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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

William C. Harris

a slave. The identity of his father is unknown, but he took the surname of the man who owned his mother before he was born. His childhood as a slave on a small plantation, first in Virginia, then briefly in Mississippi, and finally in Missouri did not significantly differ, as he later recalled, from that of the sons of whites. This relatively benign experience in slavery perhaps owed a great deal to the fact that he was the light-skinned favorite of a benevolent master and mistress. He shared a tutor with his master's son and thus obtained the education that prepared him for later success. During the Civil War, despite the benevolence of his owner, he fled to freedom in Kansas, but after slavery was abolished he returned to Missouri, where he reportedly established the first school in the state for blacks, at Hannibal.

After the war Bruce briefly attended ...

Article

Sean Patrick Adams

Salmon Portland Chase was born in New Hampshire. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1826 and eventually set up a successful law practice in Cincinnati, Ohio. After defending the freedom of several escaped slaves in Ohio, Chase became more involved in the growing antislavery movement of the 1830s and 1840s. He first affiliated himself with the Liberty Party and attempted to shape it into more than a single-issue antislavery organization. Throughout his political career, Chase was able to hold a curious balance between political idealism and aggressive self-promotion. His performance in the 1848 convention that resulted in the formation of the Free Soil Party was a case in point Chase gained national prominence in his role as chair of the convention and proved to be an effective coalition builder Although he was not satisfied with the narrow goals of the Free Soil movement he was willing to ...

Article

John Craig Hammond

“I do not set up for being perfect: far from it!” wrote the Kentucky antislavery agitator Cassius Marcellus Clay to the abolitionist John Fee in 1855. “I wish I were,” he continued, but “a good balance sheet of good against evil is all I aspire to!” Judged by his own standards as well as by those of black and white antislavery advocates, Cassius Clay succeeded in fulfilling his ambition, through his battles against the evil of slavery. A former slaveholder and one of the few antislavery leaders to remain in the South after 1830, Clay became something of a hero to northern abolitionists, who appreciated his willingness to challenge slaveholders on their own turf.

Cassius Clay was born in Kentucky s Bluegrass region to the planter Green Clay and his wife Sally in Clermont Clay lived to the age of ninety three and spent much of his life ...

Article

Thaddeus Russell

congressman, was born in Albany, Georgia, the son of Levi Dawson, a barber, and Rebecca Kendrick. Dawson received his early education in Albany, then attended Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, and received a bachelor's degree in 1909.

In 1912 Dawson joined thousands of other African Americans migrating to Chicago. Hoping to become one of the few black professionals in the city, he enrolled at the Kent School of Law. In 1917 he interrupted his law studies to volunteer for military service in World War I. He served as a first lieutenant with the 365th Infantry in France, where he was wounded in the shoulder and gassed during the Meuse-Argonne campaign.

After the war Dawson resumed his legal studies at Northwestern Law School and was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1920. Two years later he married Nellie Brown with whom he had two children He ...

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

Dickson D. Jr. Bruce

scholar and activist, was born in Colleton County, South Carolina, near Charleston, the eldest of three sons of Henry Grimké, a lawyer and member of one of South Carolina's leading families, and Nancy Weston, a slave owned by Grimké. He was also a nephew, on his father's side, of the noted white southern abolitionists Sarah Grimké and Angelina Grimké Weld. Although Archibald was born a slave, Henry acknowledged him as his son. After Henry's death in 1852 his mother took him to Charleston, where, even though he was still legally a slave, he attended a school for free blacks.

This condition was to change with the coming of the Civil War, when, in 1860, one of Henry's adult white sons, from an earlier marriage, forced the Grimké brothers—Archibald, John, and Francis J. Grimké—to work as household slaves. Archibald escaped in 1863 hiding in ...

Article

Alston Fitts and Loren Schweninger

politician, was born a slave on a plantation near Columbus in Muscogee County, Georgia. Sold twice before becoming the property of Jonathan Haralson of Selma, Alabama, a lawyer and the head of the Confederate Niter Works, the self-taught Haralson remained in Dallas County as a freedman following the Civil War. There he married Ellen Norwood in 1870, and their son Henry (who later attended Tuskegee Institute) was born.

Unsure about the future of the Republican Party, Haralson entered politics in 1867 as a Democrat. A gifted orator who combined humor and wit with a discussion of serious issues, he campaigned in 1868 for Democratic presidential candidate Horatio Seymour, who, he said, “represented the true principles of philanthropy and national government” (Selma Times, 4 Nov. 1868). When Democrats failed to attract support from newly enfranchised blacks, Haralson switched his party allegiance in 1869 He and ...

Article

Jeff Bloodworth

congressman, was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, the son of Nyanza Hawkins, a pharmacist who moved his family to Los Angeles in 1918 when Hawkins was eleven years old, and Hattie Freeman. Thereafter Los Angeles remained Augustus Hawkins's home. He graduated from Jefferson High School and from the University of Southern California with a degree in Economics in 1931. Only five feet four inches tall and so light-skinned that he was often mistaken for white, Hawkins entered electoral politics at an early age.In 1935, after leaving a job selling real estate, Hawkins was elected to the California State Assembly. Running as a Democrat and a proponent of Upton Sinclair's End Poverty in California (EPIC) program, he defeated a longtime incumbent. Once in office Hawkins became a committed New Deal liberal, supporting Franklin Roosevelt and eschewing socialism and other radical prescriptions to end the Great ...

Article

Diane L. Barnes

Rutherford Birchard Hayes was born in Delaware, Ohio, two months after his father's death. Educated at Kenyon College and Harvard Law School, Hayes became a practicing attorney in Fremont (Lower Sandusky), Ohio, but in the early 1850s moved his law office to Cincinnati, where he gained a reputation as an able defense attorney. In 1852 he married Lucy Ware Webb, with whom he had eight children, although three did not survive to adulthood.

During the Civil War, Hayes began his military career with a political appointment as a major in the Twenty-third Ohio Volunteer Infantry and soon rose to regimental colonel. By the time he resigned his commission at the end of the war, he had attained the rank of major general. While still on active military duty in 1864, Hayes was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He was reelected in 1866 Not long ...

Article

Donnie D. Bellamy

educator and government official, was born in Sparta, Hancock County, Georgia, the son of Mariah and Henry Alexander Hunt Sr., a tanner and farmer. Mariah, who exhibited some of the fundamentals of an education and had studied music, was a freewoman of color; Henry Sr. was white. Available evidence suggests that the couple lived together before the Civil War but maintained separate households afterward. Henry Jr. was the fifth of eight racially mixed children At age sixteen having completed the formal education available to him in Hancock County he followed his older sister and enrolled at Atlanta University A popular campus leader Hunt was captain of the baseball team moot court judge and president of the Phi Kappa Society In addition to his college course Hunt learned the builder s trade and during vacations worked as a journeyman carpenter to earn money for his education He graduated ...

Article

Christopher Bates

Andrew Johnson was born in Raleigh, North Carolina. His parents, Mary and Jacob, were barely literate and scratched out a living by working for a local inn. With Jacob Johnson's death in 1812, the family's financial situation became dire, and Mary struggled to support Andrew and his brother, William, before finally binding young Andrew in the apprenticeship of a tailor at the age of thirteen.

Johnson spent several years learning his trade before leaving Raleigh for Greeneville, Tennessee. There he established his own tailoring shop and also met Eliza McCardle, whom he married in 1827 Eliza took responsibility for her husband s education teaching him arithmetic and reading to him The future president eager to put his newfound knowledge to use and hone his natural rhetorical skills made his shop into an informal gathering place for political discussion Enthralled and energized by these exchanges Johnson sought ...

Article

Aimee Lee Cheek and William Cheek

political leader and intellectual, was born free in Louisa County, Virginia, the son of Ralph Quarles, a wealthy white slaveholding planter, and Lucy Jane Langston, a part-Native American, part-black slave emancipated by Quarles in 1806. After the deaths of both of their parents in 1834, Langston and his two brothers, well provided for by Quarles's will but unprotected by Virginia law, moved to Ohio. There Langston lived on a farm near Chillicothe with a cultured white southern family who had been friends of his father and who treated him as a son. He was in effect orphaned again in 1839 when a court hearing concluding that his guardian s impending move to slave state Missouri would imperil the boy s freedom and inheritance forced him to leave the family Subsequently he boarded in four different homes white and black in Chillicothe and Cincinnati worked ...

Article

Thomas Adams Upchurch

Born in Virginia to a wealthy white planter and a slave mother, John Mercer Langston was one of the most influential African Americans of the nineteenth century. Widely regarded by contemporaries and historians alike as second in importance only to Frederick Douglass, Langston actually superseded the venerable Douglass in certain ways. Although Douglass enjoyed more widespread renown, Langston held more government positions and had a more varied career. The two men first met in 1848 and maintained a friendship for many years thereafter. They disagreed on some important racial issues, however, which sometimes led to hard feelings and, near the end of their lives, an intense rivalry that most observers would say made them bitter enemies.

Langston was about ten years younger than Douglass and while they were both mulattoes born to slave mothers their upbringings could hardly have been more different Whereas Douglass endured the most abhorrent circumstances ...

Article

Paul Finkelman and Vickey Kalambakal

Abraham Lincoln, self-made and self-educated, remains one of America's best-loved presidents. He rose from obscurity and poverty through his own efforts to become president. His election in 1860 as the first president dedicated to ending the spread of slavery to new states led to the secession of seven slave states. His refusal to allow the Union to fall apart led to civil war and to the secession of four more states. During the war Lincoln presided over a revolution in American race relations that ended slavery; allowed for black political and military participation in the affairs of the nation; and, after his assassination, resulted in blacks' gaining full rights as American citizens.

Article

John M. Matthews

Reconstruction-era politician, was born a slave of mixed African and Caucasian ancestry in Knoxville, Crawford County, Georgia. The names of his parents and of his owners are unknown. Sometime before the beginning of the Civil War, Long was taken from rural Crawford County to nearby Macon, where he evidently taught himself to read and write and learned a trade. Freed at the end of the war, he opened a tailor shop in Macon, which he and his son operated for a number of years and which provided him a steady income and a position of some eminence in the black community. Long married Lucinda Carhart (marriage date unknown) and had seven children.Like many who became involved in Republican Party politics in the early years of Reconstruction, Long attended sessions of the Georgia Equal Rights Association, and by the summer of 1867 he was making speeches for that ...

Article

Mark Tushnet

civil rights lawyer and U.S. Supreme Court justice, was born Thoroughgood Marshall in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of William Canfield Marshall, a dining-car waiter and club steward, and Norma Arica Williams, an elementary school teacher. Growing up in a solid middle-class environment, Marshall was an outgoing and sometimes rebellious student who first encountered the Constitution when he was required to read it as punishment for classroom misbehavior. Marshall's parents wanted him to become a dentist, as his brother did, but Marshall was not interested in the science courses he took at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, from which he was graduated with honors in 1930. He married Vivian “Buster” Burey in 1929; they had no children.

Unable to attend the segregated University of Maryland School of Law Marshall enrolled in and commuted to Howard University School of Law where he became a protégé of the dean ...

Article

Alan West

José Martí is one of the major figures of nineteenth-century Latin America. He is regarded by Cubans across the political spectrum as the father of Cuba's independence. His collected works span some twenty-eight volumes and include exquisite poetry, insightful essays on Whitman and Emerson, impassioned political analysis, and a remarkable book of children's literature, La edad de oro (1889).

While still an adolescent, Martí embraced the cause of Cuban independence, founding the newspaper La Patria Libre in 1869. He was imprisoned and then banished for writing a letter denouncing a Spanish fellow student. After 1871 Martí spent a great deal of his life outside of Cuba (Mexico, Guatemala, Spain), and most of the years between 1881 and 1895 in New York where he dedicated himself to the Cuban independence movement as a brilliant orator journalist fund raiser and political leader He ...

Article

George Derek Musgrove

U.S. congressman, was born Parren James Mitchell, the ninth child of Clarence Maurice Mitchell, a waiter, and Elsie Davis in Baltimore, Maryland. The Mitchells lived in a cramped, two-story row house on one of the “alley” streets of Old West Baltimore, and the family could be considered poor. Parren attended segregated Garnet Elementary School, Booker T. Washington Junior High School, and Frederick Douglass High School, from which he graduated in 1940. In 1942 he joined the army and was immediately shipped overseas where he served in the Ninety-Second Infantry Division as a commissioned officer and company commander. Mitchell was awarded the Purple Heart in 1944 after being wounded during fighting in Italy.

After being honorably discharged from the army in 1946, Mitchell returned to Baltimore to attend Morgan State College. There he earned a BA in Sociology and graduated with honors in 1950 Immediately ...

Article

Chandra M. Miller

Reconstruction politician and U.S. congressman, was born in Opelousas, Louisiana, the son of free blacks Richard Nash and Masie Cecile. He received little public school education and as a young man worked as a bricklayer in New Orleans.

In 1863 nineteen-year-old Nash joined the Tenth Regiment of the Corps d'Afrique, later renamed the Eighty-second U.S. Colored Infantry. He joined the army as a private but was soon promoted to the rank of sergeant major. Nash's regiment fought at the Battle of Port Hudson, Louisiana, and was involved in the last infantry battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Fort Blakely, Alabama, in April 1865 While storming Fort Blakely Nash received wounds that cost him most of his right leg and earned him an honorable discharge Apparently about ten days before his discharge he received promotion to first lieutenant but the promotion was not approved His ...