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Steven J. Niven

wheelwright, politician, and postmaster, was born a slave in Athens, Georgia, to parents whose names have not been recorded. Little is known about the first three decades of his life, other than that he worked as a wheelwright for his master, a carriage maker. Davis learned to read and write while still a slave, skills that helped propel him to the forefront of black political leadership in Reconstruction-era Athens, alongside the tailor, William Finch.

Davis attended one of Georgia's earliest freedmen's conventions in Augusta in January 1866 and rose to prominence as captain of Athens's first black fire company. His reported “coolness and energy” in dealing with a major fire in Athens in 1866 was probably a factor in his election as one of Clarke County's two black delegates to Georgia's constitutional convention, which sat from 1867 to 1868 In the first elections ...

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Benjamin R. Justesen

politician and public official, was born in Georgetown, South Carolina, the son of a slave mother owned by the white planter E. H. Deas of Charleston, where the youth lived in 1860. Little is known of his childhood or early education in the small Sumter County town of Stateburg, where Edmund Deas moved after the Civil War and lived until the early 1870s.

By 1874, Deas had moved to Darlington, South Carolina, where he became active in Republican Party politics. Though not yet able to vote, he served as precinct chairman and campaign worker that year for the black Republican U.S. congressman Joseph H. Rainey, seeking reelection in the 2nd district, and by 1876, had become a federal constable in South Carolina. In 1878 he became chairman of his party's congressional district committee, serving for eight years, and in 1880 he was elected ...

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Charles Rosenberg

soldier in the 10th Cavalry, United States Army, was born in Columbia, Tennessee, the son and oldest child of William and Selena Frierson. William Frierson was a stone mason, like his brother Walter, whose family shared the same home. Although Frierson's first military enlistment reports his age as 18 years eight months, which would mean he was born in February 1874, in 1880 the census showed his age as three years. It is likely he exaggerated his age in order to qualify for enlistment. He may have been as young as fifteen.

Frierson enlisted as a private in Company K, 10th U.S. Cavalry, at Nashville, Tennessee, on 19 October 1892, listing his prior occupation as coachman, which would have given him considerable experience with horses. He was sent to Fort Custer, Montana, later writing (in 1905 An Adventure in the Big Horn Mountains or The Trials ...

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Tariqah A. Nuriddin

coachman and fugitive slave, was born in Stevensburg, Virginia, to a mixed-race woman named Lucy. He was the youngest of four children at the time of his birth. Charles's extremely light skin did not free him from the bondage that he was allotted at birth—a bondage that was also the fate of his mother and siblings. As an infant, Charles was sold in an auction lot with his family for the sum of $875 to the highest bidder, Peter Hansborough, who also happened to be Charles’ father. A wealthy and powerful member of his community, Hansborough had considerable influence and connections in early-nineteenth-century Culpepper. Hence, it was not easy for Nalle to escape his owner, but Charles Nalle was a resourceful man.

Compared to many of his fellow slaves Nalle led a relatively comfortable life as a coachman but he still was discontent that he remained an illiterate slave in ...

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Crystal L. Joseph Bryant

lawyer, assistant postmaster, businessman, and state legislator, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, to a slave father and a prominent white woman.

Sources suggest that Paige escaped from Norfolk by way of the Underground Railroad at the age of nine or ten, hiding in a vessel leaving the port. The waters of the Chesapeake and its tributaries were often used as passageways to the North. Paige then traveled to Boston, where he made contact with the family of Judge George Ruffin, who had also moved from Virginia. Paige was educated in Boston, trained to be a machinist, and later returned to Virginia after the Civil War.

Considered to be one of the wealthiest African Americans in postwar Virginia Paige owned property in both Norfolk County and Norfolk City and had established an extensive law practice that included both black and white clients He served in the ...

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Alexander J. Chenault

politician, the first black and the longest serving postmaster in Mississippi, was born on 11 March 1856 in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi, near what is called the Cowan settlement. He was born a free person of color, as were his parents, Louis Piernas, a brick layer by trade, and Adelle Labat—with some of his male relatives having fought with General Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans. Piernas's father was born in Havana, Cuba, and his mother was born in Haiti. Devoutly Catholic, Louis was christened, baptized, and married Mary Louise Barabino at Our Lady of the Gulf Church in Bay St. Louis. In 1868 he began attending a private school for colored children in the church s yard attended by free mulattos and ex slave children studying French and English One of six children as a child he worked with his uncle in the oyster business He ...

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Joy Gleason Carew

journalist, postal systems specialist, and African American expatriate in the Soviet Union from 1932 to 1946, was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His parents' names are not known. Fed up with Jim Crow in the South and discrimination and racism in the North Smith joined hundreds of highly ambitious African Americans in the 1920s and 1930s who were anxious to test out the idea that there were societies outside the United States that would welcome all those of goodwill no matter the color of their skin Many blacks turned their attention to France as a result of experiences of World War I where the French had expressed solidarity with African American servicemen For others the quest was directed to the new Soviet Union a country that overtly offered sanctuary to oppressed people As Smith wrote in his memoirs I read avidly the reports of the Soviet experiment ...