African American Lives 2 -- Hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
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Sharing Stories: One Family's Story
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my mother Washington, D.C. 1873 Washington County, an area in Washington, D.C. a traditional story that has been passed down over generations

My great grandfather, John A. Moss, was an escaped slave from Fauquier County Virginia. He had escaped and been recaptured and escaped again. He ended up in the Washington, D.C. Area and met Frederick Douglass. Frederick Douglass introduced him to Senator Sumner, an abolitionist from Massachusetts. Senator Sumner helped my great grandfather to find employment as a clerk. He encouraged him to go to school. He went to school and graduated from the second law class at Howard University. He was a member of the D.C. Bar and was awarded a gold cane for successfully defending a White policeman. He was appointed by President Rutherford Hayes to be the first Black Justice of the Peace in Washington County and was reappointed by Presidents Garfield and Cleveland. My mother, who is deceased now, told me that she read a journal in the Law Library at Howard University, which indicated that her grandfather, John A. Moss, was the first Colored to ride in an inaugural parade, President Cleveland's. In 2002, My Aunt Anastasia Holmes, had a reception at Sumner Museum where she awarded the cane to it. She chose the Sumner Museum because Senator Charles Sumner had been so influential in her grandfather's life. He had named his son Charles Sumner, who named his son Charles Sumner. The Sumner Museum has an exhibit on John A. Moss, along with the gold cane.

Ironically, my mother's other maternal grandfather, William T. Benjamin, co-founded the American Colored Opera in Washington, D.C. in 1873. There is a separate story that I have entered into your text area about William T. Benjamin, where a story was told about him and others who were in the opera. They began the opera from St. Augustine's Roman Catholic Church, a Black Church, in Washington, D.C. The story "Free to Sing" was told at the Strathmore Hall in Rockville Maryland on February 16, 2007.

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