An African-American author, activist, and minister, he is most famous for his 1899 Utopian novel, Imperium in Imperio, which imagines a separate African-American state. His other works include Overshadowed, Unfettered, and Pointing the Way.
After graduating from the Richmond Theological Seminary, he became a minister at the First Baptist Church in Berkley, Virginia.
He published more than thirty books and pamphlets over the course of his career.
He was the Texas-born son of a minister and former slave. He married Emma Williams in 1897.
He was an admirer of W.E.B. DuBois.