The Hackleys were among the many free people of color who migrated north in the years before the Civil War. The Hackley forbearer, the Reverend John William Hackley, had been a Baptist minister and a slave on the Virginia farm of John Hackley, husband to the first cousin of George Washington's mother, Mary Ball Washington. Reverend Hackley (Billy) became a carpenter and preacher, and had nine girls and seven boys. He and his family were freed circa 1830s and migrated to Ohio, then later to Niles, Michigan. His children became early settlers in southwest Michigan.

The Hackleys second son, John, became a barber and opened a shop in Battle Creek. He married Susan Belmore and their son, Edwin, born in 1859, became the first African American lawyer admitted to the bar in Denver, Colorado. His wife, Azalia Smith Hackely, was a well-known opera singer and social activist who believed that African American music could be used as a tool for social change. A memorial collection of her creative works has been on display at the Detroit Public Library since 1943.

Azalia Smith Hackely

Both their youngest son, Jerome, born in 1849 in Niles, Michigan, and his son, Bert, born in 1880 in Paw Paw, became barbers. Bert owned and operated a shop in Kalamazoo and lived at 1702 North Burdick with his wife, Della Smith, whom he married in 1901. Bert's oldest son, Donald Hackley, became a barber as well, but Donald's son Arthur and daughter Donna Hackley Powell became doctors. Donna was the first African American woman to become chief of medicine at the Battle Creek Veteran's Administration Hospital (1957–1983). Donald's middle son Charles became an Income Tax Accountant and Mortgage Broker in Fort Wayne, IN. His son Eric, also from Fort Wayne carries on the family genealogical documentation tradition and curiosity.

Donald Hackley

Reverend Hackley's fourth son, Calvin Hackley, was the great grandfather of Valerie Hackley Osborn, presently a librarian with the Kalamazoo Public Library. Calvin was born in 1836 in Virginia and was raised in Niles. He served in the 13th United States Colored Infantry. His brothers, Asbery and Marcelus, served in the 1st Michigan Colored Infantry. Calvin and his wife, Lydia Ann, were farmers in Niles where they raised six children. Calvin and his second wife, Ann, moved to Kalamazoo in the late 1880s and he became a pony express man. They lived at 715 Michigan Avenue.

Calvin Hackley and his wife, Lydia Ann Hackley c. 1870s

Travis Hackley, Calvin's youngest son, was a farmer in Lawton, Michigan. He married Frances King, the daughter of Alfred and Mary King, early pioneers in Paw Paw. Travis and Frances had nine children. Their youngest son, Valentine, was one of the first African Americans in Kalamazoo to establish his own janitorial service. He married Edith Conner, the great granddaughter of William Bright Conner, one of the first African Americans to settle in Covert, Michigan in 1866.

Calvin and Edith's grandson (son of Harold Walden and Peggy Hackley Walden), Narada Michael Walden, produced albums for Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, and Jefferson Starship. He received the 1988 Grammy for Best Producer of the year.

Narada Michael Walden
Created By
SHARE Society for History And Racial Equity
Narada Michael Walden photo: Rebecca Sapp | Getty Images

Made with Adobe Slate

Make your words and images move.

Get Slate

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.