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date: 05 August 2020

Lemus, Rienzi Brock locked

(8 Jan. 1881–6 June 1969), trade unionist and journalist,
  • James Alexander Robinson


was born in Richmond, Virginia, the son of Charles and Mamie Brock Lemus. Rienzi—whose name came from a Wagner opera—served honorably in the U.S. Army in Cuba and the Philippines, became a journalist, porter, waiter, and arguably the most effective African American trade union activist and labor executive of the first half of the twentieth century, in particular during the 1920s.

Lemus attended public school in Richmond. At an early age, he volunteered with the 8th U.S. “Immunes Infantry,” a unit composed of Americans believed to possess immunity from tropical diseases, such as yellow fever. He then reenlisted with the 25th Infantry, Company K during the Spanish-American War in 1898. It was during this time that Lemus began to write. His reporting on the Philippine Insurrection for John Mitchell’s Richmond Planet provided eyewitness insights into the life and times of African American troops.

Honorably discharged from service in ...

A version of this article originally appeared in African American National Biography.

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