I first came across the name of Garland H. WHITE when I was looking through newspaper articles about black residents of Toledo. Oftentimes looking through online resources of African American newspapers provides me with some interesting stories and insights into the early black community of Toledo and Northwest Ohio.
As noted in the Black Culture Series post regarding education and intellectualism, I discovered an article published on March 3, 1871 in a black newspaper called the “Weekly Louisianian” that stated that Garland H. WHITE of Toledo had filed suit against the Toledo school board for not allowing his daughter to attend the school of the ward that they lived in at the time. She was disallowed attendance due to the City of Toledo and its school board having segregated school facilities at the time; therefore his daughter, named Anna would have had to attend the “Colored School” of Toledo and not the one nearest to her home.
WHITE’s complaint did have an impact in the city, being that by 1873 Toledo Public Schools integrated the system and allowed children to attend the schools closest to them regardless of the race/color of the student. WHITE, however, moved away from Toledo around 1873 and so his children may not have benefited from the integration of the schools in the city.
After finding this information out about WHITE and the integration of Toledo Public Schools, I decided to place him on my (LONG) list of individuals to research later and this past week, I decided to take some notes on him and others.
When I first begin to focus on an individual, I usually first refer to my transcriptions of the Census data of Toledo from 1840 to 1870. Then I use the magic of google and see what comes up with a query of their name and the location of Toledo. I was very surprised that WHITE had a lot of references in a general query so decided to make my next post about him.
Garland H. WHITE was born to a slave woman named Nancy in Hanover County, Virginia around 1829. Biographical information found about him shows that he was taught to read and write as a child. Prior to the age of 13, he was separated from his mother and sold to Senator Robert Toombs of Georgia. During his teenage years, he was a personal manservant to Senator Toombs and accompanied the Senator on trips back and forth to Washington, D.C. Around 1857-1859, WHITE escaped slavery via the Underground Railroad from Washington D.C. He settled in SE Ontario, Canada, then called “Canada West” and became an ordained minister in the London, Ontario AME church.
WHITE first shows up in Toledo on the list of Civil War draft registrations in 1863. He was living in Ward 2 of the city at the time and listed his occupation as a “minister.” His draft registration is below on line 15:
WHITE petitioned the government to serve as a recruiter for black troops, even before the federal authorities allowed black men to enlist in 1863. His requests were denied but he was persistent due to having a goal of recruiting and serving as Chaplain for the first black regiments – the 54th and 55th Massachusetts regiments (the 54th was memorialized in the movie “Glory”). Unfortunately he was not allowed access to those regiments but was later asked to recruit for Indiana’s first colored regiment – the 28th USCT. WHITE both joined and recruited black soldiers for this regiment from all over the Midwest and was persistent in his writing campaigns seeking to achieve his goal of becoming a chaplain in the Army. WHITE’s request was delayed but ultimately approved and he became the Chaplain of the 28th USCT in 1864 and received a rank similar to that of a Captain. His rank made him one of the few black officers in the USCT during the Civil War (there were less than 20). Even though he was appointed Chaplain and attained his rank, he was not authorized to wear an officer’s uniform due to the Army not wanting white soldiers being forced to salute him upon sight.
After the war, he returned to Toledo, where as noted above, he filed a complaint against the Toledo Public School board to desegregate the system. At the time, he was married to wife Georginna and had three children, per the 1870 Census named Anna (born 1862 in Canada), Jane (born 1867) and son Emery/Henry (born 1869). He was listed in the City of Toledo directory as a minister between 1867 and 1872.
During the 1860s and 1870s he was also a frequent contributor to black media publications, including the “Christian Recorder” a publication of the AME church. In one of his more well known correspondences, he described reuniting with his mother, who he had been sold away from as a child. The letter was written toward the end of the Civil War on April 12, 1865.:
Among the many broken-hearted mothers looking for their children who had been sold to Georgia and elsewhere, was an aged woman, passing through the vast crowd of colored, inquiring for one by the name of
Garland H. White, who had been sold from her when a small boy, and was bought by a lawyer named Robert Toombs, who lived in Georgia.
Since the war has been going on she has seen Mr. Toombs in Richmond with troops from his state, and upon her asking him where his bodyservant
Garland was, he replied: “He ran off from me at Washington, and went to ‘Canada. I have since learned that he is living somewhere in the State of Ohio.” Some of the boys knowing that I lived in Ohio, soon found me and said, “Chaplain, here is a lady that wishes to see
you.” I quickly turned, following the soldier until coming to a group of colored ladies. I was questioned as follows:
“What is your name, sir?” “My name is Garland H. White.”
“What was your mother’s name?” “Nancy.” “Where was you born?” “In Hanover County, in this State.” “Where was you sold from?”
“From this city.”
“What was the name of the man who bought you?”
“Where did he live?”
“In the State of Georgia.”
“Where did you leave
“Where did you go then?”
“Where do you live now?”
“This is your mother, Garland, whom you are now talking to, who has spent twenty years of grief about her son.”
I cannot express the joy I felt at this happy meeting of my mother and other friends.
After his service in the war WHITE had aspirations of working for the Freedman’s Bureau but his request was denied. In the mid 1870s he moved to Indianapolis, Indiana and then to North Carolina and served as an AME minister in both locations. He ran for a seat in Congress in the 1870s in North Carolina as a Democrat, but lost to John Adams Hyman, a black Republican. His relationship with the Democratic Party, which back then was the party of the former Confederates, placed him in a contentious position with his church family in Halifax, North Carolina and he was forced out of the church by 1880.
WHITE experienced a respiratory illness, which he associated with his service in the USCT and specifically the Battle of the Crater. He applied for a disability pension in 1884 but it was not approved until 1890 when rules for pensioners changed and all who served were able to receive payments. WHITE moved back to Washington, D.C., toward the end of his life and worked as a messenger in the Capital. He died on July 5, 1894 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Wikipedia – Garland H. White
1870 Toledo Census – Household of Garland H. White
Weekly Louisianian – March 3, 1871
Ancestry.com – US Civil War Draft Registration Records – Ohio 10th Congressional District Volume 1
Ancestry.com – City of Toledo Directories 1864-1880