Photograph scanned from Message to the Public by Dr. A. B. Walker, president and promoter of the African Civilization Movement (Saint John, 1905)
Abraham Beverley Walker (1851-1909)
Founding Editor and Manager
Neith was founded, designed, edited, and financed by lawyer, journalist, and activist Abraham Beverley Walker. Walker was born August 23rd, 1851 in Belleisle Creek, New Brunswick, to William Walker and Patience Taylor. Walker's loyalist ancestor was among the first to settle on the Kingston Peninsula, one of a number of black communities established in the 18th century.
After working as a secretary and stenographer as a young man, Walker left New Brunswick for Washington, DC, where he attended the National University (later subsumed by George Washington University). After graduating, he returned to Saint John where he undertook a studentship at a law office while supporting himself through shorthand reporting. He subsequently received his LLB from National University and was admitted as an attorney in New Brunswick in 1881. He was called to the bar in 1882, making him the first Canadian-born black barrister in Canada.
Barry Cahill documents the difficulties Walker faced as a black barrister in his article "First Things in Africadia; or, the Trauma of Being a Black Lawyer in Late Victorian Saint John." Bureaucratic and public racism, a "white chauvinist culture," and a relatively small black population, effectively prevented Walker' from maintaining a successful law practice. After working as a court reporter, Walker emigrated to the United States for two years before returning to attend the newly established Saint John Law School (now the University of New Brunswick faculty of law). Walker graduated in 1892, making him the first graduate of the UNB law school, and got a job as librarian of the Saint John Law Society.
According to Cahill, Walker was throughout his career "an indefatigable essayist, lecturer, and traveller." He was a community activist, publishing letters and articles in local, regional, and American
papers. He also lectured across Canada and in the United States on "the Negro Problem." Two of these lectures were later expanded and published as The Negro Problem; or, the Philosophy of Race Development from a Canadian Viewpoint (1890) and Victoria the Good: The Great and Glorious Mother of Liberty, Justice, Right, Truth and Equity, of Modern Civilization; and the Mightiest Force for Righteousness in the World since the Time of Jesus: A Lecture (1901).
His greatest achievement as a journalist came when he published Neith in 1903. Walker founded, edited, and promoted the magazine. He also authored more than one hundred short essays, editorials, and reviews for Neith during its short run.
When Neith folded the following year, Walker dedicated his time and energy to promoting the African Civilization Movement (ACM), a back-to-Africa scheme that Walker had begun to develop in the 1890s. The clearest statement of the ACM is found in Message to the Public by Dr. A. B. Walker, president and promoter of the African Civilization Movement (Saint John, 1905). The imperialist plan would see educated, Anglicized members of the African diaspora in Britain, Canada, the United States, and the Carribean, colonize a "propitious" part of British Africa. Walker believed the colony could form the basis for an African Empire. The plan never came to fruition. Walker was in Ontario lecturing in promotion of the ACM when he came down with pulmonary tuberculosis, which led to his death in 1909.