(01/12/2021)

Henry Robert Burke and Barack Obama

By Bob Weaver

As the culture has become less civil and polarized in the 21st Century, during long evenings in the Village of Hur, I ponder on the many ladies and gentlemen I have met across my lifetime.

These encounters, many doing the Hur Herald and in earlier years, have made my life a little better, including meeting black historian and author Henry Robert Burke of Marietta.

Thankfully my mother taught me they (minorities) are no better or worse than the rest of us.

The glimpses of history that Henry Robert Burke brought to light can be seen around southeastern Ohio, including works on the Underground Railroad. He died in 2012 at the age of 72.

Sometime in the late 1990s he called, inquiring about the back history of Calhoun. With Norma Knotts Shaffer, we had begun to assemble some stories about Calhoun's two black communities, Darky Fork and Racoon Run.

I took a few sheets of that information and traveled to Marietta to meet with him.

He was a humble and gracious man, to be remembered today with the passing of West Virginian Katherine Johnson at the age of 101, a black woman that rose to the top at NASA.

He authored several books on Underground Railroad history that contained information about people, places and abolitionist activities. Those books included "Washington County Underground Railroad," "Mason Dixon Line," "Mason Dixon Line Revised Edition," "Escape of Jane" and "The River Jordan," which he co-authored with Dick Croy.

He also wrote about the approximately 200 African-American men from Washington County and surrounding counties known to have enlisted to fight in the Civil War with the United States Colored Infantry.

Today we give this small ode to him.


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