Historical Marker

The marker located at the Second Baptist Church reads: “In 1870, African American men in Circleville attempted to vote in municipal elections. Despite the recent ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment, pollsters refused their votes on the basis that state law forbade them from receiving the ballots. The Second Baptist Church was the site of a meeting of 147 African American men seeking redress. Together, with Republican leaders, these men produced petitions that were sent to the United States Senate and House of Representatives. These petitions gave the Republican Party the grounds to introduce bills to enforce the Fifteenth and Fourteenth Amendments. The passage of the Enforcement Act of 1870 imposed criminal penalties for interference with the right to vote and also helped to shift power and authority from the individual state legislatures to the centralized federal government.”

Nationally, African American history awareness is presented each February. In Pickaway County, African American history is celebrated in April, as well.

The Pickaway Country African American Heritage Association (PCAAHA) formed in 2003 to celebrate the historical significance of 175 African American men meeting in Second Baptist Church to discuss the happenings of the April 4, 1870 election. They had attempted to exercise the newly acquired right to vote. News articles of that day reported a conspiracy in the state of Ohio to prevent any man of color from casting a vote. One hundred and forty-seven of those attending the strategy meeting signed two petitions and sent them to the United States Congress.

Senator John Sherman received the first petition dated April 5, 1870. He read, in part, “the votes of your petitioners were unlawfully and without good cause refused. Your petitioners humbly pray Congress to enact a law for the punishment of all persons who may attempt to hinder, delay, prevent and obstruct any person from voting to who that right is guaranteed by the 15th amendment of the Constitution of the United States.”

A second petition, received by Representative John Bingham contained the same request and added, “Your petitioners... (have) been loyal to the government of the United States: that many ... served in the armies of the Union and have always been and are willing to devote their property and their lives to establish and maintain American Nationality.”

In April 2008, PCAAHA hosted the first Heritage Banquet to celebrate and honor these men and their non-violent protest. On April 2, 2016, at 3:30 p.m., PCAAHA hosts the Ninth Annual Heritage Banquet at St. Paul A.M.E. Church, 422 S. Pickaway St. In the last eight years, 38 descendants from these brave men have been honored in various categories. Honored families for 2016 are Bizzell, Hollingsworth, Lynch, May and Nickens.

Abner Bizzell and his-son-in-law, Rev. James Baker, are receiving the 2016 Posthumous Legacy award. This award honors the formerly unknown accomplishments of deceased descendants. Mr. Bizzell was a successful grocer in Xenia and lent himself as leader within Xenia’s black community. Rev. James Baker, through the sponsorship of the Christian Church Women Mission Board, built schools for African American children in Tennessee. PCAAHA is excited to present this honor to two living descendants traveling to Circleville from Florida and Texas.

The Hollingsworth family is represented by Maurice R. Weaver, accepting the 2016 Business/Tech/Education award. An outstanding New York Power Memorial High School and East Michigan University athlete, Mr. Weaver joined his love of running and sociology education into motivational speaking, personal training, and running coach through his business: Coach Mo Wellness.

In 1870, John H. May, left the Baptist doctrine and started a German Baptist Dunkard church. He and his wife, Susan Dade Brown May, led family members in worship on Clinton St. The church grew diversely becoming the Church of the Brethren. Pickaway County Court of Common Pleas records tell the story of church leadership asking the court to intervene in the sale of James May’s Clinton St. property. Two reasons stated within the petition were the Clinton St. property was too small “to accommodate all who desired to attend services” and the Church of the Brethren had erected a “more commodious” edifice on Logan Street. A member of the Dade family will accept on behalf of Rev. May the 2016 Posthumous Legacy Award.

Members of the PCAAHA Heritage Banquet Committee are Marie Ardrey, MaryAnn Anderson, Diana Redman and Deborah Lowe Wright. The 2016 Banquet keynote speaker is Beryl D. Anderson, a former three-term Gahanna City Council member and the first African-American woman in the nation to serve as a deputy secretary of state. Ms. Anderson is a former international communication director for Rosa Parks, famed civil rights activist. Ms. Anderson is a former C-SPAN television personality and producer covering the U.S. Supreme Court and related White House and congressional issues. She is the first African-American TV journalist to be part of the U.S. Supreme Court press corps; is a former president of the Washington, D.C. chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists; is a member of the National Press Club; and is a former Ohio deputy secretary of state — then state government’s highest-ranking African-American female. Anderson currently is president of her own media and business consulting company.

PCAAHA is still searching for descendants of Solomon Lynch and Henry Nickens. Any information about these families can be sent to pcaaha@aol.com.

More information about this event is at www.pcaaha.wix.com/pcaaha and www.Facebook.com/pcaaha.

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