CAPTAIN WILLIAM J WILLIAMS: AFRICAN AMERICAN SPANISH AMERICAN WAR VETERAN

This cabinet card creates a historical mystery. Is this image really a portrait of Captain William James Williams? Captain Williams was among the first African American officers to serve in a state volunteer regiment during the Spanish American War. He served in the 6th Massachusetts Infantry, Company L. This company was probably the first and possibly only African American company to be attached to a white regiment. Williams commanded Company L and was the first African American to enter the US Volunteer army with a captain’s commission. He was six feet tall. He was a product of Boston schools  and was a lawyer. He joined the Massachusetts Militia in 1891. The reverse of this card is inscribed “William James Williams, Captain, Spanish American War”. A photograph of Captain Williams found from another source, has resemblance to the man in this image, but does not confirm the identity. The photographer of this image is William G. Hussey of Salem, Massachusetts. A photographic journal (1900) reported that Hussey sold his Salem studio in 1900.

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