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The court case of Ableman v. Booth stemmed from the capture of a fugitive slave named Joshua Glover just outside of Racine, Wisconsin, on 10 March 1854. Federal marshals accompanying Glover's owner, a Missourian named Bennami Garland, broke into the shack Glover was occupying and forcibly detained him after a spirited resistance. Glover was taken overnight by wagon to the county jail in Milwaukee, thirty miles north. Garland and the federal marshals intended to take Glover before the U.S. district court judge the next morning to authorize his return to Missouri.

Sherman Booth, Milwaukee's most prominent abolitionist and the publisher of the Milwaukee Free Democrat was alerted to Glover s incarceration by early morning and spread the news quickly throughout the abolitionist community While lawyers obtained a writ of habeas corpus from a county court on Glover s behalf to protect him against illegal imprisonment Booth and ...

Article

Richard S. Newman, Paul Finkelman, and Carl E. Prince

[This entry contains three subentries dealing with abolitionism from the late seventeenth century through the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in1865. The first article discusses the definition of abolitionism as differentiated from antislavery activism and its forms including Garrisonian and non Garrisonian abolition The second article describes ...

Article

During the three decades that preceded the Civil War, abolitionism was a major factor in electoral politics. Most historians use the term abolitionism to refer to antislavery activism between the early 1830s, when William Lloyd Garrison began publishing The Liberator, and the American Civil War (1861–1865). The term also refers to the antislavery crusade that mobilized many African Americans and a small minority of whites, who saw their goal realized during the Civil War. Historians also commonly distinguish abolitionism, a morally grounded and uncompromising social reform movement, from political antislavery—represented, for example, by the Free Soil or Republican parties—which advocated more limited political solutions, such as keeping slavery out of the western territories of the United States, and was more amenable to compromise.

Abolitionists played a key role in setting the terms of the debate over slavery and in making it a compelling moral issue Yet abolitionists ...

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On the evening of 8 December 1811 thirty one year old Charles Deslondes led a group of slaves along the Louisiana coast in what would become the largest protracted slave uprising in American history Also known as the German Coast Uprising the rebel force burned plantations and freed other slaves as it marched toward New Orleans In January 1812 Deslondes s soldiers battled a militia led by General Wade Hampton 1752 1835 at Francois Bernard Bernoudi s plantation which is briefly summarized in the newspaper article below After two days of fighting which included cavalry and pikes the militia defeated the slaves and captured Deslondes A tribunal held soon thereafter sentenced Deslondes and over a dozen other leaders of the revolt to death The bodies were dismembered and Deslondes s head was placed on a pike as a warning against future uprisings In the context of the Haitian Revolution and ...

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Although the colony of Maryland imported indentured servants to work in the burgeoning tobacco industry the law initially allowed for a process of manumission as well as some basic legal rights for workers Moreover blacks were among several ethnic groups who worked as indentured servants In September 1664 however a session of Maryland s General Assembly passed a new law focused specifically on African Americans declaring that all black servants were to now be labeled as slaves on a permanent basis In addition freeborn women who married slaves would also serve their husband s master and their children would also become the master s property for the term of their lives a provision designed to prevent shameful interracial relationships The act demonstrates that slavery was not a practice inherited by the colony but was instead imposed well over a generation after Maryland was founded It would take until 1864 for ...

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The Deslondes Uprising of 1811—in which several hundred Louisiana slaves rose up and launched attacks along the Mississippi River—provoked an especially brutal response from the local militias and state government. In a pitched battle that lasted several days, slave forces under rebel leader Charles Deslandes (Deslondes) (1780–1811) engaged an armed militia assembled under the order of Governor William C. Claiborne. The slaveholders eventually subdued the rebels and sentenced the ringleaders to death. Deslandes and his comrades were executed, mutilated, and displayed as a warning to other slaves. In the act signed by Claiborne below, a bounty is placed on the remaining fugitives.

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In June 1844, the U.S. Senate voted to reject a treaty annexing Texas as a U.S. territory, elevating the debate over expansionism to the forefront of national politics. The Whig candidate for president, Henry Clay (1777–1852), had spoken out against annexation in April (see “Raleigh Letter”), but in doing so alienated many of his supporters. Westward expansion was popular with the general public, and slaveholders in the South had long desired the political advantage of a slave-state majority. Clay had hoped his opponent for presidency would also oppose annexation, sparing them both a debate over slavery.

Instead, the Democrats nominated James K. Polk (1795–1849), an outspoken proponent of Manifest Destiny and whose campaign slogan, “Fifty-four forty or fight,” stirred popular zeal for expansion into the Oregon Territory. In July 1844 Clay published two letters in Alabama newspapers in which he attempted to moderate his initial anti-annexation position.

The first Alabama ...

Article

André Willis

Clifford L. Alexander Jr. was born in New York, New York. He graduated from Harvard University in 1955 and Yale Law School in 1958. Alexander worked on a number of community development initiatives in Harlem, New York, before being appointed to a series of political positions in Washington, D.C., in the 1960s and 1970s.

Alexander served as a National Security Council foreign affairs officer under President John F. Kennedy in 1963. He was appointed to three high-ranking advisory positions between 1964 and 1967, including deputy special counsel to the president, by President Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1967 Johnson named Alexander chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC), a position he filled until Richard Nixon took office in 1969.

After a brief return to private practice in Washington D C Alexander resumed a role in public life as host and producer of ...

Article

Andre D. Vann

lawyer and judge, was born in Smithfield, North Carolina, the youngest of the three children of Reverend Joseph C. Melton, a Baptist minister and teacher, and Alian A. Reynolds Melton. She received her early education in the public school system of Danville, Virginia, and at the age of fifteen graduated from the James B. Dudley High School in Greensboro, North Carolina. In 1937 she graduated from the neighboring North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College with a bachelor's degree in music. The following year, at the age of eighteen, she married Girardeau Alexander, a surgeon, and had a son, Girardeau Alexander III.

Alexander worked as a mathematics and history teacher and directed music in South Carolina and North Carolina for four years before deciding that music would not be her lifelong vocation Instead she longed for a career in law despite the profession s being largely ...

Article

Espousing views of Enlightenment thinkers who argued that every person had an inherent right to life, liberty, and property, thirteen British colonies along the eastern seaboard of North America rebelled against their mother country and fought for their freedom and liberty. By 1770 one-fifth of the population in these colonies was of African ancestry, and almost 95 percent of the African descendants were slaves. The black population was militarily vital to both sides and African Americans were involved in every aspect of the American Revolution. The ideology of freedom championed during the revolution became the rallying cry for those who would fight for the abolition of slavery.

In the 1760s the conflict between Britain and the colonies was escalating as Parliament passed laws that the colonists declared unjust and refused to obey. This happened with the Stamp Act (1765) and the Townshend Acts (1767 As the ...

Article

Kate Tuttle

The roots of Americo-Liberian society can be traced to modern Liberia's settlement by free American blacks. From their arrival on the coast of West Africa in 1821, the settlers and their sponsors at the American Colonization Society (ACS), a white abolitionist group, had a complex relationship with the people who were already living there. The settlers brought with them American social, political, and economic values (as expressed in the first constitution of the Commonwealth, later the Republic, of Liberia). They were also strongly influenced by the ACS's ties to the Christian missionary movement. The motives of both white abolitionists and African American colonizers were challenged by critics such as the nineteenth-century African American writer Martin Delany, who charged that the ACS, in “deporting” free blacks, was helping to sustain the practice of Slavery in the United States Furthermore these critics noted the black settlers were establishing a ...

Article

Marian Aguiar

On June 29, 1820, an American revenue cutter captured the Spanish vessel the Antelope off the coast of northern Florida, bringing it to port in Savannah, Georgia. The Antelope had been seized by pirates, and over 280 Africans were discovered chained in the ship's hold. Some of the Africans had been on the Antelope when it was taken by the pirates, but others had been seized from at least two other slave ships, one Portuguese and one sailed illegally by Americans. The U.S. district attorney for Georgia argued that the captives were free under the acts of the U.S. government prohibiting the Transatlantic Slave Trade in 1808 and declaring the slave trade to be a form of piracy in 1820. The Spanish and Portuguese governments, however, which had not outlawed the slave trade, claimed the Africans as property stolen from ships of their nations.

The case went to ...

Article

Charles Vincent

Antoine was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1836. His father was a veteran of the War of 1812; he had fought the British at the Battle of New Orleans. Antoine's mother was a native of the West Indies and the daughter of an African chief; her parents were taken as slaves from the shores of Africa. On his father's side (so the story goes), Antoine's grandmother Rose Antoine was a remarkable woman who purchased her freedom and acquired a small fortune through her work as a midwife.

Caesar C. Antoine spent his childhood in New Orleans and attended private schools. He was fluent in both French and English. After graduating, he entered one of the few occupations open to African Americans in the antebellum South: the barber trade. After federal troops captured Baton Rouge in 1862 Antoine organized a black company known subsequently as Company ...

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In 1873, the short-lived Unification Movement began in Louisiana, then occupied by federal troops under Reconstruction. The movement consisted of whites and elite Creoles who sought a peaceful end to Reconstruction and a reformed government that allowed for cooperation among the races. Among the most prominent supporters of the movement was newspaper publisher Louis Charles Roudanez (1823–1890), who used his position as founder of the New Orleans Tribune to promote the goals of the Unification effort In June 1873 the Committee of One Hundred drew up a platform that was among the most progressive among political movements in the postwar South Along with the core principals of equality and freedom of expression excerpted below the committee also called for equal distribution of public offices among the races and an end to all public segregation Within a few years however the movement faltered Rural whites were openly hostile while working ...

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On July 7 1845 a group of slaves abandoned their homes in Charles County Maryland and began walking toward the Pennsylvania border picking up others along the way and gathering a small cache of weapons The two leaders were William Wheeler and Mark Caesar whose efforts were reported not as a mass escape but as a violent insurrection Before long the self proclaimed Montgomery Volunteers a hastily formed local militia confronted the fugitives near the town of Rockville After a brief firefight that dispersed most of the slaves about thirty one men were arrested and brought to the Rockville courthouse Later that year Caesar was convicted and sentenced to forty years in prison where he died of consumption in 1850 The court handed down the death penalty for Wheeler who is described in the newspaper article below as one of the prime movers of the insurrection The final state on ...

Article

John Garst

the inspiration for the “Frankie and Johnny” song, was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. Her parents were Cedric Baker and his wife Margaret (maiden name unknown), and she had three brothers: Charles, Arthur, and James. Charles, who was younger than Frankie, lived with her on Targee Street in 1900. In 1899 Baker shot and killed her seventeen-year-old “mack” (pimp), Allen “Al” Britt. St. Louis pianists and singers were soon thumping and belting out what would become one of America's most famous folk ballads and popular songs, “Frankie and Johnny,” also known as “Frankie and Albert,” “Frankie Baker,” and “Frankie.”

At age sixteen or seventeen Baker fell in love with a man who, unknown to her, was living off the earnings of a prostitute (this kind of man was known as an “easy rider,” a term made famous by W. C. Handy in his ...

Article

Patricia Reid-Merritt

social activist and spiritual adviser, was born Willie Taplin in the small rural town of Burton, Texas, the daughter of Nelson Taplin, a Baptist preacher, and Octavia, a Methodist congregant. A member of a large extended family, Barrow fondly recalled an upbringing steeped in strict traditional family values and old-time southern religion. She lived with her parents, six siblings, both sets of grandparents, and a great-grandmother in the family home, and they were sometimes joined by a cousin or two in need of temporary housing. The family lived together, worked together, and went to church together. Although they had limited economic resources, they grew the food that they needed on the family farm, and though she came to understand the family's poverty in later years, Barrow said that she never knew hunger as a child.

Barrow discovered her activist voice and spirit early in life Under the state sponsored ...

Article

Byron Motley

was born in Los Angeles, California on 3 October 1953, the only daughter and youngest of four children born to Wilhelmina (née Duckett) and DeWitt Bass, a mail carrier. Bass became interested in community activism at an early age while watching the civil rights movement unfold nationally on television with her father and experiencing unrest in her own community. The 1968 presidential campaign of Senator Robert Kennedy sparked the future congresswoman’s first foray into the political scene when, as a middle school student, she served as a precinct leader for Kennedy in California’s Democratic primary.

After graduating from Hamilton High School on the west side of Los Angeles in 1971 Bass studied psychology at the University of San Diego for two years She worked as a clinical instructor at the University of Southern California s Keck School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program for nearly a decade She eventually ...

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

Belinda  

Roy E. Finkenbine

who gained notoriety by petitioning for a portion of her former master's estate. Some scholars have labeled this the first African American call for reparations for slavery. Born in a village near the Volta River in the region of West Africa known as the Gold Coast (modern-day Ghana), Belinda spent her first years living a bucolic existence. That peace was broken at age eleven, when she was captured, sold into slavery, and transported to North America via the Middle Passage. For more than fifty years, she labored in bondage for her master, Isaac Royall, first in Antigua and then, after 1732, in Medford, Massachusetts. Royall, the largest slaveholder in the state, became an outspoken Loyalist and fled the colonies for Britain at the beginning of the American Revolution. After that, Belinda lived in an unofficial state of freedom until the Massachusetts courts ruled slavery unconstitutional in 1783 ...