Wilson Daily Times, 24 January 1925.
I’m not sure what to make of this. Who was Socrates A.E. O’Neil of Wilson? What was the Ethiopia International School? And what was the “wrong sort of propaganda”?
A search for information about O’Neil primarily yielded newspaper articles, all remarkably consistent in tone over the span of more than twenty years. The first reference I found was in a 1918 Baltimore Sun ad Rev. Socrates O’Neil of God Charitable International Ethiopian Organization, Inc., Baltimore, Maryland, placed touting his 37-cent pamphlet, “Negro Problem Solved.”
Baltimore Sun, 5 November 1918.
In 1922, the Shreveport Journal published a partial transcript of one of O’Neil’s speeches, presumably delivered to a white audience. It’s eye-popping. (The piece also resolves one question: O’Neil’s Ethiopian School was 60 miles north of Wilson in Weldon. Whew.) Asserting that he aspired to fill the late Booker T. Washington’s shoes, O’Neil declared that “southern white people are better to negroes than northern white people,” Black people “need to be educated with [his] common sense ideas or driven on old boss’s farm to learn common sense,” he was “representative of white supremacy and teach it in my school with Biblical authority,” and “[t]he lynching question will be abolished, if science is accurate, when the negroes, men and women, morally live in their own places.”
Shreveport Journal, 8 December 1922.
Shreveport Journal, 4 January 1923.
A 1925 New York Age piece took O’Neil apart.
New York Age, 8 August 1925.
Finding North Carolina Negroes insufficiently grateful, Bishop O’Neil headed south, but ran into trouble. He was arrested for theft in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1931.
Baltimore Afro American, 29 August 1931.
In November 1932, O’Neil was convicted of larceny in Savannah, Georgia, and sentenced to two months on the chain gang.
He bounced back. A year later, O’Neil delivered a speech in Biloxi, Mississippi, in which he described the Ku Klux Klan as “a help to the negroes.”
Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.), 13 November 1935.
In 1939, O’Neil — whose real name may have been Abelard E. O’Neil — was sent to prison in Indiana on an intoxication charge. This is the last I found of him.
Palladium-Item (Richmond, Ind.), 18 April 1939.