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

The Barclays

Arthur Barclay (1854-1938) served as Secretary of State of Liberia, Africa, then as its 14th President from 1904-1912. He changed the term of office from two years to four years and was re-elected three times.

Arthur's nephew, Edwin J. Barclay (1883-1955) completed the term of President C. D. B. King. Edwin was the 17th president of Liberia and had the term of office changed from four years to eight years; he was re-elected twice. He was also a poet.

Edwin Barclay and his successor were the first African heads of states to be invited to the U.S. [by President F. D. Roosevelt]. Edwin's visit to the White House marked the first time journalists from African American weekly newspapers were assigned to the White House to cover a diplomatic visit.

The Barclay family had been politically active in Liberia since the end of the 1800s; Ernest J. Barclay (d. 1894), had served as its Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and Secretary of State.

Ernest and Arthur were the sons and Edwin the grandson of former enslaved Kentuckians who left the U.S. during the Civil War. The family stopped in Barbados, where Edwin's father Ernest and his uncle Arthur were born, two of the many children of Anthony and Sarah Barclay. In 1865, the family moved to Africa. They were among the 300 West Indians migrating to Liberia, most of whom were from the British West Indies.

To read more about the Barclays enslavement in Kentucky, see the article by Virginia Pasley, "21-Gun salute in Va. greets Liberia chief," Daily News (New York), 5/29/1943, p. 39. For additional information see The Fascinating Story of Black Kentuckians, by A. A. Dunnigan; Dictionary of African Historical Biography, 2nd ed., by M. R. Lipschutz and R. K. Rasmussen; The Political and Legislative History of Liberia, by C. H. Huberich; "2 Presidents in one family," Baltimore Afro-American, 6/5/1943, p. 3; Liberia, by H. H. Johnston and O. Stapf [vol. 2 available online at Google Books]; and "Negro guest in White House," The Sunday Morning Star, 4/4/1943, p. 24.

See also "Collected Poems of Edwin James Barclay," Monrovia, 1901, in the Daniel Murray Pamphlet Collection [online at the Library of Congress].

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“The Barclays,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 25, 2024,

Last modified: 2024-06-10 19:37:24