Josiah Crump

Josiah Crump (ca. 1838–1890)

Josiah Crump represented the Jackson Ward neighborhood on Richmond's city council for nearly ten years (1876–1884, 1888–1890). While it is unknown if Crump was born enslaved, by 1860 he was free and worked as a teamster. In 1871 he became a postal clerk in Richmond, most likely gaining the post because of his involvement with the Republican Party. He also joined the Grand Fountain United Order of True Reformers and served as a captain in one the city's African American militias. Crump won his first election to the city's board of aldermen in 1876, serving until 1884. He returned to office for two more years in 1888. In spite of increasing racial tensions, both black and white politicians respected Crump. He served on the committee of ordinances, a rarity for African American council members, and ended the practice of medical schools robbing graves for black cadavers. Crump died in 1890, and his funeral drew between 5,000 and 6,000 mourners. MORE...

 

Early Years

Crump was born in Richmond about 1838 and was the son of Johanna Crump (whose maiden name is unknown) and Josiah Crump, who was later said to have been the only African American in Richmond to run a hotel for white customers. Whether Crump was born free or enslaved is unclear, and records pertaining to his early life are scarce. By 1860 he was free, residing in Richmond with his mother and stepfather, James Robinson, and working with the latter as a teamster. After Robinson's death, Crump ran wagons and hauled freight until 1871, by which time he was working as a clerk in the Richmond post office. The city's postmaster, Elizabeth Van Lew, was a leader of the city's Republican Party, and Crump's appointment likely indicates that he had begun taking part in Republican Party politics. He purchased his first property in Richmond in October 1872 and thereafter owned one or two lots and houses in the city.

Political Career

In 1870 and 1875 Crump attended conventions organized to advance the interests of African American laboring men in Richmond. In May 1876 he won election to Richmond's bicameral city council. He represented Jackson Ward on the board of aldermen from 1876 to 1884 and again from 1888 to 1890. Crump sat on committees that were important to his constituents, such as the Committees for the First and Second Markets, as well as the Committees on the Police and on Streets, to which African American members usually were appointed. He also served on the Committee on Ordinances, a rarity for a black alderman, and on relatively less-prestigious committees including those on Public Grounds and Buildings and on Claims and Salaries.

Crump and other African American community leaders succeeded in many ways in protecting or improving the lives of their constituents in spite of opposition from a white Democratic majority that was usually united. Even during the growing racial hostility of the 1880s and 1890s, Crump and his colleagues established a night school for adults, provided fuel for poor residents, made improvements to streets and installed better lighting, and ended the practice of grave-robbing by which medical schools obtained African American cadavers for dissecting laboratories. Such achievements were not matched until the post–World War II generation of civil rights pioneers.

Crump served as a member of the Republican State Committee in 1880. A loyal supporter of Ulysses S. Grant, he was one of 306 delegates at that year's Republican National Convention in Chicago, Illinois, who tried to nominate Grant for a third term as president. Like many other politically active African Americans, Crump supported the Readjusters, who proposed to refinance and reduce the principal and interest rate on Virginia's large antebellum public debt. At the 1881 Republican State Convention, he was elected temporary chair of the faction that successfully pushed for a coalition with the Readjusters.

In 1882 the governor appointed Crump to a two-year term on the board of the Central Lunatic Asylum, in Petersburg, the state's first black mental hospital. Crump was the board's president pro tempore, a member of the executive committee, and briefly acting president when the presiding officer resigned in January 1883. Throughout the 1880s Crump offered advice on local politics and patronage policy to William Mahone, the Readjuster leader who joined the Republican Party while a member of the U.S. Senate from 1881 to 1887.

Later Years

Crump may have lived with his mother until he married Fernella Meriweather, a member of a prominent middle-class African American family, on December 19, 1883. They had two daughters and one son. Sometime after his marriage Crump joined Saint Philip's Episcopal Church. He lost his job as a postal clerk after a Democrat won the presidential election in 1884, and late in the 1880s he operated a grocery near his home. A member of Davis Fountain 106, Grand Fountain United Order of True Reformers, he was also a captain in the Attucks Guard, one of the city's black militia companies.

Crump died of pyaemia, a form of blood poisoning, at his Richmond home on February 15, 1890. He had won respect in both the black and white communities in the increasingly segregated city. Richmond's aldermen passed resolutions of mourning that praised their former colleague as "one of the most active and zealous members of the Board who by his courteous and kind bearing won the esteem and good will of his fellow members, … who was always faithful and conscientious in the discharge of his duties to his constituents, and who was ever watchful of the interests of the city." Many aldermen and common council members joined a crowd estimated at 5,000 to 6,000 in paying their respects to Crump and riding in the procession to the funeral service at the Third Street African Methodist Episcopal Church. (His own church had been too small for the throngs of people expected to attend.) Crump was buried in Union Mechanics Cemetery.

Time Line

  • ca. 1838 - Josiah Crump is born in Richmond the son of Johanna Crump (maiden name unknown) and Josiah Crump. It is unknown whether he is born free or enslaved. His father is the city's only African American to run a hotel for white customers.
  • 1860 - By this date Josiah Crump is free. It is not known whether he was born enslaved.
  • 1870 - Josiah Crump attends a convention organized to advance the interests of African American laboring men in Richmond.
  • 1871 - Josiah Crump is a clerk in the Richmond post office. His appointment by the postmaster, Elizabeth Van Lew, suggests he is likely participating in Republican Party politics.
  • October 1872 - Josiah Crump purchases his first property in Richmond. Hereafter he owns one or two lots and houses in the city.
  • 1875 - Josiah Crump attends a convention organized to advance the interests of African American laboring men in Richmond.
  • May 1876 - Josiah Crump wins election to Richmond's bicameral city council, representing Jackson Ward on the board of aldermen until 1884.
  • 1880 - Josiah Crump serves as a member of the Republican State Committee and a delegate to the Republican National Convention in Chicago, Illinois.
  • 1881 - At the Republican State Convention, Josiah Crump is elected temporary chair of the faction that successfully pushes for a coalition with the Readjusters.
  • 1882 - The governor appoints Josiah Crump to a two-year board of the Central Lunatic Asylum, in Petersburg, the state's first black mental hospital.
  • December 19, 1883 - Josiah Crump and Fernella Meriweather, a member of a prominent middle-class African American family, marry. They will have two daughters and one son.
  • 1884 - Democrats win the presidential election, and soon after, as a result, Josiah Crump loses his job as a postal clerk in Richmond.
  • 1888 - Josiah Crump wins election to Richmond's bicameral city council, representing Jackson Ward on the board of aldermen until 1890.
  • February 15, 1890 - Josiah Crump dies of pyaemia at his Richmond home. Mourners estimated at 5,000 to 6,000 attend his funeral. He is buried in Union Mechanics Cemetery.

References

Further Reading
Chesson, Michael B. "Crump, Josiah." In the Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Vol. 3, edited by Sara B. Bearss, et al., 585–587. Richmond: Library of Virginia, 2006.
Chesson, Michael B. "Richmond's Black Councilmen, 1871–96." In Southern Black Leaders of the Reconstruction Era, ed. Howard N. Rabinowitz, 191–222. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982.
Foner, Eric. Freedom's Lawmakers: A Directory of Black Officeholders during Reconstruction. 1996 ed. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1993.
Jackson, Luther Porter. Negro Office-Holders in Virginia, 1865–1895. Norfolk, Virginia: Guide Quality Press, 1945.
Cite This Entry
  • APA Citation:

    Chesson, M. B., & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Josiah Crump (ca. 1838–1890). (2015, February 5). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Crump_Josiah_ca_1838-1890.

  • MLA Citation:

    Chesson, Michael B. and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "Josiah Crump (ca. 1838–1890)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 5 Feb. 2015. Web. READ_DATE.

First published: January 22, 2015 | Last modified: February 5, 2015