Here’s Why John Chavis Was Called The Most Remarkable Black Man To Ever Live In U.S. In The 1920s

John Chavis


Growing up under the tutelage of educationist Henry Pattillo, he received a good education. In 1792, John Chavis, one of the few African Americans to earn a degree before slavery was abolished, enrolled at Princeton with the help of a Leslie Fund scholarship.

One of the requirements for admission to Princeton was that a student pass tests in English grammar, punctuation, geography, orthography, United States history, Greek grammar, Latin grammar, and mathematics.

Despite excelling in the exams, Chavis’s time at Princeton was brief, and he had to finish his education at Washington College in 1802, according to the Gospel Coalition. His outstanding academic performance made him a popular ministry candidate. The Virginia authorities were confident that Chavis would become a great evangelist and convert many people of African descent.

On October 19, 1799, the Lexington Presbytery decided to groom him. After observing Chavis’ sense of duty, one of the leading presbyters advocated for him to be given permission to begin his evangelizing ministry. However, this was subject to a vote, and Chavis was required to take his final exams. Following that, he was granted a license to preach.


According to some historical accounts, he was the first African American to be ordained by the Presbyterian Church, though he did not complete the final ordination process. As a riding missionary under the direction of the General Assembly, he served various presbyteries from Lexington, Hanover, and Orange.

Despite the fact that his role was to evangelize the Black community, historical records indicate that he preached to more whites than people of African descent. The problem was that enslaved Africans were not allowed to worship in white-dominated churches in the 1800s.

His missionary work frequently included preaching tours and occasionally assisting with the Lord’s Supper and pastoral duties. Chavis was regarded as a gifted educator in presbytery circles, eventually establishing a classical school in Raleigh in 1805.

His school initially allowed both black and white students to attend classes. However, some white parents who were dissatisfied with the integration eventually forced Chavis to separate the white students from the Black students. Many of the children from North Carolina’s most prominent families attended the school. He is thought to have trained prominent US lawyers, pastors, and governors, including US Senator Willie Mangum.

Chavis was born in Granville County, North Carolina, a few kilometers north of Raleigh, near the border with Mecklenburg County, Virginia, in 1763. There is little information about his early life and ancestors, but it is believed that he was related to the first African Americans identified as free in Granville County.

Some argue that he is descended from Africans, American Indians, and Caucasians, which may explain his privileged birth from free Blacks who owned property in Virginia to people who had access to quality education.

Chavis was a devout Presbyterian, a federalist, and an outspoken opponent of slavery and racism. On June 15, 1838, he died. Chavis’ life and professional accomplishments were exceptional, according to historian Charles Lee Smith. In 1924, The New York Times described Chavis as “without exception the most remarkable [B]lack man who ever lived in the United States.”



Written by How Africa News

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