COLORED CONVENTION HEARTLAND: BLACK ORGANIZERS, WOMEN AND THE OHIO MOVEMENT
LOVELL C. FLEWELLEN
Abstract: Lovell C. Flewellen, born in Georgia in 1821, grew to become a central figure in African American liberation history. The status of his mother is uncertain, however, research suggests that his father was also his owner. Throughout Flewellen’s life, he served as a volunteer for the Union Army, a Vice President of the Cincinnati Colored Public School District, and a Board of Trustees Member for Colored schools in Cincinnati. Maybe it was his passion for education or maybe it was his uncommon economic wealth that made Lovelle C. Flewellen an icon in the history of antebellum Cincinnati. And, much like the fight for African American liberty, his story deserves our fullest attention.
Lovell C. Flewellen was born in Georgia in 1821.The status of his mother as either free or enslaved is currently undetermined. Nonetheless, census records indicate he was a “mulatto” male. This potentially suggested that his father may have been a white male. If this was the case, real estate records could potentially confirm the condition of his father’s estate or similar information. However, there was a discrepancy in the spelling of his name. On the 1850 Census, his first name was spelled Lovewell and his last name was spelled Fluellen. In contrast, an 1860 administrative docket record listed his name as Lovell C. Flewellen. This was consistent with secondary sources which all spelled his name Lovell C. Flewellen. By the year 1850, Lovell C. Flewellen resided in Ward 9, Hamilton County, Cincinnati, OH (Census 1850). Census records indicate he moved with his family from Georgia. He was married to Amelia Fluellen. They had three children Cornelius, John N., and William H. Fluellen, ranging in age from 17 to 14. Interestingly, census records indicated that two other children were a part of the Fluellen family, Samuel Stowers and Marshall McCloud. Samuel was 7, and Marshall was 2. Both non-Fluellen children were of mixed racial heritage, as well as his wife and biological children. By the year 1850, Lovell C. Flewellen had $1800 in real estate assets (Frontiers of Freedom 130). However, while Black American desired to be amongst their own, segregation kept them forcefully ostracized from whites. Thus, Flewellen used his economic wealth and social status to invest in his all-Black community. Lovell C. Flewellen’s community-oriented advocacy pursued Black freedom amidst a national slave system, institutional oppression, and hatred of Blacks, but it was overshadowed by his patriotism and desire to participate in mainstream American economics and education on an equal level to his white counterparts.
Lovell C. Flewellen developed his patriotism through military service. In Frontiers of Freedom, Nikki Taylor briefly references Flewellen’s military service. While discussing the attendees at a Black convention in Cleveland, she noted Flewellen as “an ex-Georgian who had fought as a volunteer in some of the Indian wars in 1836” (Frontiers of Freedom 210). In 1836, Black men were not legally allowed to enlist in the United States military. Therefore, his volunteer service is significant to defining his patriotism. However, it is possible his time spent in the military had less to do with patriotism and more to do with necessity.
His presumed patriotism coupled with an enduring love for the progression of African Americans in the United States influenced his almost defiant opposition to emigration. During the Cincinnati Convention of Colored Freemen of 1852, delegates vehemently debated emigration from the United States (Radical Life of Peter Clark, 53). The committee voted 3-2 in favor of emigration, with Peter Clark, Charles Langston, and H. Ford Douglas all in support (Radical Life of Peter Clark, 53). They argued that “if African Americans desired dignity and self-respect, leaving was their only option” (Radical Life of Peter Clark, 54). They held that emigration held the only hope for African Americans to live as full citizens. Lovell C. Flewellen and Lewis D. Taylor dissented. They argued that “it is not expedient for the free people of color…to emigrate to any place out of these States while one slave is in chains” (Radical Life of Peter Clark, 53; Convention of Colored Freemen of Ohio 1852). In addition, they held that the United States was their land and they were citizens by birthright. Integrationists such as Flewellen claimed that the African American had the greatest chance of citizenship in the United States. At least here, African Americans could lobby to change the laws (Radical Life of Peter Clark, 54). This was not the only time Flewellen spoke against emigration. In the same year, Flewellen gave an indignant speech at a Black Freemen Convention held in Cleveland (Cheek and Cheek, 210). Flewellen spoke of the “ingratitude manifested towards us after all we had done, by the whites of the country” (Cheek and Cheek, 210). Flewellen desired to stay in the United States and fight to right the wrongs done to African Americans.
Additionally, Flewellen’s economic status in the United States incentivized his opposition to emigration. By the age of 29, John C. Flewellen owned $1800 in real estate assets (Frontiers of Freedom 130). This level of wealth was uncommon in the Black community. He worked as a laborer and peddler (Frontiers of Freedom 130). However, he did not make this fortune laboring and peddling. Records suggest that he brought a significant amount of money from Georgia to Cincinnati (1850 Census). Greater than his laboring services were his contributions to education. From 1854-1856, Lovell C. Flewellen served on the Board of Trustees for Cincinnati Colored Public Schools (Board of Trustees 36). Additionally, he sat on the committee for school house repairs, furniture, and fuel (Board of Trustees 36). In 1857, Flewellen became the Vice-President of Cincinnati Colored Public Schools (Directory 371). He saw education as the key to maintaining citizenship in the United States. However, the curriculum of Cincinnati Colored Public Schools resembled the curriculum of common schools, or white schools in Cincinnati (Bertaux 7). Indeed, the Cincinnati Colored education system aligned with the integrationist ideologies of Lovell C. Flewellen.
Written by Taylor Zachary, Taught by Dr Christine Anderson, Xavier University, Spring 2016.
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Year: 1850; Census Place: Cincinnati Ward 9, Hamilton, Ohio; Roll: M432_690; Page: 997B; Image: 560