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Collection African American Perspectives: Materials Selected from the Rare Book Collection

Bishop B. W. Arnett


B. W. Arnett was an African-American educator, minister, and elected official. He was born a free man in 1838 in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, where he taught school from 1859 to 1867. In his youth, Arnett lost a leg to cancer.

As an African Methodist Episcopal pastor, Arnett served parishes in Toledo, Cincinnati, and Columbus. In 1888, he was elected bishop, a position he held until his death in 1906.

In 1872 Arnett became the first black man to serve as foreman of an all-white jury, and in 1885 he was elected to the Ohio State Legislature from a district with a white majority. He was the author of the bill which repealed the Black Laws of Ohio. A forceful and compelling speaker, he was influential in Republican politics, thanks, in part, to his friendship with fellow legislator (and later president), William McKinley.