David Bryant Fulton

(c. 1863—1941)

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(c. 1863–1941), journalist and fiction writer.

David Bryant Fulton was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina, where he attended school. In 1887, he moved to New York, finding employment as a porter with the Pullman Palace Car Company. With his wife, Virginia Moore, Fulton settled in Brooklyn, New York, and later worked for Sears, Roebuck; the Brooklyn YMCA; and a music publisher. In 1895, he founded the Society of Sons of North Carolina, a social and benevolent organization in Brooklyn. He was also a member of the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge of Brooklyn and an active contributor to the Yonkers-based Negro Society for Historical Research.

Fulton began his writing career as a correspondent to the Wilmington Record, an African American newspaper whose editor solicited Fulton's observations about his travels as a Pullman porter. In 1892, Fulton published a selection of these articles in a pamphlet entitled Recollections of a Sleeping Car Porter, in which he used his pen name “Jack Thorne” for the first time. Fulton's second book, also self-published, was a loosely constructed novel, Hanover, or The Persecution of the Lowly (1900), a blend of fact and fiction designed to set the record straight about the causes and outcome of the infamous Wilmington Massacre of 1898.

Between 1903 and 1906, Fulton, writing under his pen name, became popular and respected in the Brooklyn African American community as a vigorous journalistic defender of his people. Most of the pieces in his Eagle Clippings (1907) show Jack Thorne attacking racial slander in books and periodicals and criticizing political and social developments that he judged hostile to African Americans. After 1907, Fulton gave his attention to a variety of literary projects. Except for a handful of short stories published in magazines and in Eagle Clippings, the fiction Fulton wrote did not find its way into print. A 1913 poem, “De Coonah Man” (African Times and Orient Review, Dec. 1913) relates in dialect verse the poet's memories of the John Cooner (or John Canoe) African American Christmas customs in North Carolina. “Mother of Mine; Ode to the Negro Woman” was commissioned to be read at the annual convention of the New York Colored Women's Club in 1923. Fulton's 1912 pamphlet Plea for Social Justice for the Negro Woman was praised by African American women's groups for its denunciation of both African American concubinage in the antebellum South and the persistence of prostitution for white patrons in the contemporary North.

Fulton stated his racial views in “Race Unification; How It May Be Accomplished” (African Times and Orient Review, Dec. 1913). In this essay he rejected the amalgamation of blacks with whites as a solution to the race problem, favoring instead a knowledge of “race history,” “race achievement,” and “race literature” as the stimulus necessary to “race pride” and advancement. Though not original, Fulton's espousal of race consciousness and solidarity testifies to the vitality of nationalistic thinking among African Americans in New York before Marcus Garvey. With his associates in the Negro Society for Historical Research, John E. Bruce and Arthur A. Schomburg Fulton worked to exemplify and foster a combative, community-oriented intellectual activism among African American writers in the urban North of the early twentieth century.


Subjects: Literature.

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