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Benjamin Arthur Quarles
Born January 23, 1904
Boston, Massachusetts
Died November 16, 1996
Baltimore, Maryland
Occupation History professor
Nationality American
Education B.A., M.A., PhD
Alma mater Shaw University
University of Wisconsin–Madison
Notable works The Negro in the Making of America
Notable awards Rosenwald Fellowship (1938, 1945),
Carnegie Corporation Advancement Teaching Fellowship (1944),
Social Science Research Council Fellowship (1957),
Guggenheim Fellowship (1959),
Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History Lifetime Achievement Award(1996)
Spouse Vera Bullock (1951)
Ruth Brett (1996)
Children Pamela Quarles
Roberta Quarles

Benjamin Arthur Quarles (January 23, 1904 – November 16, 1996) was an American historian, administrator, educator, and writer, whose scholarship centered on black American social and political history. Major books by Quarles include The Negro in the Civil War (1953), The Negro in the American Revolution (1961), Lincoln and the Negro (1962), and Black Abolitionists (1969). He demonstrated that blacks were active participants in major conflicts and issues of American history. His books were narrative accounts of critical wartime periods that focused on how blacks interacted with their white allies and emphasized blacks' acting as vital agents of change rather than receiving favors from whites.


Quarles was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1904. His parents were Margaret (O'Brien), a homemaker, and Arthur Benedict Quarles, a subway porter. As a boy, Benjamin went to local public schools.

In his twenties, Quarles enrolled at Shaw University, the first historically black college in the South, in Raleigh, North Carolina, and received his B.A. degree in 1931. He earned his M.A. degree from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1933, and Ph.D. from there in 1940. Initially he faced resistance for wanting to write Black history, but finally received support for his goal. He learned his writing style from Professor William Hesseltine.

He returned to Shaw, working as an instructor of history (1935–39). He next taught at Dillard University (1939–1953) in New Orleans, Louisiana. There he became a full professor and also served as dean. His last appointment was as professor of history and chair of the department at Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland (1953–1974). At Morgan, Quarles reached near-legendary status as the long-time head of the History Department. He was a revered teacher and counselor, an intellectual and professional mentor for two generations of African-American scholars. Many of his books became required reading in the African-American history courses that were developed in American universities during the 1960s. This movement was inspired both by the civil rights movement and increasing scholarly interest in the history of minorities and women. After Quarles's official retirement in 1969, he was awarded professor emeritus status and kept teaching for several years.

Quarles was an active member of many political and historical organizations, such as Project Advisory Committee on Black Congress Members, the committee to oversee the founding of the Amistad Center at Tulane University, the Department of the Army Historical Advisory Committee, and the American Council of Learned Societies. He was one of the few men in the profession who openly supported the founding of the Association of Black Women Historians.


A prolific writer, Benjamin Quarles published ten books, 23 articles, and hundreds of shorter pieces of various sorts. In his writings, he focused on exploring in detail the contributions made by the black soldiers and abolitionists of the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), and the American Civil War (1861–1865). His essays in the Mississippi Valley Historical Review in 1945 and 1959 were the first from a Black historian to be published in a major historical journal.

His books include:

  • Frederick Douglass (1948) (published dissertation)
  • The Negro in the Civil War (1953)
  • The Negro in the American Revolution (1961)
  • Lincoln and the Negro (1962)
  • The Negro in the Making of America (1964)
  • Frederick Douglass, edited by Benjamin Quarles (1968) (Great Lives Observed)
  • Black Abolitionists (1969)
  • Blacks on John Brown (1972)
  • Allies for Freedom (1974)
  • Black Mosaic: Essays in Afro-American History and Historiography (1988)

Legacy and honors

Quarles died in 1996 of a heart attack at the age of 92.

  • 1988: Publishes Black Mosaic: Essays in Afro-American History and Historiography. Received American Historical Association's Senior Historian Scholarly Distinction Award.
  • 1988: Morgan State University dedicated The Benjamin A. Quarles African-American Studies Room in the university library, as a repository for his books, manuscripts, and memorabilia.
  • 1996: Receives the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 2013: Quarles was inducted into the Great Blacks in Wax Museum, Inc. in Baltimore.
  • Dr. Benjamin Quarles Place, a short downtown residential street just west of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., in Baltimore, MD, is named after Quarles.
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