Historical Newspapers: Dr. John Jefferson Smallwood

Dr. John Jefferson Smallwood (1863-1912), born enslaved in North Carolina, attended Hampton University, Shaw University, and Wesleyan Wilbraham Academy. After his schooling, he went back South and found his mother, Mary Eliza, a daughter of Nat Turner. He took care of her until her passing, defying brutal odds, as they had been separated during slavery.

In 1892, Dr. Smallwood founded Temperance Industrial Collegiate Institute in Surry County, Virginia. This location was literally in the landing spot for the first enslaved Africans brought to Virginia in the much now lamented (for every reason except empathy for the enslaved) year of 1619.

The following years would find Dr. Smallwood in positions of being an agriculturalist, engineer, educator, fund raiser, accused party, champion, writer, husband, and father. In 1912, at what should have been his professional zenith, Dr. Smallwood passed away. Initially, his very capable widow, the former Rosa Banks (b.1875), took the helm of the school. Eventually, the school’s ownership and leadership changed hands and existed in some semblance of its former self until 1928, when it shuttered.

The legacy of Dr. Smallwood’s efforts live on, especially in the pages of historical newspapers. Here are several examples that give greater insight into the life of this brave man:

“Was Born…” Dr. John Jefferson Smallwood

The Boston Globe
Boston, Massachusetts
16 Nov 1890, Sun • Page 2
Dr. John Jefferson Smallwood Pronounced as a New Leader Boston Evening Transcript
Boston, Massachusetts
21 Jun 1894, Thu • Page 6
Rev. John J. Smallwood Was A Money Raiser The Boston Globe
Boston, Massachusetts
19 Jan 1895, Sat • Page 1
He Made Friends… The Boston Globe
Boston, Massachusetts
19 Jan 1895, Sat • Page 4
Dr. Smallwood and 1831 The Broad Ax
Salt Lake City, Utah
02 Jan 1904, Sat • Page 5
Historic Wharf; Temperance Industrial and Collegiate Institute Buffalo Evening News
Buffalo, New York
28 May 1904, Sat • Page 26
“A Colored Orator From Virginia” The Oshkosh Northwestern
Oshkosh, Wisconsin
27 Aug 1904, Sat • Page 7
May 1912…Lincoln Memorial Hall Dedicated, NYT The New York Times
New York, New York
21 May 1912, Tue • Page 14
Loss of Dr. Smallwood Announced The Times Dispatch
Richmond, Virginia
Mon, Sep 30, 1912 · Page 10
Dr. John Jefferson Smallwood Passes Away Virginia Gazette
Williamsburg, Virginia
03 Oct 1912, Thu • Page 1

Here are some other items of interest relating to Dr. John Jefferson Smallwood:

Portrait of Dr. John Jefferson Smallwood, Courtesy: jamister50
John Jefferson Smallwood at Hampton (very young, for a very short time)
1874-75 Shaw University Catalogue, Courtesy: Ancestry.com

Very interestingly, Smallwood attended school with my 3rd great-grandfather, John H. Turner, per the Shaw University Catalogue of 1875-76

John Jefferson Smallwood and John H. Turner Were Classmates

Temperance Industrial Collegiate Institute Faculty and Students in the 1900 U.S. Federal Census
Index List of Faculty and Students in 1900 Was your ancestor a pupil at this school?
Dr. John Jefferson Smallwood’s Resting Place

Temperance Industrial Collegiate Institute Historical Marker, Photo Courtesy: Bernard Fisher On 12 Oct. 1892, Dr. John Jefferson Smallwood, born enslaved in 1863 in Rich Square, North Carolina, founded the Temperance Industrial & Collegiate Institute nearby with fewer than ten students. Sprawled over sixty-five acres on the James River in Claremont, his school provided a high level of education for African American boys and girls from Virginia and other states. After Smallwood’s untimely death on 29 Sept. 1912, his school underwent several mergers and name changes. By the time the school closed in 1928, more than two thousand students had attended.

Books about the life and works of Dr. John Jefferson Smallwood and his Temperance Industrial Collegiate Institute, written by his 2nd great niece, Mary E.C. Drew, are available online:

Divine Will, Restless Heart, by Mary E.C. Drew 2nd great niece of Dr. Smallwood
One Common Country for One Common People
Selected Writings and Speeches of Dr. John Jefferson Smallwood, by Mary E.C. Drew

It’s been fascinating learning about Dr. Smallwood and I’m happy to share more about him here in this forum.

The Genealogy Situation Room

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