John William Dungy (aka Dunjee) (1833-1903) was born into enslavement in Virginia, in 1833, and remained a slave until 1859 when he decided to make his escape to freedom in Canada through the Underground Railroad with the help of William Still. After returning to America as a free man, Rev. John William Dungy became a Baptist minister, journalist, politician, missionary. educ
ator, bibliophile, farmer, businessman, prolific fundraiser and public speaker. In his lifetime he made tremendous contributions to the life of former slaves and to their children, and by any stretch of the imagination was an extraordinary and committed community builder. He either built or pastored dozens of churches stretching from Augusta, Georgia to North Carolina to Rhode Island and from Rhode Island to Minnesota and several in Oklahoma, including his last church founded, Tabernacle Baptist Church. Rev Dungy (Dungee) helped to build and/or administer numerous all black colleges including Storer College in Harper's Ferry, Spelman College in Georgia, Shaw College in North Carolina, Hampton College in Virginia, and later Langston University in Oklahoma. Dungee was politically active and was a signatory of the Colored People's Convention of 1876. Rev. Rev. Dungee's personal journey included friendship and collaboration with numerous luminaries in African American history, including Frederick Douglass, Blanche K. Bruce, John Mercer, Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois, P.B.S. Pinchback, and others.
Rev. Dungee believed in the power of the press, declaring: “the colored race cannot gain and hold a true position in the civilized world independent of the press. Its power is recognized among all civilized people, and those who keep apace with the advance of civilization must avail themselves of its advantages. It has done, and is still doing much for the Caucasian race, and there is every reason to suppose it will do just as much for the Negro race if rightly used.” In 1876, Dungy founded the Harper's Ferry Messenger. Many years later, his son Roscoe would share original articles from the Harper's Ferry Messenger with students in the Oklahoma school system. Rev. Dungee never amassed any substantial amount of money but left his family a legacy and blueprint for service to God and community and a library of 1500 books. Rev. Dungee's life following emancipation was a journey of love and passion. This article is only a brief sketch and does not do justice to it.