Fortune, Timothy Thomas

Fortune, Timothy Thomas

(1956–1928) journalist, editor, civil rights activist; born in Marianna Township, Fla. Freed from slavery in only 1865, he witnessed his father's stormy career as a Reconstructionist politician in Florida. Timothy learned the printer's trade and when he moved to Washington, D.C. (1876), he worked on an African-American newspaper and became friendly with Frederick Douglass. In 1880 he moved to New York City where for the next 34 years he worked on, founded, or edited a succession of newspapers, mostly concerned with protecting and advancing the rights of African-Americans; the most influential of these were The Globe (1882–84) and The New York Freeman (1884–87), renamed The New York Age (1891–1907). Because he at times criticized the Republican Party and argued for self-help among African-Americans, he was regarded by some as too conservative. But he was the first to propose the founding of the Afro-American League and was its first chairman and later president (1890–93); although it did not last long, the League was the forerunner of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He was also active in founding several other African-American professional organizations, and he worked closely with Booker T. Washington. For several years his career was sidetracked by a drinking problem, but by 1910 he was active again as an editor and organizer. From 1923–28 he edited The Negro World, the organ of Marcus Garvey's "back to Africa" movement. Although he would never attain the status of a major leader of the African-American community, he was recognized by many contemporaries as an important figure.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.