Benjamin Arthur Quarles

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Benjamin Arthur Quarles
Born January 23, 1904
Boston, Massachusetts
Died November 16, 1996
Baltimore, Maryland
Occupation history professor
Nationality American
Ethnicity African American
Education B.A., M.A., PhD
Alma mater Shaw University
University of Wisconsin–Madison
Notable works The Negro in the Making of America
Notable awards Rosenwald Fellowship (1938, 1945),
Carnegie Corporation Advancement Teaching Fellowship (1944),
Social Science Research Council Fellowship (1957),
Guggenheim Fellowship (1959),
Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History Lifetime Achievement Award(1996)
Spouse Ruth Brett

Benjamin Arthur Quarles (January 23, 1904 – November 16, 1996) was an African-American historian, administrator, scholar, educator, and writer. Major books by Quarles include The Negro in the Civil War (1953), The Negro in the American Revolution (1961), Lincoln and the Negro (1962), and Black Abolitionists (1969). He demonstrated that blacks were active participants in major conflicts and issues of American history. His books were narrative accounts of critical wartime periods that focused on how blacks interacted with their white allies and emphasized blacks' acting as vital agents of change rather than receiving favors from whites.[1]


Quarles was born in Boston, Massachusetts. His father Arthur Benedict Quarles was a subway porter and his mother was Margaret O'Brien.[2] Benjamin went to local public schools.

Benjamin Quarles married Vera Bullock, who died in 1951. A year later in 1952, he married Ruth Brett. They had two daughters, Pamela and Roberta.

In his twenties, Quarles enrolled at Shaw University, a historically black college in Raleigh, North Carolina, and received his B.A. degree in 1931. He earned his M.A. degree from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1933, and Ph.D. from there in 1940. Initially he faced resistance for wanting to write black history but finally received support for his goal. He learned his writing style from Professor William Hesseltine.[3]

He returned to Shaw, working as an instructor of history (1935–39); then he went to Dillard University, New Orleans, Louisiana (1939–1953), where he became a full professor and served as dean; and last, he served as professor of history and chair of department at Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland (1953–1974). At Morgan, Quarles reached near-legendary status as the long-time head of the History Department, a revered teacher and counselor, an intellectual and professional mentor for two generations of African-American scholars. Many of his books were required reading in the African-American history courses that were developed in American universities during the 1960s with the civil rights movement and increasing interest in the history of minorities and women. After his official retirement in 1969, he was awarded professor emeritus status and kept teaching for several years.

Quarles was an active member of many political and historical organizations, such as Project Advisory Committee on Black Congress Members, the committee to oversee the founding of the Amistad Center at Tulane University, the Department of the Army Historical Advisory Committee, and the American Council of Learned Societies. He was one of the few men in the profession who openly supported the founding of the Association of Black Women Historians.


A prolific writer, Benjamin Quarles published ten books, 23 articles, and hundreds of shorter pieces of various sorts. In his writings, he focused on giving detailed attention to the contributions made by the black soldiers and abolitionists of the American Revolution and the Civil War. His writings include:

  • Frederick Douglass (1948) (published dissertation)
  • The Negro in the Civil War (1953)
  • The Negro in the American Revolution (1961)
  • Lincoln and the Negro (1962)
  • The Negro in the Making of America (1964)
  • Fredrick Douglass (1968)
  • Black Abolitionists (1969)
  • Allies for Freedom (1974)
  • Black Mosaic: Essays in Afro-American History and Historiography (1988)
  • Moorg Against Tide & Patterns (Great Lives Observed) (2005)[4]
  • Blacks on John Brown[5]

Legacy and honors[edit]

Quarles died in 1996 of a heart attack at the age of 92.

Lifetime Achievement Award

  • 2013, he was inducted into the Great Blacks in Wax Museum, Inc. in Baltimore.
  • Dr. Benjamin Quarles Place, a short downtown residential street just west of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, is named after him in Baltimore MD


  1. ^ August Meier, "Benjamin Quarles and the Historiography of Black America," Civil War History, June 1980, Vol. 26#2, pp. 101-116.
  2. ^ The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, Volume 4: 1994-1996, Charles Scribner's Sons, 2001
  3. ^ "Chronology of the Life & Career Benjamin Arthur Quarles", Chickenbones: A Journal, for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes] [link accessed 2007-04-15]
  4. ^ "Benjamin Quarles-author". Amazon books. Retrieved 2009-07-14. 
  5. ^ "Benjamin Quarles (obit)". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2009-07-14. 

External links[edit]

an uncelebrated intellectual in every right. The oppressor take note- truth cannot be suppressed forever, someday that African shall rise and take back by force his birthright.