James R. Newby was born about 1843 in Connecticut. He was the son of abolitionists Fanny and Aaron Newby. His father was a freed slave. His parents established their home as a depot on the Underground Railroad.
At 11 years old, he became the first Black US Navy apprentice. He served on the Peruvian, USS Niagara and - after the war - the USS Wateree. During the Civil War, he answered the call and served with the famous 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. After the war, he returned for a time to the US Navy.
In 1850, he is attending school in or near New London, Connecticut.
A Sunday school was opened by Thomas P. Boss in New London, which he, his brother Lewis and two sisters attended.
His parents' house became a "depot" of the Underground Railroad after they were married. Once his father departed to California during the Gold Rush, James stepped into a more active role in helping "passengers" make their way to Canada.
James was the first Black Naval apprentice in the US Navy at 11 years old.
During the Civil War, he served as a Private in Company E of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the first regiment in the United States made up entirely of enlisted men of color. He was about 19 years old, single and working as a seaman when he enlisted on 29 March 1863 from New London, Connecticut. Mustered out 20 August 1865 with his regiment.
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Categories: Activists and Reformers | African-American Notables | Free Persons of Color in Connecticut | Mariners | Underground Railroad Conductors | 1850 US Census, New London County, Connecticut | New London, Connecticut | Calcutta, Bengal | 1860 US Census, New London County, Connecticut | Prisoners of War, United States Civil War | Libby Prison, Richmond, Virginia | 54th Regiment, Massachusetts Infantry (Colored), United States Civil War | 1870 US Census, New London County, Connecticut