Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Collection Highlight: Joseph H. Barquet

   Joseph H. Barquet (or sometimes, Barquette) was a resident of Galesburg, having moved to Illinois some time in the 1850s from his place of birth, Charleston, South Carolina. Barquet lived in Chicago for a time, becoming active in political and human rights issues. He penned a letter to the Western Citizen in March, 1853 criticizing the Fugitive Slave Law. 

   Barquet was living in Galesburg by 1855. In February of that year he wrote to the Galesburg Free Democrat newspaper, beginning his thoughts with an acknowledgement of being “a stranger to your many readers.” In his letter advocating a rejection of colonization scheme proposed by the Colonization Society, Barquet makes a strong case for the ideal of America as a haven for those seeking freedom:
“We will not leave thee, no, never. When God led Columbus to pierce the seas of old Neptune to discover America, he meant this for an asylum—the political or religious altar for all—too long had this continent been hid from the oppressor’s eyes, and scarce had monarchy touched the virgin soil, when man proclaims life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness the birthright of all.”
   It is interesting to note that while Barquet did not favor colonization to Liberia in 1855, he favored exile to Hayti in 1859. On May 11, 1859 Barquet offered a motion at a meeting of the colored people of Abingdon, Knoxville and Galesburg expressing the sentiment that these citizens would accept the offer of asylum from the President of the Republic of Hayti, “deeming exile preferable to slavery.”

   Barquet is listed in the Galesburg city directory in 1861 living on Brooks Street, north side, first door west of Henderson. He was a mason by occupation; he was marred and had four children. Local newspapers reported on his activities, especially noting when he spoke on issues of the day. On Dec. 3, 1859 African Americans in Galesburg met at the AME Church to honor the memory of John Brown who was executed the previous day. The Galesburg Semi-Weekly Democrat gave notice that “Mr. J. Barquet fully sustained his reputation as an eloquent speaker.”

   Barquet enlisted in the Union Army in April, 1863 in the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, serving until August, 1865. He mustered out as a sergeant. Hermann Muelder recounts the lives of some of the 54th Massachusetts soldiers, including Joe Barquet, in his publication A Hero Home From the War. Barquet continued writing during his time in service, contributing regular letters to the Weekly Anglo-African newspaper about his experiences in, and progress of, the war.

   After the war, Barquet returned to Galesburg. He participated in politics and continued to speak out on issues important to the African American community such as integration of the public schools. He chaired the State Convention of Colored Men in 1866, which was held in Galesburg, and he attended the National Convention of Colored Men in St. Louis in 1871 as a delegate from Galesburg. Barquet died on March 15, 1880 and is buried in Davenport, Iowa.

   Please contact us (email lsauer@knox.edu) if you have any documents, especially photographs, that you would like to contribute to help us understand more about Joe Barquet. We'll make copies and let you keep the originals.

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