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Darshell Silva

a Quaker, was born a slave near Rancocas, New Jersey, and was sometimes known as William Bowen or “Heston.” His owner treated him well, and Boen was allowed to learn to read and write. As a boy, Boen was afraid of dying during an Indian attack because of all of the stories circulating among the neighbors about others that were killed by Indians. Whenever he worked in the woods alone, he was on constant guard for Indian arrows. He felt he was not yet ready to die until he accepted what was within him that made him do good and reject evil, as the Quakers he was growing up around had done. The Society of Friends is a Christian sect founded by George Fox in 1660 that rejects formal sacraments a formal creed priesthood and violence They are also known as Quakers and are recognized by their plain speech ...

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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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Brycchan Carey

slave, writer, and abolitionist, was, according to his autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, born in the village of Essaka in Eboe, an unknown location in the Ibo-speaking region of modern Nigeria. Equiano recorded that he was the son of a chief and was also destined for that position. However, at about the age of ten, he was abducted and sold to European slave traders. In his narrative, Equiano recalls the Middle Passage in which “the shrieks of the women, and the groans of the dying, rendered the whole a scene of horror almost inconceivable” (58). Despite falling ill, Equiano survived the voyage and was taken first to Barbados and then to Virginia, where in 1754 he was bought by Michael Pascal a captain in the Royal Navy Pascal s first act was to rename the ...

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Xiomara Santamarina

civil rights litigant, known as Mum Bett, was born a slave in Claverack, New York, most likely to African parents. Mum Bett and her sister were owned by the Dutch Hogeboom family in Claverack. At an uncertain date, the sisters were sold to the family of John Ashley, a judge in the Massachusetts Court of Common Pleas and a prominent citizen of Sheffield, Massachusetts. Little is known about Mum Bett's life with the Ashleys, but it probably resembled the life of many northern slaves during the eighteenth century. Most slaves lived in small households in close proximity to their owners and performed a wide range of tasks to support the North's diversified economy.

Mum Bett's decision to sue for freedom was sparked by an incident of cruelty that is prominent in accounts of her life. When her mistress, Hannah Ashley struck Mum Bett s sister in ...

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Sandy Dwayne Martin

lay preacher, itinerant minister, early Methodist leader and guide, was born a slave, perhaps in the area of Fayetteville, North Carolina. There have been variations of his last name circulating throughout history: Hoosier, Hossier, and Hoshier in particular. Apparently he was often called “Black Harry” because of his purely African lineage. Little is known about his early life, his parentage or his family, and there is no record of the exact month and day of his death. He may have been enslaved by a Henry (or Harry) Dorset Gough in the Baltimore area.Hosier's tremendous power as a preacher, however, is well documented, beginning around 1780. Hosier preached in the Carolinas, the Middle Colonies and into the New England area. His fame as a circuit preacher emerged alongside several luminaries of early Methodism: Francis Asbury, Freeborn Garretson, Thomas Coke, Jesse Lee, Richard ...

Article

J. Susan Isaacs

painter, was probably born in the West Indies. It is now generally believed by scholars of American art and history that Johnson was black and may have come to this country as a young man, probably as a slave. Johnson might be identified as the “negro boy” mentioned in the 1777 will of Captain Robert Polk of Maryland. This boy is thought to have been purchased by Polk's brother-in-law, the noted artist Charles Willson Peale. Stylistic resemblances between the work of Charles Willson Peale and Joshua Johnson are apparent. Unfortunately, very little documentation on Johnson exists, and identification of his works is accomplished through provenance (mostly oral family tradition), and connoisseurship—observation of technique, subject matter, iconography, and style.

Johnson s artistic career spanned nearly thirty years during which he worked only in Baltimore painting portraits of many of its citizens Like many artists of the period he more ...

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Donald S. Armentrout

first black Protestant Episcopal priest, was born in Sussex, Delaware, the son of slave parents. He was a small child when his master took him from the fields to wait on the master in the house. Jones was very fond of learning and was very careful to save the pennies that were given to him by ladies and gentlemen from time to time. He soon bought a primer and would beg people to teach him how to read. Before long he was able to purchase a spelling book, and as his funds increased he began to buy books, including a copy of the New Testament. “Fondness for books gave me little or no time for amusements that took up the leisure hours of my companions” (Bragg, 3).

When Jones was sixteen his mother five brothers and a sister were sold and he was taken to Philadelphia by his master There ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

slave of George Washington, attending to him throughout the War of Independence, was likely born in Virginia and was initially the slave of Colonel John Lee of Westmoreland County, Virginia. After his owner's death in 1767, William Lee, who would retain his former master's surname for his entire life, was purchased by George Washington at auction in October 1767. The purchase price of William was high for the time, over sixty-one pounds, and was paid by Washington with a bond that came due in April 1769. At this same time, Washington also purchased from the Lee estate William's brother, Frank, described much like William as a “mulatto,” and two “negro” boys, Adam and Jack (Wiencek, 131). Subsequently transported to their new home at Washington's Mount Vernon estate, Adam and Jack were likely employed as field hands, while William and Frank Lee were set to work inside ...

Article

Tina C. Jones

was a Patriot of the American Revolutionary War. Legend has it that Oscar grew up on the same plantation as his famed master and war hero, Brigadier General Francis Marion, in Berkeley County, South Carolina, and that they played together as childhood friends in the 1730s. Francis Marion's family owned the plantation. Francis fondly referred to Oscar by his nickname, “Buddy.” In time, these childhood playmates would mature and, as adults, find fame as patriotic heroes and fierce guerrilla fighters in the Revolutionary War. Francis Marion grew up to become the wily general known to his enemies as the “Swamp Fox.” Oscar Marion's place fighting alongside Francis has only recently come into full focus, although his role in the war has often been portrayed in art and literature over the past two centuries.

Oscar Marion served in the 2nd Continental Army Regiment of South Carolina His volunteer service of ...

Article

Karen E. Sutton

Revolutionary War veteran, credited with causing the death of the British lieutenant colonel James Abercrombie at the Battle of Bunker Hill on 17 June 1775. Folklore has it that a teenage Lydia Abbott and her father purchased an African American male infant at a Salem, Massachusetts, slave auction block. The Abbotts lived in nearby Andover and were traveling by horseback. According to tradition, the baby rode either on the “bow” of the saddle or in the saddlebag of Lydia's horse. However he got to Andover, Lydia's family owned him, and had him baptized in the Congregational Church in 1747. In later years, Lydia Abbott gave Poor to her daughter, Chloe. As a child this African American male slave became known as “Salem Pony.” At approximately twenty-seven years of age, Salem purchased himself for twenty-seven pounds. The date was 10 July 1769 and the other party ...

Article

Nell Irvin Painter

abolitionist and women's rights advocate, was born in Hurley, Ulster County, New York, the daughter of James and Elizabeth Baumfree, who were slaves. Named Isabella by her parents, she took the name Sojourner Truth in 1843. As a child, Isabella belonged to a series of owners, the most memorable of whom were the John Dumont family of Esopus, Ulster County, to whom she belonged for approximately seventeen years and with whom she remained close until their migration to the West in 1849. About 1815 she married another of Dumont's slaves, Thomas, who was much older than she; they had five children. Isabella left Thomas in Ulster County after their emancipation under New York State law in 1827, but she did not marry again.

In the year before her emancipation Isabella left her master Dumont of her own accord and went to work for the ...

Article

John C. Shields

poet and cultivator of the epistolary writing style, was born in Gambia, Africa, probably along the fertile lowlands of the Gambia River. She was enslaved as a child of seven or eight and sold in Boston to John and Susanna Wheatley on 11 July 1761. The horrors of the Middle Passage likely contributed to her persistent trouble with asthma. The Wheatleys apparently named the girl, who had nothing but a piece of dirty carpet to conceal her nakedness, after the slaver, the Phillis, that transported her.The Wheatleys were more kindly toward Phillis than were most slaveowners of the time, permitting her to learn to read. The poet in Wheatley soon began to emerge. She published her first poem on 21 December 1765 in the Newport Mercury when she was about twelve The poem On Messrs Hussey and Coffin relates how these two gentlemen narrowly escaped drowning ...