John Inman was born in 1896 and was a fixture in the civil and human rights movement in San Antonio and across the city. Inman was a barber by profession, and had his community barber shop on S. Hackberry Street, diagonally across the street from Mt. Zion First Baptist to which he was a member. According to researcher Alwyn Barr, in quoting A.C. Sutton, John Inman was always in the lead for civil rights. Sutton said, “Anything that looked like a movement, he would be a part of.” After authorities discovered that Inman was a revolutionary they removed his barber shops from the military bases causing economic hardships. However, much to the displeasure of racists and segregationists Inman kept up the fight for human dignity. In 1928, John Inman became the president of the San Antonio Branch of the NAACP. He fought for infrastructure improvements on the East Side and carried out a campaign to end the poll tax. In 1957 John Inman also owned a barber shop at 703 S. Pine and was known as a revolutionary by his customers.
John Inman was a fighter for social justice for many years, John Inman, a black revolutionary during the Bellinger era, lived for a long time and fought for positive change for decades. He was socialist oriented and was able to establish strong working relations with the Mexican American community through Emma Tenayuca as they both fought for worker’s rights. John Inman was allied with Rev. Claude Black and the Sutton family, who were at various times connected to the socialist movement. John Sutton, brother to G.J. Sutton, an East Side State Representative, moved to the Soviet Union in the 1940s and helped the Soviet government in agriculture.
Members of radical socialist organizations were very active in San Antonio, dating from the time of Emma Tenayuca in the 1920s and 30s. John Inman was active with a black and brown coalition that organized into the “Workers Alliance.” Inman tried to get black support for the Pecan Sheller’s Union under the leadership of Tenayuca, His help was invaluable and shamefully his organizing has gone uncelebrated. In praising John Inman and his family, in La Voz de Esperanza (The Voice of Hope, 2007), John Stanford said that, Emma Tenayuca and John Inman, were both revolutionary leaders in Texas and Hattie Mae Inman (John Inman’s wife), who raised a family and was an inspiration to others while bedridden with serious illness. It should be noted, that for many years, that the socialists, and other revolutionary and progressive organizations, as well as the NAACP, were the only two viable organizations fighting against injustice in a segregated land. This was why many blacks belonged to both revolutionary human rights groups and the NAACP.
In the 1930s and 40s the Black community was active in encouraging voting by holding mock “Sepia Mayoral Campaigns,” which are recorded in the Black Press (San Antonio Register), and “Anti-Poll Tax Rallies” on the east and west sides of the city (Register, March 31, 1939). Local labor activist John Inman participated in these mock mayoral campaigns which were organized by the Negro Chamber of Commerce. He was actually elected in a mock mayoral campaign in an effort to show that blacks deserved to be the mayor of San Antonio during the era of segregation. Inman’s influence would be felt years later when John Inman, would provide some of the political education classes for SNCC members, civil rights workers, and others in the 1960s. He also supported Albert Pena for County Commissioner and other political offices in the 1950s and 1960s creating a strong link between the black and brown communities.
FBI file records, under the Freedom of Information Act, indicate Inman, was under surveillance in Texas in 1970, and according to activist John Stanford (deceased) was active for many years. In the 1960s, Inman marched and participated in sit-ins at segregated San Antonio restaurants. He never gave up and was quoted in the community by many people who remembered that he said, “The harder they fought me the harder I fought back. I was never afraid of risking my life for the cause of justice and freedom.” In the 1970s, John Inman was a member of the San Antonio Committee to Free Angela Davis and helped to organize a large rally of over 2500 for her freedom at La Villita Assembly Hall. John Inman often cut hair free of charge for those that could not afford it. His barber shop on Hackberry Street was the scene of many meetings, and FBI spies often took photos from across the street of those going to the meetings or sent black photographers to take pictures who were paid to spy on the black community. John Inman passed away in 1996 at the age of 100.