The first American diplomat to defy his boss—the secretary of state—to give sanctuary to a dissident, and who endured the siege of his home as thanks for championing human rights, was born to care about freedom intensely: he was America’s first African-American ambassador, too.
Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett had not been a slave. He never fought in the Civil War. He was bookish not macho. But he was tough.
The defining episode of his diplomatic career occurred in 1875 as he represented the United States to Haiti (the term ambassador came into use in 1893). Haiti, the first black republic and the Americas’ second free republic, was in chaos. While assuring Bassett he was a “lover of justice,” the country’s new leader Michel Domingue was hunting down opponents.