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Robert L. Harris

abolitionist and military officer, was born in Virginia, the son of a white man, William Douglas, and a slave, Mary (surname unknown). The initial in his name stood for Hezekiah. Sometime after his fifteenth birthday, he escaped from slavery and settled in Cleveland, Ohio, where he worked as a barber. Self-educated, he became an active member of the antislavery movement and the Ohio free black community in the 1850s. He served as the Cleveland agent for the Voice of the Fugitive, a black newspaper published in Canada that was devoted to the “immediate and unconditional abolition” of slavery.

Douglas became a leader in the black state convention movement of Ohio. He supported William Lloyd Garrison's position that the U S Constitution was a proslavery document that recognized the slave trade approved slavery and provided for the recapture of fugitive slaves Unlike those abolitionists who sought ...


Teresa A. Booker

slave, Union soldier, state legislator, teacher, and school superintendent, was one of three brothers born in Marshall, Texas, either to Emily and Jack Holland and later purchased by Captain “Bird” Holland, or to Captain “Bird” Holland himself and a slave.

Despite indeterminable origins, Holland's father purchased the freedom of the three men and sent them to Ohio in the 1850s, where each of them went to Albany Enterprise Academy, a school for blacks. In addition to reading and writing, students there were exposed to a range of subjects, including algebra, geometry, geography, history, chemistry, and astronomy. One of the school's first trustees was Thomas Jefferson Ferguson.

At the age of twenty-three, Holland fought on the side of the Union to end slavery by joining the 16th U.S. Colored Troop (USCT) on 22 October 1864 The 16th was a Tennessee contingent which opened ...


Glenn Allen Knoblock

Civil War soldier and Medal of Honor winner, was born in Princess Anne County, Virginia. Likely a slave before the war, he listed his occupation as that of a farmer upon joining the Union army sometime in mid-1863 at Portsmouth, Virginia. The enlistment of Miles James, Alfred Hilton, Edward Ratcliff, and thousands of other blacks from the South in 1863 signaled a sea change in opinion in the federal government and the upper echelon of the Union army. For both political and racial reasons, Union generals such as George McClellan and William Tecumseh Sherman had vigorously opposed the idea of recruiting black troops; both men vociferously opposed the idea of racial equality and did not believe that African Americans could be effective soldiers. While the use of black troops would not gain full acceptance until mid-1863 with the establishment of the Colored Troop ...


William H. Brown

Medal of Honor winner, was born a slave in Williamson County, Tennessee. Little is know about his early life. Like so many African Americans, he might have been hired to serve as a laborer, mechanic, or teamster for the massive Union army supply infrastructure operating out of Nashville, Tennessee, during the Civil War. On 28 July 1866 the U.S. Congress authorized the raising of six regiments of “Negro troops” that were broken down into two cavalry and four infantry regiments. The two cavalry regiments were numbered the Ninth and Tenth U.S. Cavalry Regiments. Jordan enlisted in the U.S. Army in Nashville in late 1866 and was assigned to the Ninth Regiment.

It was not uncommon to find a soldier who spent his entire military service with one regiment or company This was the case with Private Jordan He served with the Ninth through the regiment s initial service along the ...


Benjamin R. Justesen

lawyer, federal official, state legislator, and congressional aspirant, was the first of two sons born to a slave mother, Eliza Mabson, and her wealthy white owner, George W. Mabson, in Wilmington, North Carolina. He was educated at an early age in Massachusetts, where he resided until after the end of the Civil War. How George W. Mabson's father arranged to send his oldest son to Massachusetts in the early 1850s is not known, but presumably he either freed the light-skinned youth or smuggled him out of the state. From the age of eight, George reportedly lived with family friends in the Boston area, where he later worked as a waiter after the outbreak of the Civil War. On 15 February 1864 claiming to be eighteen years old George enlisted in the Union army joining the Fifth Massachusetts Colored Cavalry Regiment s Company G the ...


Juanita Patience Moss

slave, Union soldier, and farmer, was born to unknown parents in Chowan County, North Carolina, possibly on the Briols farm, located three miles from Edenton. Crowder was illiterate, and on his military records his surname is spelled Pacien. Some years after the Civil War, when his children entered school, their teachers spelled it Patience. When he applied for a government pension after the war, a member of the Fifth Massachusetts Colored Calvary by the name of Thomas Patience also gave his birthplace as that the Briols farm. Since the name of Patience is relatively uncommon, it is likely that they were brothers. Unfortunately, no records exist to verify the supposition.

When the Union army penetrated the South many slaves fled in search of the freedom promised to them if they could reach the Yankees Crowder Patience was one of these slaves At the age of eighteen he ...


Timothy J. McMillan

slave, Civil War veteran, author, and itinerant minister, was born in New Bern, North Carolina. His mother was Lettice Nelson, a slave on John Nelson's plantation at Garbacon Creek in eastern North Carolina; his father was a white man believed to be William Singleton. As a young child of four, William was sold by his owner and thus separated from his mother and two brothers for the first time.

Singleton was purchased by a Georgia widow who speculated in slaves buying people cheaply when they were young and selling them at a premium when they had reached adulthood He was given the common tasks of a slave child running errands and carrying goods Around the age of six Singleton decided to escape the constant whippings and his bondage in Georgia and return to New Bern He was able to ride a stagecoach from ...


Eric S. Yellin

soldier, music historian, and government officeholder, was born to a slave woman named Letitia and her white owner, Richard S. Trotter, in Grand Gulf, Mississippi, near Vicksburg. After escape or manumission, Letitia settled with her children in the free city of Cincinnati around 1854. Trotter completed his secondary school education and attended the Albany Manual Labor University, near Hamilton, Ohio, where he majored in art and music. During his school vacations and summers he worked as a cabin boy on shipping boats running on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. After graduating from Albany, Trotter taught school in Chillicothe, Ohio, until June 1863.

In that year Negro regiments were created for the Union army and he enlisted in Company K of the Fifty fifth Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry While in the army Trotter continued to teach holding class sessions for his fellow soldiers ...