In honor of Black History Month, the New Jersey State Library has announced a webinar celebrating the life and legacy of Henry Beard. Henry Beard was an enslaved African-American who would go on to become a Union Civil War Veteran. His life tells a tale of tenacity and triumph, and his story continues to be a source of inspiration today. The webinar will take place virtually on Friday, February 17th from 12:00-1:00pm. If you are interested in attending, you are welcome to register on Zoom here: Register – NJSL. The webinar will be hosted by Dustin Dumas and Taylor Weeks.

Henry Beard was born in enslavement, but he died a patriot and a hero. At the dawn of the Civil War, Beard managed to escape enslavement and joined the all-white regiment of the Union Army during the Civil War. Having overcome incredible odds, Beard went on to fight for his country and advance what is right. Even after the conclusion of the war, Beard went on to continue to advocate for meaningful change and racial justice. In the 1880s, Beard and his family became the first African-American family to voluntarily integrate in their small-town Illinois public school. This one-room schoolhouse, North Grove School, has since been put on the National Register of Historic Places. Beard’s remarkable story continues to be celebrated all throughout the country, and now is your opportunity to gain further insights to this magnificent life.

This fascinating conversation will be led by two equally engaging speakers. The first host, Dustin Dumas, is a speaker, author, television host, and producer. Dumas is frequently asked to speak on family history research, and has been invited to present on her Civil War veteran grandfathers at many places including the African American Civil War Museum in Washington D.C. In addition to speaking engagements, Dumas has also published articles regarding her Civil War veteran ancestors in a variety of newspapers and publications. She is a member of the Daughters of the Union Veterans of the Civil War and the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic. She has an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, a Certificate from WHU Koblenz School of Corporate Management in Koblenz, Germany and a BS from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.

Taylor Weeks will also be joining the panel to discuss the life of Henry Beard. Weeks is a high school student who holds leadership positions in several organizations. He is a member of the Sons of Union Veterans. During his initiation into the society on December 13th, 2014, Weeks officially became the youngest member to join the New Jersey chapter. Taylor has been a part of many of these events with his mother, Ms. Dumas, and he is looking forward to sharing more regarding his third and fourth great grandfathers who fought in the Civil War.

Celebrating figures like Henry Beard is a critical component of Black History Month. Stories like Mr. Beard’s exemplify the triumph of the African-American community, who despite all barriers, have continued to persist and thrive. Black History is important today and every day, but this February, let us take a bit of extra time to show our full appreciation for all this community has accomplished. If you have any questions prior to this engaging conversation, please feel free to contact the New Jersey State Library at (609) 278-2640 for additional details. There is much to be learned from the life of Henry Beard, so be sure to register today!

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