Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett was appointed as the U.S. Minister Resident to Haiti in April 1869 by President Ulysses S. Grant, making him the first African-American diplomat ever, and the fourth U.S. ambassador to Haiti.
Bassett was born October 16, 1833 in Derby, Conn. To a middle-class and free Black family, despite slavery still being legal in the state at the time. In 1853, he became the first Black student at the Connecticut Normal School, now known as Central Connecticut State University.
He went on to become a principal at the Institute of Colored Youth in Philadelphia, which eventually became known as Cheyney University. It was during his tenure at ICY that Bassett became a known Black rights activist and a strong ally of abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
President Grant personally sought out Black leaders for important political appointments, selecting Bassett for both his intelligence and the symbolic gesture of a Black diplomat for the nation known for its resistance to slavery and imperialism. Haiti was independent from France since 1804, but the United States government didn’t recognize the nation until 1862.
Bassett served in the post until 1877, and then returned to the United States to serve as Consul General for Haiti in New York City.
Ebenezer Bassett passed in November 1908.