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Wilbert H. Ahern

newspaper editor and publisher, civil rights leader, and Republican Party activist, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Henry Adams, a prominent minister and educator, and Margaret Corbin. Both of his parents were free persons of color. Following private schooling in Wisconsin and Ohio, Adams graduated from Oberlin College. After a brief teaching stint in Louisville, in 1870 he followed his uncle, Joseph C. Corbin, to work in Arkansas during Reconstruction. By 1874 Adams had risen from schoolteacher to assistant superintendent of public instruction. His lifelong activism in the Republican Party began in Arkansas; there he twice served as secretary to Republican state conventions, was elected as justice of the peace on the party ticket, and held the offices of engrossing clerk of the state senate and deputy commissioner of public works. The defeat of the Arkansas Republican Party in 1874 and the ...

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Stephen D. Glazier

African American religious, educational, and political leader, was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel G. Arnett and Mary Louisa (maiden name unknown). Benjamin Arnett was a man of “mixed Irish, Indian, Scots, and African ancestry” (Wright, Eighty‐seven Years, 79). He was educated in a one‐room schoolhouse in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania. Arnett worked as a longshoreman along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and worked briefly as a hotel waiter. His career as a longshoreman and waiter ended abruptly in 1858 when a cancerous tumor necessitated the amputation of his left leg. He turned to teaching and was granted a certificate on 19 December 1863. At that time he was the only African American schoolteacher licensed in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. For ten months during the academic year 1884–1885, Arnett served as a school principal in Washington, D.C. He returned to Brownsville in 1885, teaching there until 1887 ...

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Bertis English

political activist and journalist, was a slave who belonged to an influential antebellum lawyer from South Alabama. Little else is known about his life prior to the Civil War; however, it is known that during the early years of the Civil War, Berry was sent to toil in a hazardous saltworks that the Confederacy operated in Clarke County. Berry survived three years of intense labor there, and he emerged from the ordeal more experienced, as well as more militant, than many of the other African Americans he knew. After moving to the Gulf Coast city of Mobile, Berry became a member of the vanguard of black leaders who would help the state's black masses achieve legal and psychological freedom in the aftermath of the Civil War.

The Union victory and the federal effort to alter the legal status of black people deepened white Alabamians resistance to change State lawmakers were ...

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Stewart King

was born on 16 December 1753 in Torbec, on the southern peninsula of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti). His father, François Boisrond (1711–1772), a mixed-race small planter, married Marie Hérard (1724–1773), from a prominent free colored family from the nearby parish of Aquin, sometime before 1743. Louis François was the tenth of their eleven children. (Louis-François’s surname sometimes appears as Boisrond-Jeune. The cognomen “Jeune” means “the younger,” and it was commonly used to distinguish a person from an older relative with the same name. In this case, we do not know who the older Louis-François Boisrond was; perhaps there was an older brother who died in childhood, or perhaps the intent was to distinguish Louis-François from his father, François.)

François Boisrond, along with other free colored and white planters of the regions, participated in an uprising against obligatory militia service in 1763 he suffered no punishment ...

Article

Marixa Lasso

known as “the Liberator,” in Venezuela, Colombia, and elsewhere in Latin America, was born on 24 July 1783 in Caracas, Venezuela. He was the son of doña María de la Concepción Palacios y Blanco and don Juan Vicente Bolívar y Ponte. Both parents died while he was a young boy, and he was raised by an uncle. His mother was descended from a family in the Canary Islands, and his father was of Basque descent. The Bolívar family had been in the Americas for seven generations and was a prominent and wealthy family of slave and plantations owners. This wealth and status gave Bolívar access to the best education available, as well as the opportunity to spend part of his formative years in Europe.

Bolívar first traveled to Europe when he was 15 years old. He returned again as a young widower, in 1803 During his second trip he ...

Article

Simón Bolívar was born to a family of wealthy cacao plantation landholders who owned many slaves. Educated by private tutors in Caracas and Spain, Bolívar was profoundly influenced by the thinkers of the European Enlightenment, in particular the liberal ideas of French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, as well as by the American Revolution (1775–1783), and the French Revolution (1789–1799).

With the news of Napoleon Bonaparte's invasion of Spain in 1808, and the consequent political weakness of the Spanish rulers in Madrid, Bolívar and other elite criollos (Creoles, people of European descent born in the Americas) started to organize local juntas (councils) in order to replace the colonial government. In 1810, with Commander Francisco de Miranda he led a revolt against the Spanish forces in Venezuela Some historians say that Miranda and Bolívar wanted to take power from the European colonizers ...

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

Steven J. Niven

educator and politician, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the third son of Lydia Williams, a freewoman of color, and Isaac Nunez Cardozo, a prominent white Jewish businessman. Cardozo's elder brothers, the Glasgow University-educated Francis Louis Cardozo and Henry Cardozo, were both prominent politicians and educators in Reconstruction-era South Carolina. Like his brothers, Thomas enjoyed the privileges of Charleston's freeborn black elite in his youth, attending private schools in the city, but experienced a reversal in his family fortunes following the death of his father in 1855. Apprenticed for a time to a Charleston manufacturer of rice-threshing machines, the youngest Cardozo moved to New York City with his mother in 1857 because of growing hostility to and legislative restrictions against free blacks in South Carolina. He continued his studies at Collegiate Institute in Newburgh, New York, and beginning in 1861 taught for several years in ...

Article

David A. Gerber

educator, politician, and civil rights leader, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of Michael Clark, a barber, and his wife (name unknown). Clark was the product of a complex, mixed racial ancestry that formed the basis for a lifelong struggle to find a place for himself in both the white and African American worlds. The oral tradition of Peter Clark's family and of the Cincinnati African American community contends that Michael Clark was the son of the explorer William Clark, a Kentucky slaveowner who had children by his biracial slave Betty. Major Clark is said to have freed Betty and their children and settled them in Cincinnati. There she married and started another family with John Isom Gaines an affluent black man who owned a steamboat provisioning business Though it was never authenticated there is little doubt that Peter Clark himself believed the story of this ...

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Kimberly A. Sisson

poet, clubwoman, and political activist, was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, the daughter of Mary Evans and Joshua T. Williams, whose occupation is now unknown. In 1870 the family moved to Columbus, Ohio, where Mary Evans opened a successful wig-making business that operated for over twenty years. Carrie Williams attended the first integrated school in Columbus; whether she pursued higher education is unknown, however it is known that during the 1880s she taught in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

In 1886, at the age of twenty-four, she married William H. Clifford, a two-term Republican state representative from Cleveland. They would have two sons. As part of the black middle class in Cleveland, Clifford and her husband socialized with other important black figures such as Charles W. Chesnutt and George A. Meyers. Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois made frequent appearances in Cleveland joining the Cliffords ...

Article

David Dabydeen

Journeymantailor and prominent leader of the Chartist movement. Cuffay was born in Chatham, Kent. His father, originally from St Kitts, had come to Britain as a roots on a British Warship. Cuffay became a journeyman tailor in his teens, but involvement in the strike by the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union in 1834 resulted in the loss of his job. Angered by this, he joined the movement in support of the People's Charter, advocating universal suffrage. He was militant in his left‐wing views, and in 1839 contributed to the founding of the Metropolitan Tailors' Charter Association. He also became a member of the Masters and Servants Bill Demonstration Committee, which opposed the power given to magistrates to imprison employees for two months based solely on the employer's statements. His involvement in the Chartist movement grew, and in 1842 he was elected the president of the London Chartists He ...

Article

Douglas Hales

politician, labor leader, and community leader, was born one of eight slave children in Austin County, Texas, to a prominent white planter and politician, Philip Minor Cuney, and Adeline Stuart, a slave of mixed race birth. In the decade prior to the Civil War Cuney's father began manumitting his slave children, sending Norris Wright and his two brothers to the black abolitionist George B. Vashon's Wylie Street School for Colored Youth in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. During the Civil War Cuney left school to work on riverboats on the Mississippi River. Following the war he joined members of his extended family in Galveston, Texas, where he entered politics. One brother, Joseph, also earned an enviable reputation in Galveston. On 5 July 1871Cuney married Adeline Dowdy who was the progeny of a white planter and slave mother They had two children Maud who attended the New England Conservatory ...

Article

David Dabydeen

Renowned figure in the British radical movement during the regency. He was born in Jamaica to the island's Attorney‐General and a local black woman. At 14 he was sent to Glasgow to study law, and later became apprenticed to a lawyer in Liverpool.

Davidson's radical inclinations were formed quite early on in his life and, while still in Scotland, he joined in the public demand for parliamentary reform. After failing to continue his studies, he set up a cabinet‐making business in Birmingham, and taught in a Wesleyan Sunday school. The Peterloo massacre in 1819 incited anger in him and he resumed his radical politics, joining the Marylebone Union Reading Society, which was formed as a result of the massacre. He was introduced to George Edwards, a police spy pretending to be a radical, who recruited Davidson to fellow radical Arthur Thistlewood's groups the Committee of Thirteen and the ...

Article

Dickson D. Bruce

editor and political activist, was born a slave in St. Louis, Missouri. The names of his parents and details about his early life are unknown. He married Elizabeth McKinney in 1865 in St. Louis; they had nine children. As a young man he learned both printing and barbering, trades that he practiced intermittently throughout his life. In the 1870s he settled in Fort Scott, Kansas, and started a newspaper, the Colored Citizen. In 1878 he moved the paper to Topeka, Kansas, where there was a burgeoning African American community, and began his public career.

Teaming up with a prominent African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister, Thomas W. Henderson, Eagleson used the Colored Citizen to become a visible figure in Kansas political life The newspaper itself was oriented chiefly toward increasing the influence of blacks in Republican Party politics Even before moving to Topeka Eagleson had initiated an ...

Article

Debra Jackson

abolitionist, political activist, and journalist, was born in New York City, the son of Hannah (1793–1864, maiden name unknown) and William Hamilton. William Hamilton, a freeborn black, was a carpenter by trade who set a stellar example for the New York black community as a strong leader in the fight for political and civil equality. William Hamilton was a staunch supporter of William Lloyd Garrison and the Liberator but stopped short of adopting Garrison's doctrine of pacifism. This aspect of William Hamilton's abolitionist ideology made a deep impression on his son Robert—one that lasted a lifetime. During the riotous summer of 1834 in New York when the mob spirit was in the city Robert recalled that his father took him to a hardware store purchased a pistol and instructed him to use it if attacked by the rampaging mob Boys as we were ...

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Linda Przybyszewski

businessman and politician, was born a slave in Mecklenburg County, Virginia, the son of a slave woman of mixed race. His father was reputedly his owner, James Harlan (1800–1863), a white lawyer, Kentucky politician, and the father of the first justice John Marshall Harlan (1833–1911). However, modern DNA analysis of male descendants from both families revealed no match. While still young, Robert Harlan arrived in Kentucky, where he began attending the public schools that were closed to black children. It seems that the boy's mixed-race heritage was not readily apparent, but he was expelled when the authorities learned of it. He continued his education at home, where James Harlan's older sons tutored him in their lessons despite his status as one of several slaves owned by James Harlan.

Robert Harlan began his business career as either a barber or a shopkeeper in Harrodsburg Kentucky He ...

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Cassandra Jackson

poet, novelist, activist, and orator, was born Frances Ellen Watkins to free parents in Baltimore, Maryland. Her parents' names remain unknown. Orphaned by the age of three, Watkins is believed to have been raised by her uncle, the Reverend William Watkins, a leader in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and a contributor to such abolitionist newspapers as Freedom's Journal and the Liberator Most important for Watkins her uncle was also the founder of the William Watkins Academy for Negro Youth where she studied A well known and highly regarded school the academy offered a curriculum included elocution composition Bible study mathematics and history The school also emphasized social responsibility and political leadership Although Watkins withdrew from formal schooling at the age of thirteen to begin work as a domestic servant her studies at the academy no doubt shaped her political activism oratorical skills ...

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Barbara Bair

Baltimore attorney, civic leader, political activist, and champion of legal challenges to racial segregation laws, was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, the son of Susan Cobb Hawkins and Robert Hawkins, a minister. Hawkins graduated in 1885 from the Centenary Biblical Institute (later Morgan College). In March of the same year he married his first wife, Ada McMechen (1867–?) of Virginia, in a Baltimore service led by the Reverend Benjamin Brown, a church activist and pastor of the Sharp Street Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church, of which Hawkins was a lifelong member. William and Ada Hawkins had two daughters, Aldina Hawkins (Haynes) (1885–1940) and Roberta Hawkins (West) (1891–?).

Hawkins worked as an educator while studying law at the University of Maryland but he was forced to leave the college when white students petitioned to exclude blacks He graduated from the Howard ...

Article

David H. Anthony

North Carolinapolitical activist, journalist, civil servant, and publicist, was born into slavery in Raleigh, North Carolina, around 1851, the son of enslaved artisan Osborne Hunter and Mary Hunter, also enslaved. From about age four, Charles Hunter was trained to be a house servant in the home of their slave master, William D. Haywood. Somewhat later Hunter became a servant for Richard H. Battle. However, his intimate relationship with the Haywood family remained a feature of his life well after slavery.

When freedom came, Hunter and many fellow former North Carolina slaves faced profound changes. By 1867, young Hunter allied himself with prominent black Union League politicians George W. Brodie and James H. Harris and like them was gradually able to gain clout through affiliation with the Republican Party He worked as a temperance advocate in the late 1860s and ...

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Loren Schweninger

newspaper editor, businessman, and politician, was born in Marion, Alabama. Nothing is known of his parents. He was sent to a primary school, and he later attended the state normal school in his hometown and Talladega College in Talladega, Alabama. At age twenty he married Lillie A. Jones of Marion, and they had two children. At age twenty-six he became editor of the Mobile State Republican, and between 1894 and 1907 he edited the Mobile Weekly Press, described by Booker T. Washington as a “thoughtful Negro journal.”

In his editorials, Johnson attempted to put the best cast on racial conditions and outwardly expressed optimism about the future for African Americans in the South. At other times, however, as when the Alabama Constitutional Convention of 1901 disfranchised blacks he was less optimistic Whites he said then had made a mockery of popular democracy His editorials ...