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Like many slaves from Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti) during the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804), Pablo Alí crossed the border to serve in the Spanish colonial army of Santo Domingo (present-day Dominican Republic) as a means of obtaining his freedom. In 1795Spain ceded Santo Domingo to France. Alí subsequently participated in the War of Reconquest, in which French troops were defeated and Santo Domingo was reunited with Spain (1809). In 1811 the Spanish throne named him first colonel and granted him a gold medal in recognition of his service to the Crown.

In 1820 Alí served as colonel of the Batallón de Morenos (Black Batallion) in Santo Domingo. After learning that his application for Spanish citizenship had been denied, in 1821 Alí pledged his loyalty to the insurrectionists, led by José de Núñez Cáceres and served as their chief military commander That same year ...

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José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva is best known for helping Brazil achieve independence in 1822. It is less often recognized that the year after independence he authored a plan for “the slow emancipation of the blacks.” In this plan he argued: “It is time, and more than time, for us to put a stop to a traffic so barbaric and butcherlike, time too for us to eliminate gradually the last traces of slavery among us, so that in a few generations we may be able to form a homogeneous nation, without which we shall never be truly free, respectable, and happy.”

Andrada e Silva argued that slavery was morally wrong and economically inefficient a violation of God s laws and the laws of justice and a corrupt influence over Brazil s inhabitants Slave labor he believed resulted in the slaveholders idleness and gave ordinary Brazilians little incentive to ...

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Sabrina Karpa-Wilson

The son of Portuguese parents, Aluísio Azevedo achieved national prominence with the novel O Mulato in 1881 (published in English as Mulatto in 1990). A vehement denunciation of church corruption, the evils of slavery, and racial prejudice amongst the provincial elite in the northern Brazilian state of Maranhão, the novel was well received in the nation's capital, Rio de Janeiro. But it caused such polemic in his native state that the writer decided to relocate to Rio. There, between 1882 and 1895, he struggled to make a living as a professional writer, producing novels, short fiction, plays, and chronicles. He wrote eleven novels all told, moving between romantic melodrama and naturalism. His romantic novels are seldom read today, and his naturalist novel O Cortiço (1890; published in English as A Brazilian Tenement, 1926) is generally considered to be his best work. In 1895 ...

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Quintín Banderas's parents were free but poor. To help support his family, Banderas began to work in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba as a bricklayer at the age of eleven. Dissatisfied with the profession, he left home when he was thirteen years old and enlisted as a sailor on a Spanish merchant ship. After he was in Spain for a few months, his mother filed a petition before the merchant for his return because he was a minor. Banderas was returned to Santiago and went back to working as a bricklayer.

During the Ten Years' War (1868–1878), Cuba's first major war of independence, Banderas joined the revolutionary army led by the black military leaders Máximo Gómez and Antonio Maceo and the white Creole Carlos Manuel Céspedes. Due to his bravery and military achievements, Banderas soon attained the military rank of lieutenant colonel. In 1879 ...

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Mohammah Baquaqua was born in 1824 in Zoogoo, (probably a small village in present-day Angola) in central Africa, to a fairly prosperous family. He was raised in an Islamic household and was sent by his father to the local mosque to study the Qur'an (Koran), the sacred text central to Islamic worship. Unsatisfied with school, he left to learn the trade of making needles and knives with his uncle in another village. Baquaqua was captured and enslaved after a struggle for the succession of the local throne. His brother managed to find someone who was able to purchase Baquaqua's freedom. Baquaqua returned to his hometown and became a bodyguard to the local king, where he noted the corruption of the royal armed forces that looted the citizens of the city.

A group of individuals apparently envious of his close association with the king engineered Baquaqua s capture and ...

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Mayda Grano de Oro

José Celso Barbosa played a key role in the politics of the Spanish-American War, denouncing the Creoles' political aspirations. At the same time, his involvement reflected the complexities and contradictions in race issues confronted by black Puerto Ricans at the time. Barbosa's achievements were not typical of blacks in Puerto Rico at the turn of the century. He represented the “self-made man” that came from humble origins. He had the opportunity to study at the only institution of secondary education on the island, thanks to the determination of his aunt. He completed his studies in the Jesuit seminary before going to the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, where he graduated in 1880. His experience in the United States made him an admirer of republican ideals for social equality and justice.

When Barbosa returned to Puerto Rico he started his medical practice and became a member ...

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Aaron Myers

Born in Salvador, Bahia, Rui Barbosa de Oliveira studied at the law academies of Recife and São Paulo, where he met Antônio de Castro Alves, the “Poet of the Slaves,” and future abolitionist Joaquim Nabuco. Barbosa's abolitionist campaign began in 1869, when he organized the conference “O Elemento Servil” (The Servile Element). Although the slave trade had been outlawed on November 7, 1831, slaves who had entered Brazil before that time remained in bondage, and many Africans had since been illegally enslaved. At the Elemento Servil conference, Barbosa condemned slavery on legal grounds by invoking this 1831 law.

In the following years Barbosa frequently challenged the proslavery Conservative Party. During the provincial elections of 1874 he criticized the Free Womb Law, which freed the children of all female slaves, as “a superficial improvement.” In 1884 he joined a reform cabinet led by Manoel Dantas ...

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Known as “the Black Caballero” for the leading role he played in the Viceroyalty of la Plata's war of independence from Spain. Barcala was named colonel for his leadership. Born a slave in Mendoza, Argentina, Barcala was freed in 1813.

See also Uruguay.

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Adam W. Green

was the second of three children born to two freed slaves, Eben Tobias, a farmer, and Susan Gregory, a mixed-race Pequot Indian, in Derby, Connecticut. An education proponent and political activist, Bassett became America's first black diplomat when he served as Resident Minister in Haiti for eight years, helping pave the way for those seeking opportunities in international diplomacy and public service.

Along with his mixed race birth and royal lineage that his family claimed from Africa Bassett whose surname came from a generous white family close to his grandfather s former owners also had elected office in his blood His grandfather Tobiah who won his freedom after fighting in the American Revolution had been elected a Black Governor as had Bassett s father Eben The largely nominal honorific was bestowed upon respected men in various locales via Election Days sometimes by a voice vote these Black Governors ...

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Alexander Bedward was born in Matilda's Corner, Saint Andrew Parish, in southeastern Jamaica. He grew up in August Town, on the Hope River in Saint Andrew. Nothing is known about his father, but his mother was supposedly a healer. Bedward could not write, and he read haltingly because of borderline literacy. Apart from the years 1883 to 1885, when he was a migrant laborer in Colón, a seaport on the Isthmus of Panama, Bedward worked until 1891 on the Mona sugar estate in Saint Andrew. He was a foreman, laborer, and cooper (a repairman of wooden casks or tubs) on the estate, from which he also leased land.

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Carlos Dalmau

Although he was officially considered white, Ramón Emeterio Betances proudly affirmed that he was of African descent. Born to a well-to-do family in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, Betances was sent to study in Toulouse, France at the age of ten. He later moved to Paris and in 1855 graduated from medical school.

In 1856 Betances returned to Puerto Rico. At that time an epidemic of cholera hit the island and killed more than 30,000 people from all social levels of the population. The plague lasted more than a year and Betances was exceptionally compassionate in looking after poor patients, including slaves. His medical service to the underprivileged and oppressed during the plague caused him to become known as “doctor of the poor.”

The colony s political and social problems concerned Betances as much as the health of his patients Convinced that slavery was the cruelest institution of the colonial ...

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Lisa Clayton Robinson

Edward Wilmot Blyden is considered a pioneer in Pan-Africanist thought, although the term “Pan-Africanism” was not coined until the very end of Blyden's long life and career. Throughout his career as a diplomat, statesman, educator, and one of Liberia's most prominent champions, Blyden encouraged people of African descent around the world to embrace their history and culture, and to return to Africa, their ancestral homeland. His call for “Africa for Africans” represented a vision that was truly ahead of its time, that of a proud, rich, black civilization spread throughout the African continent. Blyden's writings and speeches influenced leaders and philosophers such as Cheikh Anta Diop, Kwame Nkrumah, Marcus Garvey, and C. L. R. James.

Blyden was born in 1832 into a middle-class free black family in Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands Although he was brought up in relative privilege ...

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Alonford James Robinson

Paul Bogle is a beloved figure in Jamaica. Although his legal status at the time of his birth is unclear, most scholars believe that he was born free in Stony Gut, Jamaica, in 1822. He operated a small independent farm there and became a lay preacher in the Native Baptist Church. His affiliation with this antislavery branch of the Baptist Church brought him into contact with British and Jamaican abolitionists, including activist George Gordon. Methodist and Baptist leaders, as well as leaders of other religious denominations, were active participants in the antislavery struggle. As a result, members of local black congregations like Bogle's were often exposed to antislavery debates, pamphlets, and sermons.

When slavery was abolished in 1834 blacks in Jamaica were promised freedom at the end of what turned out to be a four year period known as apprenticeship The apprenticeship policy forced slaves ...

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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 ...

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Paulette Poujol-Oriol

A fair-skinned mulatto, Jean-Pierre Boyer was born free in 1776, in what was then the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti). Following independence in 1804, Haiti remained divided into southern and northern regions. In 1818 Boyer succeeded Alexandre Pétion, who had ruled southern and western Haiti since 1806. Rivals and conspiracies notwithstanding, Boyer managed to unite the country and governed for twenty-five years. During his presidency he achieved diplomatic recognition for the new republic in controversial negotiations with France, and attempted to institute far-reaching economic and legal reforms.

As a young adult, Boyer had served with the French army. When the Haitian Revolution broke out, splitting the country apart, he initially sided with the forces of André Rigaud, which tried to establish a mulatto-controlled republic in the south. With Rigaud's defeat by François Dominique Toussaint Louverture the military commander of Haiti s black ...

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Born in the bustling city of Havana, Cuba, a cultural center for the development of Classical Music in Latin America and the Caribbean, Claudio Brindis de Salas was already a concert violinist at the age of ten. His father, Claudio Sr., was a well-known musician, teacher, and orchestra leader. Brindis de Salas studied with a Belgian teacher in Havana and later with Danclas, David, Sivori, and others at the Paris Conservatory. Brindis de Salas won awards and began traveling widely, earning many accolades in cities like Milan, Florence, Berlin, Saint Petersburg, and London. As a violin virtuoso he earned the nicknames “The Black Paganini” and “The King of the Octaves.” He toured with great success in Latin America, and in Buenos Aires, Argentina, his admirers gave him an authentic Stradivarius violin.

Brindis de Salas lived for a time in Berlin married a German ...

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Carlos Dalmau

Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Campeche was the son of a free black father and a Spanish-born mother. Campeche started drawing at an early age, influenced by his father, who was an artisan. He later had contact with the Spanish painter Luis Paret, who was exiled for three years (1775–1778) in Puerto Rico. Paret, a more experienced and formally trained painter, greatly influenced the style of the gifted Campeche.

Campeche is best known for his paintings of religious images and political figures. Among his works we find some of the first artistic representations of blacks in colonial slave society: the Exvoto de la Sagrada Familia (around 1800, Institute of Puerto Rican Culture Collection) and the street scene in Gobernador Ustariz (1789–1792, Institute of Puerto Rican Culture Collection). Another example is the artist's lost Self-Portrait that survives in two copies done by Ramón ...

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Aaron Myers

Born in Cachoeira, Bahia, Brazil, Antônio Frederico de Castro Alves exhibited an early talent for composing poems. At the age of twelve he wrote a poem praising one of his teachers for refusing to punish students physically. This marks one of the earliest manifestations of the humane philosophy that would later inform his antislavery poetry. During adolescence he also developed his oratorical skills by reciting his poems at school functions. Castro Alves established himself as both a captivating performer and an ardent abolitionist by continuing to produce and perform poetry until his death at the age of twenty-four.

Castro Alves was the second of six children born to Antônio José, a doctor, and Clélia Brasília, and he enjoyed a privileged upbringing. He attended the prestigious Ginásio Baiano in Salvador, a progressive school where he first met abolitionist Rui Barbosa he went on to study law in ...

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Gregory Freeland

Many of the details about Henri Christophe's early life are unclear, but it is thought that he was born a slave on the British-ruled island of Grenada. At a young age he ran away and eventually became the property of a French naval officer and then of a planter on what was then the French-ruled island of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti). In 1779 Christophe was part of an armed group sent by the French to assist Americans in defending Savannah, Georgia, against the British. Christophe, at that time a slave orderly, may have fought in a battalion led by the Marquis du Rouvrary; he was wounded in a conflict in Savannah, Georgia, in October 1779. Christophe then returned to Saint-Domingue, and some time during this period he purchased his freedom. By 1790 Christophe was part of a French militia force that overcame two Haitian rebel forces ...