James Dent Walker Award Recipient 2013

Michael Nolden Henderson

James Dent Walker Award 2013

I was Incredibly honored to receive the James Dent Walker award for excellence in African American genealogy research from the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, Inc (AAHGS) on October 12, 2013 at this years AAHGS conference.

This award is named after James Dent Walker who was the Founder and the first President of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (National). In 1977, a few historians and genealogists, led by James Dent Walker, an archivist, met to discuss concerns and the need for an organization that would focus on the family history and genealogy of minority groups. They felt the research and support for these groups had been overlooked. This group wanted to encourage and support the historical and genealogical studies of families of all ethnic groups, with a special emphasis upon Afro-Americans. (Taken from AAHGS Fifth Anniversary Booklet: 1977 – 1982, compiled by Paul E. Sluby, Sr.)

In 1978 James Dent Walker was named as National Genealogy Society Fellow (FNGS) and in 1999 named National Genealogy Hall of Fame.

Tamela Tinpenny-Lewis, President of AAHGS, Inc., Michael Nolden Henderson (Recipient of the James Dent Walker Award 2013) Alica Harris Co-Chair of the Awards Committee.

(L-R) Tamela Tinpenny-Lewis,President, Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, Michael Nolden Henderson,James Dent Walker Award 2013, Alice Harris,Co-chairperson AwardsCommittee

Mrs Barbara Walker, Founder and Past President of AAHGS, Michael Nolden Henderson

Mrs Barbara Walker, Founder and Past President of AAHGS, Michael Nolden Henderson, James Dent Walker Award Recipient 2013

This was a special moment for me as I shared with Mrs. Barbara Walker, wife of the person the award I received is named after, James Dent Walker.  Mr. Walker was instrumental in spearheading the research and eventual gathering of African American and Native American patriots who participated in, yet were left out of, the narrative of the American Revolution.

Because of his work and that of many others in 2001, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) published a book identifying African Americans and American Indian Patriots of the Revolutionary War. Seven years later, an updated version was published in 2008 titled, Forgotten Patriots: African American and American Indian Patriots in the American Revolution, The Guide to Service, Source and Studies. The names of 32 men of color and one woman of color from Georgia identified as patriots of the American Revolution are included in this book. Three in particular I found interesting in Georgia were Austin Dabney,  Mammy Kate, and Daddy Jack (see page 617 once you download file).

In February 2011, I discovered the story of a heroic rescue made by an enslaved woman named Mammy Kate and her husband, Daddy Jack of their slaveholder named Captain Stephen Heard. Heard was captured by the British at the Battle of Kettle Creek on 14 Feb 1779, and was taken to a POW camp in Augusta, Georgia to be executed. Years after his rescue, he became the 12th Governor of Georgia. See more about Mammy Kate story here:

I questioned why these two enslaved persons, who had risked their lives to save their slaveholder, had not been recognized as patriots of the American Revolution. As the first African American inducted into the Georgia Society, Sons of the American Revolution (SAR), I suggested that my local SAR chapter honor Mammy Kate and Daddy Jack with a patriotic grave marking ceremony. On Oct 15, 2011, this ceremony was held see more here.  Patriot Kate became to first woman of color to be recognized as a Patriot of the American Revoluiton in the State of Georgia.


What an honor it was to receive the James Dent Walker award named for the man whose work inspired me and so many others to continue the work of researching and documenting African American and History and Genealogy.

Three Signers of the Declaration

Three Signers of the Declaration of Independence from Georgia Honored with Stone Markers, October 9, 2012

On October 9, 2012, many turned out to honor those who fought and died at the Battle of Savannah in 1779. A brief ceremony took place on the battlefield and included remarks by representatives of the Coastal Heritage Society, a cannon salute from the 3rd Infantry Division salute battery, and the placing of wreaths at the foot of the memorial.

Participants gathered at 7:15 a.m. in the parking lot of the Savanna Visitor’s Center and marched behind re-enactors to Battlefield Memorial Park. The route followed that of American and French soldiers who attacked British fortifications in the battle.

Afterward, a ceremony was held to honor the three signers of the Declaration of independence from Georgia: Button Gwinnett , George Walton, and Lyman Hall. Three stone markers — one for each patriot signer — were placed on the grounds of Battlefield Park.

Later that morning I ventured over and visited Franklin Square to view a monument honoring another group of men who fought at the Battle of Savannah. While visiting the Haitian Memorial Monument, I took a moment to remember the unselfish sacrifices for the cause of liberty and independence that these men rendered to a country not their own.

As a descendant of an American Revolutionary War patriot named Mathieu Devaux dit Platilla, who served in Spanish Colonial Louisiana under the command of Governor-General Bernardo de Galvez, I was honored when the Button Gwinnett Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution invited me to render honors by placing the wreath at a memorial honoring those who fought and died at the Battle of Savannah on October 9, 1779, some 233 years ago. 

While in Savannah, I also visited the Colonial Park Cemetery, where Button Gwinnett is buried.