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Mon, 12.11.1820

Martin Becker, Black sailor, printer, politician, and barber

Martin Becker

On this date we celebrate the birth of Martin F. Becker in 1820. He was a Black sailor, printer, administrator, and barber.

Becker was from Dutch Guiana (now Surinam), South America. His father was African and his mother East India, and both had come to America from South Africa. After working as a sailor and attending college in Europe, Becker came to the United States. He lived for a time in Manchester, N.H., where he married a woman who worked at the Amoskeag Mills nearby. He was one of the few Blacks to vote in that state. Becker and his wife then settled in Fitchburg, MA., where he ran a barbershop, worked as a printer, and was active as an abolitionist.

It was here that he also purchased a home from Benjamin Snow, a prominent local businessman involved with the Underground Railroad. His date of birth is uncertain, as he claimed to be younger than he actually was when he joined the Union armed forces during the Civil War. Becker was enlisted in the Union Navy, serving on the vessels Cumberland and Minnesot. In 1863, he joined the 55th Massachusetts Regiment as a private. He was wounded in the battle of Honey Hill, promoted to quartermaster in 1864, and mustered out at Charleston a year later.

Becker remained in South Carolina, where he was elected to its constitutional convention from Berkley County in 1868, and was appointed trial justice by governors Robert K. Scott and Daniel H. Chamberlain. He also served as election manager of James Island in 1870. He fathered two sons, Henry, a pianist who became a music teacher, and Charles, who became the first Black teacher at the Fall River, Massachusetts, high school. Martin Becker died in 1880.

Reference:
The African American Atlas
Black History & Culture: An Illustrated Reference
by Molefi K. Asanta and Mark T. Mattson
Macmillam USA, Simon & Schuster, New York
ISBN 0-02-864984-2

Black Americans In Congress 1870-1989.
Bruce A. Ragsdale & Joel D. Treese
U.S. Government Printing Office
Raymond W. Smock, historian and director 1990
E185.96.R25

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