In honor of Black History Month we are writing about an Academy graduate that made an impact on social perceptions and the prevailing worldview in the mid-late 1800s. The Parker Academy hosted many students over the years no matter ones race or gender. Several students in particular were involved in the Civil War where they fought for freedom and social justice. While some of the Academy’s graduates became involved in careers in law, education, and craft making, one notable student went off to lead troops into victory that was Henry C. Corbin.
Born on September 15, 1842 in Clermont County Ohio (the location of the Parker Academy), Henry Corbin grew up on a farm and attended Parker Academy as a preparatory school for eventually studying law elsewhere. As a student he learned that all people are created equal, including all races and genders.
During the Civil War Corbin, a white man, was made an officer in a Black regiment. At the time all Black units had white officers. It is significant that Henry was blind to racial boundaries and overlooked segregation, because his views would shape the American army into the future. Henry Corbin worked his way from the rank of private at the beginning of the war, to head General of the Army at the time of the Spanish American War. Because of his influence and important leadership positions Corbin’s opinions of black troops likely had an impact on the development of an integrated army.
After the Civil war, Corbin stayed in the army and served in many areas of the country. He led the Buffalo Soldiers, African American regiments, in Texas and Arizona. He eventually became an advisor to President Garfield and was with the President when he was shot in Cleveland. He also served as a virtual Chief of Staff for William McKinley. Finally, Corbin was the Adjutant General of the United States from 1898 to 1904. Henry Corbin passed way on September 8th, 1909 in Washington D.C., and his grave can be found in the Arlington cemetery in Virginia.
Text by Sage Boyers and Dr. Brian Hackett
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