Enlistment of Slaves as Union Sailors

Civil War sailor George Commodore. (NARA, Records of the Veterans Administration, RG 15)

The Secretary of the Navy Authorized enlistment of slaves as Union sailors,  September 25, 1861

The Union Navy began to employ African American men on board ships as crew members and sailors very early in the war. And as the war progressed, blockading squadrons and naval vessels also took on board numerous “contraband” slaves who managed to escape from land to sea.

By 1863, the Union navy was enlisting and actively recruiting runaway slaves as crewmembers or paid sailors, usually at the low rank of “landsman.” By the end of the war nearly 20,000 black sailors had enlisted, a figure which represented nearly 20 percent of the navy’s enlisted men. The majority of these black sailors were men who had been enslaved but seized naval service as a route to freedom.  Continue reading

Georgia Equal Rights Association

1866 – The Georgia Equal Rights Association First organized.
1867 – The Georgia Equal Rights Association met in Macon.
Its primary goal was to encourage blacks to register and vote on a new state constitution.

Garrett Augustus Morgan

Garrett Morgan

Garrett A. Morgan (1875-1963), inventor;  born in Paris, Tenn.

Morgan developed his first invention, a belt fastener for sewing machines, in 1901, and he sold it for $150. In 1914 he won the First Grand Prize gold medal at the Second International Exposition of Sanitation and Safety for his breathing helmet and smoke protector (prototype to the gas mask).

In 1916 he demonstrated the use of this device in the rescue operation following an explosion in a tunnel at the Cleveland Waqterworks that trapped many men below Lake Erie. In 1923, Morgan developed an automatic stop sign to aid the movement of traffic, selling the rights to this invention to General Electric for $40,000.

At the Emancipation Centennial Celebration in Chicago, Illinois, in August 1963, Morgan was nationally recognized. Although in ill-health, and nearly blind, he continued to work on his inventions; one of his last was a self-extinguishing cigarette, which employed a small plastic pellet filled with water, placed just before the filter.

Constance Baker Motley

Constance Motley

Constance Baker Motley was born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1921. She received her bachelor’s degree from New York University in 1943, and graduated from the prestigious Columbia Law School in 1946.

Motley began her legal career as Thurgood Marshall’s law clerk at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, working at the forefront of the civil rights movement. In 1961, she became the first African-American woman to argue a case before the US Supreme Court, Hamilton v. State of Alabama, (1961). Although she lost her first case, Motley went on to argue before the Court nine more times, winning all nine cases.

Motley had other firsts in her long and distinguished career: in 1964 she became the first African-American woman in the New York State Senate; in 1965 she became the first woman (of any race) elected President of the Manhattan Borough; Continue reading

Violette Neatley Anderson

Violette N. Anderson

Violette N. Anderson was born July 16, 1882, in London, England. She and her parents, Richard and Marie Neatley, emigrated to the United States while Violette was a young girl, settling in Chicago. Violette graduated from Chicago’s North Division High School in 1899, then worked as a court reporter from 1905-1920.

She was fascinated by law and determined to become an attorney herself. She attended post-secondary school at the Chicago Seminar of Sciences from 1912-1915, and earned her LLB (a more advanced law degree than the typical JD) from Chicago Law School in 1920.

Violette Neatley Anderson became the first female Chicago City prosecutor in 1922, then established a successful legal practice in the Chicago area two years later. On January 29, 1926, she became the first African-American woman admitted to the US Supreme Court bar, but never argued a case before the Court. Continue reading

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