George Washington Williams Bio

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Historian, soldier, minister, lawyer, legislator, diplomat (1849-1891)

George Washington Williams is considered the first African American historian. He enlisted in the Union Army at fourteen, attaining the rank of sergeant major. He enrolled in the Newton Theological Seminary in 1868 and graduated in 1874. He was the pastor of two churches: the Twelfth Street Baptist Church in Boston and the Union Baptist Church of Cincinnati, Ohio.

While in Ohio he studied law. He was admitted to practice there and later admitted to practice in Boston. Williams was the first African American to serve in the Ohio state legislature. The research for his definitive book on African American history began in Ohio.

George Washington Williams held government positions at the U. S. Post Office Department and the U. S. Treasury. He was appointed U. S. Minister to Haiti by outgoing president, Chester Arthur. When Grover Cleveland assumed the presidency, he cancelled the appointment.

George Washington Williams Bio

While attending an antislavery conference in Belgium in 1889, he was approached by the Belgian government to study conditions in the Congo. Williams wrote an official report for the Belgian government and An Open Letter to His Serene Majesty, Leopold II, King of Belgium. He publicly criticized the Belgian government for its oppression of the people of the Congo.

  • History of the Negro Race in America, 1619-1880 (2 volumes, 1882)
  • History of Negro Troops into the War of Rebellion (1887)