Greece has not always been a free country. The Turks reigned until the 1800s. Many battles were fought for Greece to achieve independence. And several people fought for Greece, but have you heard about the black soldier who helped the Greeks win their freedom?
James Jakob Williams was an African American Philhellene from Baltimore, Maryland, who served as a Marine in the US Navy. After his term in the Navy, he went to Greece to continue serving what he loved.
What Happened at the Barbary War?
James Jakob Williams was an African American soldier who actively participated in the Second Barbary War. He was under the command of Admiral Stephen Decatur of the Guerriere in The Algerine War. Then-President James Madison requested Congress to approve the war against Algiers and was authorized on February 23, 1815.
They captured the ship Meshouda where Raïs Hamidou was killed on June 17, 1815. After damaging the Algiers fleet, Admiral Stephen Decatur dictated terms of peace that took place on June 29, 1815. (Source: William Clements Library)
Williams showed significant bravery during the battle and was noticed by Stephen Decatur. In January 1827, when his term of service was completed in the US Navy, he arrived in Greece. He was then appointed to be the assistant of Thomas Cochrane, a British Philhellene Admiral.
Even after Cochrane left Greece in December 1827, Williams stayed and joined different battles in both land and sea. He risked his life by discreetly gaining access to several valuable pieces of information.
In one of the battles in Nafpaktos, West Greece, the brave African American led the Greeks and took control of an unmanned ship, Sotir. To avoid damaging the vessel, Williams got the enemy’s attention, and they fired on him, saving the boat from being captured. Williams got seriously injured by a cannon. He fractured his arm and leg during this battle. This African American Philhellene fought with the Greeks and offered his life for them. He passed away in 1829. (Source: Society for Hellenism and Philhellenism)
200 Years of Independence
Before Greece became an independent country, they were part of the Ottoman Empire since 1453. Last 2021, they celebrated their 200 years of freedom. Their independence was claimed on March 25, 1821.
Bishop Germanos of Patras raised the flag of revolution in the Peloponnese over the Monastery of Agia Lavra. The revolution battle cry was Freedom or Death. This act marked the country’s beginning to reclaim its independence. (Source: Greek Reporter)
Despite the pandemic, many citizens still participated in the celebration. Among those who joined the parade was Prince Charles. The British prince joined the celebration in homage to his father’s national roots. Prince Philip was born into a Greek royal family. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin joined him.
To commemorate the anniversary, the center of Athens was filled with white and blue flowers forming the Greek flag. US President Joe Biden also addressed the nation in a televised message, promising that the relationship between the two countries will be closer than ever. (Source: Aljazeera)
Honoring James Jakob Williams
Although not much information can be seen about this brave Philhellene, The Society of Hellenism and Philhellenism honored Williams for dedicating his life to the service as a free man in a free Greece.
Freedom’s Journal was the first newspaper of African Americans in the United States who published articles about the impact of the Greek Revolution in March 1827 in New York. The main interest of Freedom’s Journal was the struggle against slavery that was reflected in Greek Revolution. (Source: Athens Voice)