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BLACK MAN CREATED FIRST TAXI CAB SERVICE IN CANADA IN THE 1800's:

Lucie and Thornton Blackburn’s house was of modest size on a small lot at 54 Eastern Avenue, at Sumach Street, now the south-east corner of the playground of the Sackville Street School, which was built in 1887.  Their home had long since been demolished and the couple all but forgotten, when, in 1985, Karolyn Smardz Frost and others, supported by The Toronto Board of Education, found out that the property had belonged to the Blackburns from old street directories and decided to excavate the corner of the school yard as they were fascinated with the Underground Railroad and the educational possibilities presented.  Thus the Lucie and Thornton Blackburn Public Archaeology Project was initiated.

The Blackburns were African American slaves who fled from Louisville Kentucky, via the Underground Railway. Their journey first took them to Detroit, where they stayed for a couple of years.  Unfortunately they were recognized and jailed. They escaped with the help of Detroit's black residents and arrived in the new City of Toronto in 1834, where they became prominent and prosperous members of Toronto's Black community.  The escape from Detroit was not without incident.  Two women visited Lucie Blackburn in jail. While there one of them exchanged clothes with her, and she was able to walk undetected. She was then whisked across the Detroit River into Canada. Thornton’s escape was more difficult as he was heavily guarded, bound and shackled. A crowd of 400 men had to storm the jail to free him; this was that city's first race riot.  In Upper Canada, Lieutenant-Governor Colborne refused extradition back to the United States, noting that a person could not steal himself.

Shortly after they arrived here, the Blackburns built a small one-storey frame house at #54 Eastern Avenue at the corner of Sackville Street, where they lived for over fifty years.  His first job was waiting at the Osgoode Hall dining room, but they decided to go into business for themselves.  Having learned about the taxi cabs in Montreal, he got hold of the plans for one and contracted with Paul Bishop, a skilful mechanic, whose shop was in the neighbourhood, for a cab to be made of this design.  Blackburn called his one-horse cab the "City" and painted it yellow and red. It was entered from the back, and accommodated four passengers.  The driver sat on his box in front. This was the first taxi cab in Upper Canada.  His cab business was very successful and many others followed his example. At his death in 1890, he left Lucie $17,000, which was a considerable sum in those days.  Many people remembered and wrote about special trips they took in the "City."  The Blackburns participated in antislavery and community activities, and donated both time and money to help other fugitive slaves settle in their adopted home.

In 1999, the Canadian government designated the Blackburns "Persons of National Historic Significance" for their important contribution to the growth of Toronto and, in 2002, plaques in their honour were erected in Louisville, Kentucky, and in Toronto.  This site has been fully excavated by the Archaeological Resource Centre under the Board of Education, SEED, Ministry of Citizenship and Culture, and the Ontario Heritage Foundation in the summer of 1985. The school building is now used by the Inglenook Community School, an alternative high school.

Actor Eddie "Rochester" Anderson was the richest black man in America in 1942.  He grossed $100,000 per year as a sidekick on the "Jack Benny Show."  Among the most highly paid African-American performers of his time, Anderson invested wisely and became extremely wealthy.  His mansion became a showplace for Black Hollywood with a large dance floor for parties and a home theater for viewing movies.   Upstairs was a library flowing with books, including investment manuals.  During the war years, downstairs became a bomb shelter.  Anderson died in 1977.  Source: "Bright Boulevards, Bold Dreams," by Donald Bogle

Mahalia Jackson, the greatest gospel singer in history, started out as a laundress and studied beauty culture at Madame C.J. Walker’s beauty school. Madame Walker’s business savvy must have rubbed off on Mahalia because when she died, her estate was worth over $2 million dollars in the early 70’s and during that time it wasn’t much money in gospel. Mahalia had invested in prime real estate and stocks over the years. When Martin Luther King, Jr. asked her ‘how much she would charge to perform at the March on Washington?’ Mahalia replied, ‘I never charge when it benefits the civil rights movement.

Lorraine Hansberry, the playwright who wrote “Raisin In The Sun,” was once asked by an friend, Lorraine, 'Why do you wear that same sweater so often?' Miss Hansberry replied, ‘I don’t even think about buying new clothes when my people are suffering and struggling throughout this country, all of my extra income goes towards the movement.’ Whenever “A Raisin In The Sun,” opens across the country, Hansberry’s family is always in attendance on opening night.

Hazel Washington (no photo available) was a one-time maid of Greta Garbo and a personal assistant to Rosalind Russell in the 1950’s. Washington also became of the early black licensed hairdressers employed by the studios to tend to the hairstyles of black actresses on such movies as “Cabin In The Sky,” and “Stormy Weather.” Washington partnered with white actress Rosalind Russell to open a leather good store in Beverly Hills that was quite profitable. This was an unheard venture for an African-American woman in the 1950’s. Washington became the first black woman to have any type of ownership of business in Beverly Hills during this era.  Source: "Bright Boulevards, Bold Dreams," by Donald Bogle

Black History Month Tidbit...Lewis H. Latimer was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts in 1848. Along with Granville T. Woods, Latimer was one of the first major African American inventors. He first worked as an assistant to Alexander Graham Bell. Some have claimed that "Latimer, not Bell, actually invented the telephone."

Later, Latimer became a member of Thomas Edison's elite research team, "Edison's Pioneers." Here Latimer made his most important scientific contributions, by improving the light bulb invented by Edison.

Edison's prototypical light bulb was lit by a glowing, electrified filament made of paper, which unfortunately burnt out rather quickly. Latimer created a light bulb with a filament made of the much more durable carbon and the light bulb burned much longer.

The First Black Ice Hockey Players -1820 to 1870.  Comprised of the sons and grandsons of runaway American slaves, the league helped pioneer the sport of ice hockey changing this winter game from the primitive "gentleman's past-time" of the nineteenth century to the modern fast moving game of today. In an era when many believed blacks could not endure cold, possessed ankles too weak to effectively skate, and lacked the intelligence for organized sport, these men defied the defined myths

The first recorded mention of all-Black hockey teams appears in 1895. Games between Black club teams were arranged by formal invitation. By 1900, The Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes had been created, headquartered in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Despite hardships and prejudice, the league would exist until the mid-1920s. Historically speaking, The Colored Hockey League was like no other hockey or sports league before or since. Primarily located in a province, reputed to be the birthplace of Canadian hockey, the league would in time produce a quality of player and athlete that would rival the best of White Canada. Such was the skill of the teams that they would be seen by as worthy candidates for local representation in the annual national quest for Canadian hockey's ultimate prize - the Stanley Cup.

Each week tens of thousands of diners eat at an Olive Garden or Red Lobster Restaurant. Few of these diners know that the CEO heading these large restaurant chains is a black man. Clarence Otis Jr. (pictured above) is the CEO of Darden Restaurants Inc., the largest casual dining operator in the nation. The firm operates nearly 1,400 company-owned restaurants coast to coast serving 300 million meals annually. Darden employs 150,000 workers and has annual revenues of $6 billion.

Born in Vicksburg , Mississippi Otis moved to Los Angeles when he was 6 years old. His father was a high school dropout who worked as a janitor. The family lived in Watts at the time of the 1965 riots. In the post Watts period, Otis recalls being stopped and questioned by police several times a year because of the color of his skin.

A high school guidance counselor recommended him for a scholarship at Williams College, the highly selective liberal arts institution in Massachusetts. Otis graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Williams and went on to earn a law degree at Stanford. Otis landed on Wall Street as a merger and acquisitions attorney for J.P.Morgan Securities. He joined Darden Restaurants in 1995 as corporate treasurer. He became CEO in 2004. Photo Credit: Nathan Mandell

*Women are currently celebrated in some cultures for having big derriere’s, similar to J-Lo. Sadly, a black woman by the name of Sara Baartman was treated in a vile, degrading and inhuman manner for possessing an extremely full-figure.

When 20-year old Sara Baartman (pictured above) got on a boat that was to take her from Cape Town to London in 1810, she could not have known that she would would never see her family again. Nor, as she stood on the deck and saw her homeland disappear behind her could she have known that she would become the icon of racial inferiority and black female sexuality for the next 100 years.

Baartman was born in 1789. She was working as a slave in Cape Town when she was “discovered” by British ship’s doctor William Dunlop, who persuaded her to travel with him to England. He promised her a job to earn money that she could send to her family.

But it’s clear what Dunlop had in mind – to display her as a “freak," a "scientific curiosity," and make money from these shows, some of which he promised to give to her. He never kept that promise.

Baartman had unusually large buttocks and genitals, and in the early 1800s Europeans were arrogantly obsessed with their own superiority, and with proving that others, particularly blacks, were inferior and oversexed.

Baartman’s physical characteristics, not unusual for Khoisan women, although her features were larger than normal, were “evidence” of this prejudice, and she was treated like a freak exhibit in London.

She was put on display, in a circus atmosphere where whites came to gawk at her full-figure. She was even subjected to people probing her genitals and derriere.

In 1814 she was taken to France, and became the object of scientific and medical research that formed the bedrock of European ideas about black female sexuality. She died the next year, on December 29, 1815, of an inflammatory ailment, possibly smallpox. But even after her death, Sara Baartman remained an object of imperialist scientific investigation.

An autopsy was conducted and the findings published by French anatomist Henri Marie Ducrotay de Blainville in 1816 and by Cuvier in the Memoires du Museum d'Histoire Naturelle in 1817. Cuvier notes in his monograph that Baartman was an intelligent woman who had an excellent memory and spoke Dutch fluently. Her skeleton, preserved genitals and brain were placed on display in Paris's Musée de l'Homme until 1974.

There were sporadic calls for the return of her remains beginning in the 1940s but the case became prominent only after US biologist Stephen Jay Gould published an account, The Hottentot Venus, in the 1980s.

When Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa in 1994, he formally requested that France return the remains. After much legal wrangling and debates in the French National Assembly, France acceded to the request on 6 March 2002.

Baartman became an icon in South Africa as representative of so many aspects of their history. Her remains were returned to her land of birth, the Gamtoos Valley, on 3 May 2002. Second photo, above.

In the early 1900’s, Mary Turner was upset about the lynching of her husband who was wrongly accused of killing a white man. Even white authorities stated that he was not in the vicinity of the crime.

Mary was eight months pregnant when she made the comment that she would get even with those who hung her husband and would sign arrest warrants against the killers and she planned to call Federal authorities.

The white residents of Valdosta, Georgia decided to teach her a lesson for being uppity enough to be vocal about her pain. A white mob abducted her and tied her upside down to a tree, doused her with gasoline and burned her alive. One of the crowd members took a knife and split her belly open letting the baby fall out. Another member of the crowd smashed the baby’s head with his foot.

Then the crowd took out their guns and filled the burning body of Mary Turner with bullets.

Unbelievingly, the ‘Associated Press’ wrote that Mary Turner had made unwise remarks about the execution of her husband.

Years later, in 1933, California Governor James Rolph Jr. released a statement saying, “Lynching is a fine lesson for the whole nation.”

*The photo above is of an unidentified woman.

THE LENA BAKER STORY:

Lena Baker (June 8, 1901 – March 5, 1945) was an African American maid who was executed for murder by the State of Georgia in 1945 for killing her employer, Ernest Knight, 67, in 1944. At her trial she claimed that he had imprisoned and threatened to shoot her should she attempt to leave, whereupon she took his gun and shot him. Baker was the only woman to be executed by electrocution in Georgia. She was granted a full and unconditional pardon by the State of Georgia in 2005, 60 years after her execution.

Baker was born and raised in Cuthbert, Georgia to a family of poor black sharecroppers. Her mother, Queenie, worked for a farmer named J.A. Cox, chopping cotton.

At the age of 20, Baker and a friend found they could make money by "entertaining gentlemen." This came to attention of the Randolph County sheriff as their clientèle were white and interracial relationships were illegal in Georgia.The two were arrested and spent several months in a workhouse. On release she was ostracized by the black community, leading her to become an alcoholic. By the time she was in her early forties, Baker had three children.

In 1941, Knight hired Baker to care for him after he broke his leg. In the town of Cuthbert, Georgia, Knight was viewed as a brutal and abusive man, a failed farmer who ran a gristmill and who always had a pistol strapped to his chest. A relationship developed between the two. Knight was believed to provide Baker with alcohol in return for sex, and the whole town knew of the relationship. Knight was persuaded by his oldest son, A.C. Knight, to move to Tallahassee, Florida in an effort to break up the pair, but Baker soon followed. A.C. Knight then gave Baker an ultimatum to leave, which she did, but Knight followed her back to Cuthbert.

On the night of April 30, 1944, Lena Baker went to the house of J.A. Cox, who was now the town coroner, and told him that she had shot Knight. Cox told Baker to go to the sheriff, while he would go to the gristmill where Baker said Knight's body was. Baker did not go to the sheriff, but instead went home.She was picked up by the sheriff later that night, but was cooperative. He gave her two days to sleep off the effects of the alcohol in her system before questioning her.

Baker then told her version of events. Knight had come to her house drunk and asked her to come to the mill. She did not want to go and tried stalling him by asking for money to go buy some whiskey. He gave her some money and she went to the "colored bar" on Dawson Street to buy alcohol, but found it closed. She waited there for a while hoping that Knight would leave her house, but when she returned, he was still there.She was forced to accompany him to the mill, but escaped and hid in the underbrush. She bought some whiskey and went to sleep in the woods near the convict camp. On waking the next morning she decided to go to the mill, sure this was the last place that Knight would go; this was exactly where Knight was, however. He held her prisoner for several hours, even through several hours of his absence, when he attended a "singing" with his son.He returned and told Baker he would kill her if she tried to "quit" him. Baker was the only living witness to the details of what happened, but in the ensuing struggle, Knight's pistol went off, hitting him in the head and instantly killing him. Baker claimed she acted in self-defense.

Lena Baker was charged with capital murder and stood trial on August 14, 1944, presided over by Judge William "Two Gun" Worrill, who kept a pair of pistols on his judicial bench in plain view. The all-white male jury convicted her by the end of the afternoon. Her court-appointed counsel, W.L. Ferguson, filed an appeal but then dropped Baker as a client. Governor Ellis Arnall granted Lena a 60-day reprieve so that the Board of Pardons and Parole could review the case, but clemency was denied in January 1945. Baker was transferred to Reidsville State Prison on February 23, 1945.

On entering the execution chamber, Baker calmly sat in the electric chair, called Old Sparky, and said "What I done, I did in self-defense. I have nothing against anyone. I'm ready to meet my God." She was buried at Mount Vernon Baptist Church.

In 2001, members of Baker's family petitioned to have a pardon granted by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, seeing the original verdict as racist. This was granted in 2005, with the Parole Board, granting her a full and unconditional pardon, suggesting a verdict of manslaughter, which would have carried a 15 year sentence, would have been more appropriate.

A novel, The Lena Baker Story, authored by Lela Bond Phillips, chronicled her life. This book was the basis for a screenplay by actor/director Ralph Wilcox filmed in 2007 in Southwest Georgia. The film, also entitled "The Lena Baker Story," stars Tichina Arnold in the title role, Peter Coyote, Beverly Todd and Michael Rooker and is due for theatrical release in Spring 2009.

PROMINENT BLACK DOCTOR PROTECTS HOME FROM ANGRY WHITE MOB:

Ossian Sweet (pictured above) was an African American doctor notable for his self-defense of his newly-purchased home against a white mob attempting to force him out in Detroit in 1925. Sweet was born in Florida.

He earned his undergraduate degree from Wilberforce University and studied medicine at Howard University. He practiced in Detroit, then studied further in Vienna and Paris.

He returned to Detroit from France in 1924 and started to work at Detroit's first black hospital, Dunbar. Having saved enough money, he moved his family in 1925 from his wife's parent's home in an all-white neighborhood to 2905 Garland Street, another all-white neighborhood at Garland and Charlevoix.

In the following days, Sweet's house was repeatedly surrounded by white mobs, encouraged by the "Waterworks Improvement Association," which gathered outside Sweet's home to force him to move from the neighborhood.

At around 10 p.m. on Thursday, September 9, 1925, Leon Breiner, one member of the mob of at least 1,000, was “shot dead,” and another was injured. The shots were fired from within Sweet's house.

All eleven occupants of the house (Sweet, his wife Gladys, two brothers and a number of friends who were helping Sweet to defend his home) were arrested and tried for murder.

Ossian's younger brother who had admitted to actually firing the gun, was tried first and defended again by Clarence Darrow.

He was acquitted after a deliberation of less than four hours. The prosecution then dropped the charges against the remaining ten defendants.

Ossian Sweet's later life was troubled. His daughter Iva died at the age of 2 in 1926, and his wife died soon after, both from tuberculosis. Breiner's widow sued for $150,000, (civil suit) but the case was dismissed.

Sweet ran for office four times, but lost each time. He remarried twice, but both marriages ended in divorce.

Sweet committed suicide in 1960.

LESLIE, Mich. - A man widely believed to be the model for the smiling chef on Cream of Wheat boxes finally has a grave marker bearing his name.

Frank L. White died in 1938, and until this week, his grave in Woodlawn Cemetery bore only a tiny concrete marker with no name.

Last Wednesday, a granite gravestone was placed at his burial site. It bears his name and an etching taken from the man depicted on the Cream of Wheat box.

Jesse Lasorda, a family researcher from Lansing, started the campaign to put the marker and etching on White's grave.

"Everybody deserves a headstone," Lasorda told the Lansing State Journal. He discovered that White was born about 1867 in Barbados, came to the U.S. in 1875 and became a citizen in 1890.

When White died Feb. 15, 1938, the Leslie Local-Republican described him as a "famous chef" who "posed for an advertisement of a well-known breakfast food."

White lived in Leslie for about the last 20 years of his life, and the story of his posing for the Cream of Wheat picture was known in the city of 2,000 located between Jackson and Lansing and about 70 miles west of Detroit.

The chef was photographed about 1900 while working in a Chicago restaurant. His name was not recorded. White was a chef, traveled a lot, was about the right age and told neighbors that he was the Cream of Wheat model, the Jackson Citizen Patriot said.

Source: AP

Elizabeth Hobbs was born a slave in Virginia in 1818. She was the property of Colonel Burwell and when she was fourteen she was sent to work for his son, who was a Presbyterian minister in North Carolina. Elizabeth was later sold to another man in St. Louis. When she was twenty-one she was raped by a white man and gave birth to a son.

In 1855 Elizabeth had saved enough money to buy her freedom. She she moved to Washington where she worked as a dressmaker for the wife of President Abraham Lincoln. In 1868 she published her autobiography, "Thirty Years a Slave."

Elizabeth Keckley, who served as president of the Contraband Relief Association, died in 1907.

(CIVIL RIGHTS)

Lester Maddox (above, far left) brandishes a pistol during an unsuccessful attempt by three black men to desegregate his restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia, the day after the Civil Rights Act was signed into law in 1964.

Lester Maddox, was notorious as the defiant ax handle- wielding segregationist. He once confronted two black couples in the parking lot of his restaurant, as they got out of the car, he wildly swung an ax at them to prevent them from entering his restaurant.

In 1944, Maddox, along with his wife, the former Virginia Cox, used $400 they had saved to open up a combination grocery store/restaurant. Building on that success, the couple then bought property on Hemphill Avenue off the Georgia Tech campus to open up the "Pickrick Cafeteria."

Maddox made the Pickrick a family affair with his wife and children working side-by-side with him. The restaurant became known for its simple, inexpensive food, including its specialty, skillet-fried chicken.

It soon became a thriving business.

Due to the "Civil Rights Act," Maddox was informed that he had to allow blacks in his restaurant, he steadfastly refused despite the law.

He later closed his restaurant rather than serve African-Americans.

Ax handles became his symbol.

"FIRST IVY LEAGUE AFRICAN-AMERICAN"

George Franklin Grant (September 15, 1846 – 1910) was the first African American professor at Harvard. He was also a Boston dentist, and an inventor of a wooden golf tee.

He was born in September 15, 1846 in Oswego, New York to Phillis Pitt and Tudor Elandor.

He entered the Harvard School of Dental Medicine in 1868, and graduated in 1870.

He then took a position in the department of Mechanical Dentistry in 1871, making him the Harvard University's first African-American faculty member, where he served for 19 years.

He was a founding member and later the president of the Harvard Odontological Society and was a member of the Harvard Dental Alumni Association.

Grant was elected president of the Alumni Association in 1881.

Dr. Grant died in 1910 at his vacation home in New Hampshire of liver disease.

In 1991 the USGA (United States Golf Association) recognized him as the original inventor of the wooden tee.

THE RISE & FALL OF JESSE BINGA: ONCE THE RICHEST BLACK MAN IN THE U.S.

Jesse Binga’s pioneering ventures in banking and real estate made him a nationally known figure of black business achievement in the early 20th Century. A native of Detroit, he moved to Chicago in the early 1890s. Buying a succession of run-down buildings, he repaired them as rentals. White-owned banks refused to lend to African-Americans, inspiring Binga to establish his own bank in 1908 at the southeast corner of State and 36th Streets.

Thousands of African-Americans opened accounts, and the Binga Bank prospered. It attained a state charter in 1921, and eventually occupied imposing buildings at the northwest corner of State and 35th Streets. With the success of his businesses, Binga purchased a home at 5922 South Park Avenue (now King Drive), in what was then an exclusively white neighborhood. Though the house was bombed five times by disgruntled neighbors, Binga and his family remained steadfast. In 1929, he built the grand Binga Arcade, with offices, shops and a dance floor, at 35th and State Streets.

The Great Depression of the 1930s as well as racism and jealousy led to the failure of Binga’s businesses.

Accused (same say falsely) and convicted of financial irregularities, Binga began serving a ten-year jail sentence in 1935. Three years later, the petitions of appreciative Bronzeville residents and famed attorney Clarence Darrow secured his release.

Binga’s last years were spent as a janitor and handyman at St. Anselm’s Church.

Source: Chicago Tribute.com

Introduction:

I remember reading a story years ago about Darryl Strawberry and a few other black baseball players. Allegedly, on Jackie Robinson's birthday, a reporter was in the locker room and asked Strawberry how did Jackie Robinson influence his career as a baseball player and a black man? Sadly, Strawberry and a few other younger players didn't even know who Jackie Robinson was according to the reporter. If this is true, it's a tragedy.

THE COURT-MARTIAL OF JACKIE ROBINSON:

Shortly after his college days, America entered World War II, and Jackie Robinson was drafted. In the Army, as in most of America at the time, blacks suffered the indignation of segregation. Jim Crow laws – the name given to the laws that created whites only restaurants, hotels, restrooms and other segregation – held sway in the Army, too.

Jim Crow rules called for white officers to lead black men in their segregated outfits. But the necessities of war were beginning to change things. Jackie was accepted to an integrated Officer Candidate School and assigned to Camp Hood, in Texas. It was there that he became entangled in an incident that nearly ended his military career and the future that he didn’t know awaited him.

One evening, while boarding a camp bus into town, he dutifully began moving to the back, as blacks were required to do. On his way down the aisle, he saw the wife of a friend sitting mid-way back, and sat down with her.

After about five blocks, the driver, a white man, turned in his seat and ordered Jackie to move to the back of the bus. Robinson refused. The driver threatened to make trouble for him when the bus reached the station, but Jackie wouldn’t budge.

The exchanges between Robinson and the driver grew more heated. When the bus reached the station, another passenger, a white woman, told Jackie that she intended to press charges against him. Someone called the MP’s, and during the process of sorting out the bus incident, Jackie was treated rudely and was called a "nigger" by both the military personnel and civilians involved. Unbelievably, Jackie was arrested and faced a court martial.

Jackie himself took the witness stand, and offered an inspired explanation of his angry reaction at being called a nigger. {Rappers, read the next statement carefully}. "My grandmother was a slave. She told me a nigger was a low, ignorant, dumb witted, uncouth person, and pertains to no one in particular; but I don’t consider that I am low, ignorant, slow witted or uncouth. I am a Negro, but not a nigger."

In summing up, the defense insisted to the panel that the case involved no violations as charged, but was "simply a situation in which a few individuals sought to vent their bigotry on a Negro they considered ‘uppity’ because he had the audacity to seek to exercise rights that belonged to him as an American and as a soldier."

Jackie got the necessary votes for acquittal, and was found "not guilty of all specifications and charges." He had stood up against the humiliating and unjust Jim Crow laws and won.

Only a few years later, he would step onto a baseball field in Brooklyn and strike an even bigger blow for equality, earning more than just a place among the greatest athletes of the century.

(FIRST BLACK WEST POINT GRADUATE)

Henry Ossian Flipper (March 21, 1856–May 3, 1940) was an American soldier and the first black American cadet to graduate from the United States Military Academy (West Point)

Flipper was born into slavery in Thomasville, Georgia on March 21, 1856, the eldest of five brothers. His mother was a slave of the Reverend Reuben H. Lucky, a Methodist minister, and his father, Festus Flipper, a shoemaker and carriage-trimmer, was slave of Ephraim G. Ponder, a wealthy slave dealer.

Flipper attended Atlanta University during Reconstruction. There, as a freshman, Representative J.C. Freeman appointed him to attend West Point, where there were already four other black cadets. The small group had a difficult time at the academy, where they were rejected by the white students. Nevertheless, Flipper persevered and in 1877 became the first of the group to graduate, becoming a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army cavalry.

In 1880, while serving as quartermaster at Fort Davis, Texas, he was brought before a court martial, after money went missing from the post commissary. Realizing that this could be used against him by officers intent on forcing him out of the army, he attempted to hide the discrepancy, which was later discovered. He was charged with embezzlement, and although he was eventually acquitted, he was found guilty of "conduct unbecoming an officer" and in 1882 given a dismissal, the officer equivalent of dishonorable discharge.

For the rest of his life, up until his death in 1940, Flipper contested the charges and fought to regain his commission.

On February 19, 1999, President Bill Clinton posthumously pardoned Henry O. Flipper. The pardon came 59 years after his death and 117 years after he was found guilty.

Susie King Taylor (above) was born in 1848 in Savannah, Georgia. She was a slave and was not allowed an education. Black women taught her how to read and write. She taught other African Americans when she was just 14 years old. In 1862 she moved to Port Royal Island off the coast of South Carolina. There, her husband joined the First South Carolina Volunteers, an all-black army .The army was made up of former slaves from the Sea Islands and was one of the first African-American military units. They needed medical help. Susie was working in her husband's military company, even though she had no training. She was the first black army nurse and she also taught many of the black soldiers how to read and write. She worked on the battlefield for four years. Other black women would follow in Taylor's footsteps and join the army as nurses like Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth. Taylor's husband died at the end of the Civil War. She moved north to Boston, Massachusetts. There she met and married Russell Taylor. She died in 1912.

"LAST AMERICAN PUBLIC HANGING"

Rainey Bethea (October 16, 1909– August 14, 1936) was the last person to be publicly executed in the United States. Bethea confessed to the rape and murder of a 70-year-old white woman named Lischia Edwards, and after being convicted of her rape, he was publicly hanged in Owensboro, Kentucky in front of 15,000 people (2nd photo). Mistakes in executing the hanging and the surrounding media circus contributed to the end of public executions in the United States.

Although the crime was infamous in the surrounding areas, it came to nationwide attention due to one fact — the sheriff of Daviess County was a woman. Florence Thompson had become sheriff on April 13, 1936 after her husband, Everett, who was elected sheriff in 1933, unexpectedly died of pneumonia on April 10, 1936. As sheriff of the county, it was her duty to hang Bethea.

Among the hundreds of letters that Sheriff Thompson received after it came to public attention she would perform the hanging was one from Arthur L. Hash, a former Louisville police officer, who offered his services free of charge to perform the execution. Thompson quickly decided to accept this offer. He only asked that she not make his name public.

Rainey Bethea's last meal consisted of fried chicken, pork chops, mashed potatoes, pickled cucumbers, cornbread, lemon pie, and ice cream, which he ate at 4:00 p.m. on August 13 in Louisville.

On August 14, 1936, G. Phil Hanna (who assisted in hangings across the country) placed the noose around Bethea's neck, adjusted it, and then signaled to Arthur L. Hash (cop) to pull the trigger. Instead, Hash, who was drunk, did nothing. Hanna shouted at Hash, "Do it!" and a deputy leaned onto the trigger which sprung the trap door. Throughout all of this, the crowd was hushed. Bethea fell eight feet, and his neck was instantly broken. About 14 minutes later, two doctors confirmed Bethea was dead. After the noose was removed, his body was taken to Andrew & Wheatley Funeral Home. He had wanted his body sent to his sister in South Carolina. Instead, he was buried in a pauper's grave at the Elmwood Cemetery in Owensboro.

"BLACK SLAVE OWNER" (TRUE STORY)

William “April” Ellison (no photo available) was a freed black slave who later became South Carolina’s largest Negro owner and trader of slaves.

Born as April Ellison in the late 1790’s, young Ellison worked for owner William McCreight as a cotton gin apprentice in Winnsboro, South Carolina. By the time he married at age 21, Ellison had learned the trades of blacksmithing, machining, and carpentry.

Given his freedom at age 26, Ellison changed his name to William, after his former owner.

Using the skills he had learned earlier in life, Ellison became a successful businessman and mechanic.
The 1850 United States Federal Census – Slave Schedules of Sumter County South Carolina lists a black man named Wm Ellison as an owner of thirty-six slaves. In 1860 William Ellison would become South Carolina's largest Negro slave owner.

Ellison demonstrated that he had no problem perpetuating an institution he had been released from. He also achieved greater monetary success than most white people of the period.

In time the black Ellison family joined the predominantly white Episcopalian church. On August 6, 1824 he was allowed to put a family bench on the first floor, among those of the wealthy white families. Other blacks, free and slave, and poor whites sat in the balcony.

Between 1822 and the mid-1840s, Ellison gradually built a small empire, acquiring slaves in increasing numbers. He became one of South Carolina's major cotton gin manufacturers, selling his machines as far away as Mississippi.

By 1847 Ellison owned over 350 acres, and more than 900 by 1860. He raised mostly cotton, with a small acreage set aside for cultivating foodstuffs to feed his family and slaves. In 1840 he owned 30 slaves, and by 1860 he owned 63. His sons, who lived in homes on the property, owned an additional nine slaves.

His wealth was 15 times greater than that of the state's average for whites. And Ellison owned more slaves than 99 percent of the South's slaveholder's. Although a successful businessman and cotton farmer, Ellison's major source of income derived from being a "slave breeder."

As a result, except for a few females he raised to become "breeders," Ellison sold the female and many of the male children born to his female slaves at an average price of $400. Ellison had a reputation as a harsh master. His slaves were said to be the district's worst fed and clothed. On his property was located a small, windowless building where he would chain his problem slaves.

As with the slaves of his white counterparts, occasionally Ellison's slaves ran away. The historians of Sumter District reported that from time to time Ellison advertised for the return of his runaways. On at least one occasion Ellison hired the services of a slave catcher.

William Ellison died December 5, 1861. His will stated that his estate should pass into the joint hands of his free daughter and his two surviving sons. He bequeathed $500 to the slave daughter he had sold. Following in their father's footsteps, the Ellison family actively supported the Confederacy throughout the war. They converted nearly their entire plantation to the production of corn, fodder, bacon, corn shucks and cotton for the Confederate armies. They paid $5,000 in taxes during the war. They also invested more than $9,000 in Confederate bonds, treasury notes and certificates in addition to the Confederate currency they held. At the end, all this valuable paper became worthless, in essence, the family was broke.

"LYNCHING IN THE JEWISH COMMUNITY" (NOT BLACK HISTORY BUT VERY TRAGIC)

*Leo Max Frank (April 17, 1884 – August 17, 1915) was an American man who became the only known Jew in history to be lynched on American soil.

In 1913 Leo Frank, a northern Jew who had moved to Atlanta to manage a pencil factory, was accused of murdering and raping a 14-year old girl named Mary Phagan of Marietta who was employed at the factory.

Frank was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Shortly after Frank's conviction, new evidence emerged that cast doubt on his guilt.

On May 1, Jim Conley, the pencil factory's janitor (above), was caught by the plant's day watchman, E.F. Holloway, washing a shirt. Conley tried to hide the shirt, then claimed the stains on the shirt were from rust. Conley denied under oath that he had a grade-school education and could read and write. This fact was crucial later with regard to the murder notes. He had a record of drinking and violence and had served a sentence on the chain gang.

The factory foreman Holloway told the Georgian that he believed Conley "strangled Mary Phagan since he was always half drunk," resulting in a May 28 headline reading "Suspicion Turned to Conley; Accused by Factory Foreman." Seeing the headline, Conley provided a new story: an agitated Frank, in a dramatic meeting in the dark, made him hide in a wardrobe to avoid being seen by two women, dictated the murder notes to him, gave him cigarettes, and told him to leave the factory. Afterward, Conley went out drinking and saw a movie. Phagan's $1.20 in pay had also disappeared, leading the police to wonder if Conley might have killed her for the money. The police asked Frank to confront Conley. Frank refused because his lawyer was out of town. Even when Rosser returned, no meeting took place.

William Smith, who represented Conley yet, after the trial, declared Conley guilty of the murder.

Two witnesses came forward to incriminate Conley. Will Green, a carnival worker, said that he had been playing craps at the factory with Conley and had run away when Conley had declared his intention to rob a girl who walked by. William Mincey, an insurance salesman, had met a drunk Conley on the street. He said that Conley, trying to brush Mincey off, said, "I have killed one today and do not wish to kill another." Mincey had thought it was a joke. Neither man testified in court.

Under further pressure from the police about the discrepancies in his story, Conley gave another version. In this account, Frank asked Conley for help in moving Phagan's body and gave Conley $200. When the police asked where the $200 was, Conley said that Frank had taken it back. Conley also said that Frank told him on the day of the murder, "Why should I hang? I have wealthy people in Brooklyn."

The Georgian hired William Smith to be Conley's lawyer and offered to pay his fees. Smith was known for specializing in representing black clients. Although this put Smith at the bottom of the professional totem pole, he had successfully defended a black man against an accusation of rape by a white woman. He had also taken an elderly black woman's civil case as far as the state Supreme Court.

Cops decided not to pursue a case against Conley.

In 1915, a caravan of eight vehicles bearing 25 armed men from the Marietta arrived at the Georgia StatePrison at Milledgeville around 10 p.m. Calling themselves the Knights of Mary Phagan, they cut the telephone lines, surprised the guards and entered the barrack of Leo Frank, who two years earlier had been convicted of the murder of 14-year-old Mary Phagan in one of the most infamous trials of the century.

The intruders seized Frank and departed into the night. Seven of the cars then took back roads headed for Marietta, while one car acted as a decoy in case of pursuit.

The kidnapping was actually organized by members of the Marietta community, including civic, business and preachers. According to reports, among the leaders of the effort were members of two prominent families in Marietta, the Clay and Brumby families.

Sometime early on the morning of the 17th, they reached the outskirts of Marietta. At Frey's Grove near Mary Phagan's girlhood home, the mendecided to hang Frank, though there are conflicting reports on this.

One story is that some wanted to continue with the original plan - to hang Frank in the Marietta Square, while others did not want to do this in broad daylight. A second story says that there was disagreement among the men on whether to hang Frank at all; the story being that those who had ridden in the car with Frank on the three plus hour ride had become convinced of his innocence.

Whatever the truth may be, Frank was hanged there in Frey’s Grove. Asserting his innocence to the very end, Frank's only request was that his wedding ring be returned to his wife (which it was several days later).

When word of the lynching spread, crowds of Mariettans, their descendants today are called OMs (for Old Marietta residents) gathered to see the body hanging from a tree.

Photographs were taken, one of which later became a souvenir postcard. A few in the crowd threatened, and even began to inflict, violence to Frank's body, before former judge Newt Morris convinced them to stop.

Frank's body was rushed to an undertaker in Atlanta, with a line of vehicles trailing behind. Although the undertaker tried to keep the body concealed, a large crowd soon gathered demanding to see it.

On November 25, 1915, the Knights of Mary Phagan met atop Stone Mountain, burned a cross, and initiated the new invisible order of the Ku Klux Klan.

To many, Frank was a symbol of the "foreign" exploiter making money from the labors of children. To others, he was a scapegoat for people's economic woes.

BLUE BLOODED "LYNCH MOB" IDENTITIES:

Names of the men who participated in the lynching of Leo Frank

Joseph Mackey Brown, (d. 1932) the former governor who had threatened lynching during the clemency hearings

Judge Newton (Newt) Morris.

Eugene Herbert Clay, (d. 1923) son of a U.S. senator, Alexander S. Clay, and former mayor of Marietta.

John Tucker Dorsey, a lawyer and state legislator.
Fred Morris, a lawyer.

"WERE SLAVE BABIES USED AS ALLIGATOR BAIT?"

Urban Myth or Devastating Truth?

Currently there is a raging internet debate going on regarding slave babies being used as alligator bait during slavery days. Is this a urban myth or the devastating truth?

The following was posted on a message board (topix.com) by "Real Black Man."

"Alligator Bait" is the term derived from an activity conducted by white men, mostly in the swamps of Louisiana and Florida throughout the south.

These alligator hunters needed to lure the larger bull alligators with human flesh and blood. During the slave era, African Americans were only considered 3/5 of a human being. Which is why these sick hunters had no regard for human life! The alligator hunters kidnapped black infants, skinned them alive, and tied their neck to a string and dropped them into a swamp! Dangling them near the mouths of hungry 700 pound alligators! These black babies were stolen, caged and fed to alligators whole! The activity is retold in various forms in researched documents, many found in the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia in Michigan.

THE STORY BEHIND THE MAN WHO PENNED "AMAZING GRACE"

John Newton (above) wrote the gospel hymn "Amazing Grace." Although this song is one of the most celebrated songs in gospel history, John Newton was a slave trader.

He wrote the hymn while he was still involved in the slave trade and he often traded slaves for a variety of manufactured goods.

Newton was also a captain on Trans-Atlantic slave ships (twice).

He died in 1807.

PART II:

Introduction:

Race killings (orchestrated by the KKK) in the 1960's were often outsourced to a notorious violent wrecking crew (similar to Murder, Inc.) known as "The Silver Dollar Group." They would gather at the Shamrock motel in Mississippi to hatch their plans. This secretive and violent sect is responsible for numerous murders against African Americans. A man named Raleigh Jackson "Red" Glover was the leader of this group.

Backstory:

Sonny Boyd said, he asked his dad on the drive to their family home at Ridgecrest "how he could be a minister and Klansman at the same time. I asked him if he had a silver dollar. He said I was never to mention that again. He cut me right off. He said I should never mention that to him or to anybody. He said there were people who could make me disappear."

In April 1964, a short time after Sonny Boyd was seriously injured in an automobile accident, he sat at a table eating a hamburger at the Shamrock while his dad met with the Klansmen linked to the "Silver Dollar Group," in the back room. It was at this time that he met a 25-year-old black employee named Joseph "Joe-Ed" Edwards.

"The whole right side of my head got shaved after the accident and Joe asked what happened to me," said Boyd. "I had seen him working there many times, but this was the only time I talked to him. Joe was leaned over with his elbows on the counter and his forearms crossed. He was bored. Sometimes things would get a little slow."

Boyd recalled that Edwards "had a burn scar, a white patch on his neck," a mark Edwards' younger sister, Julia Dobbins of Bridge City, La., confirmed this week.

"When Joe was young he was running through the house one day and knocked a pot on the stove in the kitchen," said Dobbins. "He was scalded on the right side of his neck and part of the face. It left a mark."

"He told me that his grandparents lived out near the pecan grove outside Ferriday," said Boyd. Edwards' grandparents, Jake and Mary King, resided on Red Gum Road near the pecan grove, and Edwards was also residing there when he was working at the Shamrock prior to his disappearance.

On July 13, 1964, Edwards left work at the Shamrock Motel and was never seen again. When his car was towed into Beatty's Gulf Station, bloodstains were found inside, according to the Rev. Robert Lee Sr. of Clayton, 95, who knew Edwards.

Boyd recalled hearing that Edwards' car was found along the Ferriday-Vidalia Highway near the bowling alley. He also recalls when the vehicle was towed to Beatty's Gulf Station in Ferriday.

"I remember the hoopla," said Boyd, who was working at Bill Spuiell's Texaco station next door to the Gulf station.

"I don't recall seeing the car, but I remember there was a lot of activity about the place," said Boyd. "I remember talking to a customer about what happened to Joe."

Boyd said that "someone from the sheriff's department was there and two FBI agents. I knew the FBI cars. They drove two 1964 Chevrolets and they were a different shade of green and both cars had two or more antennas on them. Oftentime, the agents would stop at Spueill's and fill up with a gas card."

But, said Boyd, "I never heard a hint of who got Joe. It was one of the most hushed things around here. One of things we heard the least about was Joe's disappearance. It was like he had fallen off the edge of the earth. We knew someone had gotten him and someone locally. Didn't know exactly why or who."

Edwards' body has never been found, but retired FBI agent Billy Bob Williams, who was one of two resident agents in Natchez from July 1964 through August 1966, told The Sentinel recently that an informant told agents that Edwards had been skinned alive by Klansmen. Rev. Lee said he was told that Edwards had been taken by Klansmen into Mississippi, shot multiple times, and his lifeless body chained and thrown into the Mississippi River.

The Silver Dollar Group was real and its members are believed to be responsible for the December 1964 arson/murder of Ferriday shoe shop owner Frank Morris, and the August 1965 car bomb that maimed Armstrong Tire employee George Metcalfe, and the February 1967 car bomb that killed Wharlest Jackson Sr., also an Armstrong employee.

Sergeant Eddie Carter is a forgotten war hero. He also served under General Patton and he was one of the best snipers in military history.

A Sample Of His Herorics: Eddie Carter's unit was the Seventh Army Infantry Company Number 1 (Provisional) attached to the 56th Armored Infantry Battalion, 12th Armored Division. In concert with the Third U.S. Army it was advancing toward Speyer, Germany on March 23, 1945.

As a machine gun burst put three bullets through Carter's left arm. Continuing, he was knocked to the ground by another wound to his left leg.

German officers in the warehouse finally sent eight soldiers to flush him out and finish him off. He lay still for two hours until the patrol approached him, thinking the blood-soaked American soldier was dead.

Suddenly, Carter, seriously wounded, opened fire with his .45-caliber submachine gun. He shot six of the enemy dead and took the other two prisoner. Using them as a human shield, the sergeant made his way back to the American tanks.

Carter was also an excellent recon man. Essentially, he was an one man Army.

FORGOTTEN WAR HERO:

In 1945, a total of 4,562 black soldiers were serving in units up to company size attached to previously all-white infantry and armored divisions.

At the height of his Armed Forces career Sergeant Carter was even close to General George S. Patton, serving as one of the general's guards. Patton had no room for prejudice in the ranks. They had a strong bond with the fact they both believed they had been visited by a spirit who foretold accomplishments on the battlefield.

After months of volunteering, Eddie Carter's platoon made it into combat, yet he had to accept demotion to private. This was because his superiors would not allow a black to command white troops. He eventually served in the "Mystery Division" of blacks in Patton's Third Army. (The Mystery Division performed missions requiring uniforms without identifying unit insignia.) On March 23, 1945, Private Carter earned his Medal of Honor, was recommended, but received the nation's second highest award, the Distinguished Service Cross (instead of the first highest award ) because of his race.

At this point, October 1945, he had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, American Defense Service Medal, Combat Infantry Badge and numerous other citations and honors.

Carter was such an outstanding soldier that other races paled in comparison and he was punished. Despite his accomplishments, When Carter attempted to reenlist, the Army barred his enlistment and drummed him out of uniform without explanation on September 30, 1949. He received an Honorable Discharge dated October 1949, probably the darkest "honor" of his life.

Later, trumped up charges of Communism emerged as the reason for Carter being rejected by the Army.

Carter was crushed and became stressed. In 1962, although he smoked, he and his doctors attributed the discovery of lung cancer to shrapnel still in his neck. He died peacefully of lung cancer in the UCLA Medical Center, a Los Angeles hospital, on January 30, 1963 at 47 years of age.

On January 13, President Clinton presented Carter's posthumous Medal of Honor to his son, Edward Allen Carter III in Washington, D.C.

The schooner Clotilda is the last known United States slave ship to bring enslaved people from Africa to the United States. Constructed in 1855 by the Mobile, Alabama captain and shipbuilder William Foster, the Clotilda was originally intended for the "Texas trade." It was eighty-six feet in length, twenty-three feet in breadth, possessed two masts and one deck, weighed 120 81/91 tons, and though not originally intended for the slave trade, the ship was capable of carrying an estimated 190 people. Foster sold the Clotilda to the prominent Mobile businessman Timothy Meaher for $35,000 in 1860 after being approached by Meaher about commanding an illegal slaving voyage to Ouidah, a port town in Dahomey (today Benin).

In the spring of 1860, the Clotilda was loaded with 125 barrels of water, 25 casks of rice, 30 casks of beef, 40 pounds of pork, 3 barrels of sugar, 25 barrels of flour, 4 barrels of bread, 4 barrels of molasses, 80 casks of rum, 25 casks of "dry goods and sundries," and $9,000 in gold (today $185,000) intended for the purchase of 125 Africans; these provisions were hidden by stacks of lumber that would later be used to build the planks and platforms for the captives' "beds." The ship set sail on the night of March 3, 1860 under the pretense of bringing a cargo of lumber to the Danish Virgin Islands.

The voyage to Ouidah lasted two and a half months. Foster and the eleven-men crew survived a violent storm and numerous attempted attacks by pirates and ships of other slaving nations. While briefly docked in Cape Verde for repairs, the crew was told the true purpose of the voyage after they discovered the provisions obviously intended for returning human cargo. On May 15, 1860, the Clotilda arrived at Ouidah. After more than a week of anchoring a mile and half from shore, the ship set sail for the United States now loaded with 110 African captives.

The Africans were confined in complete darkness below the deck for thirteen days. After this initial period, the captives spent the majority of the journey above deck. Though no sicknesses or deaths were reported during the forty-five day return voyage, the Africans, who were later interviewed about their experiences on the Clotilda, recounted the twice-daily meager sip of vinegar-treated water they were allowed and the general hardships they suffered.

On July 8, 1960, the Clotilda entered the Mississippi Sound, anchored off Point-of-Pines in Grand Bay, and waited for nightfall. Under the cover of darkness, the ship was clandestinely tugged up the Mobile River to Twelve-Mile Island. Here, the Africans were transported to a second ship, the Czar, and sent further up river to be surreptitiously transferred to their respective new owners. The Clotilda, now empty and reeking of the stenches indicative of a slave voyage, was set afire by William Foster, though later he claimed to have sold the ship for $6,000.

Sources:

Sylviane A. Diouf, Dreams of Africa in Alabama: The Slave Ship Clotilda and the Story of the Last Africans Brought to America (NY: Oxford University Press, 2007).

Colonel Tye was an escaped slave who fought with the British in the American Revolution. Challenging Patriot forces primarily in New York and New Jersey, Tye became one of the most respected leaders of the Loyalist troops during the Revolution, a respected and feared guerrilla commander.

Born in 1753 as Titus, ‘Tye’ was one of four slaves owned by Quaker John Corlies from Shrewsbury, Monmouth County, New Jersey. In November 1775, when Titus was 22 years old, Lord John Murray Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia, issued a proclamation that not only declared martial law, but also offered freedom to those slaves who would join the royal forces. Titus along with 300 other escaped slaves fled to join the British, assuming the adopted name of Tye and joining the Royal Ethiopian Regiment. Here he quickly found respect and saw his first action at the Battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1778, during which he captured a rebel militia captain.

Tye soon became notorious for his ruthless guerilla tactics during the war. His small mixed race band of guerillas conducted raids and assassinations across New Jersey, often targeting their former masters in search of revenge. In the summer of 1779, they conducted several raids on Shrewsbury in which they attacked and plundered patriot homes, taking clothing, furniture, horses, and cattle. The group was often rewarded with five gold guineas by the British.

During the winter of 1779, Tye was promoted to commander of a group of twenty-four black Loyalists known as the Black Brigade. Now called Colonel Tye, he led these men on ruthless raids against the patriots. Joined by the British unit, the Queen’s Rangers, they freed many slaves, and helped to protect New York.

The twenty four African Americans of the Black Brigade were also involved in raids on rebel sympathizers during that winter. In 1780, Colonel Tye, led a serious of three actions again into Monmouth County. His raids continuing throughout the summer were aimed at demoralizing the rebels and depriving them of arms and manpower to resist the British. Tye’s tactics were so effective that most of the raids were successfully completed without the loss of any of his men.

In September 1780, Tye led another attack on the prominent local county rebel leader, Captain Josiah Huddy. During the short siege, Tye received a musket wound in the wrist, leading to death due to the onset of tetanus and lockjaw.

Sources:

Jonathan Sutherland, African Americans at War: an Encyclopedia (ABC-CLIO, 2004); History 571: Colonial and Revolutionary America, Lord Dunmore and the Ethiopian Regiment.

(REV. JOSIAH HENSON)

Josiah Henson (June 15, 1789 – May 5, 1883) was an author, abolitionist, and minister. Born into slavery in Charles County, Maryland, he escaped to Ontario, Canada (on the underground railroad) in 1830, and founded a settlement and laborer's school for other fugitive slaves at Dawn, near Dresden in Kent County.

At the time of his arrival, Ontario was known as the Province of Upper Canada (U.C.), becoming the Province of Canada in 1841, then Ontario in 1867, all within Henson's lifetime there. Henson's autobiography, The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself (1849), is widely believed to have inspired the title character of Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852).

Following the success of Stowe's novel, Henson issued an expanded version of his life story in 1858, Truth Stranger Than Fiction. Father Henson's Story of His Own Life (published Boston: John P. Jewett & Company, 1858). Interest in his life continued, and nearly two decades later, his life story was updated and published as Uncle Tom's Story of His Life: An Autobiography of the Rev. Josiah Henson (1876).

Josiah Henson was born on a farm near Port Tobacco in Charles County, Maryland. When he was a boy, his father was punished for standing up to a slave owner, receiving one hundred lashes and having his right ear nailed to the whipping-post, and then cut off.[2] His father was later sold to someone in Alabama. Following his family's master's death, young Josiah was separated from his mother, brothers and sisters, when he was sold as property in an estate sale.

He tried to buy his freedom by giving his master $350 which he had saved up over the years, only to find that it had been increased to $1000. Cheated of his money, he escaped to Kent County, U.C., in 1830, after learning he might be sold again. There he founded a settlement and laborer's school for other fugitive slaves at Dawn, Canada West. Henson crossed into Upper Canada via the Niagara River, with his wife Nancy and their four children. Ontario had become a refuge for slaves from the United States after 1793, when Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe passed "An Act to prevent further introduction of Slaves.

Henson and his wife continued to live in Dawn for the rest of their lives. Henson died at the age of 93 in Dresden, on May 5, 1883.

Josiah Henson is the first black man to be featured on a Canadian stamp. He was also recognized by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada in 1999 as a National Historic Person. A federal plaque to him is located in the Henson family cemetery, next to Uncle Tom's Cabin Historic Site.

Matthew Henson (above), the Arctic explorer who accompanied Admiral Robert E. Peary on his expedition to the North Pole in 1909, is Josiah Henson's great-grand nephew. The state of Maryland named an undeveloped state park site in Montgomery County after Matthew Henson in 1991.

 

 

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