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Article

Lois Bellamy

voice teacher, mezzo-soprano, pianist, educator, was one of four children born to Dr. Thomas Nelson Baker and Elizabeth Baytop Baker in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Her father's parents were slaves. Dr. Thomas Nelson Baker was born a slave on 11 August 1860 and worked on the farm until he was twenty-one years old. He was one of five children and was the first African American to earn and receive a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Yale University in 1906. In 1890 he received a B.A. from Boston University and a Bachelor's in Divinity from Yale University and studied psychology and philosophy from 1896 to 1900 at Yale Graduate School. He was minister of the Dixwell Congregational Church in New Haven, Connecticut, from 1896 to 1900. He was listed in Who's Who in New England, 1908–1909 and his writings paved the way for the Harlem Renaissance era ...

Article

Kathleen Thompson

Black women have been the cultural, social, and economic support of black towns in America for centuries. There were Senegalese enclaves in Louisiana in the 1700s. In the late eighteenth century, Star Hill, Delaware, was created by free blacks on land they acquired from the Quaker community in Camden. Brooklyn, Illinois, was founded by free blacks and fugitive slaves in 1820. As early as 1830, Frank McWhorter, or “Free Frank,” had founded the town of New Philadelphia, Illinois. Sandy Ground, New York, was created by black oyster fishermen fleeing the restrictions on free blacks in Maryland.

In 1825Elijah Roberts and his wife Kessiah led a group of free African Americans, many of whom were part Cherokee, from North Carolina to Hamilton County, Indiana, to start a settlement. Many of the settlers were members of the Roberts family, which had been free since 1734 ...

Article

Wilma King

A variable social construction, the concept of childhood barely existed in early America. In fact, this special period of growth and development experienced before accepting adult responsibilities was not an entrenched American institution until the twentieth century. The time at which this protected segment of the lifecycle ends is debatable. Some scholars and public officials have used twelve as the cutoff while others set it at age sixteen or eighteen. Still others claim childhood lasts until twenty-one years of age.

Age limits aside, other factors, including color, class, status, and the embracing shield of loved ones, are significant in determining if girls enjoy a protected period in their formative years. There are also concerns about their psychological well-being and freedom from emotional devastation, which may mature girls beyond their chronological years.

Article

Jane E. Dabel

From the period of slavery onward, African American women have labored outside of the home in many roles, and most prominently as domestic servants. Because employment has been the key to their survival, and though racism and sexism have limited their employment opportunities, black women have always attempted to make the best of their employment situation. Throughout their wage-earning experiences, black women have always sought to control and shape their lives as laborers.

Article

Charles Rosenberg

school teacher, was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, the second child and only daughter of the intellectual, activist, and editor, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Nina Gomer Du Bois. She was born at the home of her father's uncle, James Burghardt, while her already famous father was on his way home from the first Pan-African Conference in London.

Nina Yolande Du Bois spent her infant years in Atlanta, where her father was a professor at Atlanta University, and her parents came to loathe the city for the pervasive and virulent racism taking an unprecedented grip on daily life. During the 1906 Atlanta Riot in which whites destroyed black property and killed several African Americans her father rushed home from New York W E B Du Bois sat with a shotgun on the steps of South Hall where the family lived protecting Yolande and her ...

Article

Black women played a significant part in the frontier West, both before and after the Civil War. After the War, however, and especially as Reconstruction came to an end, their numbers grew. In 1870, according to the United States Census, there were 284,000 African Americans living in the sixteen states of the West. More than 250,000 of those lived in the state of Texas, which had been a slavery state and did not, for most African Americans, represent freedom. There were just over 4,000 black Americans in California and 17,000 in Kansas. The number in the Oklahoma territory had dropped by nearly 2,000, to 6,378. Other states and territories numbered the African American populations in the hundreds rather than thousands.

That changed because a number of migrations would occur between about 1878 and 1930 These population shifts were referred to as exoduses echoing the flight of the Jews ...

Article

Joshunda Sanders

centenarian and symbol of racial progress, was the daughter of Emmanuel Alfred Roberts, emancipated from slavery in 1865, and Moriah Josephine Washington, farmers on Alum Creek, east of Austin, Texas. Jones gained widespread recognition as a symbol of America's racial progress when, at age 109, she voted for Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) for President in November 2008. She was one of the oldest registered active voters in Texas at the time.

Amanda Jones was a deeply religious woman who had for most of her life been a stay at home mother of ten in rural Central Texas. She resided along a rural highway in central Texas for most of her life. Her granddaughter, Brenda Baker said she lived to be 110 because of her religious faith which was evident in the scriptures and photographs of her in her Sunday best which decorated the walls of ...

Article

Leyla Keough

Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley was born in Dinwiddie Court House, Virginia, to Agnes, a slave of the Burgwell family, and George Pleasant, who was owned by a man named Hobbs. When Elizabeth was in her teens, the Burgwells sold her to a slaveowner in North Carolina by whom she was raped and had one child, George. Shortly thereafter, a Burgwell daughter, Anne Burgwell Garland, bought Elizabeth and her son. They were taken to St. Louis, where Elizabeth married James Keckley. She later found he had deceived her by claiming to be a free man, and the couple separated.

To support her owner's household, Keckley worked as a seamstress. She acquired many loyal customers, one of whom loaned Keckley $1,200 to buy her freedom in 1855. In 1860, Keckley relocated to Baltimore, Maryland, and then to Washington D C where she opened a successful ...

Primary Source

That the history of the institution of human chattel slavery should be so inextricably linked with a fervid belief in the necessity of liberating the souls of black folk if not their physical forms strikes many modern readers as a marvel in hypocrisy and self delusion Still conversion was a nearly constant preoccupation of a certain quarter of white society the industrious among which were given to producing tracts like the one presented here This narrative written by Mrs T C Upham and published around 1850 refers to a New Jersey slave Phebe Ann Jacobs who was emancipated by the death of her owners What is important in this account is not who Jacobs is but rather what she is obedient cheerful patient devout Her acquaintances marvel at her piety and humility She never complains or finds fault Even her death is a highly sentimentalized portrait of willing Christian surrender ...

Article

Arthuree McLaughlin Wright

clubwoman, and civic leader, was born to Jackson and Beattie Connor (or Conner), former slaves. The Connors moved their ten children to Selma, Ohio, where Emma attended school. Details of her early life are sketchy, but as a young adult, Emma Connor worked as a teacher and was active in the local African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. In 1886 Emma met Reverdy Cassius Ransom, a senior at Wilberforce University, when he was appointed student pastor at the Selma church. He and Emma were married in Selma on 27 October 1887, and she joined him in Altoona, Pennsylvania, where he was assigned a pastorate. The following year, their infant son died a few hours after he was born. A second son, named for his father, was born 2 September 1889. Reverend Ransom's son from a first marriage, Harold moved in with them after Reverdy ...

Article

Rape  

Diane Miller Sommerville

“Slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women.” So stated Harriet Jacobs, an ex-slave who spent years eluding the unwanted sexual advances of her North Carolina master, when she recounted her ordeal in the class narrative Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Embedded in her bold declaration is the recognition that slave women experienced a unique threat and danger in slavery—that of sexual assault—that made the slave experience, on some level, more unbearable, more devastating for women. Indeed, black women’s sexual vulnerability and the institutionalized access that white men in America historically have had to black women’s sexuality is one of the most salient aspects of black women’s lived experiences and continues to shape black women’s lives, identities, and psyches, even through much of the twentieth century and beyond.

A discussion of rape and black women s experiences must begin with the ...

Article

Angelita D. Reyes

cause célèbre, was born Alice Beatrice Jones, the daughter of a white mother and supposedly “black” father, both of whom had emigrated from England to the United States in 1891. While the race of her mother Elizabeth Jones was familiar and recognizable enough for Americans to classify as white, the racial background of George Jones, her father, was not as clearly determined. While general references considered him to be British of West Indian descent, he was distinctly not African American according to an array of witnesses and census documentation in the United States.

Various newspapers of the period described Alice Jones as “dusky,” “a tropical beauty,” or of a “Spanish complexion” (Lewis and Ardizzone, 63–66, 163). Not considering herself black in the American rhetorical denotation of race, Alice Jones Rhinelander affirmed during the annulment trial of the interracial marriage to Leonard Rhinelander (1903 ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

school teacher and domestic worker, is best known for a poignant and detailed autobiography that provides a window into daily life for the Americans who were stigmatized legally and socially, during the middle of the twentieth century, by their dark complexion.

Sarah Lucille Webb was born in Clio, Alabama, to Elizabeth (Lizzie) Janet Lewis Webb, a schoolteacher, and Willis James Webb, a minister of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church. In her early years she moved with her parents to Troy, Andalusia, Birmingham, Batesville, and Eufala, Alabama. As an itinerant minister ordained by a Methodist church, Reverend Webb was subject to reassignment to a new church at any annual conference, and every one to two years he had to move. The family supplemented his minister's salary by sharecropping cotton and corn and grew field peas, greens, and vegetables for their own use or for sale.

The family ...

Article

Amy S. Greenberg and Graham Russell Hodges

[This entry contains two subentries dealing with the development of African American sexuality by gender The first article provides a discussion of African American sexuality from its African roots to its creole adaptations until 1830s while the second article provides a discussion of African American sexuality during the Victorian ...

Article

Donna Kilgore-Kimble

The concept of the African American sorority began with the conflicting perception of the role of education for African Americans. Booker T. Washington, considered the spokesperson for African American citizens after he delivered his speech—known as the Atlanta Exposition Address or, derisively, as the Atlanta Compromise—during the Cotton States and International Exposition on 18 September 1895, questioned the practicality of a classical liberal arts education for the masses of African American youth. In contrast W. E. B. Du Bois a scholar with prolific and diverse literary accomplishments stressed the need for equality in civic and educational opportunities for a body of elite African Americans stating that these young people whom he named the Talented Tenth would become the leaders of their people In essence he issued a challenge to young black students to expand their horizon beyond that of simple laborers and servants even to mastering such ...

Article

Jason Philip Miller

supercentenarian, was born in Benton, Louisiana, the tiny parish seat of Bossier Parish in the northwest corner of the state. Her parents were Mack and Ellen Winn, who are believed to have been born into slavery and after Emancipation were probably subsistence farmers. Winn was the thirteenth of fifteen children.

Not much is known of Winn's quiet life. It is likely that she did not attend school, or at least not for very long. She never married, but she did have a child out of wedlock. The child died while still young, however, and apparently Winn never had another. Throughout her long life, she worked as a domestic and cook in and around Benton. Her sunny demeanor won her the nickname “Sweetie.”

What makes Winn so remarkable was her advanced age At the time of her death she is believed to have been the oldest African American and ...

Article

Psyche Williams-Forson

huckster, vendor, and entrepreneur, was born Isabella Wallace in Louisa County, Virginia, south of the town of Gordonsville, the daughter of McKaylor Wallace and Maria (Coleman) Wallace. Little information about her background is available. She credits her mother with having used business profits to build their first house, which burned in the 1920s. Following this tragedy, Winston's mother built another home farther from the road and spent much of her life caring for her livestock and attending church. Isabella married Douglas Winston—the exact date of her marriage is not known—and was widowed by age thirty-seven with ten children.

As head of household Isabella Winston bore the responsibility for feeding her large family Following a generational tradition she made her living as a waiter carrier as they called themselves meeting local trains and serving the passengers fried chicken and other foods In later years sharing her ...

Article

Women  

Martha I. Pallante and Kathleen Thompson

[This entry contains two subentries dealing with the demographic legal economic religious and social experiences of African American women from the origins of colonial settlement in America to 1895 The first article covers the topic from the colonial era to 1830 while the second article continues the discussion of ...