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Allan D. Austin

a military leader in Africa, a slave in Mississippi, was born into the rising Bari family of the Fulbe people in the fabled but real African city of Timbuktu. His name is sometimes written as Abdul Rahahman and Abder Rahman. The Fulbe people were prominent leaders in West African jihads from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries and, though enslaved, the most persistent adherents to Islam in the Americas. Abd al-Rahman's father and family had moved south to territory soon to be called Futa Jallon in the highlands of present-day Guinea after he and non-Muslim allies wrested power from their animist opposition between 1776 and 1778. Well into the twentieth century the military Bari-Soriya and religious Karamoko Alfiya families, usually peacefully, traded rule over their people and lands.

For about a century Futa Jallon was the strongest nation in the area. In its capital Timbo, Abd al-Rahman ...

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Charles Rosenberg

landowner, businessman, and state legislator, was born enslaved in Dallas County Alabama, to parents named Sarah and Pete, who had been born in South Carolina. David, like his parents, was the property of a family named Abner. There is some dispute as to his birth date—some giving 1826 and others 1838—but the most reliable date appears to be December 1820, as suggested by a letter from his youngest daughter. It is not known when David took the Abner surname for himself, a common but by no means universal practice for formerly enslaved persons. He was sent to Texas in 1843, driving a covered wagon for the newly married daughter (Thelma) of the man who held title to him.

Her father considered his new son in law unreliable and entrusted David to get his daughter safely to her new home and manage ...

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David H. Anthony

Islamic scholar, Jamaican slave, and author, was born in Timbuktu, Mali. When he was two years old his family moved to Jenné in the western Sudan, another major center of Islamic learning and a renowned Sahelian trade city. Heir to a long tradition of Islamic saints and scholars claiming descent from the Prophet Muhammad, he was part of one of several dynasties designated as Sherifian or Shurfaa. Abu Bakr was trained and certified in Jenné by several ulama, the highly intellectual stratum of Islamic teachers. He was in the process of becoming a cleric when he was captured. As was true for many Islamized Africans caught in the vortex of the Atlantic slave trade, Abu Bakr's itinerant life had pre slave African and post slave black Atlantic dimensions His path shares the trajectory of many coreligionists from Muslim areas of the continent as well ...

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Darshell Silva

oral historian and centenarian, was born a slave in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to parents who were slaves brought to the United States from Barbados. She was moved to Dunk's Ferry in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, when she was ten years old to be with her master, of whom no information is available. There Alice lived as a slave, collecting ferry fares for forty years of her life.

Alice was a spirited and intelligent woman. She loved to hear the Bible read to her, but like most other enslaved people she could not read or write. She also held the truth in high esteem and was considered trustworthy. Her reliable memory served her well throughout her long life.

Many notable people of the time are said to have made her acquaintance like Thomas Story founder of the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane which was the precursor to ...

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Jacob Andrew Freedman

soldier, minister, and social activist, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the youngest of the six children of Levi Allensworth and Phyllis (maiden name unknown), slaves of the Starbird family. The Starbirds were respected members of the community and were partners in Wilson, Starbird, and Smith, a wholesale drug company based in Louisville. Levi died when Allen was an infant. Phyllis's other five children either had been sold down the Mississippi River or had escaped to Canada. Phyllis hoped that Allen could “even if partly educated, win his freedom” (Alexander, 9). Believing that God would play a role in his redemption as well, Phyllis named Allen after Richard Allen, the founder and first bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. In Allen Allensworth's early years he was given to Thomas Starbird, Mrs. Starbird's son, as a companion.

When Thomas was sent to school Allensworth s ...

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Kane Cross

was possibly born in Connecticut, but other than that he was born into slavery, nothing is known about his parents or his early years. Baker enlisted to fight in the Revolutionary War on 24 May 1777, in the town of New Haven. His name appears as both Bristol and Brister in multiple documents, presumably due to his being a slave before enlisting in the army. His discharge papers list the name as Brister.

Baker served during the years 1777–1783 until he was discharged in 1783; his discharge letter was signed and approved by General George Washington, the commander of the Continental Army, and does not indicate that he was a black soldier. It seems Connecticut recruiters had a difficult time bringing in soldiers, because by March 1777 Brigadier General Samuel Parsons reported that of the nine Connecticut regiments only two had 250 men far short of the ...

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Belinda  

Roy E. Finkenbine

a former slave who achieved renown in the era of the American Revolution by laying claim to a portion of the wealth of her former master's estate, was born in the region of West Africa known as the Gold Coast (later Ghana). Her early years were spent in a village on the Volta River. According to her later memories, it was an Edenic existence. However, when she was about age twelve, the Atlantic slave trade shattered this bucolic world. She was captured in a slaving raid, permanently separated from her parents, marched overland to the coast, and sold to European slave traders. For several weeks she endured the horrific Middle Passage with some three hundred other Africans in chains, who were “suffering the most excruciating torment” (Carretta, 143).

In about 1732, after six or seven years in North America, Belinda became the slave of Isaac Royall Jr. a ...

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Jane G. Landers

Haitian revolutionary, was born a slave in Cap Français (or Guarico, in Spanish), on the northern coast of Saint Domingue, in modern Haiti. Spanish documents give his parents' names as Carlos and Diana, and Biassou and his mother were the slaves of the Holy Fathers of Charity in Cap Français, where Biassou's mother worked in the Hospital of the Holy Fathers of Charity, probably as a laundress or cook. Biassou's father's owner and occupation are unknown.

In 1791 Biassou joined Boukman Dutty, a slave driver and coachman considered by the slaves to be a religious leader, and Jean‐François, also a slave from the Northern Plains of Saint Domingue, in leading the largest slave revolt in the Western Hemisphere on–the richest sugar colony of its day, French Saint Domingue. Boukman was killed in November of 1791 only three months into the revolt and Biassou and Jean François assumed command ...

Article

Bilali  

Allan D. Austin

Muslim leader and plantation manager, was born in Africa, sold into slavery, and transported to the Bahamas and then to Sapelo Island, Georgia. His name is also given as Bilali Mahomet and Bul‐Ali. Almost nothing is known about Bilali's life in Africa, but his fellow Fula or Peul (originally Malian) friend, Salih Bilali, who was enslaved on the neighboring island of Saint Simons, said that Bilali came from the village of Timbo, in Futa Jallon (later Guinea). This was an important Muslim educational and political community and the homeland of another Fula, Ibrahima abd al‐Rahman, who was enslaved in Mississippi. Bilali's strict adherence to Muslim ways and the book he wrote in Arabic show that he paid attention to his teachers in Africa. In the Bahamas Bilali married at least one of his four known wives before being brought to Georgia around 1802 He had a ...

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Billy  

William Seraile

a mixed race slave, also known as Will or William, was the subject of an alleged treason case during the American Revolution. Nothing is known about Billy's birth, family, or childhood.

The Billy, or Will, of the treason case was the slave of Colonel John Tayloe, a resident of Richmond County, Virginia. Billy and others were arrested and convicted of seizing an armed vessel on 2 April 1781 to wage war against Virginia. He was condemned to death by the court of Oyer and Terminer in Prince William County on 8 May. Henry Lee and William Carr, dissenting justices, noted that he was not a citizen and owed no allegiance to Virginia. Furthermore, Billy argued that others had forced him onto the vessel, and there was no evidence that he had gone aboard voluntarily.

Only Governor Thomas Jefferson could grant Billy a reprieve Jefferson was profoundly ambivalent ...

Article

Mary Krane Derr

slave and later servant, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to Perry Blake, a free African American, and his wife Charlotte, a slave in the household of a prominent merchant, Jesse Levering. The couple had several other children. In 1897 Jesse's daughter Sarah R. Levering published a booklet about Margaret Jane Blake's life through the Press of Innes & Son in Philadelphia. As of 2011 other sources concerning Blake s life were unknown Thus we should read this account with care recognizing that it provides only one perspective on Blake s life and that it comes from a member of the family who once owned her It nonetheless offers several insights on the life of an urban African American woman in slavery and freedom Levering designated the proceeds from the booklet s sale to a Presbyterian affiliated manual labor school for the benefit of the ...

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Darshell Silva

a Quaker, was born a slave near Rancocas, New Jersey, and was sometimes known as William Bowen or “Heston.” His owner treated him well, and Boen was allowed to learn to read and write. As a boy, Boen was afraid of dying during an Indian attack because of all of the stories circulating among the neighbors about others that were killed by Indians. Whenever he worked in the woods alone, he was on constant guard for Indian arrows. He felt he was not yet ready to die until he accepted what was within him that made him do good and reject evil, as the Quakers he was growing up around had done. The Society of Friends is a Christian sect founded by George Fox in 1660 that rejects formal sacraments a formal creed priesthood and violence They are also known as Quakers and are recognized by their plain speech ...

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Kari J. Winter

slave, sailor, soldier, and farmer, was born Boyrereau Brinch, the seventh of eight children (four boys and four girls) born to Whryn Brinch, the son of Yarrah Brinch, and of Whryn Douden Wrogan, the daughter of Grassee Youghgon. He lived in the city of Deauyah in the kingdom of Bow-woo, which was probably situated in the Niger River basin, in the area that would later become Mali. In 1758 when he was around the age of sixteen Boyrereau was abducted by slave traders transported to Barbados and sold to Captain Isaac Mills of New Haven Connecticut who trained him for British naval service Like thousands of other slaves and freed Africans in the Caribbean Brace as he would come to be called years later after his manumission This may have been an anglicized version of Brinch was forced to labor aboard ship during ...

Article

Broteer  

Matthew L. Harris

slave, entrepreneur, and autobiographer, was born in Guinea, Africa, to Saungm Furro, a West African prince with three wives. Broteer was the eldest son of the first wife. When he was six years old an “army supplied by whites” captured him and marched him to the coast (Smith, 544). During the capture Broteer had seen his father tortured and killed, a haunting memory that stayed with him for the rest of his life. After being imprisoned for two years Broteer was one of 260 Africans sold into slavery to a Rhode Island slaver named Robertson Mumford, who purchased Broteer for four gallons of rum and a piece of calico cloth. It was Mumford who gave Broteer his American name, Venture, a result, as Broteer recalled in his memoir, of his master “having purchased me with his own private venture” (Smith, 545).

With new slaves in tow Mumford s first ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

barber and Underground Railroad station operator, was born to free parents in Virginia, where he lived until moving to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1828. Although records in Ohio do not identify his parents, it is likely that he came from the large extended family of Browns in and around Charles City County, Virginia, descended from William Brown, born around 1670, who all had the status of “free colored.” Abraham Brown, born in 1769, was a founder of Elam Baptist Church of Charles City County. There were several men in the family named John, and newborns were often named for relatives.

“John Brown the barber,” as he was commonly known in Cleveland, may have been related to John Brown, born in 1768, head of a Chesterfield County family of eight “free colored” people in 1810, or John Brown, born in 1764 and his ...

Article

Gloria Grant Roberson

a devout Methodist, was born near New Brunswick, New Jersey, one of five children of slave parents. Buccau's life would have been lost forever if not for Memoir of Quamino Buccau, a Pious Methodist, (1851) published by William J. Allinson, an abolitionist member of a prestigious Burlington, New Jersey, Quaker family and a member of the Burlington County Antislavery Society. The two men, both Burlington residents from different races and backgrounds, shared a profound commitment to the doctrine of Christian love and charity. In an era of racial discord, the force of their mutual esteem is clearly evidenced throughout the pages of Allinson's tract about the humble, old black man whom he characterized as “lowly in heart” (Allinson, 8).

Buccau was someone with keen insight never complaining about his predicament For instance he knew that his name was of African origin that to retain it was ...

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Charles Rosenberg

baker, community leader, cautious abolitionist, and patriarch of a talented African American family well known into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, was born in Burlington, New Jersey. His narrative records that he belonged to “the Estate of Samuel Bustill of the City of Burlington, but he Dying when I was Young I was Sold to John Allen of the Same City” (Bustill, p. 22). The name of Bustill's mother is recorded only as Parthenia; Samuel Bustill, an English‐born lawyer who died in 1742, was his father as well as his owner.

Many sources, including Lloyd Louis Brown's detailed history of the Bustill family in The Young Paul Robeson: On My Journey Now (1997), leave out the Allen family, and assert that Samuel Bustill's widow, Grace, arranged for Cyrus Bustill to be apprenticed to Thomas Pryor Jr. However Bustill s own account ...

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Glenn Allen Knoblock

Revolutionary War sailor, is a man about whom little is known. Thought to have been a slave at some time in his life, Carlisle enlisted for service in the Continental navy aboard the sloop of war Ranger in July 1777 at Portsmouth, New Hampshire. This 18-gun, 318-ton craft was commanded by the famed Captain John Paul Jones. Earlier writers have erroneously stated that Carlisle, as well as another black member of Ranger's crew, Scipio Africanus, were slaves owned by Captain Jones. Though Cato Carlisle was a free black from the Piscataqua region, records do not state whether he was already a freeman or used his enlistment bounty money to buy his freedom. Just who Carlisle's former master was is open to speculation. Two possibilities include the Carlisle family of Portsmouth or Captain Daniel Carlisle of Westmoreland, New Hampshire.

Despite the meagerness of details regarding Cato Carlisle ...

Article

Timothy Nicholson

a Revolutionary War soldier, was born Edward Carter in Colchester, Connecticut, to Edward (Ned) and Jenny Carter. Edward had six siblings, Aaron, Jacob, Asher, Esau, Sally, and an unidentified child who died in 1763. Ned, Jenny, and Edward were documented slaves of Mr. Jonathan Kellogg of Colchester, as were three of Edward's six siblings. Some of the remaining siblings may also have been slaves. Edward's father served in the armed forces at Crown Point during the campaign of 1755 in the French and Indian War, earning his emancipation as a result. It is possible that Ned Carter served on the behalf of Mr. Kellogg, a common practice at the time, but there are no records stating that this was so. The children were not all owned by Jonathan Kellogg, but divided among his sons. Ned also served during the American Revolution from 1777 to 1783 ...

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M. Kelly Beauchamp

slave and soldier in the Continental army, is a person about whom little early information is available. Nothing is known of his parents, childhood, or young life. What is known is that Charlton served as a teamster, a fairly common assignment for African American soldiers. States tended to use African American troops, particularly in the early years of the war, as unarmed privates to serve the functions of orderlies, servants, or regimental musicians or else consigned them to logistical functions. Charlton, however, despite being a teamster, often found himself in combat situations.

The Continental army raised by the Continental Congress was multiracial, but soon after George Washington took command in the spring of 1775 he ordered recruiting officers not to enlist African Americans. In a council of war on 8 October 1775 Washington and other prominent officers decided unanimously to bar all slaves and by a wide majority all ...