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Glenn Allen Knoblock

U.S. Army chaplain, World War II veteran, and Bronze Star medalist, was born in Florence, Alabama, the youngest of three children of Mary (Sneed) and Rufus Beasley. On both the maternal and paternal sides of his family, Beasley was descended from slaves and had family members who performed military duty as soldiers in the Civil War and the Spanish-American War. Because of a rheumatoid arthritis condition, Louis Beasley's education was delayed and he would not graduate from high school until the age of twenty. Previously, in 1924, Beasley had met his future wife, Lauvenia Minor, and the two were wed in 1930. To help support his family, Louis would subsequently work at several sales jobs and attended Normal Agricultural and Mechanical Institute, graduating in 1931 while his wife was employed as a schoolteacher Uncertain as to what career path he should take Louis Beasley ...

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Marlene L. Daut

Medal of Honor recipient, actor, and playwright, was born in Richmond, Virginia, of unknown parentage. Beaty (sometimes spelled Beatty) was born a slave, but little else is known of his early years or how he came to be free. Beaty left Richmond in 1849 for Cincinnati, where he would spend the majority of his life, and became a farmer. Later, Beaty's education consisted of an apprenticeship to a black cabinetmaker in Cincinnati, as well as a tutelage under James E. Murdock, a retired professional actor and dramatic coach.

On 5 September 1862 Powhatan Beaty along with 706 other African American men was forced to join Cincinnati s Black Brigade after Confederate troops repeatedly threatened the city The Black Brigade was one of the earliest but unofficial African American military units organized during the Civil War but it did not engage in any military action since the city was ...

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Lisa E. Rivo

mountain man, fur trapper and trader, scout, translator, and explorer, was born James Pierson Beckwith in Frederick County, Virginia, the son of Sir Jennings Beckwith, a white Revolutionary War veteran and the descendant of minor Irish aristocrats who became prominent Virginians. Little is known about Jim's mother, a mixed-race slave working in the Beckwith household. Although he was born into slavery, Jim was manumitted by his father in the 1820s. In the early 1800s, Beckwith moved his family, which reputedly included fourteen children, to Missouri, eventually settling in St. Louis. Some commentators suggest that Beckwith, an adventurous outdoorsman, was seeking an environment less hostile to his racially mixed family.

As a young teenager, after four years of schooling, Jim Beckwourth as his name came to be spelled was apprenticed to a blacksmith Unhappy as a tradesman he fled to the newly discovered lead mines in Illinois s Fever ...

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Thomas Adams Upchurch

Born in New Hampshire during the same year Frederick Douglass is thought to have been born in Maryland, Benjamin Franklin Butler led a life parallel to Douglass's in several respects. The two shared mutual respect, friendship, and a working relationship. It is unclear when the two men first met, but they interacted frequently from 1866 to 1890 and almost always agreed on racial issues.

Butler first received national acclaim for his military exploits during the Civil War, but he also made his mark in the political arena afterward. Contemporaries found his penchant for changing his political allegiance enigmatic. He supported the Democrats before the war, the Republicans during Reconstruction, the Democrats again briefly thereafter, and finally various third parties for the last decade of his life. As a Union general, Butler was considered a maverick by the Lincoln administration. In 1861 he unilaterally declared that slaves who sought refuge ...

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Dalyce Newby

soldier, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of William Carney and Ann, a former slave. Little is known of his parents or of his early years. As a young boy he expressed an interest in the ministry and, at the age of fourteen, attended a covertly run school under the tutelage of a local minister. Later he moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he took odd jobs in the hope of saving sufficient funds to acquire his religious training.

In 1862, despite strong opposition, Abraham Lincoln signed a bill authorizing the recruitment of African American troops. In January 1863Governor John Andrew of Massachusetts was permitted to raise a black regiment. Since the black community was relatively small in that state, recruiters turned to enlisting men from other states, using such prominent abolitionists as Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, and Wendell Phillips as recruiting ...

Article

Bonnie A. Lucero

was born on 25 May 1855 in the town of El Cobre in the Oriente region of Cuba to Librada Sánchez and Francisco Cebreco. He emerged as a prominent figure in the struggle for Cuban independence. Before reaching fifteen years of age, he joined Cuban forces during the Ten Years’ War (1868–1878), alongside at least two of his brothers, Juan Pablo (Pedro) and Juan Bautista. He served under prominent insurgent chiefs, including José Maceo, Antonio Maceo, and Calixto García Iñíguez, ascending to the rank of commandant by 1876. In 1878, like many of his black compatriots, he signed on to the Protest of Baraguá, a demonstration of discontent with the Pact of Zanjón, in which insurgents agreed to lay down weapons without achieving independence or the abolition of slavery.

Cebreco then a lieutenant colonel along with other prominent black officers in the East including the Maceo ...

Article

Tanu T. Henry

was born Benjamin Oliver Davis Jr. in Washington, D.C., the son of the U.S. army's first black general, Benjamin O. Davis Sr., and his wife, Elnora Dickerson. Davis spent most of his childhood living on different military bases. By the time he entered high school, his family had settled in Cleveland, Ohio, where he attended a predominantly white school. At his high school, he began to prove his leadership ability, winning elections for class president. After high school, he enrolled in Cleveland's Case Western Reserve University and later the University of Chicago, before he was accepted in 1932, through the influence of the congressman Oscar DePriest, into the United States Military Academy at West Point.

At West Point, which discouraged black cadets from applying at the time, Davis faced a hostile environment and routine exclusion by his peers His classmates shunned him and only talked ...

Article

Moya B. Hansen

Buffalo Soldier, was born in Big Flats, New York, along the banks of the Chemung River, not far from the town of Elmira. Nothing is known about Denny's family aside from the fact that he had a sister. Denny's career as a Buffalo Soldier in the Ninth Cavalry spanned thirty years, during which time he earned the nation's highest military honor, the Medal of Honor. Denny enlisted in the U.S. Army on 13 June 1867, one year after President Andrew Johnson signed legislation establishing two cavalry and four infantry regiments composed of African American men. All of these units were sent to the western frontier to defend settlers from Indian tribes, rustlers, thieves, and bandits.

Denny was assigned to Company C Ninth Cavalry stationed at Fort Davis Texas near the Mexican border Its orders were to protect stage and mail routes between El Paso and San Antonio patrol ...

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Mark G. Emerson

Born in Lynn, Massachusetts, Charles Remond Douglass was the third and youngest son of Frederick and Anna Murray Douglass. Named for his father's friend and fellow black antislavery speaker Charles Lenox Remond, Charles attended the public schools in Rochester, New York, where the family moved in late 1847. As a boy, he delivered copies of his father's newspaper, North Star.

As a young man, Charles became the first black from New York to enlist for military service in the Civil War, volunteering for the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. Unlike his brother Lewis, who also served in the Fifty-fourth and became a sergeant major in that regiment, Charles was unable to deploy with his fellow troops owing to illness. As late as November 1863 Charles remained at the training camp in Readville Massachusetts He ultimately joined another black regiment the Fifth Massachusetts Cavalry rising to ...

Article

Mark G. Emerson

and a son of Frederick Douglass. Born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Lewis Henry Douglass was the second child and eldest son of Frederick and Anna Murray Douglass. When Lewis was eight the family moved to Rochester, New York, where the boy was educated in public schools. After finishing his education, Lewis helped his father with his newspaper North Star, learning the printer's trade. Considered the ablest of Douglass's children, Lewis was the person Frederick Douglass asked to secure his papers from John Brown after the Harpers Ferry raid to prevent federal marshals from discovering them.

During the Civil War, Lewis enlisted in the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, attaining the rank of sergeant major and taking part in the attack on Fort Wagner, South Carolina, in July 1863 After the war Lewis and his brother Frederick Jr went to Denver Colorado where Lewis worked as a ...

Article

Maureen Honey

commander of the only African American unit of the Women's Army Corps stationed in Europe during World War II, was born Charity Edna Adams, the eldest of four children. She was raised in Columbia, South Carolina, where her father was a minister in the African Episcopal Methodist Church. Her mother was a former teacher.

Adams graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in Columbia as valedictorian of her senior class and then from Wilberforce University in Ohio, one of the top three black colleges in the nation in the 1930s. She majored in Math and Physics and graduated in 1938. After returning to Columbia, where she taught junior high school mathematics for four years, Adams enrolled in the MA program for vocational psychology at Ohio State University, pursuing her degree during the summers.

As a member of the military's Advisory Council to the Women's Interests Section (ACWIS), Mary ...

Article

Valika Smeulders

was born in Paramaribo, Suriname, on 26 August 1846. He was one of ten children born to Johannes Ellis, who was a senior civil servant, and Maria Louisa de Hart. He was born at a time when slavery was still legal in the Dutch colonies, where abolition did not occur until 1863. His paternal grandmother and his maternal great-grandmother were both born in Ghana. They were both enslaved and had children by white men. Several authors, J. J. Vrij (2001) in most detail indicate that Ellis s paternal grandfather must have been Abraham de Veer the governor of Elmina Castle the Dutch trading post De Veer was Dutch born on Curaçao where his father was governor He was a married man and did not officially recognize Johannes Ellis or the other children he fathered out of wedlock but he did take young Johannes with him ...

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Michael Frank Knight

, clerk, editor, Civil War veteran, and recipient of the Medal of Honor, was born to Charles and Anna Marie Fleetwood, free people in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1863 Christian left a lucrative position as a clerk in the Brune shipping and trading empire and joined the Fourth United States Colored Troops as a private. Just over a year later Fleetwood received the Medal of Honor for bravery and coolness under fire at the Battle of New Market Heights (Chaffin's Farm), 29 and 30 September 1864. He was one of only sixteen African American soldiers to receive the Medal of Honor during the Civil War.

Christian Fleetwood's remarkable story begins in the home of the prominent Baltimore businessman John C. Brune Fleetwood s father served for a long time as the majordomo in the Brune household and it was there that Christian received his early education in reading ...

Article

John C. Fredriksen

soldier and engineer, was born in Thomasville, Georgia, the son of Festus Flipper and Isabelle (maiden name unknown), slaves. During the Civil War and Reconstruction he was educated in American Missionary Association schools and in 1873 gained admission to Atlanta University. That year Flipper also obtained an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy through the auspices of Republican Representative James C. Freeman. He was not the first African American to attend West Point, as Michael Howard and James Webster Smith preceded him in 1870, but neither graduated. Flipper subsequently endured four years of grueling academic instruction and ostracism from white classmates before graduating fiftieth in a class of sixty-four on 14 June 1877. He was commissioned second lieutenant in the all-black Tenth U. S. Cavalry, and the following year recounted his academy experience in an autobiography, The Colored Cadet at West Point (1878 ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

Civil War soldier and Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Gloucester, Virginia, and was likely a slave prior to the Civil War. When Gardner enlisted for service in the Union army on 15 September 1863, he listed his occupation as that of an oysterman. The service of James Gardner and thousands of other African Americans in the Union army represented a quest to destroy slavery and establish a foundation for postwar demands for full citizenship For the federal government and most of the North however black patriotism was unwillingly accepted only out of sheer necessity two years of battle and staggering Union casualties compelled Northerners to swallow their opposition to black recruitment and the measure of racial equality that service implied in order to fill their depleted army ranks Indeed early war time fever had dissipated and voluntary enlistments faded making it difficult for states to ...

Article

J. Alfred Phelps

U.S. Air Force officer, was born in Pensacola, Florida, the youngest child of Lillie Anna Brown, an educator, and Daniel James Sr., a laborer. Only six of the James's seventeen children were alive when Daniel was born. Considered “a gift” by his parents, James began his education under the tutelage of his mother, who, disenchanted with the segregated Pensacola schools, opened her own school, the Lillie Anna James Private School. While Lillie Anna taught him arithmetic, patriotism, religion, English, spelling, physical education, literature, “good, common sense,” and public speaking, his father stressed hard work, academic excellence, and perseverance in the face of racism.Both parents provided homespun directives According to his mother there was an eleventh commandment Thou Shalt Not Quit Prove that you can compete on an equal basis James s parents gave him the desire to succeed the ability to enjoy the humor in life ...

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Glenn Allen Knoblock

Civil War soldier and Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Pennsylvania, the son of the Pennsylvania natives David Kelly, a coal miner, and Nancy. The family resided in South Versailles Township, Allegheny County, McKeesport, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, in the heart of coal-mining country. A coal miner like his father, Alexander Kelly, at five feet, three inches, was ideally suited for a profession where working in constricted spaces was the norm. However, he took up another profession, that of soldier, and there too he proved more than able to measure up to the tasks required of him.With the Union army in need of increasingly greater numbers of men, President Abraham Lincoln and the War Department came around to the idea of raising black troops. The idea became policy in May 1863 when General Order Number 143 established the Bureau of Colored Troops which oversaw activities ...

Article

Michael C. Miller

Hall of Fame football player, was born in Austin, Texas, to Johnnie Mae King, a prostitute, and her pimp, known only as “Texas Slim.” King abandoned her baby in a garbage dumpster when he was three months old, and Ella Lane, a widow, discovered and adopted him, naming him Richard. He attended Anderson High School, playing football and basketball and running track. Anderson won the state title in 1944 in the Prairie View Interscholastic League, a league for black high schools in Texas.

After high school, Lane moved to Scottsbluff, Nebraska, to live with his birth mother, who had straightened out her life. Though the town was predominantly white, Lane remembered it as open and friendly to him. In 1947 he signed a professional baseball contract with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Baseball League and was assigned to their farm team the Omaha Knights ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

Civil War sailor and Medal of Honor recipient, was born John Henry Lawson in Pennsylvania to parents from Delaware. Nothing is known about his early life, and even his date of birth is uncertain. Military records indicate that he was born in 1837, while census records state that he was born five years earlier. Census records also reveal that Lawson likely married his wife, Mary (also called Mary Ann), by 1857, the year in which his eldest child, Joseph, was born. John and Mary subsequently had seven other children: Susan, George, Raymond, Mary, Mariah, Gertrude, and Marien.

Like thousands of other black men, both freeborn and freed, Lawson enlisted for Civil War service in the U.S. Navy on 3 December 1863 in New York Naval records indicate that Lawson was twenty six years old at the time a ...

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Antonio Maceo y Grajales was born in Majaguabo, San Luis, Oriente province, Cuba. His father was Venezuelan but had lived many years in Cuba. His mother, Mariana Grajales, a Cuban, has become a legend, since eight of her sons and her husband died in the struggle for Cuban independence. At an early age, Maceo took interest in the political affairs of the country, and he became a mason at nineteen.

When landowner Carlos Manuel de Céspedes's call to overthrow the Spaniards, the Grito de Yara of 1868, sparked the beginning of the Ten Years' War, Maceo was among the insurrectionists. By mid-January 1869, three months later, his military exploits had earned him the rank of commander; soon after he became a lieutenant colonel. Careful, thoughtful, and quick thinking, Maceo became a true genius of guerrilla warfare, which he learned from Máximo Gómez ...