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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 ...


Elizabeth Heath

George Washington Woodbey was born a slave in Johnson County, Tennessee. He was ordained a Baptist minister in Emporia, Kansas, in 1874 and soon became the pastor of the African Church in Omaha, Nebraska. During his tenure as pastor, Woodbey became active in politics and joined both the Republican Party and the Prohibition Party. In 1896 he ran for lieutenant governor on the Nebraska Prohibition ticket but was unsuccessful. Later that year, after reading Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward 2000–1887 and upon hearing a speech by the socialist labor leader Eugene V. Debs, Woodbey embraced the tenets of Socialism. He resigned his pastorship and dedicated the rest of his life to the socialist movement.

Woodbey joined the Socialist Party of America in 1902 and moved to San Diego California In San Diego he lectured widely and often appeared as a soapbox orator around town on behalf of the ...