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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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This is William J Williams. He’s my great grandfather.

    • Thank you so much for your comment. I am so glad that you were able to see this photograph. Your great grandfather was a very impressive individual and apparently a pioneer in integrating the military. I am certain that he had to deal with racism and many other obstacles. I am wondering if the biographical information that I provided, concerning Captain Williams, was correct. I would appreciate hearing more about him, if you are willing to share. This is one of the most treasured photographs in my entire collection. Thanks again.

    • My wife’s great grandfather, George Washington Braxton, was second lieutenant to Captain Williams in Company L of the Massachusetts 6th regiment during the Spanish-American War. We have some correspondence and a few photos from that time, but would love to learn more. Do you have documents or photos from those years?

      • Thanks for your comment. I have posted a few thousand photographs and I think this is one of the most fascinating photographs in my collection. Unfortunately, I have no other information to add to what I have written. At some point, I will do additional research. Thanks again for expanding on the information about Caption Williams and Liertenant Braxton. If you learn more, please let us know. bruce marsh

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