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minister, author, pamphleteer, and Socialist Party activist, was born a slave in Johnson County, Tennessee, the son of Charles Woodbey and Rachel Wagner Woodbey. While little is known about Woodbey's parents and early life, it is clear that he worked as a manual laborer in his youth. Woodbey was largely self-educated, attending only two terms of common school, yet he learned to read after gaining freedom during the Civil War. His experience of servitude spurred his gradual allegiance to socialism. As Woodbey wrote, he was “one who was once a chattel slave freed by the proclamation of Lincoln and now wishes to be free from the slavery of capitalism” (Foner, 10).

By 1874 Woodbey had been ordained a Baptist minister in Emporia Kansas Like many blacks confronted with the failure of Reconstruction Woodbey migrated westward It is estimated that some seven thousand black families ...