Amanuensis Monday: Leander Singleton Gilliam, Knights of Pythias

This is an updated post for Amanuensis Monday

Leander Singleton Gilliam
Singleton Family Photo Collection

This is an article that my cousin sent me of my Great Grand Uncle Leander S. Gilliam.  Leander passed as white  during his life in Worcester, MA. He and his family identified with the white population even though they knew they were of African descent.  Leander’s wife was white, and his boys distinctly had “African” blood. However, they lived in the predominately white neighborhoods, and the boys each married white women.Across town, yet not too far away, Leander’s mother, Hannah Singleton-Nelson Gilliam, being very fair herself, lived in the Negro community, served as an active member, and worked for a prominent White family “The Higgins”  as a laundress.  Leander’s mother had been a slave

However, Leander still continued to the end of his days, along with his family descendant line, to continue to pass as white, not knowing their full ancestry. [Of course by now, from this blog post and research, it has been revealed to them.]  Their family was intertwined by the slave owner and the slave…Leander’s father had been a child of the slave owner.

Leander still associated with his family only at night or during times that the family would not be found out.  My grandmother Agnes was sent to Leander’s when she, out of spite, threw black coffee, dregs and all on her grandmother Hannah’s freshly hung laundry.  She stayed there until the wrath of anger simmered down and Agnes could go back home, as Hannah provided care to the family.  Agnes was not introduced as family to strangers, but as a friend, or viewed as a maid.

It is interesting how this happened in many situations throughout history.

Race Gleanings

Freeman Newspaper
October 14, 1905

At Washington D.C. and other cities that have a large Negro population a recent decision of Charles E. Shiveley of Richmond, Ind., supreme chancelor of the Knights of Pythias is causing much comment.

Leander S. Gilliam, a Negro, who is so light of complexion that few people are able to detect his African blood, joined Freedom Lodge, Knights of Pythias, of Worcester, Mass.  Gilliam was such a good fellow that Freedom Lodge refused to drop him from its rolls, even after the fact of his surreptitious advent into the lodge were known.  Charges against the lodge were preferred by K. Warner Kelso, and now, under a decision of Mr. Shiveley, unless the lodge drops Gilliam, it may lose its charter.




The Singleton name is the surname of the Slave Master my family belonged to.  My Great Great Grandmother, it was told me was a child of her Slave Master as were her son a child of the slave owner’s son.  I am still in the stages of proving this, but it is very clear that my Gilliam’s were of African and European descent.    I hope to uncover more of this information so that our families can have a coming together.  It is time for us to embrace our histories, heal and forgive the past.