Jabez Campbell was a known and trusted Reverend of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He became involved with the 1855 National Convention of Colored Americans in Philadelphia, because he came from a background of slaves and struggles, and he was an advocate for African American liberties. Jabez addressed the Convention, but the details of his speech are unknown.

On October 23, 1844, while in Albany, Campbell married Stellar Medley, of Providence, RI. This marriage was short-lived due to Stella’s unknown cause of death. On June 7, 1855, Campbell was re-married to Mary Anne Akins of Philadelphia, PA ("Bishop Jabez Pitt Campbell. D. D., LL. D., Of the African M. E. Church, Presides"). Jabez and Mary Ann had a daughter, Harriet, in 1872. At the time of Campbell’s death in 1891, the family resided at 1923 No 11th St, in Philadelphia, PA (Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803–1915).

Jabez Pitts Campbell, born February 5, 1815 in Slaughter Neck, Sussex County Delaware, was born the son of two former slaves and thirteen siblings. Campbell’s parents were previously owned by a Methodist Minister, whose aid passed and left in his will that the Campbell family be given freedom ("Bishop Jabez Pitt Campbell. D. D., LL. D., Of the African M. E. Church, Presides").

Though he was born free, Captain Pierce, a slave owner in Delaware attempted to buy Jabez as his slave. Because Jabez’s parents denied the offer, Pierce misleadingly sold Jabez’s parents a condemned yacht, taking Jabez as a security deposit. When the boat came apart during its first voyage, Pierce had legally become Jabez’s owner. In the midst of Pierce’s plan to send Jabez to a different plantation, Campbell overheard the plan and escaped on a vessel to Philadelphia two days before the plan went into effect ("Bishop Jabez Pitt Campbell. D. D., LL. D., Of the African M. E. Church, Presides").

Eager to start a new life, Jabez attained jobs; polishing boots, working at the draw-bridge in Philadelphia, being a barber, and being a waiter in his early days. At the age of fifteen, having saved up enough money, Jabez purchased the remaining three years of his time at the draw-bridge to study at Quaker High School. During his later days, from 1838 until 1891, he worked as a full-time minister for the A.M.E. church, overseeing different churches each year. During the 1855 National Convention of Colored Americans, Campbell interacted with Frederick Douglass and many other A.M.E. Reverends.  

While in charge of the church in Philadelphia, Jabez was appointed by the Bishop as the General Book Steward. In 1856 Campbell became the second editor of a well-known A.M.E. newspaper; The Christian Recorder ("Things You Should Know"). Campbell resigned as the General Book Steward in 1858 and in the same year was elected President of the Board of Trustees of the Book Concern for the A.M.E. Church.

On August 9, 1891, at 10:10pm in Philadelphia, seventy-six year old Campbell died of feeble health. Thursday, August 13, 1891, hundreds gathered as he was buried at the Olive Cemetery in Philadelphia. Campbell reached several accomplishments over the course of his life time, such as: serving as the President of the Trustee Board of the oldest private Historically Black College and University: Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, OH, receiving an Honorary Doctor of Divinity (D.D.) degree from Wilberforce University, and also receiving an Honorary Doctor of Laws (L.L.D.) degree from the University of Pennsylvania.  Jabez Campbell is known to have lived a selfless life of humility and diligence in ministry ("Bishop Jabez Pitt Campbell. D. D., LL. D., Of the African M. E. Church, Presides").

Jabez was important because he dedicated his life to encouraging others. Jabez teaches us to live a life of service despite oppositions we may face. Most importantly, learning about Jabez’s life and the contributions he made to society causes us to re-evaluate the contributions, if any, that we are making to society.


Works Cited

Ancestry.com. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Death Certificates Index, 1803-1915 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: "Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803–1915." Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2008, 2010. From originals housed at the Philadelphia City Archives. "Death Records."

"Bishop Jabez Pitt Campbell. D. D., LL. D., Of the African M. E. Church, Presides." Cleveland Gazette [Cleveland] 16 Aug. 1884: 1. Print.

"Things You Should Know." Arkansas State Press [Little Rock] 5 July 1957: 5. Print.