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African Americans


  • Originally published 08/09/2013

    African American Voters Need to Channel Their Power in State Elections

    Last month Americans marked the sixty-fifth anniversary of President Harry S. Truman’s signing Executive Order 9981 to desegregate America’s armed forces. African Americans had fought in every American war, including the Revolutionary War, but had done so in segregated units, often relegated to menial labor tasks. By the time President Truman issued Executive Order 9981, eliminating segregation and racial discrimination in the armed forces had become the single most important national issue to African American voters. Their cause was national in both scope and purpose.

  • Originally published 04/08/2013

    Was Jackie Robinson Court-Martialed?

    On April 15, 1947, at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, N.Y., Jack Roosevelt Robinson, at the age of 28, became the first African American to play for a major-league baseball team since the 1884 season, when Moses Fleetwood "Fleet" Walker played for the Toledo Blue Stockings between May 1 and Sept. 4. (William White, a student at Brown, played one game for the Providence Grays of the National League in 1879, hence technically breaking the color barrier.) Before a crowd of 26,623 spectators (of whom approximately 14,000 are thought to have been black), though he got no hits, Robinson scored a run to contribute to the Dodgers' 5-3 victory over the Boston Braves.... 

  • Originally published 02/14/2013

    How Do I Decode Slave Records?

    For many African Americans the paper trail back to your ancestral origins hits a wall once you reach the slavery era. During the hunt for information about my great-great grandmother, Jane Gates, who was born into slavery in 1819, we were able to find her in the 1870 census, the oldest census to list all African Americans by name. Before then, few counties listed slaves by name, so we shifted gears and searched the "slave schedules" for the 1860 and 1850 census information for slave owners named Gates. However, we weren't able to find anyone under that name who owned a slave that was around her age. This means that she was owned by someone with a surname other than Gates, and the only way to find her by using records would be to undertake a systematic search of the estate papers, wills and tax records, and other documents of every slave holder in Allegany County, Md....

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