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Article

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 ...

Article

Barquq  

Allen J. Fromherz

Egyptian sultan, was the first of a new dynasty of Mamluks or “slave” sultans of Egypt. Purchased in Crimea, Barquq, whose full name was al-Malik al-Zahir Sayf al-Din Barquq, was a Circassian. The previous series of Mamluks, starting with Baybars, were Kipchak Turks. Bought as a slave soldier, Barquq quickly rose through the ranks of the Burji regiment of soldier slaves. Unlike the Bahri regiment that supplied previous sultans, the Burji regiment had their barracks near the dungeons (burj of the citadel in Cairo It appears that Barquq s father a man of some stature named Anas may have willingly given his son up for sale In fact after Barquq came to power he invited his father to come to Cairo and join his court Indeed Anas would have been pleased to learn that his son was first purchased by the powerful marshal of the army Yalbogha al ...

Article

Allen J. Fromherz

fourth of the Bahri dynasty of Mamluk sultans of Egypt, was born a slave. His full name was al-Malik al-Zahir Rukn al-Din al-Salihi al-Bundukdari. Although his date of birth is uncertain, most scholars agree he was born around 1233 far away from Egypt in the steppes of the Kipchak Turkish nomads. Before being purchased by the sultan, he took the name of his first immediate master, a relatively minor character named Aydakin Bundukdar. After demonstrating exceptional qualities as a youngster, Baybars was purchased by the Ayyubid sultan and successor to Saladin, Malik Salih. He started as only one of many fellow Kipchak slaves who served the Ayyubids. In fact, there were so many Kipchak soldiers in Egypt that it stimulated the creation of Kipchak-Arabic dictionaries such as the thirteenth-century Codex Cumanicus Soon after being purchased by Malik Salih he would have been subjected to the code of strict military ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

Revolutionary War soldier, was born in Black Horse (now Columbus) in Burlington County, New Jersey. Nothing is known of his family except that, of light complexion and likely of mixed descent, Cromwell was never a slave. He was reared by John Hutchins, a farmer. Cromwell himself worked the land until he joined the Continental army in late 1776 at the age of twenty-three, serving in the Second New Jersey Regiment, under the command of Colonel Israel Shreve.

The service of Oliver Cromwell in the American Revolution as a free black from New Jersey is well worth noting. Although black men, both free and slave, such as Prince Whipple and London Dailey served in relatively high numbers in New England regiments such was not the case for regiments raised in the middle and southern colonies In New Jersey blacks were generally forbidden to serve and in one location Shrewsbury ...

Article

Robert Scott Davis

Revolutionary War veteran, was born a slave in Wake County, North Carolina. Not much is known about Dabney's life before the war. Several factors made both slavery and freedom for African Americans especially peculiar institutions in the environment of Revolutionary War–era Georgia, from which Dabney emerged. Slaves were initially prohibited when the colony was founded in 1733. Ethnic groups such as the Continental Protestants at Ebenezer, known as Salzburgers, and the Highland Scots at Darien supported this prohibition until Georgia's trustees, under extreme public pressure, finally allowed slavery in 1749. The Quakers at Wrightsborough never allowed slavery among their membership. The supporters of the American Revolution in Darien issued a declaration against slavery as late as 1775 although this effort was not continued after the war The War of Independence created unusual circumstances for African Americans both those who were free and those who were slaves ...

Article

Karen E. Sutton

free black loyalist in Preston Township, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and one of the founders of Freetown, Sierra Leone, is a person about whom little early information is known. He may have begun life as a slave in one of the former British colonies before the war, and his name may have been a “freedom name”; that is, one that he chose for himself when his personal liberty came. Probably he was the same British Freedome granted land in the Merigumish Township, Pictou County, Nova Scotia, Canada, for service as a private in the 82nd Regiment of Foot (S. Patterson, History of County of Pictou, 460). Some members of that regiment served at the Battle of Yorktown with the British General Cornwallis Freedom s name is not in the Book of Negroes the list of black Americans freed after the American Revolution and who left with ...

Article

crystal am nelson

community leader and musician, was born Occramer Marycoo in West Africa. Although his country of origin is unknown, a 1757 ship manifest shows that he was brought to America at the age of fourteen. He was on one of that year's seven slaving voyages that brought a total of 831 African slaves to Rhode Island. Gardner was one of the 106,544 slaves brought to Newport, Rhode Island, between 1709 and 1807. Caleb Gardner, a white merchant and member of the principal slave-trading team Briggs & Gardner, bought the teenage Marycoo and baptized him into the Congregational faith as Newport Gardner.

The forced exposure to Christianity aided Gardner s rise to a leadership position in the New World He quickly learned English from daily Bible studies with his master who freed Gardner after overhearing him pray for emancipation Upon gaining his freedom Gardner combined his new religious fervor with ...

Article

Milton C. Sernett

lay preacher and émigré to Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone, was born on a Nottoway River plantation in Essex County, Virginia. His parents, slaves known as John and Judith, were of African origin and had nine children. While a youth David labored in the corn and tobacco fields and witnessed frequent whippings of other slaves, including his mother, who was the master's cook.

When he was about nineteen, George ran away to North Carolina, worked for a brief time, but was pursued and fled to South Carolina. He worked as a hired hand for about two years. After hearing that his first master was again pursuing him, George escaped to central Georgia where he hid among the Creek Indians. George became the personal servant of Chief Blue Salt, who later sold him to the Natchez chief, King Jack.

A trader with the white settlers King Jack sold George to ...

Article

Chernoh M. Sesay

abolitionist and founder of the first black Freemasonic lodge, probably received his manumission from William Hall, a Boston leather-dresser, and his wife Susannah in 1770. No extant material confirms Hall as the Barbados son of a white father and a mother of mixed racial heritage, as most of his published biographies state, or as an emigrant to Boston any time before 1760, or as a preacher in a Cambridge church. The slave released by William Hall, only described as Prince, probably went on to become Prince Hall, a Boston leather worker, who, having organized the first black Freemasonic lodge, garnered respect from Boston luminaries and deference from his northern black peers and organized one of the country's oldest African American institutions.

Marriage records show that one or several Prince Halls had several wives. Hall, while a servant to William Hall, married Sarah Richie also ...

Article

Karen E. Sutton

property owner and matriarch of eighteenth-century free black Albany, New York. Records indicate that Jackson was the first African American to own property in Albany. In January 1779 she bought a city lot on the South side of lower Second Street. We know little of her origins; however, by the time of this fortuitous purchase she had married Jack Johnson, a free man of color from Albany. They had two sons, Jack and Lewis. In 1790Dinnah Jackson worked as the housekeeper at the Masonic Lodge and at Saint Peter's Episcopal Church. Exactly how she was able to purchase her property is unclear, but she may have been extremely frugal and resourceful, or perhaps she had an unknown benefactor.

In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries people lived near their work and most free blacks lived near one another for support and companionship Unlike many other northern ...

Article

Nicole S. Ribianszky

free woman of color, property owner, and businesswoman in Natchez, Mississippi, was born into slavery. Little is known of her parents or early life. She was emancipated in 1814 at age thirty by her white owner, William Johnson, who was the likely father of her two young children, Adelia and William. He stated in the emancipation document executed in Concordia Parish, Louisiana, that in consideration of five dollars he had liberated Amy, who would be “able to work and gain a Sufficient Livilihood and maintenance” (Davis and Hogan, Barber, 15).

Amy was listed as a free Negro head of household in the Natchez, Mississippi, censuses of 1816, 1818, and 1820. Her children were also freed by William Johnson beginning with Adelia at age thirteen in 1818. Her son, William Johnson (1809–1851), was emancipated two years after this, in 1820 ...

Article

Kari J. Winter

slave, Loyalist during the American Revolution, carpenter, Methodist preacher, and memoirist, was born on a plantation near Charleston, South Carolina, the son of a literate African slave who worked as a driver and a mill cutter and an enslaved mother who made clothes and tended the sick, using herbal knowledge she gained from American Indians. At the age of six Boston King began waiting on his master, Richard Waring, in the plantation house. From age nine to sixteen, he was assigned to tend the cattle and horses, and he traveled with his master's racehorses to many places in America.

At sixteen King was apprenticed to a master carpenter Two years later he was placed in charge of the master s tools on two occasions when valuable items were stolen the master beat and tortured King so severely that he was unable to work for ...

Article

Elizabeth Kuebler-Wolf

slave and Revolutionary War spy, was born James Armistead, a slave belonging to the planter William Armistead of New Kent County, Virginia. Nothing is known of his parents, but it is reasonable to assume that William Armistead also held, at least at some point, James's mother and possibly his father as slaves. James Armistead was a skilled worker whom William Armistead employed in his Richmond offices apparently in a clerical capacity. During the Revolutionary War, William Armistead served as a military supply officer, with James Armistead accompanying him as a body servant. Later William Armistead was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.

James Armistead accompanied William Armistead to Richmond in the summer of 1781 while William was fulfilling his duties as the commissary of military supplies to the Continental army. American forces, led by the French Marquis de Lafayette, and British troops led by Lord Cornwallis ...

Article

Fiona J. L. Handley

slave, wealthy landowner, and community leader, was born Nicholas Augustin Metoyer in Natchitoches, in the Spanish colony of Louisiana. His mother was Marie-Thérèse Coincoin, a slave and later a free woman and successful agriculturalist, and his father was Claude Thomas Pierre Metoyer, a wealthy French merchant and planter with whom his mother had a nineteen-year liaison. Marie-Thérèse was enslaved when Augustin and his twin sister Marie Susanne were born, and he was subsequently bought by his father on 31 May 1776 from Madame de St Denis along with three of his siblings for 1 300 livres He grew up as the oldest male child in a wealthy household where in an unusual situation an enslaved woman and a white man cohabited almost completely openly Although Pierre Metoyer never explicitly acknowledged his children with Marie Thérèse as his own most of them took ...

Article

Fiona J. L. Handley

slave, wealthy landowner, and community leader was born in Natchitoches, in the Spanish colony of Louisiana. His mother was Marie-Thérèse Coincoin, a slave who became a free woman and a successful agriculturalist, and his father was Claude Thomas Pierre Metoyer, a wealthy French merchant and planter with whom his mother had a nineteen-year liaison. Marie-Thérèse was enslaved when Louis was born, and he was subsequently bought by his father on 31 May 1776 from Madame de St Denis along with three of his siblings for 1 300 livres Louis Metoyer s upbringing was unusual for its day His parents shared a household in a scarcely disguised fashion and unlike most other mixed race families in the Louisianan upper classes there was no white family to compete for the financial and emotional affection of the father Pierre Metoyer reunited his children with Marie Thérèse under one ...

Article

David Brodnax

slave and civil rights litigant, was born Rafe Nelson in Virginia and renamed after his master in infancy; nothing is known about his parents. In 1834 Montgomery, then a slave in Marion County, Missouri, heard stories of fortunes to be made in the lead mines of Dubuque, a rough frontier village of about two thousand people located on the upper Mississippi River in the Iowa Territory. Montgomery's sister Tilda was already living in Dubuque, where she was one of seventy-two other African Americans and sixteen slaves recorded in the county in the 1840 census, although slavery was illegal in Iowa. Ralph and his master Jordan Montgomery drew up an agreement allowing him to work in the mines for five years, after which he would pay $550 for his freedom; he may have hoped to purchase his sister's freedom as well.

When the five year period ended Montgomery had barely ...

Article

Harvey Amani Whitfield

slave, Black Loyalist, and community leader, was most likely born in present day Nigeria in West Africa. Little is known about the early stages of his life. It is unclear what his occupation or family size might have been or how Peters might have been captured in 1760. French slave traders purchased Peters and brought him to Louisiana, probably to work in the brutal sugar fields. Unwilling to reconcile himself to his new status, Peters attempted to escape several times. As a result, his master sold him to the British American colonies. By the 1770s he had become the property of William Campbell of Wilmington, North Carolina.

During the early 1770s, Peters's life started to change dramatically. First, he probably married a fellow slave named Sally and within a year became a father Second the impending conflict between the American colonies and the British Empire ...

Article

Qalawun  

Allen J. Fromherz

, sultan of Egypt (r. 1279–1290), was the fifth of the Mamluk sultans of Egypt and Syria. His full name was Al-Malik Al-Mansur Sayf al Din Qalawun al Alfi. Known for his military campaigns, he inherited many of the policies of his predecessor Baybars I.

Like most Mamluk Sultans, Qalawun was purchased as a slave in a region north of the Black Sea. He was sold to the Mamluk, or slave soldier, named al-Saki, for one thousand dinars, hence his sobriquet “al-Alfi,” or “one (purchased for) a thousand” in Arabic. After passing through several owners and completing his military training, Qalawun was manumitted and given the title of amir, or prince. He witnessed the overthrow of the Ayyubid dynasty after the death of Turan Shah in 1249 Once the servants of the Ayyubids the Mamluks took control in the name of order and stability Aybak the first Mamluk ...

Article

Reconstruction politician, minister, and a founder of Wiley College, was born a slave, probably in Arkansas. According to J. Mason Brewer in Negro Legislators of Texas and Their Descendants (1935), Roberts was enslaved by O. B. Roberts of Upshur County, Texas. While his master served in the Confederate army, Roberts “was left at home to take care of the place, protect the property and the master's wife and family. He shod horses for the soldiers and others, and baked ginger cakes and sold them to help finance the upkeep of his master's home” (Brewer, 65–66). Roberts the “faithful slave” is memorialized in a 1964 historical marker in Upshur County; yet what the marker omits suggests that his outward docility may have been misleading. As Brewer further reports, in 1867 Roberts was whipped by the Ku Klux Klan and left for dead 66 Although more recent ...