Reverend Van Horne was Pastor at Newport’s Union Colored Congregational Church between 1868 & 1898. The historic church was established in 1824 as a religious extension of the 18th century Free African Benevolent Society. Van Horne became a part of a new generation of post-Civil War, African heritage leaders who would lead Black churches into major leadership roles within the Civil Rights Movement. A legacy that would influence 20th century leaders including Rev Martin Luther King, Jr.
Later, Van Horne would become the first African heritage member elected to the Newport School Board in 1871 and the first to serve in the Rhode Island General Assembly in 1885. That year he help to lead the passage of the state’s first Civil Rights bill that stated, “No person within the State shall be debarred from the full and equal enjoyment of the accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of any licensed inn, public conveyance, on land or water or from any licensed places of public amusement on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” In 1898 he was appointed General Counsel to Danish West Indies by President McKinley during Spanish American War.
This is part of an ongoing series by Keith W. Stokes, Lead Researcher for the NPS Grant - Civil Rights in 20th Century Rhode Island.