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Today in Black History, 7/11/2014

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• July 11, 1821 Lucy Terry, creator of the oldest known work of literature by an African American, died. Terry was born around 1730 and stolen from Africa as an infant and sold into slavery in Rhode Island. On August 25, 1746, Native Americans attacked two White families in Deerfield, Massachusetts in an area called “The Bars.” Terry composed a ballad about the attack titled “Bars Fight” which earned her local acclaim. A successful free Black man purchased Terry’s freedom and married her in 1756. A persuasive orator, Terry won a case against false land claims before the Supreme Court of Vermont in the 1790s. She also delivered a three hour address to the Board of Trustees of Williams College to support the admittance of her son to the college. Although unsuccessful, the speech was remembered for its eloquence and skill. Her poem was preserved orally until it was published in 1855.

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President's Message, July 2014

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The song of summer is upon us, and I am happy to report several pieces of what I call our Grace & Mercy news: an award of $1 million from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to support children's programming, and a donation of $100,000 from LJ Holdings Investment Company CEO and museum Trustee Jon E. Barfield. We are so grateful to the Kellogg Foundation and Mr. Barfield, and to the hundreds of others who have stepped up since the beginning of the year to help support the institution envisioned by Dr. Charles H. Wright, whose 96th birthday will be commemorated at this year’s Legacy Dinner Saturday, September 20. As we come closer to the 50th anniversary of the founding of the museum, it is incumbent upon all of our stakeholders that we move beyond thinking of our gifts as merely support, but also sustenance – an ongoing source of funding that by its very nature will insure the sustainability of The Wright for its next 50 years. Our history and the gifts of our ancestors require nothing less.

But still, like dust, (we’ll) rise.

Jon Barfield knows this, as his $100,000 gift is but one of several he and his wife, Dr. Vivian Carpenter, have made over the years, including the hosting of fundraisers in their home. So does Howard Sims, who provided a $100,000 match to the Give A Grand, Make a Million campaign. Then, there is our Alma Greer. A retired teacher, principal, and 30-year veteran of the Highland Park School Board, Greer made it a point to take her kindergarten class to visit the International Afro-American Museum when Dr. Wright and his partners opened it in 1965. In 2013, she dedicated her 80th birthday celebration to the museum by asking family and friends to raise funds in lieu of birthday gifts. And just this past June, her foundation made it possible for a group of kindergarten students to not only visit, but also enjoy a fine dining experience – something many of them had never had the opportunity to do before.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still (we’ll) rise.

For a living institution like the museum, the work, and financial need, never ends. Like time and tides, they have their ebb and flow. But the very real effort of attracting talent, expanding capacity, and building towards sustainability has never been greater, or more necessary. We are at a cusp, having attracted over a quarter of a million guests this past year for the first time in our history, with the promise of so many, and so much, more. We must go from "good to great," from great to awesome, and awesome to (nationally) accredited.

Up from a past that’s rooted in pain…

Bringing the gifts that (our) ancestor(s) gave…

As the late Maya Angelou said, "We need to remember that we are created creative and can invent new scenarios as frequently as they are needed." In making my appeal that your continued gifts to The Wright be seen as necessary to allowing it to enact its mission with the highest levels of scholarship and service, and in accordance with the stature and dignity of the history and pride it represents, I hope Maya will forgive my liberties with her poem that inspired the name of our core exhibit, And Still We Rise.

"Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert."
- Isaiah 43:19

Together, we will.

 

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Click here to download our July 2014 Member Newsletter

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Today in Black History, 7/10/2014

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• July 10, 1826 Peter Williams, Jr. became the second African American Episcopal priest ordained in the United States. Williams was born in 1786 in New Brunswick, New Jersey. His family moved to New York City where he attended the African Free School. He was also privately taught by the leader of the Episcopal Church. In 1818, Williams led the organization of St. Phillip’s African Church and on this date was ordained a priest. In 1827, he was a co-founder of Freedom’s Journal, the first African American owned and operated newspaper in the U. S. In 1833, he founded the Phoenix Society which provided assistance for impoverished Black New Yorkers. He also served on the executive board of the American Anti-Slavery Society. He helped raise money for the emigration of African Americans to Canada. Williams died in October, 1840.

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Today in Black History, 7/9/2014

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• July 9, 1793 The Act Against Slavery was passed by Upper Canada, that part of Canada that would eventually become Ontario, to prohibit the continuation of slavery. It was the first attempt to abolish slavery in the British Empire. The Act did not immediately abolish slavery but ensured the eventual elimination. The Act stated that all enslaved people in the province would remain enslaved until death, that no new enslaved people could be brought into Upper Canada, and that children born to enslaved females would be freed at age 25. It further stated that any children born to this second generation while they were still enslaved would be free from birth. The Act remained in force until 1833 when the British Slavery Abolition Act abolished slavery in most parts of the British Empire.

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Today in Black History, 7/8/2014

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• July 8, 1777 The Commonwealth of Vermont abolished slavery in their constitution. The constitution declared that all men are born equally free and independent and that no male over the age of 21 or female over the age of 18 may serve another in the role of servant, slave, or apprentice. When Vermont was admitted to the union in 1791, it carried over that constitution and thus became the first state in the United States to have abolished slavery.

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Today in Black History, 7/7/2014

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• July 7, 1851 Charles Albert Tindley, hall of fame gospel music composer, was born in Berlin, Maryland. At birth, Tindley’s father was enslaved but his mother was free, therefore Tindley was considered free. Tindley was primarily self-educated but did attend night courses and took correspondence courses at the Boston University School of Theology, eventually earning a doctorate while working as a janitor at Calvery Methodist Episcopal Church. Tindley became the pastor of that church which under his leadership grew from 130 to a multiracial congregation of 12,500. After serving the congregation for over 30 years, the church was renamed Tindley Temple United Methodist Church in 1924. Tindley was also a noted songwriter and composer of gospel hymns and his composition “I’ll Overcome Someday” (1901) is considered by many to be the basis for the Civil Rights anthem “We Shall Overcome.” Tindley composed more than 60 other hymns, including “Stand by Me” (1905), “Nothing Between” (1905), “Some Day” (1906), and “Leave It There” (1916). Tindley was the first hymn writer to have a hymn copyrighted and in 1916 published a collection of hymns titled “New Songs of Paradise.” Tindley died July 26, 1933. He was posthumously inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame in 1993. The Charles Albert Tindley Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is named in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 7/6/2014

Posted by The Wright Museum
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 • July 6, 1914 Viola Davis Desmond, businesswoman and civil libertarian, was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Desmond wished to train as a beautician but was not allowed to in Halifax because of her race. Therefore, she trained in Montreal, Atlantic City, and New York. After training, Desmond returned to Halifax and started her hair salon. She also established The Desmond School of Beauty Culture, to train other Black females, and Vi’s Beauty Products. While on a business trip in 1946, Desmond’s car broke down in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia and she was told that the repair would take a day. As a result, she decided to see a movie. At the ticket counter, Desmond requested a ticket for a seat on the main floor and believing that was what she was given took a seat on the main floor. Subsequently, the manager of the theater approached her and informed her that it was against their policy to sell a main floor ticket to a Black person and she should move to the balcony where Black people sat. Desmond refused to move and was forcibly removed from the theater and jailed. She was eventually convicted of not paying the one-cent difference in tax between a main floor ticket and a balcony ticket. With the assistance of the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, Desmond fought the conviction in court but was ultimately unsuccessful. After that, she closed her business and eventually moved to New York where she died February 7, 1965. On April 14, 2010, Desmond was granted a free pardon, the first such pardon granted in Canada, which admits that the government made a mistake and the law was wrong. A documentary, “Long Road to Justice: The Viola Desmond Story” is available on youtube and a children’s book, “Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged” was published in 2010. The Viola Desmond Chair in Social Justice at Cape Breton University was established in 2010 and in 2012 Canada Post issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor. Desmond’s portrait hangs in Government House in Halifax. “Sister to Courage: Stories from the World of Viola Desmond” was published in 2010.

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Today in Black History, 7/5/2014

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• July 5, 1878 Jesse Max Barber, journalist, dentist and civil rights activist, was born in Blackstock, South Carolina. Barber attended Virginia Union University where he was student editor of the University Journal and president of the Literary Society and earned his bachelor’s degree in 1903. In 1904, he began working for the Voice of the Negro, eventually rising to editor-in-chief. The magazine argued for Black civil rights and stressed the importance of chronicling historical events for future generations. By 1906, it was the leading Black magazine in the United States with a circulation of 15,000. After the Atlanta Riots in 1906, Barber was threatened by White vigilantes and was forced to move to Chicago, Illinois. Unable to get financing in Chicago, the magazine folded in 1907. In 1905, Barber was one of the founders of the Niagara Movement. Barber graduated from the Philadelphia Dental School in 1912 and opened an office in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From 1919 to 1921, he served as president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Philadelphia Chapter and later served as president of the John Brown Memorial Association. Barber died September 20, 1949.

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Today in Black History, 7/4/2014

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• July 4, 1819 George Latimer, famous fugitive from slavery, was born enslaved in Norfolk, Virginia. In his early years, Latimer was a domestic servant until 16 when his labor was hired out. On two separate occasions he spent time in prison as a result of his master’s debt. On October 4, 1842, Latimer and his wife ran away. They hid beneath the deck of a northbound ship that took them to Baltimore, Maryland and eventually made their way to Boston, Massachusetts. Soon after their arrival in Boston, Latimer was recognized as an escapee and was arrested with the intent to return him to his owner. His arrest caused an uproar in Boston and a Latimer Committee was formed. The committee created the Great Massachusetts Petition and collected more than 64,000 signatures for delivery to the State Assembly. The petition significantly contributed to the passage of 1843 Personal Liberty Act, also known as the Latimer Law, which prevented Massachusetts officials from assisting in the detention of suspected fugitive slaves and banned the use of state facilities to detain such suspects. The committee also raised money and eventually purchased Latimer’s freedom for $400. After gaining his freedom, Latimer worked as a paperhanger in Lynn, Massachusetts. Latimer died around 1896. One of his sons was the inventor Lewis Howard Latimer.

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Today in Black History, 7/3/2014

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• July 3, 1844 Macon Bolling Allen became the first African American licensed to practice law in the United States after passing the State of Maine bar exam and earning his recommendation. Allen was born Allen Macon Bolling August 4, 1816 in Indiana. He grew up a free man and learned to read and write on his own. In the early 1840s, he moved to Portland, Maine where he earned his license to practice law. However, because White people were unwilling to have a Black man represent them in court, in 1845 Allen moved to Boston, Massachusetts. Allen passed the Massachusetts bar exam that same year and he and Robert Morris, Jr. opened the first Black law office in the U. S. In 1848, Allen passed another exam to become Justice of the Peace for Middlesex County. After the Civil War, Allen moved to Charleston, South Carolina and in 1873 was appointed Judge in the Inferior Court of Charleston. The next year, he was elected Judge Probate for Charleston County. Later, Allen moved to Washington, D. C. where he worked as an attorney for the Land and Improvement Association. Allen practiced law right up until his death June 11, 1894.

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Today in Black History, 7/2/2014

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• July 2, 1822 Denmark Vesey was executed for planning what would have been one of the largest slave rebellions in the United States. It is thought that Vesey was born around 1767 on the island of St. Thomas. In 1781, he was purchased by Captain Joseph Vesey who eventually settled in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1799, Vesey won $1500 in a city lottery which he used to purchase his freedom and began working as a carpenter. In 1816, he co-founded a branch of the African Methodist Church. Inspired by the revolutionary spirit and actions of enslaved people during the 1791 Haitian Revolution, Vesey began to plan a slave rebellion. His insurrection, which was to take place July 14, 1822, became known to thousands of Black people along the Carolina coast. Their plan was to sail to Haiti after the revolt. The plot was leaked and 67 men were convicted and 35 hanged, including Vesey. Many antislavery activists came to regard Vesey as a hero and during the Civil War Frederick Douglas used Vesey’s name as a battle cry to rally African American regiments. Vesey was the subject of a 1939 opera named after him and a 1980s made for television drama, “Denmark Vesey’s Revolt.” A biography, “He Shall Go Free: The Lives of Denmark Vesey,” was published in 2004.

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Today in Black History, 7/1/2014

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• July 1, 1868 Robert Allen Cole, composer, playwright and stage producer, was born in Athens, Georgia. As a child, Cole learned to play several instruments, including the banjo, piano, and cello. By 1891, he was a member of “The Creole Show,” eventually becoming a writer and stage manager for the show. After publishing his first songs in 1893, Cole established his own Black production company and produced “A Trip to Coontown,” thought to be the first musical entirely created and owned by Black showmen. That show premiered September 27, 1897 in South Amboy, New Jersey and toured off and on until 1901. In the early 1900s, Cole formed a partnership with J. Rosamond Johnson and James Weldon Johnson which resulted in over 200 songs. They also wrote and produced two musicals, “The Shoe-Fly Regiment” (1907) and “The Red Moon” (1909). Shortly after, Cole’s health began to deteriorate and he drowned August 2, 1911 in what many believe to have been a suicide. His biography, “Bob Cole: His Life and His Legacy to Black Musical Theater,” was published in 1985.

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Today in Black History, 6/30/2014

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• June 30, 1853 Pierre Toussaint, hairdresser and philanthropist, died. Toussaint was born enslaved June 27, 1766 in Haiti. In 1787, his owners brought him to New York City where Toussaint became an apprentice to one of the city’s leading hairdressers. In 1807, he was freed from enslavement when his owner died and he went on to become quite wealthy as a hairdresser. As a result, Toussaint was able to purchase the freedom of the woman that would become his wife. They opened their home as a shelter for orphans, a credit bureau, an employment agency, and refuge for priests and poverty stricken travelers. They also funded the construction of a new Roman Catholic church. In 1990, the Archbishop of New York had Toussaint’s body exhumed and reinterred in the crypt below the altar at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the first layman to be buried in the crypt. In 1996, Toussaint was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II, the second step toward sainthood. A biography, “Memoir of Pierre Toussaint, Born a Slave in St. Domingo,” was published in 1854. Pierre Toussaint Academy in Detroit, Michigan, the Pierre Toussaint Family Health Care Center in Brooklyn, New York, and The Pierre Toussaint Haitian-Catholic Center in Miami, Florida are named in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 6/29/2014

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• June 29, 1867 Emma Azalia Smith Hackley, singer, educator and political activist, was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee but raised in Detroit, Michigan. Hackley learned to play the piano at three and later took private voice, violin, and French lessons. In 1900, she earned her Bachelor of Music degree from Denver University. Hackley was active in Denver’s civic and social life. She founded the Colored Women’s League and served as executive director of the local branch. She also founded the Imperial Order of Libyans which fought racial discrimination and encouraged patriotism amongst African Americans. In 1905, Hackley moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where she became the director of music at the Episcopal Church of the Crucifixion. She also helped organize the People’s Chorus which later became the Hackley Choral Society. Hackley spent much of her life training other singers, including Marian Anderson, Roland Hayes, and R. Nathanial Dett. In 1916, she published her own collection of music, “Colored Girl Beautiful.” Hackley died December 13, 1922. Twenty years later, the National Association of Negro Musicians established the E. Azalia Hackley Memorial Collection of Negro Music, Drama and Dance at the Detroit Public Library. Her biography, “Azalia: The Life of Madame E. Azalia Hackley,” was published in 1947. Hackley’s name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

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Today in Black History, 6/28/2014

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• June 28, 1830 David Walker, abolitionist and author of “David Walker’s Appeal,” was found dead on the doorsteps of his home. Walker was born September 28, 1785 in Wilmington, North Carolina. Walker moved to Boston, Massachusetts during the 1820s where he served as the local distributor of “Freedom’s Journal,” a weekly abolitionist newspaper, and began to speak and write about slavery and racism. In 1828, he joined the Massachusetts General Colored Association which was committed to promoting the interests and rights of African Americans. In 1829, Walker published a 76 page pamphlet entitled “Walker’s Appeal, in Four Articles; Together with a Preamble, to the Coloured Citizens of the World, but in Particular, and Very Expressly, to Those of the United States of America.” In the appeal, Walker argued that African Americans suffered more than any other people of the history of the world and called for immediate, universal, and unconditional emancipation. He also openly praised enslaved people who used violence in self-defense against their masters and overseers and suggested that enslaved people kill their masters in order to gain freedom. Many historians believe that this was the first written assault on slavery and racism to come from a Black man in the United States. Southern slave owners labeled the pamphlet seditious and placed a price on Walker’s head. “To Awaken My Brethren: David Walker and the Problem of Antibellum Slave Resistence” was published in 1996.

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Today in Black History, 6/27/2014

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• June 27, 1766 Pierre Toussaint, hairdresser and philanthropist, was born enslaved in Haiti. In 1787, his owners brought him to New York City where Toussaint became an apprentice to one of the city’s leading hairdressers. In 1807, he was freed from enslavement when his owner died and he went on to become quite wealthy as a hairdresser. As a result, Toussaint was able to purchase the freedom of the woman that would become his wife. They opened their home as a shelter for orphans, a credit bureau, an employment agency, and refuge for priests and poverty stricken travelers. They also funded the construction of a new Roman Catholic church. Toussaint died June 30, 1853. In 1990, the Archbishop of New York had Toussaint’s body exhumed and reinterred in the crypt below the altar at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, the first layman to be buried in the crypt. In 1996, Toussaint was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II, the second step toward sainthood. A biography, “Memoir of Pierre Toussaint, Born a Slave in St. Domingo,” was published in 1854. Pierre Toussaint Academy in Detroit, Michigan, the Pierre Toussaint Family Health Care Center in Brooklyn, New York, and The Pierre Toussaint Haitian-Catholic Center in Miami, Florida are named in his honor.

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Detroit Free Press article on The Garden Party held by the Women's Committee of the Charles H. Wright Museum

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Garden partygoers raise money for Charles Wright museum in Detroit

CASSANDRA SPRATLING FOR DETROIT FREE PRESS

The historic Dorothy G. Turkey House in Detroit was the setting for an elegant garden party that raised funds for the Charles Wright Museum of African American History on Sunday afternoon.

Sunday's warm weather cooperated perfectly for the party held on the spacious grounds of the house that was designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

The event was presented by the women's committee of the Charles Wright Museum of African American History.

"We are pleased to present this event because the museum is in dire need of financial assistance," said Anita T. Gibbs, chairperson of the committee. "This is the first of several fund-raisers we're planning for this year."

Gibbs said the committee was delighted for the opportunity to host the event in the house, now owned by Dale Morgan and Norman Silk who helped welcome guests to the house and led tours of the home located on west 7 Mile in Detroit's Palmer Park neighborhood.

Among those present were U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, and Roberta Hughes Wright, widow of Charles Wright, the museum founder for whom it is named, and Juanita Moore, current president of the museum.

Gibbs said the committee hopes the event raises between $15,000 and $20,000 for the museum.

(c)2014 the Detroit Free Press

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Today in Black History, 6/26/2014

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• June 26, 1879 Clinton Greaves received the Congressional Medal of Honor, America’s highest military decoration, for his actions during the Indian Wars. Greaves was born enslaved August 12, 1855 in Madison County, Virginia. He joined the United States Army in 1872 and by January 24, 1877 was serving as a corporal in Company C of the 9th Cavalry Regiment. On that day, his actions earned him the medal. His citation reads, “While part of a small detachment to persuade a band of renegade Apache Indians to surrender, his group was surrounded. Cpl. Greaves in the center of the savage hand-to-hand fighting, managed to shoot and bash a gap through the swarming Apaches, permitting his companions to break free.” Greaves rose to the rank of sergeant before leaving the army after 20 years of service. Greaves died August 18, 1906. Camp Greaves, a U. S. Army installation in the Republic of South Korea which was closed in 2004, was named in his honor.

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Voices of the Civil War Episode 29: "Equal Pay"

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JUNE 2014: The Voices of the Civil War is a five-year film series dedicated to celebrating and commemorating the Civil War over the course of the sesquicentennial. Each month, new episodes cover pertinent topics that follow the monthly events and issues as they unfolded for African Americans during the Civil War. Within these episodes there are various primary sources – letters and diaries, newspaper reports, and more - to recount various experiences of blacks during this period. We encourage your feedback and commentary through our Voices of the Civil War web blog.

Click here to visit the Voices of the Civil War blog to see previous episodes.

On June 15, 1864, Congress finally approved an act to equalize pay amongst all Union soldiers. African American soldiers were now paid $13 per month plus a $3.50 uniform allowance, equal to that of white soldiers. Nevertheless, Congress made a distinction between freed and formerly enslaved soldier in determining retroactive pay. This distinction divided African American regiments and lowered morale.

Credits

1 Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

2, 7, 8, 14, 15 Public Domain

3, 6, 9, 11, 12 Library of Congress

4 State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/147904

5 Massachusetts Historical Society

10 GLC07345 Francis H. Fletcher, Letter to Jacob C. Safford, May 28, 1864 (Courtesy of The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History)

13 Florida Center for Instructional Technology, College of Education, University of South Florida

16 Courtesy of the Ohio Historical Society

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Today in Black History, 6/25/2014

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• June 25, 1792 Thomas Peters, a “Founding Father” of Sierra Leone, died. Peters was born in 1738 in Nigeria. At 22, Peters was captured by slave traders and after being sold several times ended up in Wilmington, North Carolina. In 1776, at the start of the American Revolution, he escaped and joined the Black Pioneers, a Black unit made up of formerly enslaved African Americans fighting for the British. The British had promised freedom in exchange for fighting for them. Peters rose to the rank of sergeant and was wounded in battle twice. After the war, Peters and the other loyalists were taken by the British to Nova Scotia, Canada where they stayed from 1783 to 1791. In 1791, Peters traveled to London, England to protest the broken promises of land by the British government. While there, he convinced the government to allow them to settle a new colony in Sierra Leone that was to become Freetown. In 1792, Peters and about 1,100 other Black people arrived at St. George Bay Harbor in Sierra Leone. Peters died that same year and is considered by some to be the “George Washington of Freetown.” In 2007, a street in Freetown was named in his honor and in 2011 a statue of him was unveiled. “From Slavery to Freetown: Black Loyalists After the American Revolutionary” was published in 2006.

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