Tag: freed slaves

President Obama Recognizes 150 Anniversary Of Emancipation Proclamation

President Barack Obama views the Emancipation Proclamation with a small group of African American seniors, their grandchildren and some children from the Washington DC area, in the Oval Office. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

January 1st, 1863, is the day that the 16th President of the United States of America, President Abraham Lincoln, issued the Emancipation Proclamation, proclaiming that all slaves in the Confederacy were “forever free” because these Southern states refused to rejoin the Union and were in “rebellion” against the United States of America.

Ironically, the Union states were allowed to maintain their slaves because President Lincoln did not want to risk friction among them. Subsequently, freedmen fled to the North to join the Union Army, and slavery became the pivotal focus of the Civil War. The initial conflict began over various other reasons regarding states’ individual rights, such as taxation, the South demanding control over their own political and socio-economic infrastructure, as well as states’ resources.

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Colonel John McKee, Unsung Hero of Fatherless Boys in Need Of Scholarships, Finally Gets Tombstone

Col. John McKee’s vision of his legacy, meticulously recorded in his will, was breathtaking:

A garrisonlike naval academy would grace the bank of the Delaware River in Bristol. A bronze replica of the colonel on horseback would survey the boys who traversed the integrated campus. Embossed on their brass buttons would be the name of McKee, said to be the richest African American at his death in 1902.

History did not quite unfold according to McKee’s plan.

Today, McKee remains an obscure giant of Philadelphia history, a businessman whose achievements in life have been at least matched by his contribution in death.

He is responsible for considerably more than 1,000 scholarships given to fatherless boys during the last 57 years, according to the administrator of a trust he endowed. In the last 10 years alone, the McKee Scholarships have funded almost $4 million for the postsecondary education of 239 young men.

And yet for 89 years, he lay in an unmarked grave; not the brick-and-marble family vault he ordered in his will, not even in his original plot.

McKee wrote his will almost two years before his death, drafting exactly how he wanted to be remembered. But even with a fortune estimated at $2 million, in death he quickly lost control of events.

Born in Alexandria, Va., McKee made his way at 21 to Philadelphia in the early 1840s.

He initially found work in a livery stable and then a restaurant at Eighth and Market Streets owned by James Prosser, a well-known African American caterer. McKee married Prosser’s daughter Emeline, and ran the restaurant until 1866, before he started buying property throughout Philadelphia.

At his death, his holdings were an empire: more than 300 rental houses in the city, as well as his own house at 1030 Lombard St., an estate in Bristol Township, Bucks County, and several hundred thousand acres throughout West Virginia, Georgia, and Kentucky. Continue reading “Colonel John McKee, Unsung Hero of Fatherless Boys in Need Of Scholarships, Finally Gets Tombstone”