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African Americans, also referred to as Black Americans or Afro-Americans, are citizens of the United States who have total or partial antebellum ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa.[1] Specifically, most African Americans are of West and Central African descent and are descendants of enslaved peoples within the boundaries of the present-day U.S.[1][2]

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Harriet Tubman (c. 1870). A worker on the Underground Railroad, Tubman made 13 trips to the South, helping to free over 70 people.

The Underground Railroad was an informal network of secret routes and safe houses used by 19th-century black slaves in the United States to escape to free states and Canada with the aid of abolitionists who were sympathetic to their cause. The term is also applied to the abolitionists who aided the fugitives. Other various routes led to Mexico or overseas. Created in the early 19th century, the Underground Railroad was at its height between 1850 and 1860. One estimate suggests that by 1850, 100,000 slaves had escaped via the "Railroad". Canada was a popular destination with over 30,000 people arriving there to escape enslavement via the network at its peak, though US Census figures only account for 6,000. The Underground Railroad riders' stories are documented in The Underground Railroad Records.

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4th United States Colored Infantry Regiment, c. 1864
Credit: Unknown photographer
"The men in this picture are from Company E, 4th United States Colored Infantry. Theirs was one of the detachments assigned to guard the nation's capital during the American Civil War", c. 1864


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We should emphasize not Negro History, but the Negro in history. What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hate, and religious prejudice.
Carter G. Woodson (1875–1950),
"The Celebration of Negro History Week", Journal of Negro History (April 1927)

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Hugh Mulzac

Hugh Mulzac (March 26, 1886–1971) was an African-American member of the United States Merchant Marine. He earned a Master rating in 1918 which should have qualified him to command a ship, but this did not happen until September 29, 1942 because of racial discrimination.

In 1942 he was offered command of the SS Booker T. Washington, the first Liberty ship to be named after an African-American. He refused at first because the crew was to be all black. He insisted on an integrated crew, stating, "Under no circumstances will I command a Jim Crow vessel." The Merchant Marine finally gave in and agreed to an integrated crew, and he took command from 1942–1947, making 22 round trip voyages.

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  1. ^ a b Gomez, Michael Angelo (1998). Exchanging Our Country Marks : The Transformation of African Identities in the Colonial and Antebellum South: The Transformation of African Identities in the Colonial and Antebellum South. University of North Carolina Press. p. 12. ISBN 0807861715. 
  2. ^ Rucker, Walter C. (2006). The river flows on: Black resistance, culture, and identity formation in early America. LSU Press. p. 126. ISBN 0-8071-3109-1.