyes beyond the Ocean, and behold, Africa, once a favored land, now the abode of ignorance and superstition! O, Justice, when will you arise to avenge the rights of injured Africa! But by your benevolent acts this day, she may yet become a happy land -- slavery entirely abolished – and America gain that reputation, which would otherwise be impossible.

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