From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Bell, Charles W.

(born: 1848  -  died: 1910) Charles W. Bell, who may have been a slave, was born in Kentucky on August 12, 1848 [source: Ohio Death Certificate, File #44018]. Bell was an educator, a newspaper man, and a pen artist in Cincinnati, OH. He was the husband of Ophelia Hall Nesbit Bell (b.1847 in Jackson, MS), who was a school teacher in Cincinnati. The couple lived at 1112 Sherman Avenue after they were married. By 1870, the family of four lived in the northern section of the 7th Ward in Cincinnati, according to the U.S. Federal Census.

Charles Bell was a graduate of the Cincinnati School of Design. He was employed by the Cincinnati School System from 1868-1889; he was the superintendent of writing in the Colored public schools beginning in 1874 with an annual salary of $1,000, and was later also the special teacher of writing for some of the schools attended by white children. Bell also served as president of the Garnet Loan and Building Association. He was one of the editors of the Colored Citizen newspaper in Cincinnati, and he published a newspaper titled Declaration in the 1870s when it was the only African American newspaper in Cincinnati. He was also a columnist for the Commercial Gazette, the column was an early version of the Colored Notes.

Charles Bell was also a politician, and had put forth the name of George W. Williams for the Ohio Legislature, but was one of many African Americans who turned against Williams when he pushed through the bill to close the Colored American Cemetery in Avondale, OH. In 1892, while Charles W. Bell was serving as treasurer of the Colored Orphan Asylum, it came to light that more than $4,000 were missing. Charles and Ophelia Bell mortgaged their home at 76 Pleasant Street for $3,000, and Charles Bell was to make restitution for the remaining $1,623.87.

Also in 1892, Charles Bell established a newspaper publication called Ohio Republican. According to the Census, by 1910, the Bells were living on Park Avenue in Cincinnati, Ohio with their daughters Alma and Maggie. Charles Bell was employed as a clerk in an office. Ten years later, Ophelia was a widow living with Alma, and Alma's husband James Bryant, along with Maggie and two of James Bryant's nieces.

Charles W. Bell died August 22, 1910 in Cincinnati, OH, and is buried in the Union Baptist Cemetery [source: Ohio Death Certificate, File #44018].

For more see Ophelia Hall Nesbit in The Geneva Book by W. M. Glasgow [available online at Google Book Search]; see Charles W. Bell in George Washington Williams: a biography by J. H. Franklin; Charles W. Bell in Artists in Ohio, 1787-1900 by M. S. Haverstock et. al.; see "At a meeting of the Columbus, O., Board of Education...," Cleveland Gazette, 08/10/1889, p.2; "Disbanded," Freeman, 06/20/1891, p.4; "Burned $1,623.87," Cleveland Gazette, 03/19/1892, p.1; "The Ohio Republican...," Plaindealer [Michigan], 09/23/1892, p.3; and G. B. Agee, "A Cry for Justice" [dissertation] [available online at ETDS].

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Bell, Charles W.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 25, 2024,

Last modified: 2018-01-05 23:44:10