By Connor Keiser
James Clemens, an African American freedman who was brought to Ohio from Virginia by the man believed to be his slave owner, was the first man of color to purchase land in Darke County. He was the founding father of the “Greenville Negro Settlement,” now Longtown, in Liberty Township, and he and the families of color who followed established a strongly abolitionist farming community which would come to be one of only two tri-racial communities in the state of Ohio. Many of Longtown’s residents were conductors on the Underground Railroad and fought in World War I, and the town has since produced a proud people of great prominence, whose rich past we remember and whose great triumphs we celebrate.
I’m a fifth generation grandson of James Clemens, and I’m dedicated to the preservation of my fifth great grandfather’s legacy. I serve as Secretary and Board Member for the Union Literary Institute Preservation Society, I’m a follower of the Bethel Long Wesleyan Church, and I’m also a Wright State University student majoring in International Studies. On Saturday, February 20, at Greenville Public Library I will present the history and significance of the Longtown settlement as part of African American History Month.
I am proud to present my family’s history because our story represents the kind of history most Americans aren’t taught in school, a history that makes clear African American peoples have always been more than just slaves who were originally brought to this country in chains, but instead a people who have worked and continue to work every day to contribute to the good of this country.
Join me on Saturday, February 20, at 1 p.m. at Greenville Public Library as I share the history of Longtown and celebrate our proud family and people.