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Charles Rosenberg

pioneer settler in Los Angeles County, California, in the 1850s, blacksmith, teamster, firewood salesman, and landowner, was born in Kentucky around 1827. Although it is commonly assumed that he had been enslaved there, he arrived in California a free man prior to the Civil War, and nothing has been established about his previous life.

He was married on 6 November 1859 to a woman named Amanda, born in Texas, by Jesse Hamilton, the earliest pastor of First African Methodist Episcopal church, Los Angeles. Their first two children, Dora and Julia, were born in 1857 and 1859. In 1860 the household included a laborer named Juan Jose, recorded by the census as being of Indian ancestry. Another man of African descent, Oscar Smith from Mississippi lived next door and no race was specified for the other neighbors who had either English or Hispanic names ...

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Kate Tuttle

James P. Beckwourth, born of mixed-race parentage in Fredericksburg, Virginia, escaped an apprenticeship to a St. Louis, Missouri blacksmith and went west, taking a job with the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. He became an experienced trapper and fighter in the sparsely settled western territories. In 1824 the Crow Indian tribe adopted Beckwourth, who then married the daughter of the chief and earned such renown in battle that he was renamed Bloody Arm. Although he left the tribe after several years—and after earning honorary chief status—he continued a lifelong friendship with the Crows.

Criss-crossing the western and southern frontiers, Beckwourth worked as a guide, prospected for gold, served as a United States Army scout during the third Seminole War and was a rider for the Pony Express He also worked with California s Black Franchise League in an effort unsuccessful at the time to repeal a law barring blacks from ...

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Lisa E. Rivo

mountain man, fur trapper and trader, scout, translator, and explorer, was born James Pierson Beckwith in Frederick County, Virginia, the son of Sir Jennings Beckwith, a white Revolutionary War veteran and the descendant of minor Irish aristocrats who became prominent Virginians. Little is known about Jim's mother, a mixed-race slave working in the Beckwith household. Although he was born into slavery, Jim was manumitted by his father in the 1820s. In the early 1800s, Beckwith moved his family, which reputedly included fourteen children, to Missouri, eventually settling in St. Louis. Some commentators suggest that Beckwith, an adventurous outdoorsman, was seeking an environment less hostile to his racially mixed family.

As a young teenager, after four years of schooling, Jim Beckwourth as his name came to be spelled was apprenticed to a blacksmith Unhappy as a tradesman he fled to the newly discovered lead mines in Illinois s Fever ...

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David H. Anthony

adventurer, mariner, and African emigrationist, was born to Susan Cuffe and John Dean in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Harry Foster Dean followed the family profession when he decided to become a seafarer. By the age of thirteen he was on an around-the-world cruise captained by his Uncle Silas. A decade later he had made his way to Southampton, England, where he was mentored by a Captain Forbes. He later reported that he won his captain's license in that port, beginning a new phase in his life. According to Dean, his mother, Susan, was a granddaughter of the black Yankee Paul Cuffe As the progeny of the Cuffe family Dean considered himself a black aristocrat Since Cuffe was a merchant and back to Africa advocate Dean dreamed of reversing the effects and trajectories of the Middle Passage and removing himself to his ancestral continent of origin Much of what ...

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Richard C. Lindberg

explorer and merchant, was born in San Marc, Haiti, the son of a slave woman (name unknown) and Dandonneau (first name unknown), scion of a prominent French Canadian family active in the North American fur trade. Surviving historical journals record the name of Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable (Pointe au Sable by some accounts), a Haitian of mixed-race ancestry, as the first permanent settler of Chicago. In her 1856 memoir of frontier life in the emerging Northwest Territory, Juliette Kinzie, the wife of the fur trader John Kinzie makes note of the fact that the first white man who settled here was a Negro Several of the voyageurs and commercial men who regularly traversed the shores of southern Lake Michigan in the last decade of the eighteenth century kept accurate records of their encounters in journals and ledger books One such entry describes du Sable as a ...

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Jeremy Rich

Portuguese explorer who helped open up European commercial links to both western and eastern Africa, was born sometime between 1460 and 1469. He probably was born at Sines, a town on the southwestern coast of Portugal. His father was Estêvão da Gama, a knight in the court of the Duke of Viseu. Da Gama’s mother was Isabel Sodré, a woman of noble descent. It is a paradox that so little is known of da Gama’s life, given his fame as the first Portuguese sea captain to reach India. Since da Gama was a younger son, he may have entered Atlantic exploration to make up for losing out on his father’s inheritance.

At some point da Gama became an agent of King João II of Portugal who sought to promote Atlantic trade and exploration like his more famous predecessor Henry the Navigator Gama joined the Order of Santiago a brotherhood ...

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Jeremy Rich

important trader and a promoter of Portuguese ties to West Africa, was apparently born to a well-off family in Lisbon sometime in the opening decades of the fifteenth century. Little is known of his early life, personal family history, or even death. It is known, however, that Gomes apparently fought in Morocco and learned North African dances there. It is ironic that such obscurity surrounds a man who played a pivotal role in expanding Portuguese influence on the coast of West Africa.

Gomes first clearly enters the historical record in 1469. After the death in 1461 of Henry the Navigator the legendary supervisor of Portuguese maritime exploration of West Africa and the Atlantic Ocean the Portuguese crown became so distracted by its wars with the Islamic sultanate of Morocco and its Christian neighbor of Castile that efforts to develop trade with West African coastal communities slowed down King ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

was the first African American and perhaps the first of any color to become a millionaire in Texas. His life reflects substantial changes in the social and legal implications of skin color from the late eighteenth century to the mid-nineteeth century, distinct from, but closely related to, changes in the institution of slavery.

His father was a “free colored” man named William Goyens Sr. (or Goin), born in 1762, who enlisted in a company of the Tenth North Carolina Regiment May 1781–May 1782 for the Revolutionary War. After discharge from the militia, Goyens Sr. married an unknown woman referred to as “white,” who was the mother of the younger William Goyens. Goyens Sr. then remarried a colored woman named Elizabeth in 1793. Goyens Sr. received an invalid pension for North Carolina militia service in 1835, at the age of seventy-two (Research of Cindy Goins Hoelscher ...

Article

Vickey Kalambakal

gold miner and rancher who was legally stripped of his property and liberty, was born into slavery, most likely in the early nineteenth century. Nothing is known about him, including the place of his birth or his parents' names, until 1849 when he accompanied his owner Tucker Wood from Arkansas to California.

When Wood returned to Arkansas four years later, Hill stayed in California. A document filed in the county court of Tuolumne County states that Hill bought his freedom from Wood on 1 April 1853. Almost seven months later, on 27 October 1853 Hill filed a claim to 160 acres of land at the top of a canyon on the Stanislaus River in central California less than five miles from Sonora The claim was recorded and Hill began to work his land clearing and sowing forty acres with wheat and barley He also built a cabin to ...

Article

Elizabeth Zoe Vicary

William Alexander Leidesdorff was born in St. Croix in the Danish Virgin Islands, the son of William Leidesdorff, a Danish planter, and Anna Marie Sparks, an Afro-Caribbean slave. He was educated by his owner, who reportedly treated him more as a son than as a slave. As a young man he was sent to New Orleans to work for his uncle's cotton business as a master of ships sailing between New York and New Orleans. Both his father and uncle died soon after, leaving Leidesdorff a sizable inheritance. His newly acquired wealth enabled him to propose to a woman he had been courting, Hortense, who accepted. The engagement ended painfully, shortly before the wedding day, when Leidesdorff told his fiancée that he was of African descent through his mother. Hortense called off the wedding, and he, heartbroken, left New Orleans.

Arriving in California in 1841 aboard ...

Article

Leland Conley Barrows

Franco-Senegalese habitant from Gorée, explorer of the Mauritanian Sahara, was born on Gorée Island in Senegal to a poor family. Although orphaned very young, he obtained a good education that included accounting. When choosing a career, he vacillated, like many of his habitant peers from Gorée and Saint-Louis, between work as a gum trader or a modest position in the colonial bureaucracy of Senegal. Taking employment in 1838 as a clerk in the French naval administration in Saint-Louis, he resigned a few months later to become a gum trading agent for François-Michel Pellegrin, the former mayor of Saint-Louis, who was one of the wealthiest habitants of Senegal. Not being very successful, Panet reentered the naval administration in 1845, first as a clerk and then as an accountant.

Between 1838 and 1854 Panet seems to have been won over to certain new ideas about the commercial future of Senegal ...

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Christopher Paul Moore

sailor and trader, was born in Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), probably the son of an Afro- Caribbean mother and a European father. Like other Atlantic Creoles—persons of African descent whose names suggest that they had long experience in the western Atlantic world—Rodrigues was among those navigators, traders, pirates, and fishermen who traversed the Atlantic as free men, before and during the slavery era of the Americas. Knowledgeable in the many languages, laws, religions, and trading etiquettes of the larger Atlantic world, their presence suggests the porous character of racial lines in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which allowed people of African descent to be employed and even rise to positions of authority in a world suffused with African slavery. Rodrigues arrived in the northeastern territory of North America following the arrival of at least two other free black men, including Esteban Gomez and Mathieu Da Costa.

In April ...

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Trevor Hall

was born on 9 March 1454, but became a naturalized citizen of Spain in 1505. His father, Nastagio Vespucci, and mother, Lisabetta Mani, were friends of the powerful Medici family who governed much of Italy. Vespucci’s reason for renown is that he was the first to recognize South America was a continent separate from Asia, and one of the first to sail from Europe to West Africa then directly to South America, before returning to Europe. He completed the triangular transatlantic trade, without transporting enslaved Africans across the Atlantic. In 1502, while sailing with the Portuguese, Vespucci navigated from Portugal to West Africa and then directly to South America. Four years before Vespucci sailed from Portugal, another Italian, Christopher Columbus had sailed from the Portuguese Cape Verde Islands to South America, also without enslaved Africans. Two decades later in 1518 the Spanish king authorized merchants to ...