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Adam W. Green

was the second of three children born to two freed slaves, Eben Tobias, a farmer, and Susan Gregory, a mixed-race Pequot Indian, in Derby, Connecticut. An education proponent and political activist, Bassett became America's first black diplomat when he served as Resident Minister in Haiti for eight years, helping pave the way for those seeking opportunities in international diplomacy and public service.

Along with his mixed race birth and royal lineage that his family claimed from Africa Bassett whose surname came from a generous white family close to his grandfather s former owners also had elected office in his blood His grandfather Tobiah who won his freedom after fighting in the American Revolution had been elected a Black Governor as had Bassett s father Eben The largely nominal honorific was bestowed upon respected men in various locales via Election Days sometimes by a voice vote these Black Governors ...

Article

Diane Mutti Burke

author of a slave narrative, was born to slave parents in Prince Edward County, Virginia. The Lemuel Bruce family, including Pettis and Rebecca (Bruce) Perkinson, owned Henry Bruce and his mother and siblings. Bruce's many siblings included his younger brother, Blanche Kelso Bruce, the senator from Mississippi from 1875 to 1881.

Bruce spent most of his early childhood years on plantations and farms in Virginia, Missouri, and—briefly—Mississippi. Pettis Perkinson brought Bruce, his mother, and siblings back to Chariton County, Missouri, where he permanently settled in 1850 From the age of nine Bruce was frequently hired out to other employers in the community and worked at a variety of occupations including brick making tobacco manufacturing and general farm labor Bruce had a self described desire to learn and was taught to read by his young owner and playmate William Perkinson The older Bruce children taught their younger siblings ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

building foreman and caretaker, U.S. mail coach driver, Montana pioneer, also known as Black Mary or Stagecoach Mary, was born a slave in Hickman County, Tennessee. Information about Fields's parentage and early life remain unconfirmed, although James Franks, whose grandparents knew Fields in the late 1800s in Montana, writes that Fields was the daughter of Suzanna and Buck, slaves of the Dunne family, owners of a Hickman County plantation. The Dunnes sold Buck immediately following Mary's birth. According to Franks, the Dunnes allowed Suzanna to keep her daughter with her in quarters behind the kitchen, and Mary enjoyed a relatively privileged childhood, even becoming friends with the Dunne's daughter Dolly, who was about the same age as Mary. This arrangement, Franks writes, lasted until Suzanna's death forced fourteen-year-old Mary to take over her mother's household duties.

Whether or not Franks s account is accurate it is ...

Article

Mary Fields was born a slave in Tennessee, but little else is known of her early life. Some historical accounts have placed her on the Mississippi River in the early 1870s, and at least one researcher claims that she was a passenger on the Robert E. Lee when it raced the steamer Natchez in June 1870. By 1884 Fields was living in Toledo, Ohio, where she worked as a handywoman for an order of Ursuline nuns. She became attached to the mother superior of the convent, Mother Amadeus, who is variously reported as a close friend or as the master in a master-servant relationship. Shortly after Fields arrived at the convent, Mother Amadeus left for Montana to open a school for Blackfeet Native American girls. When Mother Amadeus fell ill in Helena, Fields came to her aid and decided to stay in Montana.

Fields assisted the Catholic mission ...

Article

Kelli Cardenas Walsh

The story of Mary Fields is one of race, gender, and age. She was the antithesis of the nineteenth-century Victorian image of womanhood. In an age of domesticity, Fields lived a frontier life dependent upon no one and uninhibited by Jim Crow.

A former slave, in freedom Fields became an independent, gunslinging, liquor-drinking woman in the untamed frontier of Montana. She stood six feet tall and was stout. Details about the early life of Mary Fields are sparse, other than that she was born into slavery in 1832. Judge Dunn in Hickman County, Tennessee, owned Fields and presumably owned her family. She was befriended by her master’s daughter, Dolly, and remained with the family after Emancipation.

Once she left the Dunn family Fields spent an unspecified time in Ohio and along the Mississippi River During this time Dolly joined a convent of Ursuline nuns taking the name of ...

Article

Lois Kerschen

Clinton Bowen Fisk, the sixth son of Benjamin and Lydia Fisk, was born in Livingston County, New York. His father had been a captain in the army, and his grandfather served as a major general under George Washington. The Fisk family moved to a settlement they called Clinton in Lenawee County, Michigan, while Clinton Bowen was still an infant. Benjamin Fisk died when Clinton was six, however, and Lydia was not able to hold onto the property. At age nine, Clinton Fisk apprenticed himself to a local farmer, but one year later he had to return home because his younger brother died. When Fisk was thirteen, his mother married William Smith, a successful farmer from Spring Arbor, who sent Fisk to Albion Seminary, a Methodist school in Michigan.

Fisk later went into business as a clerk for L. D. Crippen of Coldwater Michigan and married Crippen s ...

Article

Paul Finkelman and Vickey Kalambakal

Abraham Lincoln, self-made and self-educated, remains one of America's best-loved presidents. He rose from obscurity and poverty through his own efforts to become president. His election in 1860 as the first president dedicated to ending the spread of slavery to new states led to the secession of seven slave states. His refusal to allow the Union to fall apart led to civil war and to the secession of four more states. During the war Lincoln presided over a revolution in American race relations that ended slavery; allowed for black political and military participation in the affairs of the nation; and, after his assassination, resulted in blacks' gaining full rights as American citizens.

Article

Tariqah A. Nuriddin

coachman and fugitive slave, was born in Stevensburg, Virginia, to a mixed-race woman named Lucy. He was the youngest of four children at the time of his birth. Charles's extremely light skin did not free him from the bondage that he was allotted at birth—a bondage that was also the fate of his mother and siblings. As an infant, Charles was sold in an auction lot with his family for the sum of $875 to the highest bidder, Peter Hansborough, who also happened to be Charles’ father. A wealthy and powerful member of his community, Hansborough had considerable influence and connections in early-nineteenth-century Culpepper. Hence, it was not easy for Nalle to escape his owner, but Charles Nalle was a resourceful man.

Compared to many of his fellow slaves Nalle led a relatively comfortable life as a coachman but he still was discontent that he remained an illiterate slave in ...

Article

Crystal L. Joseph Bryant

lawyer, assistant postmaster, businessman, and state legislator, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, to a slave father and a prominent white woman.

Sources suggest that Paige escaped from Norfolk by way of the Underground Railroad at the age of nine or ten, hiding in a vessel leaving the port. The waters of the Chesapeake and its tributaries were often used as passageways to the North. Paige then traveled to Boston, where he made contact with the family of Judge George Ruffin, who had also moved from Virginia. Paige was educated in Boston, trained to be a machinist, and later returned to Virginia after the Civil War.

Considered to be one of the wealthiest African Americans in postwar Virginia Paige owned property in both Norfolk County and Norfolk City and had established an extensive law practice that included both black and white clients He served in the ...

Article

William C. Hine

Ransier, Alonzo Jacob (03 January 1834–17 August 1882), politician, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, to free parents. Contemporary accounts described his education as “limited.” In the 1850s he secured a position as a shipping clerk with a prominent commercial firm in Charleston. In 1856 he married Louisa Ann Carroll, and they were the parents of 11 children. Carroll died in 1875, and he married Mary Louisa McKinlay in 1876.

Ransier was a leading figure in Reconstruction and Republican politics in South Carolina He participated in the 1865 Colored Peoples Convention in Charleston that urged the state s white leaders to enfranchise black men and abolish the black code a series of measures designed to limit the rights of black people and to confine them to menial and agricultural labor In 1867 Congress passed a series of Reconstruction laws that provided for the reorganization of the southern ...

Article

David N. Gellman

Pierre Toussaint was a singular, yet elusive figure. The quality of his life moved some to call for his beatification as a Catholic saint in the twentieth century. His motivations and commitments as a historical figure—including his place in the history of free black life in antebellum New York City—are harder to pin down. Although he made monetary contributions to African American causes in New York and elsewhere, many of the most noteworthy beneficiaries of his assistance and sympathy were whites, with whom he forged unusually cordial connections during an era of increasing segregation and racial hostility.

Toussaint was born a slave in the French sugar colony of Saint Domingue; his year of birth has traditionally been listed as 1766, but a 1995 reassessment estimates 1778 as a more likely date, while another biographer proposes 1781 as Toussaint s birth year His mother and grandmother were house slaves ...

Article

Gary R. Kremer

educator and diplomat, was born a slave in St. Louis County, Missouri, the son of John Turner, a free black farrier, and Hannah, the slave of Aaron and Theodosia Young, formerly of Kentucky. Mother and son were freed by Theodosia Young on 12 March 1844. Educated in clandestinely operated schools in St. Louis in defiance of Missouri law, Turner was sent by his parents to preparatory school at Oberlin College in Ohio during the mid-1850s. He remained there for no more than two years and returned to St. Louis during the late 1850s. He worked as a porter until the outbreak of the Civil War, when he joined the war effort as a body servant to Colonel Madison Miller, a Union officer.

Turner began his public career in 1865 when he became a member of the Missouri Equal Rights League an organization formed ...

Article

Benjamin R. Justesen

clergyman, legislator, and diplomat, was born in Princeton, New Jersey, the oldest surviving child of Mathias and Diana (Oakham) Van Horne. He was educated in the Princeton schools, before enrolling in 1859 at Pennsylvania's Ashmun Collegiate Institute for Colored Youth (renamed Lincoln University in 1866), studying theology, education, Greek, Hebrew, and Latin. In 1868 he became one of the first six students to receive a bachelor's degree from Lincoln University, where he also pursued graduate studies beginning in 1871.

While still a student, Van Horne was married in 1862 to Rachel Ann Huston of Princeton, New Jersey. The couple had four children: daughters Florence V. (Miller) and Louisa S. A., and sons Mahlon H. and Mathias Alonzo Van Horne(Mathias was educated at Howard University and later became Rhode Island's first African American dentist). After being ordained as a minister in 1866 ...

Article

Charles W. Jr. Carey

Reconstruction politician and U.S. congressman, was born near Winchester, Virginia. His parents' names are unknown and Walls's public statements regarding his parents' status during slavery are contradictory. Quite possibly he was born the slave of Dr. John Walls, a Winchester physician, but his dark skin casts doubt on the premise that Dr. Walls was also his father.

In 1861Josiah Walls was kidnapped by Confederate artillerymen and put to work as a servant. He was freed by Union troops during the battle of Yorktown in May 1862 and sent to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where he attended school for a year, his only known formal education. In July 1863 he enlisted in the Third Infantry Regiment, U.S. Colored Troops (USCT), and took part in that unit's siege of Batteries Wagner and Gregg near Charleston, South Carolina. After their fall, his unit was stationed in northern Florida. In June 1864 Walls ...