Samuel Alfred Beadle was born into slavery in Georgia on 17 August 1857 and was brought to Rankin County, Mississippi, by his mother at the end of the Civil War. Little is known about Beadle’s life before he completed undergraduate work at Atlanta University and at Jackson’s Tougaloo College. While in Jackson, Beadle met and married Aurelia Thomas.
Beadle received some legal training as he read for the bar in the offices of Patrick Henry and Anselm J. McLaurin in Brandon. In 1884 Beadle was admitted to the Mississippi bar after a grueling examination from both white and African American lawyers. The rules of racial segregation prevented him from appearing in the courtrooms of many Jackson judges, but he nevertheless maintained a successful civil practice for more than forty years with his partner, fellow African American lawyer Perry Howard. One of their most significant clients was a prominent Jewish cotton merchant firm J. B. Hart and Company. Beadle and Howard also represented several local banking institutions and fraternal organizations, including the Gideons and the Odd Fellows.
Beadle began his career as an author by composing verses for his friends’ amusement. His first published work, Sketches from a Life in Dixie (1899), consisted of seven stories and fifty-three poems. Seven of these works comment directly on the oppressive realities of racism and institutionalized segregation in the American South. One of the most effective pieces, “Lines,” is a poem that deals with assaults endured by African American soldiers as they passed through the South on their way to America’s war with Spain in 1898. Another poem, “Strike for Equal Rights,” stresses that African American “citizen-fighters” must possess moral fortitude and personally represent the values of freedom for which they are fighting on the military stage.
Beadle’s second work, Adam Shuffler (1901) is another collection of short prose pieces commenting on African American life in the South; some of the stories explore regional African American dialect. The poems in his final volume, Lyrics from the Underworld (1912), won critical acclaim for both their style and their thematic elements. The author’s preface explains that the book’s title is a direct commentary on his frustration about his treatment as a second-class citizen in his native land. The collection also includes many early photographs by Beadle’s son, Richard H. Beadle, who for half a century was one of Mississippi’s only black photographers.
In 1930 Beadle moved to Chicago, where he practiced law until his death.
- James B. Lloyd, ed., Lives of Mississippi Authors, 1817–1967 (1981)
- Randy Patterson, POMPA: Publications of the Mississippi Philological Association (1992)