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Article

David M. Carletta

Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, the son of Tobias Bassett, a mulatto, and Susan Bassett of the Shagticoke branch of the Pequot tribe. He graduated with honors from the Connecticut State Normal School in 1853. Two years later he married Eliza Park, with whom he had three sons and two daughters. While he was the principal of a high school in New Haven, Connecticut, Bassett studied for a short time at Yale College. From 1857 to 1869 he was the principal of the Institute for Colored Youth, a Quaker school in Philadelphia that prepared students to become educators. He received high praise from the city's mayor for his work at the institute. During the Civil War, Bassett wrote many appeals to young black men to enlist in the Union Army.

Basset left the Institute for Colored Youth after the Civil War to become the first ...

Article

Nancy Gordon Heinl

Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, on October 16, 1833, the son of Tobias Bassett, a mulatto, and Susan (Gregory) Bassett, a Native American of the Shagticoke branch of the Pequot tribe. Ebenezer attended the Wesleyan Academy at Wilbraham, Massachusetts, and graduated with honors from the Connecticut State Normal School. While principal of a high school in New Haven, Connecticut, he continued his studies at Yale College, where he seems to have been held in wide respect. From 1857 to 1869 Bassett was principal of the Institute for Colored Youth in Philadelphia, a school founded by Quakers for the education of Colored Youth in school learning and to prepare them to become teachers In addition to his duties as principal Bassett taught mathematics natural sciences and classics he also acted as school librarian The mayor of Philadelphia referred to the school under ...

Article

Thomas Adams Upchurch

One of the most polarizing political figures in American history, James Gillespie Blaine, “the Plumed Knight of Maine,” was the most prominent presidential candidate of the late nineteenth century never to be elected. His chameleon-like character kept him at the top of the Republican Party machinery during both Reconstruction and the Gilded Age. He supported the Union during the Civil War and the Radical cause in the late 1860s, took a conciliatory view of the southern question in the early 1870s, and ultimately all but abandoned the African American civil rights agenda in the late 1870s and thereafter. As much as any other Republican, he influenced the course of the party in selling out African Americans after Reconstruction for the joint benefits of sectional reconciliation and national business interests. He did so, however, without necessarily alienating black voters or friends. Frederick Douglass for instance supported him throughout his career ...

Article

Curtis Jacobs

was born on 3 August 1832 in St. Thomas, Danish West Indies (today, the US Virgin Islands). He was the third of seven children born to Romeo Blyden, a tailor, and Judith Blyden, a teacher, a free black married couple in a Danish colony where the majority of Africans were still enslaved. Members of an integrated congregation of the Dutch Reformed Church, the Blydens moved briefly to Venezuela in 1842, where, in addition to discovering an aptitude for languages, Blyden observed that most of the emancipated Africans in that country were not far removed from chattel slavery.

Wilmot became a student of the Reverend John Knox of the Dutch Reformed Church upon his family’s return to St. Thomas in 1844. Impressed with his academic potential, Knox encouraged Wilmot in 1850 to travel to the United States with a view to gaining admission into the Rutgers Theological College ...

Article

Gloria Grant Roberson

With the support of the Harvard-affiliated educator George Herbert Palmer, Greener participated in a program to expose an African American to a Harvard education. Although poor grades resulted in his repeating his first year, Greener went on to win the Boylston Prize for Oratory in his sophomore year and the inaugural Bowdoin Prize for Research and Writing for his senior dissertation on Irish culture. Greener apparently recognized the advantages of repeating his first year at Harvard, because later, as a professor of mental and moral philosophy at the University of South Carolina, he was instrumental in adding a “subfreshman” class to the curriculum for scholarship students struggling with Latin and Greek.

The only child of Richard Wesley Greener, a seafaring man with an adventurous spirit, and Mary Ann Le Brune, Greener was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania His mother was thrust into single parenthood when her husband failed to ...

Article

Olive Hoogenboom

Richard Theodore Greener was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Richard Wesley Greener, a seaman who was wounded during the Mexican War while serving aboard the USS Princeton, and Mary Ann Le Brune. When he was nine, Greener and his parents moved to Boston but soon left for Cambridge, where he could attend “an unproscriptive school.” Greener's father, as chief steward of the George Raynes, had taken his son on a voyage to Liverpool but then abandoned the sea in 1853 for the California gold fields He was taken sick met with losses and was never heard from again When Greener was twelve years old he left school to help support his mother Although he quit one of his positions after an employer struck him those whom he met while knocking around in different occupations often helped educate him sharing their libraries and tutoring ...

Article

Delano Greenidge-Copprue

Oliver Otis Howard was born in Leeds, Maine, to a farming couple, Rowland and Eliza Otis Howard. In 1850 he graduated from Bowdoin College and went on to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he graduated in 1854 and was ranked fourth in his class. A year later Howard married Elizabeth Ann Waite, with whom he had seven children. After tours of duty in New York, Maine, and Florida, Howard returned to West Point in 1857 to teach mathematics.

In the Civil War, Howard proved himself an able commander, moving up in rank from first lieutenant to colonel of the Third Maine in 1861. In July 1861 he led troops at Bull Run and two months later was promoted to the rank of brigadier general. In the spring of 1862 he was severely wounded and most of his right arm was amputated By August ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

historian and religious leader, was born on 24 June 1846. His father, Henry, was a member of the Saro community, a large group of people who had been liberated from slave ships by the British Navy and then resettled in the British coastal colony of Sierra Leone. Like many other Saro individuals, Johnson’s father originally came from a Yoruba-speaking community in southwest Nigeria. Henry Johnson came from a royal pedigree, as he was the grandson of Alaafin Abiodun, king of the Oyo Empire in the late eighteenth century. Johnson married a Saro woman named Sarah, and their son Samuel was born in the Hastings village near Freetown. Samuel was the third of four children.

By the 1850s, many Saro chose to return to their home regions, and the Johnson family followed this trend by moving to back to Yorubaland in December 1857 There Henry Johnson became an assistant ...

Article

William C. Hine

Thomas Ezekiel Miller was born in Ferrebeeville, South Carolina, the son of Richard Miller and Mary Ferrebee, occupations unknown. Miller's race was a source of periodic concern and speculation. Although he always considered himself to be black, Miller's very fair complexion led to allegations during his political career that he was white, the abandoned child of an unmarried white couple.

Miller moved to Charleston with his parents in the early 1850s, where he attended schools for free black children. His mother died when he was nine. As a youngster he distributed the Charleston Mercury to local hotels, and during the Civil War he worked aboard South Carolina railroad trains delivering newspapers between Charleston and Savannah. When the Confederate government seized the railroads, Miller found himself in the service and in the uniform of the Confederacy. Union forces captured him as they advanced into South Carolina in January 1865 ...

Article

Thomas C. Holt

Murray was born a slave in Sumter County near Rembert, South Carolina, on September 24, 1853. He attended the University of South Carolina from 1874 to 1876, after it had been opened to black students by the Republican state government. From 1876 to 1890 Murray taught in the public schools and operated a small farm in Sumter County. In February 1890 he was appointed inspector of customs in the Charleston Customs House.

Although he was active in local politics prior to his custom house appointment, Murray's political ambitions appear to have been focused on the national stage by this politically important position. A few months after his appointment, he became a candidate for the Republican Party nomination to the United States Congress. Running against the veteran politician Thomas E. Miller and the white collector of internal revenue E. M. Brayton Murray failed to get the nomination However ...

Article

Robert Fay

Hiram Revels, the son of former slaves, was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina. He studied at several seminaries in Indiana and Ohio before becoming a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). During the American Civil War Revels helped to organize African American regiments in Maryland and ...

Article

Gary R. Kremer

Turner, James Milton (22 August 1839?–01 November 1915), educator and diplomat, was born a slave in St. Louis County, Missouri, the son of John Turner, a free black farrier, and Hannah Turner, the slave of Aaron and Theodosia Young, formerly of Kentucky. Mother and son were freed by Theodosia Young on 12 March 1844. Educated in clandestinely operated schools in St. Louis, in defiance of Missouri law, Turner was sent by his parents to preparatory school at Oberlin College in Ohio during the mid-1850s. He remained there for no more than two years and returned to St. Louis during the late 1850s. He worked as a porter until the outbreak of the Civil War, when he joined the war effort as a body servant to Colonel Madison Miller, a Union officer.

Turner began his public career in 1865 when he became a member of the Missouri Equal ...

Article

Michele Valerie Ronnick

university president, register of the U.S. Treasury, and bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, began life in Lebanon, Missouri. He was the first of two children born to Margaret Hooker Vernon (d. 1931) and Adam Vernon (1835–1916), a former slave. His sister, Essie Jean Vernon Landor (1882–1935), born more than a decade later, was a late addition to the family. His father, Adam Vernon, was born in Tennessee and had been brought by his owner, James W. Vernon, to Laclede County, Missouri. After the Civil War, Adam Vernon settled in Lebanon and worked for the Wallace Brothers Mercantile Company, which had been established by the brothers W. I., J. C., and D. C. Wallace. Adam also worked at the private home of J. C. Wallace. William matriculated at the Lincoln Institute in Jefferson City, Missouri, in 1886 and graduated in 1890 After ...