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Robert C. Hayden

physician, was born in New York City, the son of George DeGrasse, a prosperous landowner, and Maria Van Surly. After obtaining his early education in both public and private schools in New York City, he entered Oneida Institute in Whitesboro (near Utica), New York in 1840. Oneida was one of the first colleges to admit African Americans, nurturing a strong antislavery stance. In addition to welcoming black students to its campus, the institute invited abolitionists as lecturers and provided both a manual arts and an academic program.

In 1843 DeGrasse attended Aubuk College in Paris, France. Returning to New York City in 1845, he started medical training through an apprenticeship with Dr. Samuel R. Childs. After two years of clinical work and study under Childs, DeGrasse was admitted into the medical studies program at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, in 1847 Finishing his ...

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Robert L. Harris

Douglas, H. Ford (1831–11 November 1865), abolitionist and military officer, was born in Virginia, the son of a white man, William Douglas, and a slave, Mary (surname unknown). His first name was Hezekiah, which he chose to abbreviate. 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 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 ...

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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 ...

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Caryn Cossé Bell

businessman, Civil War veteran, and Reconstruction politician, was the son of the influential Creole New Orleanian Joseph Dumas, one of the owners of the Dumas Brothers French Quarter clothiers, a firm that specialized in imported French cloth and luxury apparel. Joseph Dumas invested his share of the firm's profits in real estate and accumulated a considerable fortune in property holdings and slaves. In 1860 African American Louisianans like François and Joseph Dumas constituted the wealthiest population of free blacks in the United States.

Joseph Dumas's import business necessitated that the Dumas family sojourn frequently in France, and it was there that François, was born, raised, and educated. François arrived in New Orleans shortly before the Civil War to manage the family business. He married Marguerite Victoria Victor, and the couple had five children, three girls and two boys. By 1860 he had become one ...

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Lois Kerschen

Clinton Bowen Fisk, the sixth son of Benjamin and Lydia Fisk, was born in Livingston County, New York. His father had been a captain in the army, and his grandfather served as a major general under George Washington. The Fisk family moved to a settlement they called Clinton in Lenawee County, Michigan, while Clinton Bowen was still an infant. Benjamin Fisk died when Clinton was six, however, and Lydia was not able to hold onto the property. At age nine, Clinton Fisk apprenticed himself to a local farmer, but one year later he had to return home because his younger brother died. When Fisk was thirteen, his mother married William Smith, a successful farmer from Spring Arbor, who sent Fisk to Albion Seminary, a Methodist school in Michigan.

Fisk later went into business as a clerk for L. D. Crippen of Coldwater Michigan and married Crippen s ...

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Julie Winch

abolitionist, businessman, and Civil War soldier, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the fifth of nine children of James Forten, a sailmaker and Revolutionary War veteran, and Charlotte Vandine. He was named for the white craftsman who befriended his father and gave him his start in business. Of his siblings, Margaretta Forten, Harriet Forten Purvis, Sarah Forten Purvis, James Forten Jr., and William Forten became active in the antislavery movement. Robert Forten received his early education at a school his parents and other affluent black Philadelphians established because of the failure of the city's board of education to provide adequate schooling for their children. Eventually Robert and his brothers transferred to the Pennsylvania Abolition Society's Clarkson School, although they may also have studied with the private tutors their parents hired to teach their sisters at home.

Growing up Forten developed a wide range ...

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Scott W. Poole

Thomas Wentworth Higginson served as the white colonel of the first federally authorized black civil war regiment. The First South Carolina Volunteers, which later in the war became the Thirty-third Regiment, United States Colored Troops, represented one of the earliest organized efforts of African Americans to fight for their own emancipation. In 1867 Higginson wrote the classic Army Life in a Black Regiment, wherein he reflects on his experiences as the commander of the regiment.

Higginson was born in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1823 but grew up in the then-rural village of Cambridge. Higginson entered Harvard College in 1837 having passed the college s rigorous examinations in Latin and Greek at the age of fourteen At Harvard Higginson imbibed the reform sentiments that would lead him into the abolitionist movement Higginson s social world at Harvard included the leading lights of New England liberal religion and reform In ...

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Robert Jr. Johnson

Massachusetts legislator, and civil rights and women's rights champion, was born in Hartford, Connecticut, the son of William Mitchell and Clara (Green) Mitchell, of whom nothing is known. It is probable that he had a brother, William. Other than the fact that he trained and worked as a printer, little is known of Mitchell's early life. When the Civil War broke out, Mitchell joined the Fifty-fifth Massachusetts Regiment at the age of thirty-three. Little is known of his military service, but he apparently lost a foot in the Battle of Honey Hill, South Carolina, in November 1864. He was one of the few African Americans commissioned as an officer at the close of the war. Unfortunately for Mitchell—and for George E. Stephens in the Fifty fourth as well while the Commonwealth of Massachusetts recognized his promotion the U S War Department did not He was ...

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Robert Stevenson

(b Grand Gulf, MS, Nov 8, 1842; d Hyde Park, Boston, Feb 26, 1892). American music historian. He was the son of a slave owner, Richard S. Trotter, and a black slave named Leticia. He studied music with William F. Colburn in a school for Negroes in Cincinnati run by the Methodist minister Hiram S. Gilmore, working between terms as a cabin boy on a steamer plying the Cincinnati–New Orleans run. About 1856 he moved to Hamilton, Ohio. Between 1857 and 1861 he attended Albany Manual Labor University near Athens, Ohio, and then taught in Muskingum and Pike Counties, Ohio. After service in the Civil War he worked in the Boston post office (1866–83), and on 3 March 1887 President Cleveland appointed him Recorder of Deeds in Washington this being the highest office in the nation reserved by custom for Negroes ...

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Stephen R. Fox

James Monroe Trotter was born on February 7, 1842, in Grand Gulf, Mississippi, the son of a white man, Richard S. Trotter, and his slave Letitia. When Richard Trotter was married in 1854, Letitia, her son, and two younger daughters from the union were sent to live in the free city of Cincinnati. Here Trotter attended the Gilmore school for freed slaves and worked as a hotel bellboy and as cabin boy on a riverboat. Later he briefly attended academies in Hamilton and Athens, Ohio, but according to his son he was largely self-educated. When the Civil War came, he was a schoolteacher in Pike County, southwestern Ohio.

In 1863 Trotter was recruited by black lawyer and activist John Mercer Langston and traveled to Boston to join the Fifty fifth Massachusetts Regiment a black unit with mostly white officers Trotter rose through the ranks ...

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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 ...