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Twenty Families of Color in Massachusetts, 1742-1998

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  • William Monroe Trotter (1872 - 1934)
    William Monroe Trotter (sometimes just Monroe Trotter , April 7, 1872 – April 7, 1934) was a newspaper editor and real estate businessman based in Boston, Massachusetts, and an activist for African-Ame...

First published in hardcover in 1998, this book outlines twenty families of color in Massachusetts, including the descendants of


  • Quawk Barbadoes;
  • James E. Biddle;
  • Isaiah Butler;
  • Andrew Camps;
  • John Ceasar;
  • Joseph J. Fatal;
  • John T. Hilton;
  • Peter M. Howard;
  • Aaron C. Joseph;
  • William Kellogg;
  • Primus Lew;
  • Henry G. Lewis;
  • Stephen Maddox;
  • Betsy Raymond;
  • Thomas Revaleon;
  • George W. Ruffin;
  • Carter Selden;
  • Edward Skeene;
  • James Monroe Trotter;
  • Amintus Weeden,
  • George B. Godfrey.

According to Byron Rushing, former CEO of Boston's Museum of Afro-American History, "Frank Dorman has . . . proven that the historical resources of the non-rich and non-famous are rich, pregnant and lying in wait to be delivered by the skillful use of traditional genealogical research combined with a respect for oral history." Foreword by James O. Horton. Includes an every-name index.

Note:George B. Godfrey should be included on this list because of his boxing legend in Boston as well as the property that he owned around Boston. He is in the Prince Edward Island Hall of Fame & Museum Inc.: Boxing - George Godfrey Inducted Date: Jun 24, 1990 Inducted By: N/A All but forgotten today, George Godfrey was the reigning “Black Boxing Champion of America” a century ago. In an era when law prohibited mixed athletic competition, white boxers routinely "drew the colour line" against their Negro counterparts. And so it was that the most famous boxer of them all, "The Boston Strong Boy" John L. Sullivan would refuse to trade punches with the man they called "Old Chocolate." Born in Charlottetown, P.E.I. on March 20, 1853, George Godfrey would leave the Island as a boy, to find employment as a porter in Boston's bustling silk importing offices. He also worked as a beef carrier and a carpenter. By 1879, at the age of 26, he had taken up boxing and began fighting competitively during what was still known as the bare knuckle era. Joining the boxing classes at Professor Bailey's Hub City gym, George would be nearly thirty when he made his pro debut at Harry Hill's notorious music hall, clearly out-punching the veteran Professor Hadley in their six-round draw. Godfrey's powerful right hand deftly kayoed a string of lesser opponents, prompting Godfrey to style himself as the coloured champion of America. A historic contest between "Old Chocolate" and the legendary John L. Sullivan was forestalled when police entered the Bailey Gym in September 1881, separating the two boxers who had already stripped for action. Later attempts to match the two boxers were unsuccessful, as Sullivan went on to win the bare-knuckle title from Paddy Ryan in 1882, and was reluctant to risk losing the heavyweight crown to his Black opponent. George Godfrey, at a fighting weight of 175 pounds on a 5' 10 ½” frame, would be considered only a light-heavyweight by today's standards. "Old Chocolate" engaged in an estimated 100 bouts, many with boxers, both black and white, who outweighed him by up to twenty pounds. His defeat at the hands of Australia's legendary black champion, the 195-pound Peter Jackson, for the World Coloured Championship would take place August 24, 1888, at San Francisco, after a gruelling 19 rounds. "So long as I had to be beaten," Godfrey remarked to a San Francisco reporter the next day, "I'm glad I was beaten by the best man in the world." And no less than James J. Corbett, Jim Jeffries and Tom Sharkey – champions all – would go on to claim that Peter Jackson, boxing's "Black Prince," was the greatest fighter they had ever witnessed. Among Godfrey's most notable ring victories are those over Peter Maher, Denver Ed Smith, McHenry Johnson, Irish Joe Lannon, Patsy Cardiff, Steve O'Donnell and Joe Doherty. Among his hard-fought ring defeats to other all-time boxing greats should be mentioned his knockout in the 44th round by the mighty Jake Kilrain. Godfrey was 40 years of age when he stepped into the ring with Joe Choynski, regarded as the finest Jewish boxer in history, and fifteen years younger than "Old Chocolate." Age had finally caught up with Godfrey, and Choynski's superlative boxing skills and punching power were too much for the grand old man of the ring. After his 1895 victory over Billy Woods in Baltimore, George retired from active competition. He began conducting a successful boxing school out of Boston, which produced several champions. As late as 1899, "Old Chocolate" would tour Prince Edward Island in the company of Big Dan O'Keefe of Campbellton, P.E.I., to the delight of thousands of spectators. A shrewd businessman and happily married father of six, George would die at his Revere, Massachusetts home on October 17, 1901, at the age of 48. Characteristic of his courage in the boxing ring, when he was told he had only a few hours to live, Godfrey asked to be moved out of his bed, to stand once more on his own two feet. With one mighty effort he stood proudly erect, only to fall back onto the bed, unconscious. He would die a moment later. Marriage to Clara J. Forbes - Feb. 6, 1874 in Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, USA. b. March 20, 1853 in Charlottetown, son of William Godfrey, a labourer, and Sarah Byers; m. in the United States and had six children; d. 17 Oct. 1901 in Revere, Mass. (George Godfrey was born in Mar. 20, 1853 in the Bog, a poor part of Charlottetown’s West End. The area had a high concentration of blacks, almost all of whom were descended from slaves brought to the Island in the 1780s as a result of the American revolution. The Bog was notorious locally for its poverty and for bootlegging, prostitution, and other minor crimes. A member of his mother’s family, Peter Byers, was hanged for theft in 1815, and the year after Godfrey was born his father was convicted of petty larceny and served two weeks in jail for stealing a cow. Godfrey received his first boxing instruction in Charlottetown from Dick Cronin. Around 1870 Godfrey moved to Boston, where he worked as a porter. He played baseball, trained in a gymnasium, and took boxing lessons from a “Professor” Bailey. An 1879 win in the heavyweight class at a local boxing competition in Massachusetts led to a career as a boxer. Despite being rather old to begin prize-fighting (he was then 27) and somewhat light for his division (at 5 feet 10 1/2 inches he weighed only 175 pounds), he went on to become the “first U. S. colored heavyweight champion” boxer and one of the leading fighters in the world. (Godfrey had eliminated all challengers to the title of American black heavyweight champion by 1883.)) He bought alot of property in Denver, Colorado and in Chelsea and Revere, Massachusetts. And he owned a gym in Boston seeking to train young black boxers.