John E.W. Bowen, Sr.

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John E.W. Bowen, Sr was born into New Orleans slavery in 1855. He was emancipated as a toddler when his father purchased his family’s freedom in 1858.

Bowen made a name for himself academically. In 1887 he earned a PhD in Theology becoming the first black man to earn a PhD from Boston University.

Several years later, he taught theology at Gammon Theological Seminary, which later evolved into Atlanta’s Interdenominational Theology Center. ITC is now a part of the Atlanta University Center. Bowen became the Theological Seminary’s first black professor and president.

In an effort to create a stronger voice for blacks locally and nationally, he launched and edited The Voice of the Negro in 1904 with Jesse Max Barber. The Voice endorsed the civil rights organization … “the Niagara Movement” and addressed activist politics, black education, religion, art and science. The publication featured other prominent black writers like Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Mary Church Terrell.

Yet, confrontations with Atlanta city government after the 1906 Atlanta race riot forced Barber to move the journal to Chicago, where it ceased publication the next year. The Voice claimed nearly 15-thousand subscribers. Bowen remained in Atlanta and did not relocate with Barber.

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