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Mohammah Baquaqua was born in 1824 in Zoogoo, (probably a small village in present-day Angola) in central Africa, to a fairly prosperous family. He was raised in an Islamic household and was sent by his father to the local mosque to study the Qur'an (Koran), the sacred text central to Islamic worship. Unsatisfied with school, he left to learn the trade of making needles and knives with his uncle in another village. Baquaqua was captured and enslaved after a struggle for the succession of the local throne. His brother managed to find someone who was able to purchase Baquaqua's freedom. Baquaqua returned to his hometown and became a bodyguard to the local king, where he noted the corruption of the royal armed forces that looted the citizens of the city.

A group of individuals apparently envious of his close association with the king engineered Baquaqua s capture and ...

Article

Carlos Dalmau

Although he was officially considered white, Ramón Emeterio Betances proudly affirmed that he was of African descent. Born to a well-to-do family in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, Betances was sent to study in Toulouse, France at the age of ten. He later moved to Paris and in 1855 graduated from medical school.

In 1856 Betances returned to Puerto Rico. At that time an epidemic of cholera hit the island and killed more than 30,000 people from all social levels of the population. The plague lasted more than a year and Betances was exceptionally compassionate in looking after poor patients, including slaves. His medical service to the underprivileged and oppressed during the plague caused him to become known as “doctor of the poor.”

The colony s political and social problems concerned Betances as much as the health of his patients Convinced that slavery was the cruelest institution of the colonial ...

Article

Boukman  

Paulette Poujol-Oriol

The man known as Boukman was born a slave in Jamaica, at that time a British colony in the Caribbean. No one knows for certain whether Boukman was his real name. He apparently learned to read and write, and always carried a book with him. Thus he acquired the nickname “Boukman,” meaning the man with a book, or the one who knows. It is thought that this was a man of knowledge for his epoch—a n'gan (in Haitian Creole a hougan), that is, a priest of Haiti's African-derived Vodou religion. Giant in stature, with a Herculean vigor, he was sold to a certain Turpin, the owner of a plantation in French-controlled Saint-Domingue (later to become Haiti). Appreciating Boukman's strength, his master gave him authority over his fellow slaves as a field commander. Boukman was also appointed a cocher coachman to drive his master about in his fancy ...

Article

George Reid Andrews

The son of former slaves, João Cândido was born in the cattle-ranching country of southern Brazil. In 1895, at the age of fifteen, he joined the Brazilian navy, which at that time had a very clear racial hierarchy. While the officer corps was exclusively white, an estimated 80–90 percent of the enlisted seamen were Afro-Brazilian, many of them forcibly recruited against their will. Slavery had been abolished in Brazil only a few years earlier, in 1888, and many officers continued to treat crews as though they were in fact slaves. Conditions of service were extremely harsh; and even though whipping had been outlawed in the navy in 1890, it was still widely used as a means of discipline.

Brazil joined the naval arms race of the 1890s and early 1900s expanding its fleet to become the largest naval power in Latin America Cândido himself was sent ...

Article

Aaron Myers

Born in Cachoeira, Bahia, Brazil, Antônio Frederico de Castro Alves exhibited an early talent for composing poems. At the age of twelve he wrote a poem praising one of his teachers for refusing to punish students physically. This marks one of the earliest manifestations of the humane philosophy that would later inform his antislavery poetry. During adolescence he also developed his oratorical skills by reciting his poems at school functions. Castro Alves established himself as both a captivating performer and an ardent abolitionist by continuing to produce and perform poetry until his death at the age of twenty-four.

Castro Alves was the second of six children born to Antônio José, a doctor, and Clélia Brasília, and he enjoyed a privileged upbringing. He attended the prestigious Ginásio Baiano in Salvador, a progressive school where he first met abolitionist Rui Barbosa he went on to study law in ...

Article

As the son of a free Native American woman, José Leonardo Chirinos was born free. His father was a black slave of the Chirinos family, a prominent Creole family in what was then the Spanish colony of Venezuela. Chirinos was a tenant farmer and sharecropper in Coro, in northwestern Venezuela. He married an enslaved woman who belonged to a landowner named Don José Tellería. Chirinos accompanied Tellería on trips to Haiti and Curaçao, thereby learning of events outside Venezuela. In Haiti, then a French colony, he overheard discussions among black Haitians of their desire for liberty and equality. Because Chirinos had married a slave, his children were automatically slaves, and this increased his dislike for the institution of slavery

Chirinos emerged as leader of a rebellion that erupted near Coro on May 10, 1795 The insurgents called for the liberation of all slaves in Venezuela and demanded ...

Article

Cudjoe  

Alonford James Robinson

The life and death of the Jamaican maroon (fugitive slave), Cudjoe, has become a symbol of black resistance in Jamaica. Cudjoe's story as the eighteenth century leader of the Clarendon maroons has also been a contested part of Jamaican history. Early European descriptions painted a caricatured portrait of him, while black recollections portrayed him as a fearless soldier.

Cudjoe was among more than 500 African-born slaves in the Jamaican parish of St. Clarendon who escaped after a violent insurrection in 1690. Cudjoe emerged as leader of a loose confederation of runaway slaves who lived in the Clarendon hills. The Clarendon maroons, led by Cudjoe, organized themselves into small gangs that secretly wandered into white towns to steal food and weapons.

Even though the Clarendon maroons were disunited they became skilled soldiers and expert marksmen Under Cudjoe s leadership they defended their freedom in a series of small skirmishes ...

Article

Leyla Keough

Ottobah Cugoano was born in Ajumako, Ghana, and was abducted by slave traders in 1770. Horrified by the atrocities he experienced on the Middle Passage voyage, he exclaimed, “Death was more preferable than life, and a plan was concerted amongst us, that we might burn and blow up the ship, and to perish all together in the flames.” Though the plan was thwarted, the radicalism that marked the effort remained a theme in Cugoano’s life. Cugoano was bought by a white man in the West Indies and in 1772 was taken to England, where he learned to read and write and was baptized. His whereabouts are unknown until 1786 when he and another black man informed the abolitionist lawyer Granville Sharp of the unjust treatment of a slave tied to a mast by his owner At the time Cugoano worked for the court painter of the Prince ...

Article

Leyla Keough

When William Davidson, a respected English cabinetmaker, found himself unemployed and poor as a result of the mechanization of the Industrial Revolution, he turned to a radical solution—the murder of English officials—to protest the social and economic injustices of early nineteenth-century Great Britain.

At his trial on charges of high treason against Great Britain, William Davidson professed that although he was a stranger to England in many ways, he could still claim the rights of an Englishman, “from having been in the country in my infancy.” The recognized son of the white attorney general of Jamaica and a black Jamaican woman, Davidson was brought to England for an education as a young boy. He remained there and became a cabinetmaker, until industrialization forced him into work at a poorhouse mill; at times he turned to crime in order to feed his wife and children.

Resenting this situation Davidson sought ...

Article

Russell W. Irvine

educator and emigrationist, was born in bucolic Rutland, Vermont. Freeman's life can be divided into two periods: his thirty-seven-year residence in America and his twenty-five-year stay in Liberia, Africa. In Rutland, he attended the predominantly white East Parish Congregational Church, whose pastor recognized Freeman's precocity and volunteered to prepare him for college. Freeman was accepted into Middlebury College and graduated class salutatorian in 1849. He taught briefly in Boston before accepting an invitation to join the faculty of the newly established Allegheny Institute and Mission Church (later Avery College) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1850. Freeman's appointment at the first state-chartered degree-granting institution for blacks distinguished him as the first college-educated black professor in America. In recognition of his advanced study in mathematics and natural philosophy, Middlebury College voted to award him an M.A. degree in 1852. In 1856 when Avery College s first white president ...

Article

The son of a wealthy Portuguese nobleman and a former slave from Ghana, Luís Gonzaga Pinto da Gama was born free. His mother, Luisa Mahin, sold fruits and vegetables in the streets of Salvador, Bahia, and played a leading role in the Malê revolts during the early nineteenth century. For her involvement in these slave rebellions, Gama's mother was sent to Rio de Janeiro, from where she was reportedly deported to West Africa. A few years later, when Gama was about ten years old, his father sold him into slavery to pay off gambling debts. Because Gama had been born to a free mother and his father was not recognized in any legal documents, the sale of him was illegal.

After being transported to several cities Gama ended up in São Paulo, where he worked as a servant for eight years. Beginning in 1847 Gama ...

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Article

Shirl Benikosky

former slave, abolitionist, and blacksmith, was born Samuel Green Jr. to Samuel Green and Catherine (Kitty) Green of Dorchester County, Maryland. Although born into slavery, Green's father served as a Methodist exhorter (lay preacher), farmed, and acted as an agent for the Underground Railroad and Philadelphia Vigilance Committee. The 1830 census data of Dorchester County reveals that separate individuals owned Green s parents Green s mother is listed as the head of a household with three other slaves and a male slave of the elder Samuel Green s age is listed under the household of his owner Henry Nicols Hence when the younger Green was born he and his mother lived in a household separate from his father Slave owners considered slaves as chattel much like farm animals Consequently in the census data reports slaves were inventoried as male or female with an approximate age and rarely by name ...

Article

Little is known about the birth and death of Luiza Mahin. She was an African belonging to the Nagô people who settled in West Africa, in the region of present-day Ghana. Mahin came to Brazil as a slave and became famous for her courage and leadership during several slave uprisings, including the Maleös insurrection that occurred in Bahia in 1835.

After gaining her freedom, Mahin worked as a fruit and vegetable vendor on the streets of Salvador City. She was the mother of Luíz Gama, an important Brazilian abolitionist. Gama never revealed the identity of his father, who was a white Brazilian from a wealthy Portuguese family.

The disappearance of Luiza Mahin, a few years after the Malês revolt, which was fiercely repressed by the government, is a matter of controversy. Whether she escaped and fled to Rio de Janeiro or was sent there and then ...

Article

Paulette Poujol-Oriol

Though little is known about Makandal's early life and much of the information about him is shrouded in myth, this famous maroon has become a legendary figure. Most prominent historians do not mention him, but he has become a symbol of Haitian national identity, and all schoolchildren in Haiti learn about his life.

Makandal is said to have come to the French-ruled colony of Saint Domingue (now Haiti) around 1750. Slave traders had bought him on the coast of Guinea, in Africa, and he was taken to the colony, where he worked as a field hand.

According to accounts of his life, Makandal did not submit to slavery for very long. He soon escaped to the woods, becoming a maroon a fugitive slave Prizes were offered for his capture but he escaped all ambushes It is also said that Makandal was a learned man that he ...

Article

Aaron Myers

Born in Recife, Brazil, into an aristocratic and politically active family, Joaquim Nabuco spent the first eight years of his life on his family's large Sugar plantation in the northeastern province of Pernambuco. He later moved with his parents to Rio de Janeiro, then attended the prestigious law academies of São Paulo and Recife. At the former he met Antônio De Castro Alves, “the Poet of the Slaves,” and the abolitionist Rui Barbosa. Between 1873 and 1876 he made several trips to Europe and the United States, where he learned about abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison, in the process strengthening his belief in abolition.

Nabuco opposed slavery for moral reasons At the age of eight he became aware of the cruelties of slavery when a slave from a nearby plantation approached him and begged to be purchased by Nabuco s family explaining that his ...

Article

The son of a white Catholic priest and a free black fruit vendor, José Carlos do Patrocínio grew up on his father's plantation in Campos, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he was exposed to the brutalities of slavery. In 1868 he left home to begin an apprenticeship at Misericórdia Hospital in Rio de Janeiro. With the financial assistance of his father and a beneficent society, he went on to complete the pharmacy course. Unable to secure work as a pharmacist, he accepted an offer to live with and tutor the children of a wealthy realtor, whose daughter he later married.

Patrocínio first established himself as an opponent of slavery through the press. In 1877 he joined the staff of the Gazeta de Notícias, Rio's daily newspaper. His editorials and poetry won him recognition as a leading abolitionist. In 1881 with the financial support of his father in ...

Article

Aaron Myers

The son of national deputy Antônio Pereira Rebouças, André Rebouças was born in Cachoeira, Bahia. After studying math and engineering at Rio De Janeiro's military school, he traveled and studied in Europe. Upon returning to Brazil, he became an adviser and strategist during the Paraguayan War (1864–1870). Rebouças then supervised several engineering projects, including the construction of railroads and docks in Rio de Janeiro. Rebouças's engineering achievements won him the respect of the royal family. He later became a professor of botany and math at the city's Polytechnic School, where he established an abolitionist society in 1883.

Rebouças conducted most of his abolitionist work behind the scenes, rarely addressing audiences. He organized abolitionist meetings and associations, and inspired readers with his antislavery literature and propaganda. Rebouças cofounded the Sociedade brasileira contra a escravidão (Brazilian Antislavery Society) in Rio de Janeiro in 1880 ...

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Segundo Ruiz Belvis liberated his slaves in Puerto Rico and founded an abolitionist society with Ramón Emeterio Betances. In 1867, he petitioned Spain to abolish slavery. He died in Chile later that year.

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Samuel Sharpe was born a slave in Jamaica, probably in the northwestern parish of Saint James. Sharpe worked as a domestic slave in Montego Bay, the island's second largest town after Kingston. Literate and intelligent, he was also a passionate and charismatic speaker. He gained prominence working in the Montego Bay Baptist Church, run by British missionaries, where his duties included helping missionary Thomas Burchell with the supervision of membership classes. At the same time, Sharpe preached at the independent black-led Native Baptist Church, where he gained the titles “Daddy” or “Ruler.” The Native Baptist movement was established in the late 1700s by blacks who came to Jamaica from the United States.

Sharpe drew upon the Bible to argue that slavery was morally wrong He also helped spread the widely held view among slaves who overheard planters frequent complaints about the abolitionist movement in Britain that the British Parliament ...