From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Barnett, Peter W.

(born: 1871) Peter W. Barnett was an author, educator, journalist, publisher, veteran, and musician. He was born in Carrsville, Livingston County, KY, the son of Sarah (b. 1840) and Peter Barnett (1830-1898). [Peter Sr. is listed as white in the 1870 U.S. Federal Census.]

Peter W. Barnett taught school in Kentucky. He was educated in Kentucky and Indiana, moving in 1891 to Indiana to attend high school. He went on to become a student for two years at Indiana State Normal in Terre Haute [now Indiana State University]. He was employed at Union Publishing Company, which published the first labor paper in Indianapolis; the company later moved its headquarters to Chicago.

During the winter of 1896, Barnett opened a night school in Indianapolis. He was also a reporter and representative for the African American newspaper, Freeman. Barnett and J. T. V. Hill [James Thomas Vastine Hill] published the Indianapolis Colored Business Chart Directory in 1898, the goal of which was "to promote industry and race patronage and to encourage business enterprise." Hill was an African American lawyer in Indianapolis, opening his office in 1882 [source: Encyclopedia of Black America, by W. A. Low and V. A. Clift]. He was the first African American to be admitted to the Indianapolis Bar. Peter Barnett would become his understudy while  in the military.

Barnett was 28 years old when he enlisted in the U.S. Army in Indianapolis, IN on March 13, 1899. He was assigned to the 24th Infantry, Company L. In December 1899, while stationed at Ft. Wrangle, AK, Barnett, who had been studying law under Hill, gave up that study because there were no resource facilities (i.e., libraries) available to him in Alaska. He then began to study music and organized a group of musicians (who were also soldiers) that he named the Symphony Orchestra of Company L, 24th Infantry. Most of the men could not read music.

At his request, Barnett was discharged from the Indiana Colored Infantry on March 12, 1900 at Fort Wrangle, AK [source: U.S. Army Register of Enlistments]. He sued the U.S. Army for travel pay that he did not receive when he requested to be discharged. (See the Supreme Court case of Peter W. Barnett v. United States, pp. 49-59, in Cases Decided in the Court of Claims of the United States at the term of 1901-02. Decisions of the Supreme Court in Appealed Cases from October, 1901, to May, 1902, v.XXXVII  [online at Google Books].)

For more see "Peter Barnett..." in the last paragraph of the article "Camp Capron Notes," Freeman, 10/1/1898, p. 8; "Night School," Freeman, 10/24/1896, p. 8; On the Trail of the Buffalo Soldier, by F. N. Schubert; quotation from "Local Notes," Freeman, 12/11/1897, p. 4-Supplement; and "From Alaska," Freeman, 12/30/1899, p. 9.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Livingston County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Carrsville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

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“Barnett, Peter W.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed April 15, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-05-22 16:41:08