Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

John B. Anderson (1835-1918)
MSA SC 3520-1750


John B. Anderson was born on December 22, 1835, on the farm of Stephen Lee in West River, Anne Arundel County, Maryland. He was one of fourteen children born to Benjamin and Nancy (Brashears) Anderson. John was born free, but his father was a slave of Alfred Sellman. Anderson married three times: Lavinia Smothers in Annapolis in September 1864; Anna Simmons in Annapolis in January 1877; and Mary Sattlefield in Annapolis on February 25, 1891. John B. Anderson died on April 27, 1918, at Crownsville State Hospital in Anne Arundel County. He is buried at the Annapolis National Cemetery.

Anderson joined the United States Colored Troops in 1863, serving in Company A of the 75th Massachusetts Infantry under Col. Putnam, until his discharge in January 1864. He returned to Annapolis and worked in Navy Yard, loading and unloading cargo, until his enlistment in the Navy in Newport, Rhode Island, on February 12, 1865. Among the ships he served on were the Dale, Winnipeg,and Santee. Anderson fulfilled his required two years of service, and was discharged at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis on February 12, 1867. Following his discharge from the Navy, Anderson lived in Annapolis, where he worked as a carpenter and a laborer.

In 1908, the Maryland General Assembly passed a law which created a "grandfather clause" concerning voters registered for municipal elections in Annapolis. As a result, African-American voters were disenfranchised. Anderson, William H. Howard, and Robert Brown filed suit questioning the validity of the law. The case made its way to the United States Supreme Court, which declared the clause invalid in 1915.

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