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Isaiah C. Wears
From the Stage:
On November 6, 1855 Wears participated in a debate with Mary Ann Shadd on the topic “Shall the Free Colored People of the United States Emigrate to Canada,” at the Banneker Institute of Philadelphia.
Source: Rhodes, Jane. The Black Press and Protest in the Nineteenth Century. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1998.
Hailed as the “Honorable” Isaiah C. Wears, this 1855 Convention delegate was a prominent Philadelphian in the 1850s and beyond. Census records indicate that Isaiah C. Wears was born around 1820 in Maryland and moved to Philadelphia by 1850.1 There, he and his family worked publicly with the Union A frican Methodist Episcopalian Church. The Wears were a large and respected family, including his wife, and mother Lydia (born in Delaware) and several children: Amelia, Louisa, Mary, Amanda, Albert, Julia, Lydia, Anna.2 Isaiah Wears’ wife, Lydia, was a leader in the AME Church.3 Lydia Wears was devoted to racial uplift and worked tirelessly for this cause.
Records describe her involvement in the Mite Society.4 The Mite Society primarily served as a means for women to become directly involved in fundraising for AME mission trips. Newspaper articles describe the organization’s efforts to fundraise for missionaries in Haiti. In fact, the organization’s founding documents specifically cite the organization’s desire to offer spiritual emancipation in the way that Toussaint L’Overture had given the Haitian people political freedom.5
The organization’s constitution also alludes to the subservient role of women within society.6 The Mite Society operated only under the direct command of men. This seems to follow suit with the 19th century ideal of Republican motherhood. Women were to be empowered, but only within their traditional gender roles. The historical records offer limited information on Mrs. Wears’ involvement in any politically centered abolitionist endeavors; however, this information suggests her strong religious affiliations as her primary means of involvement.
Though a resident of Philadelphia—one of the largest African American communities in the nineteenth century—Isaiah C. Wears was most active in what scholar Eric Gardner might call an “unexpected place.” That is, while we tend to associate African American literature with anti-slavery texts and speeches, we forget about the fuller picture of literature and history stemming from “unexpected” or ignored loci of production, like church periodicals.7 Isaiah C. Wears was popularly known and highly respected by just such a community: the Union AME. Church.8 For a time, he was Superintendent of the Union AME Sabbath School there. He was frequently referenced in the Christian Recorder as a feisty debater and skilled public speaker. He was a member of the Vigilance Committee,9 and worked as a barber and a real estate agent.10 In addition, he served as president of Statistical Association of the Colored People of Philadelphia and was appointed to the Pennsylvania State Negro Suffrage Convention in 1846.11 In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln proposed “his plan for colonizing the Black population of the United States in Central America and other countries.”12 Wears strongly opposed this plan and, in a speech, condemned it as anti-Christian.
In the 1870s he became involved, along with many other Philadelphia African Americans, in the cause of Cuban independence.13 Upon his death in 1900, he was mourned as an “enviable citizen” and "the greatest layman that the great AME. Church has produced in its more than century of marvelous growth."14 Besides Harry C. Silcox, Philip Sheldon Foner, and Robert J. Branham’s work, scholarship on the Wears is nearly non-existent.15
From the Stage: Anna Lacy, English 641, Spring 2016. Taught by Professor P. Gabrielle Foreman, University of Delaware.
Biography: Jessica D. Conrad, English 634, Spring 2013. Taught by Professor P. Gabrielle Foreman, University of Delaware. Edited by Jake Alspaugh, ENGL 641, Spring 2016. Taught by P. Gabrielle Foreman, University of Delaware. Revised and Edited by Samantha de Vera
 "United States Census, 1850," Ancestry Library Edition, accessed 19 Mar 2013.
 ibid.; “Thanksgiving,” The Christian Recorder, 3 Dec. 1864, accessed 19 Mar 2013.
 “Officers and Board of Managers of P.M.M.S of A.M.E Church.” The Christian Recorder [Philadelphia] 12 December 1878. African American Newspapers. University of Delaware Library. 3 March 2013.
 “Mite Missionary Society.” The Christian Recorder [Philadelphia] 14 January 1884. African American Newspapers. University of Delaware Library. 3 March 2013.
 DeJoie Hill, Kimberly. “Careers Across Color Lines: American Women Missionaries and Race Relations, 1870-1920.” Diss. U of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 2008. Web. 3 March 2013.
 eJoie Hill, Kimberly. “Careers Across Color Lines: American Women Missionaries and Race Relations, 1870-1920.” Diss. U of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 2008. Web. 3 March 2013.
 Gardner, Eric, Unexpected Places: Relocating Nineteenth-Century African American Literature(University Press of Mississippi, 2011).
 “The Funeral of Hon. I.C. Wears,” The Christian Recorder, 17 May 1900, accessed 19 Mar 2013.
 “Meeting to Form a Vigilance Committee,” The Pennsylvania Freeman, 9 Dec. 1852, accessed 19 Mar 2013.
 "United States Cenus, 1850," Ancestry Library Edition, accessed 19 Mar 2013; "United States Census, 1870," Ancestry Library Edition, accessed 19 Mar 2013; "United States Census, 1880," Ancestry Library Edition, accessed 19 Mar 2013.
 Silcox, Harry C. "The Black "Better Class" Political Dilemma: Philadelphia Prototype Isaiah C. Wears." Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. Jan 1989: 45-66. Web. 9 Mar. 2013.
 Philip Sheldon Foner and Robert J. Branham. Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787–1900. (Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 1998).
 “Sympathy for Cuba in Philadelphia,” The Christian Recorder, 13 Feb. 1873, accessed 13 Mar 2013.
 “The Funeral of Hon. I.C. Wears,” The Christian Recorder, 17 May 1900, accessed 12 Mar 2013.
 Foner, Philip Sheldon and Robert J. Branham, Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900,(Tuscaloosa: U Alabama Press, 1998); Silcox, Harry C, “The Black “Better Class” Political Dilemma: Philadelphia Prototype Isaiah C. Wears,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 113.1 (Jan. 1989): 45-66.
“Civil Rights.” Pennsylvania Inquirer. 23 Oct. 1873.
Foner, Philip Sheldon and Robert J. Branham. Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900. Tuscaloosa: U Alabama Press, 1998.
“The Fourth Lecture...” The Christian Recorder. 23 Feb. 1882.
“Fred. Douglass.” The Christian Recorder. 11 Feb. 1865.
“The Funeral of Hon. I.C. Wears.” The Christian Recorder. 17 May 1900.
“Hon. Isaiah Wears, after a period of continued illness, dies.” The Christian Recorder. 10 May 1900.
“Meeting to Form a Vigilance Committee.” The Pennsylvania Freeman. 9 Dec. 1852.
“Mr. Isaiah C. Wears.” The Christian Recorder. 27 Oct. 1887.
“Our Philadelphia Letter.” The Weekly Anglo-African. 3 Dec. 1859.
“Philadelphia Library. Lecture and Debate before the Philadelphia Library Company.” The Christian Recorder. 16 Mar. 1861.
Silcox, Harry C. “The Black “Better Class” Political Dilemma: Philadelphia Prototype Isaiah C. Wears.”Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 113.1 (Jan. 1989): 45-66.
“Sympathy for Cuba in Philadelphia.” The Christian Recorder. 13 Feb. 1873.
“Thanksgiving.” The Christian Recorder. 3 Dec. 1864.
U.S. Census Bureau. 1850 United States Federal Census. Seventh Census of the United States, 1850; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M432, 1009 rolls); Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
U.S. Census Bureau. 1870 U.S. census, population schedules. NARA microfilm publication M593, 1,761 rolls. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.
U.S. Census Bureau. 1880 United States Federal Census. Tenth Census of the United States, 1880. (NARA microfilm publication T9, 1,454 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C.