Publication Date

April 1, 1997

Benjamin A. Quarles

Benjamin A. Quarles, one of the most distinguished historians of the black experience in the United States, died on November 16, 1996, at the age of 92. Quarles, who was born in Boston, secured his A.B. at Shaw University and his advanced degrees at the University of Wisconsin. He served on the faculties of Shaw University, Dillard University, and Morgan State University.

Along with John Hope Franklin, Quarles came to maturity as a scholar a few years before the death of Carter G. Woodson, founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History and The Journal of Negro History. Woodson had established Negro history as a reputable—though not yet mainstream—field. Woodson’s mantle as the towering figure in the field passed to Franklin and Quarles. At the same time, their own scholarship advanced the study of African American history into the mainstream of the historical profession.

Quarles was arguably the most prolific author of scholarly mono- graphs in African American history down through the 1960s. Although he was knowledgeable about the whole range of the field, he was especially known for his researches into the struggle for freedom in the era between the American Revolution and the Civil War. He produced a series of monographs characterized by careful scholarship. In terms of subject matter, he plowed new ground. He wrote the first scholarly biography of Frederick Douglass; produced the first book-length synthesis on African Americans in the Civil War and in the abolitionist movement (The Negro in the Civil War, 1953); examined with revealing insight the relationship between blacks and the whites who became heroes to black Americans (Abraham Lincoln and John Brown); and produced the only thoroughly researched study of African Americans in the American Revolution (The Negro in the American Revolution, 1961).

Few scholars of Quarles's accomplishments have been as modest or as generous as he was in his evaluation of the work of others. Part of this was a matter of strategy. Quarles believed that encouraging the output of other scholars, black and white, would do much to advance further study, and, in the case of whites, would do much to produce a fair approach to the study of the role of blacks in American history. As a graduate student Quarles had resisted the regnant school of Beardianism, with its cynical approach to the study of the Civil War and Reconstruction: Rather, Quarles, enunciating what was at the time a black tradition of history writing, emphasized the ethical standards of what Gunnar Myrdal has called "the American Creed." He sought to show how black activism, with this creed in the background, consistently played a pivotal role in the struggles for black freedom.

August Meier
University Professor Emeritus
Kent State University

Sally Hunter Graham

Sally Hunter Graham, associate professor in the Department of History at Louisiana State University, died unexpectedly on April 14, 1996. An alumna of the University of Texas, she joined the faculty of Louisiana State University in 1988 and taught courses and seminars in early 20th-century history of the United States and women's history. In the spring of 1995, she was a visiting professor in women's history at Tulane University.

Professor Graham helped to organize women and gender studies programs and served as a consultant for a PBS documentary on the women suffrage movement, Fight Till Freedom Rings. Her scholarly work included a major study of the National American Women Suffrage Association, Women Suffrage and the New Democracy (Yale University Press, 1996).

Sally Graham was much appreciated as a teacher. Her mentoring of graduate students was exemplary; undergraduates also recognized her dedication to and love for teaching. "She was a remarkable professor," one of them wrote in the LSU Daily Reveille. “She brought an enthusiasm for teaching, wonderful sense of humor, and respectful regard for her students to every class meeting.” Her colleagues in the history department will remember her not only for her scholarship but also for her courage, determination, and wit.

Anne C. Loveland
Louisiana State University

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