Sunday, April 22, 2007

African American Veteran recently located

First official African American Spanish-American War veteran from Onslow County, North Carolina

The first official African American Spanish-American War veteran known to have lived in Onslow County, southeastern North Carolina, has been relocated, after his grave site had been "misplaced" for not less then fifty years.

James M. Blackwell, lived near Swansboro, North Carolina. He joined, like many African Americans, to fight for their nation against a common enemy. What we do not know is why he joined the 3rd N.C. Infantry during a time when African Americans were split as to where their National loyalties were tied. Many African Americans who did volunteer felt the nation deprived them of their rights while others believed by serving, even in the lowest of positions with the American Armed Forces, that they could "prove themselves" to the people of the nation that civil rights were warranted.

For decades there has been only one known Spanish-American veteran (Caucasian) to live in Onslow County-- based on only oral history (family talk). At this time, no historian can specifically state as to where this veteran is buried.

I educate people, through my books and lectures, that official documentation, either documents or photographs, is quality proof of an issue.

I have been conducting extensive research on African American local history for nearly five years now. My most recent adventure deals with the preservation of three all African American Cemeteries, validating one of three oldest African American Churches and schools, and conducting preliminary "pre-War Between the States" statistics on African Americans from southeastern North Carolina. Two of the cemeteries, Brick Mill and Petteway, are the county's largest and appears to be the county's oldest, all African American cemeteries. I have been given the responsibilities of being the sole "caretaker" and primary historian. Each of these private cemeteries are located on private land and not access able to the general public. Visits are possible by the general public when appointments are made through me in advance.
During an oral history interview of a local Elder of the community, it was brought to my attention from one of the interviewee's relatives, in attendance during the interview, that one of his distant relatives was in the Navy during the Spanish-American War. I knew from previous research projects that no African American has been officially recognized, within Onslow County, as being a veteran of this specific war. I also knew that few African Americans served in the American Naval Forces at that time.
The relative then told me he would take me deep into the woods, that had been, as I later found out, a crop field fifty years ago. We went, and to my surprise and great enjoyment, an official National veteran's headstone with an inscription listing military service was found. The relative who accompanied me to the grave site had traveled from Connecticut to southeastern North Carolina to, among other tasks, clean up the small but, vital, secluded and nearly forgotten family grave site.
I commended the gentleman for his concern and dedication in preserving one of many "forgotten" grave yards that are scattered throughout this region of the state. Many of these Hallow Grounds are slowly disappearing, due to "urban Sprawl."
Preserving once abandoned cemeteries
To obtain quality news articles on my various research projects contact Gail Bullock, Journalist for the Richlands Advertiser Newspaper (North Carolina, Onslow County)
To learn more about African Americans in the Spanish American War visit: