Wendell P. Dabney      

Guide to African American Resources
at the Cincinnati History Library and Archives




Subject Categories



Cincinnati History
Library and Archives

Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal










Wendell P. Dabney
Wendell Phillips Dabney was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1865 the son of former slaves. Unlike most former slaves who continued to work on the plantations for low pay, Dabney's father had the necessary training and reputation as a cook and bartender to allow him to open his own catering business after the Civil War and earn a higher standard of living for his family. Young Wendell Dabney, who worked for his father during the summers, was erudite, intelligent, an avid reader, and a talented guitar player. After high school, he attended Oberlin College, where he was one of only fifteen African American students. Although Dabney was an exemplary student and broadened his musical talents to include the violin, mandolin and banjo, he left after one year to help support his family. For the next several years, he worked in Virginia as a waiter and then as a teacher, until he moved to Boston to start a music studio.   Wendell P. Dabney
Wendell P. Dabney
General Photograph Collection - Black Leaders in the Professions, Commerce and Sports
Cincinnati History Library and Archives
Cincinnati Museum Center
In 1894, Dabney came to Cincinnati to settle some business regarding property willed to his mother. He intended to stay only for a few months. During a trip to Indiana, however, he met Nellie Foster Jackson, a widow with two sons, whom he eventually married in 1897. Dabney decided to settle in Cincinnati, so he improved the property left to his mother and established a music studio. He began teaching music to many prominent Cincinnati families and eventually became involved in politics. Dabney served as the first African American city paymaster and was the first president of the local chapter of the NAACP.
In an attempt to increase attention to issues of the African American community, Dabney entered the field of newspaper publishing. In 1902, he started The Ohio Enterprise, predecessor to The Union, which Dabney published from 1907 until 1952. Although Dabney accepted funds from the Republican Party for the newspaper and endorsed Republican candidates, he remained critical of their treatment of African Americans and used the paper as a voice of protest for the African American community in general. In the early 1920s, however, Dabney broke with the Republicans and shortly thereafter worked with the City Charter Committee. Until his death in 1952, Dabney continued to struggle against prejudice and used The Union to champion the cause of African Americans.
In addition to his publishing activities, Dabney also wrote books and composed music. He compiled and published Cincinnati’s Colored Citizens in 1926 and wrote Maggie L. Walker: The Woman and Her Work, a biography of one of his long time friends who became the first African American woman to own a bank. Dabney also published Chisum’s Pilgrimage and Others, a collection of his writings from The Union. The music he composed includes You Will Miss the Colored Soldier; My Old Sweetheart; and God, Our Father, a Prayer.

To learn more about Wendell P. Dabney, consult the following resources:

Wendell Phillips Dabney, Leader of the Negro Protest
By Gail Estelle Berry
Thesis fB D114be, 1965
This thesis details the life of Wendell P. Dabney from his childhood and early adult years in Virginia to his life in Cincinnati as the editor of The Union.    View catalog record   Request slip
I Want You to Know Wendell Phillips Dabney
By Joseph T. Beaver
Pamphlets B D114b
A brief pamphlet written by a former employee of Wendell P. Dabney at his paper, The Union, about his memories of Dabney and of working at The Union.   View catalog record   Request slip
100 Who Made a Difference: Greater Cincinnatians Who Made a Mark on the 20th Century

By Barry M. Horstman
General f920.07714 H819 R.R.
Barry M. Horstman gives a two-page overview of Dabney's life in this 1999 book.   View catalog record   Request slip
Profiles in Black History

By the Cincinnati Enquirer
Pamphlets 920.0092 C574
This pamphlet gives a brief biographical description of Wendell P. Dabney.   View catalog record   Request slip
The Ohio Enterprise
Edited by Wendell P. Dabney
Micro 071.771 U58
A short lived newspaper edited by Dabney in the early 1900s. Two issues from 1903 are available.   View catalog record   Request slip
The Union
Edited by Wendell P. Dabney
Micro 071.771 U58
A weekly African American newspaper started in 1907 by Wendell P. Dabney as a voice for African Americans in Cincinnati. The paper ran until 1952, shortly after Dabney's death. A partial collection of issues from 1923-1952 is available.   View catalog record   Request slip
Cincinnati's Colored Citizens
By Wendell P. Dabney
General 301.451 D114, 1988
This book by Wendell P. Dabney covers the history of African Americans in Cincinnati and includes sketches of prominent African American citizens living in Cincinnati in 1926.   View catalog record   Request slip
The Wolf and the Lamb
By Wendell P. Dabney
Pamphlets 305.8 D114
Wendell P. Dabney wrote this pamphlet in 1913 in response to a bill being debated in the Ohio Legislature banning interracial marriage. It includes his arguments against the idea of "purity of race" and short sections on the contributions of African Americans in the military and business.   View catalog record   Request slip
Wendell Phillips Dabney Papers, 1905-1964
Mss Micro 77
This collection, available on microfiche, includes correspondence, writing and musical compositions by Wendell Dabney.    Request slip
"Gossip and Reflections" Newspaper Articles
Mss Micro 78
This microfiche collection consists of newspaper articles written by Wendell P. Dabney titled "Gossip and Reflections." The articles, which were published in the Union, cover the years 1930 to 1932.   Request slip

Sources Used for Biographical Sketch:
  • Berry, Gail Estelle. Wendell Phillips Dabney, Leader of the Negro Protest. Thesis fB D11be 1965, Cincinnati History Library and Archives, Cincinnati Museum Center.
  • Beaver, Joseph T. I Want You to Know Wendell Phillips Dabney, Pamphlets B D114b, Cincinnati History Library and Archives, Cincinnati Museum Center.


Cincinnati History Library and Archives
1301 Western Ave., Suite 2133, Cincinnati, Ohio 45203
Phone: (513) 287-7030
Email: library@cincymuseum.org
Copyright © 2004-2020 Cincinnati Museum Center.
All Rights Reserved.
Images not to be reproduced without written authorization.
This online guide opened on February 10, 2004.