Black History Month

Black History Month in the U.S. is in February
It has its roots way back in 1925, when a Dr. Carter G. Woodson, proposed Negro History Week as a way to encourage people to learn more about black history. The selected week in February included the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and black abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

An interesting African-American for Embassy folks is Ebenezer Basset who was appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant as the U.S. Minister to Haiti and the Dominican Republic in 1869. He was the first African American to serve as a U.S. diplomat anywhere in the world.

The United States was just emerging from the Civil War and remaking itself as a nation. African Americans were slowly making advances in politics, business, education, and government. Ebenezer Bassett helped lead this sweeping change, and notably opened the door for other African Americans to enter the diplomatic corps, including Frederick Douglass. Basset was born in 1833. His father had fled slavery in the South and his mother was a Pequot Indian. His life as a pioneer in race relations began early. In 1853, he became the first black student at the Connecticut Normal School, today known as Central Connecticut State University. He worked for 14 years as a teacher in Philadelphia and was United States minister to Haiti from 1869 to 1879. Bassett left Haiti at the end of the Grant administration in 1877. Back in the United States, he served for 10 years as the American Consul General for Haiti in New York City. Ebenezer Bassett died in 1908, after a lifetime of courageous service to his nation as an educator, abolitionist, civil rights activist, and diplomat

Ebenezer Bassett appointed as the U.S. Minister to Haiti and the Dominican Republic in 1869.
Ebenezer Bassett appointed as the U.S. Minister to Haiti and the Dominican Republic in 1869.

If you would like to learn more on the contribution of African-Americans to the history of the United States the State dept has produced a pamphlet on “African-American Achievement“ (PDF).
If you can not open the link to the pamphlet and you are resident in the UK you can use the U.S. Embassy webmaster contact form to request a hard copy from our Resource Center.