Central Pennsylvania African American History for Everyone
              An online resource since 1997




the 20th Century

Biography:  William Justin Carter, Sr.

The "Biography" pages of the Afrolumens Project provide information about the lives of prominent as well as little-known African American citizens of Pennsylvania.  Because racism prevented the dominant newspapers and publishers of the time from recognizing the leadership role of many of these remarkable people, their stories are in danger of being lost.  Similarly, many noteworthy people became accomplished business or social leaders, yet have never been recognized for their achievements.  The Afrolumens Project Biography Pages are meant to serve as a Who's Who of the Central Pennsylvania African American community in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Professional Men -- W. Justin Carter, Esq.

Biography from Pennsylvania Negro Business Directory--1910

"W. Justin Carter, Attorney-at-law, has been identified with the growth and progress of Harrisburg since 1895, when he was admitted to the practice of law at our local bar.  Mr. Carter has united with every effort put forward for the betterment of the condition of the Negroes in the city, and has contributed of his talents and means to every enterprise inaugurated.  He stands in the front rank of his profession and enjoys the highest respect of the bench and bar."


Pennsylvania Negro Business Directory--1910.  Harrisburg, PA: James H. W. Howard and Son, 1910.  Page 81. 


See additional information for other important events in the life of Carter, below.

1910 advertisement for the Advocate-Verdict newspaper.Additional Accomplishments

Very politically active, W. Justin Carter was one of the founders of the Niagara Movement:  the movement born in 1905 to demand full and equal rights and to oppose the policy of accommodation set forth by Booker T. Washington in 1895.  In aligning himself with the radical W.E.B. DuBois rather than with the more conservative Washington, Carter was verifying his commitment to activist social programs.  This activism can be seen in his work to rewrite Pennsylvania's Workmen's Compensation Act, under Governor George Earle, and his work with the state Unemployment Compensation Bureau.  

He provided notable assistance to Mrs. Mossell Griffin of the legislative arm of the National Association of Colored Women in working for passage of the Dyer Bill--first introduced in 1918 by Rep. Leonidas Dyer of Missouri--in their Anti-Lynching Crusade of the 1920's.  Although the Dyer Bill ultimately failed to pass in the U.S. Senate, Ms. Griffin's work culminated in the signing of a state anti-lynching law by Governor Gifford Pinchot in 1923.

Carter was president of the Advocate-Verdict newspaper, published weekly by the Douglass Development Company in Harrisburg.  The newspaper billed itself as a publication "devoted to the interest of the Colored race."  He was also an assistant to Lt. Governor Edward E. Beidleman, from 1920-1923.

Personal Information

Born on May 28, 1866 in Virginia, William Justin Carter attended the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute before continuing his education at Howard University, graduating from the Howard University School of Law in 1892.  He worked briefly as an assistant principal at an Annapolis public school, and married Elizabeth Allen, of Baltimore, in 1894.  That same year he appeared in Harrisburg as a practicing attorney.  Carter died in Harrisburg in 1947 and is buried in William Howard Day Cemetery.

Funeral Notice

"Pallbearers Announced For W. Justin Carter"
"The list of pallbearers for W. Justin Carter, Sr., Negro attorney who died Sunday at his home, 1831 Market street, was announced today.

"Funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. tomorrow in Wesley AME Zion Church, with the Rev. Vernon R. James, pastor of Capital Street Presbyterian Church, officiating.  Dr. Mordecai W. Johnson, president of Howard University, Washington, will read the eulogy.  Burial will be in William Howard Day Cemetery, Steelton.  Friends may call at the Hoover funeral home, Second and Adams streets, Steelton, tonight from 7 to 9 o'clock and at the Wesley Zion Church tomorrow from 11 a.m. until the time of services.

"Active pallbearers will be Charles G. Thomas, Dr. Harold J. Hurst, Dr. Harvey J. Reynolds, C. Sylvester Jackson, William H. Adley and Charles B. Erwin.

"Honorary pallbearers are:  President Judge William M. Hargest, Judges J. Paul Rupp, Robert E. Woodside and Karl E. Richards, District Attorney Carl B. Shelley, Dr. Charles H. Crampton, Dr. Mordecai Johnson, Dr. Channing Tobias, director, Phelps-Stokes Fund, New York; Walter White, executive secretary, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Dr. Charles S. Wesley, president, Wilberforce University, Xenia, Ohio; Dr. W. E. B. DuBois, director of research, NAACP, New York; Dr. Dwight O. W. Holmes, president, Morgan College, Baltimore; Dr. G. Lake Imes, field representative, National Council, Presbyterian Church, Baltimore, and Lloyd K. Garrison, dean, School of Law, University of Wisconsin."

Source:  Harrisburg Evening News, Harrisburg, PA, March 26, 1947.

For More Information:

Memorial Days Past--A Remarkable Gathering  Photograph of W. Justin Carter
Black Women in the NAACP Promote the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill, 1918-1923 
Zach Walker Lynching  The horrific event behind the Pennsylvania Anti-Lynching Crusade
W. Justin Carter, Sr's grave in William Howard Day Cemetery

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Original material on this page copyright 2023 Afrolumens Project.
This page was updated July 25, 2023.