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Quarles' second book, The Negro in the Civil War, appeared in 1953, the year he

moved to Morgan State College in Baltimore, Maryland, to chair the department

of history. In this work he set out to show the deep flaw in the traditional picture of slaves

as passive pawns in the fight against slavery. On the contrary, he asserted, 3.5 million

African Americans had been major participants in the struggle for democracy,

180,000 of them working as soldiers, and the rest as orderlies, spies, and laborers.

 

 

Books by By Benjamin Quarles

 

Frederick Douglass (1948) / The Negro in the Civil War  (1953) /   The Negro in the American Revolution (1961)

 

Lincoln and the Negro (1962)  /  The Negro in the Making of America (1964)  /  Black Abolitionists (1969)

 

Allies for Freedom and Blacks on John Brown (1974) / Black Mosaic: Essays in Afro-American History and Historiography (1988)

 

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Chronology of the Life & Career

Benjamin Arthur Quarles

Former Professor of History

at Morgan State College

 

 

A progressive historian, Benjamin Arthur Quarles (1904-1996), was born in Boston, Massachusetts. His father was a subway porter. He himself worked as a bellhop on Boston-based steamboats and Florida hotels. He alter enrolled in Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina and then obtained his graduate education at the University of Wisconsin. His dissertation topic was the life of abolitionist Frederick Douglass. This dissertation undoubtedly was the basis for his first published historical work Frederick Douglass (1948).

His doctorate awarded in 1940, Quarles was employed by Dillard University from 1939 to 1953. From about 1948, Dr. Quarles was the dean of the Dillard faculty. Quarles taught at Morgan State from 1953 until his retirement in 1974, and headed the history department there in 1953-67. One of his many highly-regarded books of history and biography, the 1964 work The Negro in the Making of America, was reprinted as recently as 1995.

Quarles married twice: first to Vera Bullock Quarles, who died in 1951;  and then to Ruth Brett, 1952. Ruth Brett Quarles outlived her husband. They had two daughters.

There were few sympathizers at Wisconsin for Quarles's desires to write black history. "There was a feeling that a black person studying black history would turn it into propaganda," he later recalled. Nevertheless, Quarles stuck to his plan, and eventually found a professor who consented to guide his thesis research.

Much of Quarles writing style was learned from Professor William Hesseltine of the University of Wisconsin with whom he worked while completing his doctorate. It was a smooth  narrative mask of objectivity. Yet as Wilson Jeremiah Moses, points out in History Teacher (1998), "his persistent efforts to demonstrate the centrality of blacks in building. American civilization, and his criticism of those who did not share his belief in the mission of the United States in the world, show he was a conceptual historian with a clear agenda."

Quarles' second book, The Negro in the Civil War, appeared in 1953, the year he moved to Morgan State College in Baltimore, Maryland, to chair the department of history. In this work he set out to show the deep flaw in the traditional picture of slaves as passive pawns in the fight against slavery. On the contrary, he asserted, 3.5 million African Americans had been major participants in the struggle for democracy, 180,000 of them working as soldiers, and the rest as orderlies, spies, and laborers.

“Milliken’s Bend,” said Quarles, “was . . . [near Vicksburg, Mississippi] one of the hardest fought encounters in the annals of American military history." Its lesson was not lost on the Union high brass: “The bravery of the Blacks at Milliken’s Bend,” observed Assistant Secretary of War Charles A. Dana, “completely revolutionized the sentiment of the army with regard to the employment of Negro troops.”

In his next major work, The Negro in the American Revolution, Quarles enlarged upon the theme of black Americans as major players in their own search for freedom. He was the the first to cast any light at all on the topic of the African American contribution to the revolution itself. "Unlettered, they put very little down on paper. If they are to be understood, it must be primarily by what they did. Hence, especially in the pages of this work dealing with the Negro acting of his own volition, my approach has been to state the facts about his activities, indicate the documentary sources, and as far as possible avoid conjecture as to his unrecorded thought," he continued.

His next book Lincoln and the Negro, Quarles attempted to show Lincoln the president as a true friend of the enslaved. For Lincoln opposed slavery  opposed slaver because of the philosophy expressed in the Declaration of Independence. Yet Lincoln also believed that blacks were mentally inferior to whites, that  intermarriage was unworthy, and was non-supportive of voting rights for black Americans. Quarles still concluded: "In the story they would relate to their children, Negroes would lay stress on the enduring Lincoln, in whom death was swallowed up in victory."

All his previous works were a prelude to his 1969 publication, Black Abolitionists. In this work Quarles challenged the accepted view that abolitionists had been primarily white reformers. There were blacks carrying the anti-slavery banners as early as the1830s. These black abolitionists spiritedly opposed efforts to colonize all black Americans in Africa, and resented the paternalization of missionary whites determined to uplift them willy-nilly. Quarles also reminded the historical community that new Negro newspapers had emphasized the non-white viewpoint, insisting on voting, civil, and human rights for an audience of both black and white readers.

For the journal Daedalus, Quarles wrote one of his last thought-provoking essays. He concluded, "The role of blacks in Americawhat they have done and what has been done to themilluminates the past and informs the present. Unless we fully comprehend the role of racism in this society, we can never truly know America." 

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Chronology

 

1904 January 23, born in Boston, Massachusetts
1931 Receives B.A., Shaw University (Raleigh, North Carolina), awarded Social Science Research Council Fellowship
1933 Receives M.A., University of Wisconsin (Madison)
1938 Wins Rosenwald Fellowship
1939 Appointed Professor of History, Dillard University (New Orleans, Louisiana)
1940 Receives Ph.D., University of Wisconsin (Madison)
1942 Receives 2nd Social Science Research Council fellowship
1944 Receives Carnegie Corporation Advancement Teaching Fellowship
1945 Wins 2nd Rosenwald Fellowship
1947 Becomes Secretary of the New Orleans Urban League (until 1951)
1948 Publishes Frederick Douglass. Joins Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and 
History
1949 Becomes Honorary Consultant in American History at the Library of Congress (until 1951).
Serves on New Orleans Council of Social Agencies
1953 Leaves Dillard University. Appointed Professor of History and Chairman of the History
Department, Morgan State College (Baltimore, Maryland) The Negro in the Civil War,
1957 Receives Social Science Research Council Fellowship
1957 Becomes Vice President of the Urban League (serves until 1959)
1959 Wins Guggenheim Fellowship
1960 Edits Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
1961 Publishes The Negro in the American Revolution
1962 Publishes Lincoln and the Negro
1964 Publishes The Negro in the Making of America
1964 Serves on Advisory Committee of Library Services at the U.S. Office of Education (until 
1966)
1965 Co-authors (with Dorothy Sterling) Lift Every Voice: The Lives of Booker T. 
Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, Mary Terrell, and James Weldon Johnson
1967 Becomes grantee of the American Council of Learned Societies. Becomes Vice President 
of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Inducted into Phi Alpha Theta.
Publishes The Negro American: A Documentary Story (with Leslie H. Fishel, Jr.)
1968 Publishes Frederick Douglass in Great Lives Observed Series
1969 Publishes Black Abolitionists. Becomes Chairman of the State Of Maryland Commission 
on Negro History and Culture
1970 Appointed for second term as Honorary Consultant in United States History to the Library
of Congress. Becomes Honorary Chairman of the Maryland State Commission on
Afro-American History and Culture
1971 Publishes Blacks on John Brown. Becomes Vice President Emeritus of the Association for 
the Study of Afro-American Life and History. Appointed to the editorial board of the
Journal of Negro History and Maryland Historical Magazine. Appointed to the 
National Council of the Frederick Douglass Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian
1974 Published Allies for Freedom: Blacks and John Brown and Blacks on John Brown
Retires from Morgan State College. Commencement Speaker at Morgan. Received the
honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.
1976 Becomes a member of the Building Committee of the Amistad Research Center. Member
of the Project Advisory Committee on Black Congress members of the Joint Center for 
Political Studies. Member of the Advisory Board on American History and Life of the
American Bibliographical Center. Member of the Committee of Advisers of the National
Humanities Center Fellowship Committee (until 1978)
1977 Serves on the Department of Army Historical Advisory Committee (until 1980)
1981 Named Professor Emeritus, Morgan State University
1988 Publishes Black Mosaic: Essays in Afro-American History and Historiography
Received American Historical Association's Senior Historian Scholarly Distinction Award.
1996 Receives the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History Lifetime
Achievement Award
Dies November 16
 

Afro-Americans helped to make America what it was and what it is. Since the founding of Virginia, they have been a factor in many of the major issues in our history, and often they themselves have spoken out on these issues. For example, if in the eyes of the world today the United States stands for man's right to be free, certainly no group in this country has sounded this viewpoint more consistently than the Negro. . . . Moreover, the Negro's role in the United States also throws light on some of the major trends in the history of the Western world since Columbus' time. 

The Commercial Revolution of early modern times had as a basic component a plentiful supply of transplanted Africans. Three centuries later, Negroes on the plantations in the South produced the very staple -- cotton -- to which the Industrial Revolution owed so much of its explosive world-wide influence. And in our own times the emergence of freedom-minded nations in Africa would seem to make it advantageous for Americans to view afresh the historic role of their colored fellows.Foreword, The Negro in the Making of America

 

If, strictly speaking, there is no such thing as Afro-American history, it is because this past has become so interwoven in the whole fabric of our culture. Except for the Indian, the Negro is America's oldest ethnic minority. Except for the first settlers at Jamestown, the Negro's roots in the original thirteen colonies sink deeper than any other group from across the Atlantic.Foreword, The Negro in the Making of America

 

Publications

Frederick Douglass, Associated Publishers, 1948.

The Negro in the Civil War, Little Brown, 1953.

The Negro in the American Revolution, University of North Carolina Press, 1961.

Lincoln and the Negro, Oxford, 1962.

The Negro in the Making of America, Collier, 1964.

Black Abolitionists, Oxford, 1969.

Allies for Freedom and Blacks on John Brown, Oxford, 1974.

Black Mosaic: Essays in Afro-American History and Historiography (1988)

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With Liberty and Justice for Some

How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful

By Glenn Greenwald

From "the most important voice to have entered the political discourse in years" (Bill Moyers), a scathing critique of the two-tiered system of justice that has emerged in America. From the nation's beginnings, the law was to be the great equalizer in American life, the guarantor of a common set of rules for all. But over the past four decades, the principle of equality before the law has been effectively abolished. Instead, a two-tiered system of justice ensures that the country's political and financial class is virtually immune from prosecution, licensed to act without restraint, while the politically powerless are imprisoned with greater ease and in greater numbers than in any other country in the world. Starting with Watergate, continuing on through the Iran-Contra scandal, and culminating with Obama's shielding of Bush-era officials from prosecution, Glenn Greenwald lays bare the mechanisms that have come to shield the elite from accountability.

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Debt: The First 5,000 Years

By David Graeber

Before there was money, there was debt. Every economics textbook says the same thing: Money was invented to replace onerous and complicated barter systems—to relieve ancient people from having to haul their goods to market. The problem with this version of history? There’s not a shred of evidence to support it. Here anthropologist David Graeber presents a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom. He shows that for more than 5,000 years, since the beginnings of the first agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods—that is, long before the invention of coins or cash. It is in this era, Graeber argues, that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors.  Graeber shows that arguments about debt and debt forgiveness have been at the center of political debates from Italy to China, as well as sparking innumerable insurrections. He also brilliantly demonstrates that the language of the ancient works of law and religion (words like “guilt,” “sin,” and “redemption”) derive in large part from ancient debates about debt, and shape even our most basic ideas of right and wrong.

We are still fighting these battles today without knowing it. Debt: The First 5,000 Years is a fascinating chronicle of this little known history—as well as how it has defined human history, and what it means for the credit crisis of the present day and the future of our economy.   Economist Glenn Loury  /Criminalizing a Race

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The Gods of Prophetstown: The Battle of Tippecanoe

and the Holy War for the American Frontier

By Adam Jortner

In The Gods of Prophetstown, Adam Jortner provides a gripping account of the conflict between Tenskwatawa ("The Open Door") and Harrison, who finally collided in 1811 at a place called Tippecanoe. Though largely forgotten today, their rivalry determined the  future of westward expansion and shaped the War of 1812. Jortner weaves together dual biographies of the opposing leaders. In the five years between the eclipse and the battle, Tenskwatawa used his spiritual leadership to forge a political pseudo-state with his brother Tecumseh. Harrison, meanwhile, built a power base in Indiana, rigging elections and maneuvering for higher position. Rejecting received wisdom, Jortner sees nothing as preordained—Native Americans were not inexorably falling toward dispossession and destruction. Deeply rooting his account in a generation of scholarship that has revolutionized Indian history, Jortner places the religious dimension of the struggle at the fore, recreating the spiritual landscapes trod by each side.

The climactic battle, he writes, was as much a clash of gods as of men. Written with profound insight and narrative verve, The Gods of Prophetstown recaptures a forgotten turning point in American history in time for the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Tippecanoe.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 21 May 2012

 

 

 

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Related files: Historiography and African Americans: Benjamin Quarles  Quarles Bio-Chronology  Christian Reports to Quarles   Negro in the American Revolution  

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