James H. Harris.
by Lisa Y. Henderson
Born a slave around 1830 in Granville County, James Harris was freed in 1848. After receiving his freedom, Harris was apprenticed to a carpenter and later opened his own business in Raleigh. Harris left North Carolina prior to the Civil War and attended school at Oberlin College in Ohio for two years, followed by trips to Canada and Africa. In 1863, he received a commission to organize the 28th Regiment of United States Colored Troops in Indiana. (Note: Contrary to the original marker inscription, Harris did not serve as a Union colonel. The text has been rewritten and the marker reordered.) After the Civil War, Harris moved back to his native state as a teacher affiliated with the New England Freedmen’s Aid Society. He became involved in Reconstruction politics and was one of the charter members of the state’s Republican Party after serving as a delegate to the state’s Freedmen’s Convention in 1865. A staunch advocate for the rights of African Americans, Harris sought to provide a voice for equality while maintaining a moderate tone. His philosophy was that blacks and whites had to work together to promote the interests of each race. A gifted speaker, Harris received numerous appointments, including service as a delegate to the state’s 1868 constitutional convention. He was elected a state legislator in the house, 1868-1870, and 1883 and in the senate, 1872-1874. Harris also served Raleigh as a city alderman and as an advocate for the construction of the Colored Institution for the Deaf, Dumb, and Blind. Harris was appointed vice-president of the National Equal Rights Convention in 1865, president of the National Convention of Colored Men in 1869, and vice-president of the National Black Convention in 1877. He attended the 1868, 1872, and 1876 Republican National Conventions, serving as a presidential elector in 1872. Harris edited the North Carolina Republican in the 1880s and pushed for reforms for the protection of laborers, women, orphans and other disadvantaged groups. Harris died in 1891 in Washington, D.C. and was buried at Mount Hope Cemetery in Raleigh.
Adapted from http://www.ncmarkers.com