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Leyla Keough

Born in Jamaica around 1745, Francis Barber was baptized, educated and brought to England by a West Indian slave owner, Colonel Bathurst, in 1752. Bathurst died shortly after their arrival, but not before freeing Barber. Bathurst's son found Barber work with the British author Samuel Johnson, who opposed the slave trade. At a time when black pages in their twenties were commonly deported because it was unfashionable to employ them after adolescence, it was particularly unusual that Johnson and Barber sustained a long and affectionate relationship.

Johnson, who had no children of his own, treated Barber as a son. From 1767 to 1772 he sent Barber to school where he proved himself bright and articulate Barber served Johnson for nearly thirty years acting as Johnson s manservant and receiving and answering Johnson s letters Barber left the Johnson household only twice once to work for a ...

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

Jean Mutaba Rahier

Sebastián Alonso de Illescas was a ladino slave (a slave who had lived for some time in Spain, who could speak Spanish, and who had been baptized). He had taken the name of his Spanish owner after his confirmation in Seville. In 1553 he and twenty-two other slaves were embarked with merchandise on a ship going to the Peruvian port of Callao, where colonization was burgeoning. During the trip between Panama and Callao, a strong thunderstorm wrecked the ship against the reefs off the coast of the Ecuadorian province of Esmeraldas. The slaves killed the Spanish crew, then escaped into the forest, where they developed what some historians have called the Republic of Zambos. (A zamba[o] is a mixed-race person from both African and Native American ancestry.)

Under the group's first leader, Anton the maroons grew to dominate indigenous communities in the region The maroons took ...

Article

Leyla Keough

Ignatius Sancho was born on a slave ship en route to the West Indies; both of his parents died during the journey, casualties of the Middle Passage. Never having lived in Africa, Sancho was in many ways a product of Western civilization. His letters, written between 1768 and 1780, and published posthumously in 1782, proved to the English public that an African could not only master the language and literature of England but become a discriminating reader and a discerning critic.

Upon arriving in Britain, Sancho was bought by three sisters in Greenwich who treated him poorly and denied him education. But the sisters' neighbors, the Duke and Duchess of Montague, were impressed by Sancho's curiosity about books and his quick mind and secretly lent him materials to read. In 1749 when the sisters threatened to sell him into American slavery Sancho fled to the ...

Article

Michelle Gueraldi

In every version of her life story, Francisca “Xica” da Silva is described as a slave who was freed by João Fernandes de Oliveira around 1760. Fernandes was a contratador, or a vassal of the Portuguese Crown, sent to the province of Minas Gerais in colonial Brazil to explore the soil for diamonds and gold. Da Silva lived and worked as a slave until she was purchased by Oliveira, who lived with da Silva as her husband despite the racial prejudice that existed at that time in Brazil.

Instead of sending the mineral riches he discovered to Portugal Oliveira kept them for himself and became a very rich man He and da Silva lived a luxurious life in Arraial do Tijuco a small village in Minas Gerais He built a palace imported gifts for da Silva from all over the world including gold and diamonds and built her ...

Article

Leyla Keough

Job ben Solomon was born around 1702 to an aristocratic Tukulor or Fulani family in Bundu, formerly a Muslim state in present-day Senegal. His father was an imam, or Muslim prayer leader, and Job became an Islamic scholar, able to recite the Qur'an (Koran) from memory. He married twice and had four children.

In 1731Mandinkas captured Solomon as he himself attempted to sell slaves. They sold him as a slave, and a plantation owner in Maryland eventually purchased him. In desperation Solomon sent a letter in Arabic to his father in Africa by way of Great Britain, where the philanthropist and founder of Georgia, General James Oglethorpe, intercepted and translated it. Impressed by Solomon's literacy and story, Oglethorpe paid the Maryland planter for Job's release and transport to Great Britain. On the voyage Solomon met English traveler and writer Thomas Bluet who introduced Solomon to ...

Article

Article

Zumbi  

Aaron Myers

Zumbi, the most vehement opponent of slavery in colonial Brazil, is closely linked with the settlement of Palmares, established by escaped slaves in Brazil's northeastern state of Alagoas. Escaped slaves first settled in this mountainous, forested region sometime between the end of the sixteenth century and the early years of seventeenth century. Because of the abundance of palms, the settlement became known as Palmares. During the Dutch occupation of northeastern Brazil (1630–1654), Palmares received a large number of fugitive slaves and grew into a formidable, populous federation of villages covering a vast area of land from northern Alagoas to southern Pernambuco. Palmares' sophisticated fortifications and well-equipped defense force enabled it to resist repeated military incursions following the expulsion of the Dutch until it was finally conquered in 1694 The story of Zumbi is closely tied to Palmares the largest and longest lasting quilombo in the history ...