GREENVILLE (AP) — A black man who traced his family back to free African-Americans from North Carolina who enlisted to fight for the United States in the Revolutionary War is making a little history of his own.
Former Greenville Mayor Ed Carter is organizing the first Sons of the American Revolution chapter named after an African-American. The chapter will get its charter in September.
Carter traces his family back to Isaac Carter, who the chapter will be named for, as well as Absalom Martin, who enlisted in the Continental Army in April 25, 1781. Martin was one of 14 “free men of color” from the Carteret County community of Harlowe who enlisted to fight for America between 1777 and 1782.
“I was so surprised and pleased to find my forefathers had a significant role in the founding of this country. I was overwhelmed by the pride I received knowing this,” Carter told The Daily Reflector of Greenville.
Carter, 76, said he heard stories growing up that his ancestors were free men. North Carolina was more accepting to free blacks in the 1700s than Virginia or South Carolina.
The in August 2014, he attended the dedication of a plaque honoring the African-Americans from Harlowe who fought in the Revolution. Several of those honored also had the last name Carter, and Ed Carter spoke to Sons of the American Revolution member Guy Higgins.
The two men became friends, and Higgins started reviewing Ed Carter’s family tree, tracing it all the way back to Isaac Carter. Higgins said the men from Harlowe owned property and paid taxes, leaving a paper trail many people didn’t have 225 years ago.
Members of the Sons of the American Revolution must prove their ancestors fought in the American Revolution or contributed to the effort. There are 566 chapters nationwide, but none named after an African-American patriot, said Don Shaw, executive director of the national organization.
“It’s an exciting opportunity for us to let America know this was a concentrated effort by all people in the United States. I think it’s often forgotten this was a concentrated effort by a lot of groups and a lot of other nations,” Shaw said.