Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett was an Black-American educator, leader, abolitionist, and civil rights activist.
Bassett was born in Derby, Connecticut on October 16, 1833 to parents Eben Tobias and Susan Gregory. During the mid-1800s, Bassett attended college, becoming the first black student to integrate into the Connecticut Normal School in 1853. He then taught in New Haven, befriending the legendary abolitionist Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, February 1818 – February 20, 1895). Later, he became the 2nd principal of Institute for Colored Youth (ICY) In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (now Cheyney University of Pennsylvania). Dedicated to educating black youth in the country. Bassett focused on teaching the Youth Latin, Greek, mathematics and science.
During the American Civil War, Bassett became one of the city’s leading voices into the cause behind that conflict, the liberation of four million black slave and helped recruit African American soldiers for the Union Army. United States 18th President, Ulysses S. Grant (born Hiram Ulysses Grant; April 27, 1822 – July 23, 1885), nominated Bassett to become Minister Resident to Haiti (the title Ambassador in today’s U.S.). This title made Bassett one of the highest ranking black members of the United States government. During his tenure the American Minister Resident also dealt with cases of citizen commercial claims, diplomatic immunity for his consular and commercial agents, hurricanes, fires, and numerous tropical diseases.
The case that posed the greatest challenge to Bassett, however, was Haitian political refugee General Pierre Théoma Boisrond-Canal ( June 12, 1832 – March 6, 1905). The general was among the band of young leaders who had successfully ousted the former Haiti President Sylvain Salnave (1827–1870), from power in 1869. By the time of the subsequent Michel Domingue (July 28, 1813 – May 24, 1877), regime in the mid 1870s Canal had retired to his home outside the capital. Domingue, the new Haitian President, however, brutally hunted down any perceived threat to his power including Canal. General Canal came to Bassett and requested political asylum. A standoff resulted, with Bassett’s home surrounded by over a thousand of Domingue’s soldiers. Finally, after five-month siege of his residence, Bassett negotiated Canal’s safe release for exile in Jamaica.
Upon the end of the Grant Administration in 1877, Bassett submitted his resignation as was customary with a change of hands in government. When he returned to the United States, he spent an additional ten years as the Consul General for Haiti in New York City, New York City. Bassett returned to Philadelphia, where he moved near his daughter Charlotte, who also taught at ICY. On November 13, 1908, Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett died in Philadelphia. He was 75-years-old.