• August 5, 1763 Bill Richmond, hall of fame boxer, was born enslaved in Staten Island, New York. In 1777, Richmond was taken to England to apprentice as a cabinet maker but he took up boxing. Known as “The Black Terror”, he was one of the most accomplished and respected fighters of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Richmond retired from boxing in 1818 at the age of 55 and established a boxing academy. Richmond died December 28, 1829. He was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2005.
• August 4, 1810 Robert Purvis, abolitionist, was born in Charleston, South Carolina. Although Purvis and his brothers were three-quarters European by ancestry and inherited considerable wealth from their native English father, they chose to identify with the black community and use their education and wealth to support the abolition of slavery and educational projects for the advancement of African Americans. In 1833, Purvis helped abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison establish the American Anti-Slavery Society and from 1845 to 1850 served as president of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society. By his account, Purvis estimated that from 1831 to 1861 he helped one enslaved person per day escape to the North. In 1883, Purvis co-edited “The History of the Underground Railroad in Chester and Neighboring Counties of Pennsylvania. Purvis died April 15, 1898. His biography, “But One Race: The Life of Robert Purvis,” was published in 2007.
• August 3, 1921 Matthew James Perry, Jr., the first African American from the Deep South appointed to the federal judiciary, was born in Columbia, South Carolina. After serving in the United States Army from 1943 to 1946, Perry earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 1948 and his Bachelor of Laws degree in 1951 from South Carolina State College. He served as chief counsel of the NAACP’s South Carolina Conference of Branches and in that capacity argued hundreds of cases that helped desegregate schools, hospitals, restaurants, and other public places, including the integration of Clemson University in 1963. He also served for 16 years on the NAACP national board. In 1976, Perry was appointed to the United States Military Court of Appeals, the second African American to serve on that court. In 1979, he was appointed to the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, becoming South Carolina’s first African American federal judge. He assumed senior status in 1995. Perry died July 29, 2011. The courthouse in Columbia is named in his honor.
• August 2, 1891 George Washington Williams, Civil War veteran, minister, and historian, died. Williams was born October 16, 1849 in Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the Union Army at 14 and fought during the final battles of the Civil War. After returning to civilian life, he enrolled at the Newton Theological Institute and earned his Doctor of Divinity degree in 1874, the first African American to graduate from the institution. After graduating, Williams held several pastorates, including the historic Twelfth Baptist Church of Boston, Massachusetts. Later, Williams moved to Cincinnati, Ohio and became the first African American elected to the Ohio State Legislature, serving one term from 1880 to 1881. In 1885, President Chester Arthur appointed Williams Minister Resident and Consul General to Haiti. In addition to his religious and political achievements, Williams also authored “The History of the Negro Race in America 1619 to 1880” (1883) and “A History of Negro Troops in the War of Rebellion” (1887). Williams’ biography, “George Washington Williams,” was published in 1985.
• August 1, 1834 The Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 became effective, abolishing slavery in the majority of the British Empire. The act freed enslaved people under the age of six. Enslaved people six and older were designated as apprentices and would continue to serve their former owners for up to six additional years before being freed. The Act also included the right of compensation for slave owners who would be losing their property.
• July 31, 1874 Patrick Francis Healy was named president of Georgetown University, the first person of African American ancestry to be president of a predominantly white college. Healy was born enslaved February 27, 1830 in Macon, Georgia. Although he was at least three-quarters European in ancestry, he was legally considered a slave and Georgia law prohibited the education of slaves. Therefore, Healy’s father arranged for him to move north to obtain an education. Healy graduated from the College of Holy Cross in 1850 and entered the Jesuit order. In 1858, the order sent him to Europe to study because his African ancestry had become an issue in the United States. He earned his doctorate from the University of Leuven in Belgium, becoming the first American of African descent to earn a Ph.D. Healy was ordained to the priesthood September 3, 1864, becoming the first Jesuit priest of African descent. In 1866, Healy returned to the U.S. and began teaching at Georgetown. During his tenure as president, he helped transform the small 19th century college into a major university for the 20th century. He modernized the curriculum and expanded and upgraded the schools of law and medicine. He also oversaw the construction of Healy Hall which was declared a National Historic Landmark December 23, 1987. He left the college in 1882. Healy died January 10, 1910. In 1969, the Georgetown Alumni Association established the Patrick Healy Award to recognize people who have “distinguished themselves by a lifetime of outstanding achievement and service to Georgetown, the community and his or her profession.” Patrick Francis Healy Middle School in East Orange, New Jersey is named in his honor. “Passing for White: Race, Religion, and the Healy Family, 1820-1920” was published in 2003.
• July 30, 1926 Betye Saar, artist and educator, was born in Los Angeles, California, but raised in Pasadena, California. Saar earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in design from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1949. Most of her work is in the field of assemblage and consists of found objects arranged within boxes or windows. One of her better known pieces is “The Liberation of Aunt Jemima” which consists of a mammy doll carrying a broom in one hand and a shotgun in the other, placed in front of the syrup labels, inside of a box. In the early 1980s, Saar taught at the University of California, Los Angeles and the Otis Art Institute. She received artist fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1974 and 1984. Saar has had over 25 solo exhibitions and her work is in numerous museums, including the High Museum of Art, the National Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Detroit Institute of Art. She has received honorary doctorate degrees from the California Institute of the Arts, the Massachusetts College of Art, and the Otis College of Art and Design.
• July 29, 1794 Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was dedicated. Mother Bethel was founded by Richard Allen and organized by African American members of St. George’s Methodist Church who walked out due to racial segregation in their worship services. The current structure was built in 1890 and is the oldest church property in the United States continuously owned by African Americans. Bishop Allen, his wife Sarah, and Bishop Morris Brown are entombed in the current structure. The church today has approximately 700 members. Mother Bethel was designated a National Historic Landmark March 16, 1972.
• July 28, 1892 Patrick H. Raymond, the first African American fire chief in the United States, died. Raymond was born in 1831 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Around 1847, his family moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts where he worked as a shoemaker before becoming a journalist at the Boston Herald and the Boston Advertiser. Able to pass as white, Raymond joined the U.S. Navy from 1862 to 1864. After his service, he returned to Cambridge and in 1869 became editor of the Cambridge Press. On January 5, 1871, Raymond was appointed chief engineer of the Cambridge Fire Department. Over the next seven years, he tripled the department’s annual budget, created two new fire companies, and built two new firehouses. Also, he was elected corresponding secretary of the National Association of Fire Engineers in 1873. After being replaced as fire chief in 1878, he returned to the Cambridge Press as editor and business agent.
• July 27, 1872 Charles Veale, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died. Veale was born in 1838 in Portsmouth, Virginia. He joined the Union Army during the Civil War and by September 29, 1864 was serving as a private in Company D of the 4th Regiment United States Colored Infantry. On that day, his unit participated in the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm near Richmond, Virginia. Veale’s actions during the battle earned him the medal, America’s highest military decoration. He was awarded the medal April 6, 1865 and his citation reads, “seized the national colors after 2 color bearers had been shot down close to the enemy’s works, and bore them through the remainder of the battle”. Not much else is known of Veale’s life.
• July 26, 1916 Spottswood William Robinson III, educator, civil rights attorney and judge, was born in Richmond, Virginia. Robinson earned his bachelor’s degree from Virginia Union University in 1936 and his Bachelor of Laws degree from Howard University in 1939, graduating first in his class and achieving the highest scholastic average in the history of the university. From 1939 to 1947, Robinson was on the faculty of Howard’s School of Law and from 1948 to 1960 worked with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. In 1951, Robinson litigated the lawsuit Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County which was one of the cases consolidated and decided under Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. From 1960 to 1964, Robinson was dean of Howard’s School of Law. In 1964, he became the first African American appointed to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. In 1966, he became the first African American appointed to the U. S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and in 1981 he became the first African American to serve as chief judge of the District of Columbia Circuit Court. He took senior status in 1989. Robinson died October 11, 1998.
• July 25, 1824 George Boyer Vashon, the first African American graduate of Oberlin College, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At an early age, Vashon displayed an aptitude for languages, speaking Sanskrit, Hebrew, and Persian, and being well versed in Greek and Latin. In 1844, Vashon earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Oberlin and was valedictorian of his class. In his speech titled “Liberty of Mind” he stated, “genius, talent, and learning are not withheld by our common Father from people of color”. In 1846, Vashon applied for admission to the Allegheny County bar but his application was rejected because of his race. He therefore moved to New York State and successfully completed their bar examination in 1848, becoming the first Black lawyer in New York. In 1849, Vashon moved to Port-au-Prince, Haiti where he served as a professor of Latin, Greek, and English. In 1851, he returned to the United States and joined the faculty of the predominately White New York Central College. While there, he wrote “Vincent Oge” (1854), an epic poem on the Haitian insurrection. In 1863, Vashon became the second Black president of Avery College. He later became a professor of mathematics and ancient and modern languages at Alcorn College where he served until his death October 5, 1878.
• July 24, 1802 Alexander Dumas, playwright and novelist, was born Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie in Picardy, France. Dumas’ paternal grandfather was from the colony now known as Haiti and his grandmother was an Afro-Caribbean Creole. In 1822, Dumas moved to Paris, France and began writing plays for the theater. His first two plays, “Henry III and His Court” (1829) and “Christine” (1830), were successful and brought him much acclaim. After writing more successful plays, Dumas turned to historical novels, including “The Three Musketeers” (1844), “Twenty Years After” (1845), and “The Count of Monte Cristo” (1846). Despite his success and aristocratic connections, his being of mixed-race affected him all his life. In response to a man who insulted him about his mixed-race background, Dumas stated, “My father was a mulatto, my grandfather was a Negro, and my great-grandfather a monkey. You see, Sir, my family starts where yours ends.” Also in 1843, he wrote the novel “Georges” that addressed some of the issues of race and colonialism. Dumas died December 5, 1870. His stories have been translated into almost 100 languages and have inspired more than 200 motion pictures. A Paris Metro station was named in his honor in 1970. Biographies of Dumas include “The Incredible Marquis: Alexandre Dumas” (1929) and “Alexandre Dumas: A Biography and Study” (1929).
• July 23, 1891 Louis Tompkins Wright, physician and civil rights leader, was born in La Grange, Georgia. Wright earned his Bachelor of Arts degree as the valedictorian of his class from Clark University in 1911 and earned his medical degree, cum laude, from Harvard University in 1915. During his time at Harvard, Wright challenged and eventually defeated the practice of denying African American medical students access to White patients. During World War I, Wright served in the United States Army from 1917 to 1919, rising to the rank of captain and earning a Purple Heart. After the war, Wright went on to become the first Black physician to be appointed to the staff of a New York municipal hospital, the first Black surgeon in the New York City Police Department, the first Black surgeon admitted to the American College of Surgeons, and the first Black physician to head a public interracial hospital. Wright made important research contributions to the medical field, publishing 91 papers over his career. From 1934 until his death October 8, 1952, Wright served as chairman of the NAACP national board of directors and in 1940 was the recipient of the organization’s Spingarn Medal.
• July 22, 1827 James Varick, founder and the first Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, died. Varick was born January 10, 1750 near Newburgh, New York. He acquired an elementary education and for many years worked as a shoemaker and tobacco cutter. In 1800, after leaving the predominantly White church he had been associated with for 30 years over their racial policies, Varick and other Black members established the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Varick was ordained a deacon in 1806 and in 1822 was elected the first bishop. He was re-elected in 1824. Varick was a fierce opponent of slavery and fought for equal rights for African Americans. He was one of the Black leaders that petitioned the New York State Constitutional Convention to grant Black people the right to vote. He also actively supported the establishment of Freedoms Journal, the first Black newspaper in the United States. The James Varick Community Center was established in New York City in 1973.
• July 21, 1818 Charles Lewis Reason, mathematician, educator and civil rights activist, was born in New York City. A mathematics child prodigy, Reason began teaching the subject at fourteen at the African Free School. He later studied at McGrawville College. In 1847, Reason co-founded the Society for the Promotion of Education among Colored Children, an organization authorized by the state legislature to oversee Black schools in New York City. In 1849, he was appointed professor of fine writing, Greek, Latin, and French and adjunct professor of mathematics at New York Central College, the first African American professor at a predominantly White college. Reason left that position in 1852 to become principal of the Quaker Institute for Colored Youth (later Cheyney University), a post he held until 1855. That year, he returned to New York City where he served as a teacher and administrator in the public school system until his retirement in 1892. Reason was committed to the antislavery cause and worked for improvements in Black civil rights. He founded the New York Political Improvement Association which won the right to a jury trial for previously enslaved fugitives in the state. He also headed the successful 1873 effort to outlaw segregation in New York schools. Reason died August 16, 1893.
JULY 2013: TheVoices 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.
The New York City Draft Riot, similar to the Detroit Draft Riot, was caused by the exemption clause of the Enrollment Act of Conscription and racial tensions between African Americans and white citizens. On July 13, 1863, rioters gathered outside of the Provost Marshal office, attacking the officers, setting fire to the building, and eventually burning down the entire block. African Americans throughout the city were beaten, tortured, and even killed. The riot ended on July 16, 1863, after 105 people died and at least 11 black men were lynched.
1, 4-6, 9-10, 12-13, 19, 22. Library of Congress
2. To the Laboring Men of New York, 18 July 1863 (litho) American School, (19th century) Gilder Lehrman Collection, New York, USA The Bridgeman Art Library
3, 7, 8, 14-18, 20-21. General Research & Reference Division Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations
• July 20, 1925 Frantz Fanon, psychiatrist, revolutionary and writer, was born on the Caribbean island of Martinique. Fanon served in the French army during World War II. His experiences on Martinique and his service in the army fueled his first book, “Black Skin, White Mask” (1952), which analyzed the effects of colonial subjugation on humanity. In 1961, he wrote “The Wretched of the Earth” which discussed the effects on Algerians of torture by the French forces during the Algerian revolution. Fanon died December 6, 1961. Many of his shorter writings were posthumously published in the book “Toward the African Revolution”. Several biographies have been published on Fanon, including “Fanon” (1971) and “Frantz Fanon: A Life” (2001).
• July 19, 1783 Richard Potter, the first successful Black magician in the United States, was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Potter was the son of an English baronet and an African American serving woman. As a result, he was educated in Europe and traveled widely before becoming an entertainer. Potter was known for his skills in ventriloquism, hypnosis, and magic and performed throughout New England and Canada. He became a wealthy man and in 1813 bought a 175 acre farm in Andover, New Hampshire in a village now known as Potter Place. Potter died September 20, 1835.
• July 18, 1753 Lemuel Haynes, the first African American to serve as a pastor of a white congregation, was born in West Hartford, Connecticut. At the age of five months, Haynes was given over to indentured servitude and remained until he was freed at 21. After being freed, Haynes joined the minutemen and served during the Revolutionary War. After the war, he began to write extensively, criticizing the slave trade and slavery as an institution. He wrote “liberty is equally as precious to a Black man, as it is to a White one, and bondage as equally as intolerable to the one as it is to the other.” By the early 1780s, Haynes had become a leading Calvinist minister and starting in 1783 ministered to Rutland’s West Parish in Vermont for 30 years. In 1804, Middlebury College granted Haynes an honorary Master of Arts degree, the first advanced degree bestowed upon an African American. Haynes died September 28, 1833. His home for the last 11 years of his life in South Granville, New York was declared a National Historic Landmark May 15, 1975. His biography, “Black Puritan, Black Republican: The Life and Thought of Lemuel Haynes, 1753 – 1833” was published in 2003.