351st Field Artillery [African American] Troops on the Deck of the “Louisville.” Part of the Squadron “A” 351st Field Artillery, [African American] troops who returned on the Transport Louisville (National Archive). The company of Boston Allen, Jr.
1921 Graduating Class Russell’s School of Beauty Culture (Norfolk, VA) Great Grandmother Gracie May Williams Allen (in lightest colored dress)
Grandmother Rosa May Allen (Woodley)
My first cousin Jordan Woodley (granddaughter of Rosa May Allen Woodley)
My Nice Dana “Day” Allen, Great granddaughter of Rosa May Allen Woodley
My Daughter Khera B. Allen Great granddaughter of Rosa May Allen Woodley
The Allen-Woodley side of my family are descended from a man called Cicero (one record says Caesar) who was enslaved in Sierra Leone (West Africa) in the early 1700’s and transported to America as a slave, landing in Boston, MA.
Cicero eventually bought back his freedom, changed his name to John Williams and married a Native American woman from Nantucket Island, MA called Priscilla. They moved to Prince William County, VA.
For my generation, John Williams Sr. and Priscilla were our 4x great grandparents.
The Williams were free men in America from the 1700’s.
In 1888, John’s grandson, John Williams III, a fishing boat deck hand, married Anna “Annie” Fountain, the daughter of Isaac Fountain and May “Mary” Major of Prince Georges County, MD. They had a daughter, Gracie May Williams, born on October 26, 1889—she was my great-grandmother.
Gracie married Boston Allen Jr. of Fayetteville, NC, (son of Rosa, a Cherokee Indian and Boston, Sr. who was the son of Claude Allen, reportedly of European and West Indian extraction-not sure which island yet) My brother (David) and I and our children are the only related Allen(s) (with that exact name) that we know of – although we know Claude Allen of Fayette, NC had several offspring, according to an old family Bible which names them.
Gracie and Boston had a son, James Isaac Allen, who was a Booker T. Washington High School (Norfolk, VA) football star; and a daughter, Rosa May Allen (Woodley), (named after his mother, Rosa) born on March 23, 1910. She was my father’s mother, “Grandma Ro.”
My father was born James Oliver Isaac Allen Sr., later dropped the Isaac, thus I am James Oliver Allen, Jr.
Great grandpa Boston Allen Jr. was killed in WWI, under the command of General John Joseph “Black Jack” Pershing. Pictured is the US government document from the now defunct “Treasury Department, Bureau of War Risk Insurance” (dated May 4, 1921) that confirms Great Grandpa Boston’s service (C-40 720. Boston Allen, Jr., Private, Battalion D, 351st F.A. [Field Artillery] HHC/sc-12) and the death benefits to our great grandmother Gracie May Williams Allen and her minor children (Grandma Rosa May Allen (Woodley) and Great Uncle James Isaac Allen.
As the story goes, the Armistice (peace deal) was struck, but Pershing sent his black troops into battle anyway.
They same year of the documented veteran’s death-benefit claim, 1921, Great Grandma Gracie Williams Allen graduated (pictured) from Russell’s School of Beauty Culture in Norfolk, VA.
The death-benefits claim from Great Grandpa Boston was still active through August 7, 1978 (per the attached document). The War Risk Department became the modern day Veterans Administration. Grandma Gracie, who moved into my parents’ home, into my bedroom, when I moved out, died in 1985, shortly before her 96th birthday
So far, no picture of Boston Allen Jr. survives in the family “archives,” but I found a picture of his regiment. Pictured above are soldiers of the 351st Field Artillery. Perhaps my Great Grandpa Boston Allen Jr. is among these men.
The original photo caption reads: “351st Field Artillery [African American] Troops on the Deck of the “Louisville.” Part of the Squadron “A” 351st Field Artillery, [African American] troops who returned on the Transport Louisville. These men are mostly from Pennsylvania.”
The family resemblance is striking to my Grandma Rosa May Allen Woodley (1910-1958),by three of her descendants (R-L) Khera Allen (my eldest daughter), DAY Allen (Dana-my niece) and Jordan Woodley (my first cousin of Tampa, FL).
Grandma Rosa’s hair was halfway down her back (but curled tightly in this photo) — perhaps passed down by her 2x great grandmother Priscilla, a Nantucket Native America woman, who married the former slave Cicero (John Williams Sr. – who purchased his freedom in Boston, MA the mid 1700s).