Sunday, February 7, 2021

Black History Month Personality Spotlight: 1st Sgt. Powhatan Beaty, 5th USCI, Medal of Honor Recipient

Powhatan Beaty was born enslaved on October 8, 1837, in Richmond Virginia. It is not clear how Beaty gained his freedom, but he lived in Cincinnati, Ohio before the Civil War and appears in the 1860 census in that city's 13th Ward. Beaty's listed occupation in both the census and his service records indicates he was skilled in woodworking. He continued in that profession after the war. However, it appears he had a personal passion for the theater. Beaty appeared in various local and regional Shakespearean productions in the post war years. He died on December 6, 1916, at 79 years old.

When Beaty left Virginia and slavery as a young men, he could not have imagined he would be back fighting in a way near his hometown to help end the institution and stake a claim to citizenship. Slavery's oppression limited opportunities for African Americans to pursue talents like acting and to demonstrate leadership skills. Beaty's work in theater, as well as his Medal of Honor citation, disproved slavery's premise of inferiority. When combat rages at the Battle of New Market Heights, Beaty "took command of his company, all of the officers having been killed or wounded, and gallantly led it." We remember!

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