Category Archives: Historical Articles

Articles with an historical perspective.

TO BE SOLD: African Slave Advertisements in Colonial Newport


Newport Mercury HeaderFor our county’s first 250 years, millions of enslaved Africans lived and worked within the original thirteen colonies and the ever-expanding United States of America. Rhode Island was one of the earliest and most active shipping sites in the American colonies, which between 1705 and 1805 launched nearly 1,000 slaving voyages, frequently from the port at Newport. Continue reading

Eager to Fight for Equality

WWI_iconThis news article of 1918 comes from our family collection that includes items from my great uncle, Charles Henry Barclay who during WWI served as a 1st Lieutenant with the 372nd regiment in France. The article describes the concerns that African American (Negro) soldiers were being given more dangerous combat duties as compared to white soldiers. The American Expeditionary Forces during the war were commanded by General John “Black Jack” Pershing who responds directly to the reports as false and that the “Negroes were in high spirits and that their only complaint was that they were not given more active service.” Those comments coming from General Pershing are historically relevant due to his own interaction with African American troops that dated back to 1892 when he took command of the 10th Cavalry Regiment, nicknamed the “Buffalo Soldiers.” During the Spanish American War, Pershing would lead the 10th Cavalry on the famous charge at San Juan Hill joining the famous Rough Riders of future President Theodore Roosevelt. Pershing’s command of African American troops leading up to the First World War would enthuse his fellow officers to give him the nickname, “Black Jack” largely as a sardonic description of his command. Continue reading

The Fight For Equality At Home & Overseas

WWI_iconBy 1918, as America entered the First World War, the political and military consensus was that African American soldiers would not fight alongside white soldiers in combat. Although American soldiers of color were ready to fight and die for their country, many who would serve under an American flag would be relegated to supporting roles and labor regiments. The French however, had no misgivings about utilizing black troops. Allied American and French commanders agreed that segregated black regiments would fight with the French Army under the command of French commanding officers. Continue reading

Still on the Plantation

WWI_iconThe years leading up to and through WWI, America would see the first Great Migration of African American families who would move from the rural south to urban cities in the north. During that time nearly 2 million men, women and children would leave the plantations and farms of the rural south to find better work and living opportunities in urban cities like New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Cleveland and Chicago. Continue reading

When There is a Will, There is a Way

From 1800 to 1860, Virginia had more slaves than any other state. African enslavement formed the very basis of Virginia’s successful plantation based economy of raising tobacco, and the more infamous cultivation and selling of slaves to states further south for use on rice and cotton plantations.

But during the late summer of 1831, Virginia’s notion of idyllic ante-bellum life came to a bloody halt with the Nat Turner Slave Rebellion. Nat Turner and his collaborators would start a slave uprising in Southampton Virginia that contributed to more deaths than any other slave revolt in United States’ history. Turner’s revolt prompted a dramatic debate in the Virginia General Assembly of 1832 that lead to the enactment of a series of laws to limit the activities of African Americans, both free and enslaved. These laws, historically referred to as “Negro Codes,” included slaves and even free persons of color being highly regulated by an onerous pass system. Continue reading

The Symbol of One America

In the Richmond Times Dispatch

Posted: Thursday, April 3, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 12:43 pm, Thu Apr 3, 2014.


On the morning of April 3, 1865, Union troops entered the city of Richmond, then capital of the Confederate States of America. Richmond had become the holy grail of the Union war effort, in a civil war between Americans of Northern and Southern persuasions that would claim an estimated 620,000 combatants who would give their lives in the line of duty.

Born and raised a Northerner from a multiracial family, I was taught in school to see the Civil War from the perspective of the North fighting to end slavery and restoring the Union. Southerners and those who would fight for the Confederate cause were on the wrong side of morality and history. As I matured and exposed myself to the complexities of the time and its issues, I learned more Continue reading

Provisional Liberty in Early Rhode Island

Pos04 2013 is the 350th anniversary celebration of the Rhode Island Royal Charter.

Dated July 8, 1663, it was drafted by Dr. John Clarke of Newport. Clarke worked for over a decade to secure the charter from England’s King Charles II who finally granted establishing the “Colony of Rhode Island & Providence Plantations.” The document uniquely guaranteed a “freedom of religious concernments” for its citizens. But it is the definition and requirements of full citizenship that lead to murky circumstances for non-Protestant Christians. Continue reading

A Visit From Harriet Jacobs After The War


Harriet Jacobs was born into slavery in North Carolina. Her single work, “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl,” published in 1861 under the pseudonym Linda Brent, and edited by famed Abolitionist Lydia Maria Child, was one of the first autobiographical narratives about the struggle for freedom by an African American woman. Today, her book is compared with the “Diary of Anne Frank” as being two of the most important autobiographies depicting the resiliency of young women during times of great struggle.  During the years leading up to the Civil War, she became an Abolitionist and national speaker to end slavery.

On May 14, 1865 Jacobs, in the company of her daughter Louisa and several Northern women Abolitionists, left Washington, DC to travel to Richmond, Virginia Continue reading