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Sun, 03.26.1815

George DeBaptiste, Michigan Abolitionist born

George DeBaptiste

*The birth of George DeBaptiste, in 1815 is celebrated on this date. He was a Black abolitionist and businessman.

Born in Virginia, he moved to Madison, Indiana, in 1838 and became involved in the Underground Railroad.  Forced to leave because of his anti-slavery activities, DeBaptiste became the personal valet of General William Henry Harrison, whom he accompanied to the White House as a steward. A long-time Mason, one of Detroit’s most active and impassioned Black community leaders, in 1846, DeBaptiste came to Detroit and conducted several successful businesses. At the same time, he served as a delegate to the Cleveland National Convention of Colored Citizens and as an agent for the Freedman’s Aid Commission.

During the Civil War, he served as an organizer of Michigan’s Colored Regiment. Through his (and others) anti-slavery activities for political and human rights, a posting came two months after the 15th Amendment was ratified, giving Blacks the right to vote. On April 7, 1870, during a Detroit celebration of the amendment, George DeBaptiste, general manager of the Underground Railroad in Michigan, displayed a sign that read, "Notice to Stockholders — Office of the Underground Railway: This office is permanently closed." The sign was later attached to his office building at Jefferson and Beaubien in Detroit.  DeBaptiste died in 1875.

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