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Maria Elena Raymond

former slave, western pioneer, church founder, businesswoman, and philanthropist, was born in Gallatin, Tennessee—some sources offer a birth date of 1800—and at the age of three was sold with her mother to a planter in Virginia. There, at the age of eighteen, she married a slave named Richard and had several children. When her owner, Ambrose Smith, died in 1835Clara and her children were auctioned off to different slaveholders. Her daughter Margaret was sold to a slaveholder in Kentucky and reportedly died a few years later. Clara lost contact with her son Richard, who was sold repeatedly. Another daughter, Eliza Jane, was sold to a James Covington, also in Kentucky.Clara was sold again at auction, this time to a Kentucky slaveholder named George Brown a merchant and for the next two decades served the Brown family as a house slave During this ...

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Erica Lorraine Williams

a warrior who, along with her husband Zumbi, helped to defend Palmares, a famed Maroon community (quilombo) established in the late sixteenth century in the northeastern Brazilian captaincy of Alagoas. While many scholars have estimated that Palmares was home to up to 20,000 inhabitants, James Lockhart and Stuart Schwartz (1983) question such a high figure, which would have made Palmares the largest city in colonial Brazil. Nonetheless, Palmares is generally regarded as the largest and longest-lived fugitive community in Brazil. Today, Zumbi and Dandara maintain symbolic importance as Afro-Brazilians continue to struggle for racial and social equality.

While there are no public records of Dandara’s exact place or date of birth, her full name, or her parents’ names, sources say that she was most likely born in Brazil and moved to Palmares as a girl. Palmares was not a single community, but rather several mocambos ...

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Lisa E. Rivo

building foreman and caretaker, U.S. mail coach driver, Montana pioneer, also known as Black Mary or Stagecoach Mary, was born a slave in Hickman County, Tennessee. Information about Fields's parentage and early life remain unconfirmed, although James Franks, whose grandparents knew Fields in the late 1800s in Montana, writes that Fields was the daughter of Suzanna and Buck, slaves of the Dunne family, owners of a Hickman County plantation. The Dunnes sold Buck immediately following Mary's birth. According to Franks, the Dunnes allowed Suzanna to keep her daughter with her in quarters behind the kitchen, and Mary enjoyed a relatively privileged childhood, even becoming friends with the Dunne's daughter Dolly, who was about the same age as Mary. This arrangement, Franks writes, lasted until Suzanna's death forced fourteen-year-old Mary to take over her mother's household duties.

Whether or not Franks s account is accurate it is ...

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Mary Fields was born a slave in Tennessee, but little else is known of her early life. Some historical accounts have placed her on the Mississippi River in the early 1870s, and at least one researcher claims that she was a passenger on the Robert E. Lee when it raced the steamer Natchez in June 1870. By 1884 Fields was living in Toledo, Ohio, where she worked as a handywoman for an order of Ursuline nuns. She became attached to the mother superior of the convent, Mother Amadeus, who is variously reported as a close friend or as the master in a master-servant relationship. Shortly after Fields arrived at the convent, Mother Amadeus left for Montana to open a school for Blackfeet Native American girls. When Mother Amadeus fell ill in Helena, Fields came to her aid and decided to stay in Montana.

Fields assisted the Catholic mission ...

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Kelli Cardenas Walsh

The story of Mary Fields is one of race, gender, and age. She was the antithesis of the nineteenth-century Victorian image of womanhood. In an age of domesticity, Fields lived a frontier life dependent upon no one and uninhibited by Jim Crow.

A former slave, in freedom Fields became an independent, gunslinging, liquor-drinking woman in the untamed frontier of Montana. She stood six feet tall and was stout. Details about the early life of Mary Fields are sparse, other than that she was born into slavery in 1832. Judge Dunn in Hickman County, Tennessee, owned Fields and presumably owned her family. She was befriended by her master’s daughter, Dolly, and remained with the family after Emancipation.

Once she left the Dunn family Fields spent an unspecified time in Ohio and along the Mississippi River During this time Dolly joined a convent of Ursuline nuns taking the name of ...

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John G. Turner

Latter-day Saint and Utah pioneer, was born to former slaves in Wilton, Connecticut. Beginning as a young girl, she worked for a wealthy white family. “[W]hen about fourteen years old I joined the Presbyterian [Congregationalist] Church,” she wrote many decades later. “Yet I did not feel satisfied it seemed to me there was something more that I was looking for” (Newell, p. 263).

Around 1842 still living in Connecticut Manning was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints commonly known as Mormonism Several weeks later she experienced the gift of speaking in tongues a practice common in Mormonism during the early years Obedient to the church s principle of gathering she left her home to travel with her family and a group of Latter day Saints to Nauvoo Illinois Upon reaching Buffalo New York the black members of the church were refused further ...

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Kenyatta D. Berry

a black Seminole, was born around 1857 or 1858 in Nacimiento de Los Negros, the settlement established in northern Mexico following the emigration of Indian and Black Seminoles from the United States Indian Territory in 1849. In 1849 about two hundred Seminoles and blacks left the reserve without the permission of Indian agents or government officials and headed to Mexico. Nine months later they crossed into the Rio Grande at Eagle Pass. The Mexican government settled the new immigrants into two small military colonies at Muzquiz and Nacimiento de Los Negros. At its peak in 1850 this colony provided a home for more than seven hundred Black Seminole men women and children The tribes of Black Seminoles were a mixture of Seminole Indians and African American slaves fleeing from Florida after the Seminole War This group became famous for their thorough clearing of marauders from their territory ...

Article

Kahina  

Allen J. Fromherz

semi legendary queen of the Aures Mountain Berbers who resisted the Arab Muslim conquest of North Africa Her name the Kahina meaning the sorceress in Arabic was ascribed to her by Arab chronicles Indeed the main sources describing the Arab conquest of the Berbers are all in Arabic and are written from the perspective of the conqueror Legends ascribed to Kahina therefore must be seen as part of a conquest narrative even as they often portray her as a noble adversary of the spread of Islam Nevertheless it is almost certain that Kahina represented a historic person a woman or perhaps even a group of different queens or chieftesses who resisted the Arab conquest in the late seventh century Her memory is preserved and celebrated even by the most strident Berber converts to Islam In recent years she has become a powerful symbol of Berber nationalism both within and beyond ...

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Kahina  

Marian Aguiar

In the seventh century, the Arabs arrived in the land they called Ifriqiya, in present-day Tunisia, bringing Islam and seeking gold. The Jarawa Berbers in the Aurès Mountains became the main force halting their progress through North Africa. This group was known for their military prowess, and although they offered nominal allegiance to the Byzantine Empire, they in fact ruled their own land. Their chief was the Kahina, a woman who, some said, was more than a hundred years old and had two sons of two fathers, one Greek and one Berber She might have been a Christian or a Jew and some historians have attributed her resistance to religious fervor Or she might have simply been a strong ruler who would rather burn down her own kingdom than let it fall into the hands of an outside force There is little historical documentation of the Kahina s ...

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Cheryl McEwan

British traveler, explorer, and writer, was born in Islington, London, on 13 October 1862. Her father was George Kingsley, a doctor and travel writer. Her mother was Mary Bailey. Kingsley was largely self-educated at home while caring for her invalid mother. Following the deaths of both parents in 1892, she embarked on her first journey to West Africa in August 1893. She traveled from Luanda to the Congo River estuary, through the French Congo to Fernando Po and to Calabar in the Oil Rivers Protectorate, returning to Britain early in 1894. Her second journey (December 1894–September 1895) took her from Sierra Leone to the Gold Coast and Calabar. From there she sailed to the mouth of the Ogowé River in the French Congo, exploring its lower reaches in July 1895 before traveling overland from Lambaréné to the Rembwé River which she followed to the coast ...

Article

Many Kingsley was born in London, the daughter of a medical doctor who traveled extensively. She made her first visit to Africa in 1893, following the deaths of her parents. Kingsley sailed to the Gulf of Guinea port of Calabar, on the coast of what is now Nigeria, and from there traveled inland. From the Niger River region to the north, she traveled southward as far as the lower Congo River region in what is now northern Angola. Throughout the trip she studied African religious practices.

Kingsley returned to England in 1894, but set out again for West Africa later that year, stopping first on the coast of what are now Cameroon and Gabon In Gabon she traveled by steamboat up the Ogooué River At Lambaréné she continued her river journey by canoe into the Great Forest region territory that was then seldom visited by ...

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Betti Carol VanEpps-Taylor

adventurer, entrepreneur, and cook, was born a slave near Algood, Tennessee, probably the granddaughter of her white master, Martin Marchbanks, and the oldest of eleven children of a slave woman. Trained as a housekeeper and kitchen worker she lived on her white uncle's plantation, until while still quite young she traveled with a Marchbanks daughter to California during the gold rush, gaining first hand impressions of the West and its opportunities. After emancipation she and several siblings sought their fortunes in Colorado. Lured by the discovery of gold in the Black Hills she arrived in Deadwood on 1 June 1876 Unlike most others however she never intended to mine gold having come to believe that there was more profit in offering services to the miners using skills she already possessed She began her career in the kitchens of the Grand Central Hotel where she soon ...

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Steven J. Niven

one of the first slaves to enter the Kansas Territory, was born in Madison County, Kentucky. In her narrative dictated to the Scottish American abolitionist James Redpath in 1858, Noll does not name her parents but notes that she, like her mother, a cook, was owned by William Campbell, a prominent landowner, while her father was owned by a man named Barrett, who lived three miles away. Among the other slaves owned by Campbell were Lewis Garrard Clarke and John Milton Clarke, who both later escaped slavery and became prominent abolitionists in Boston in the 1850s. As of 1858 Noll incorrectly believed that Lewis Clarke, upon whom Harriet Beecher Stowe modeled the character George Harris in Uncle Tom's Cabin (1851), had been caught and returned to slavery in Kentucky.

When Noll was fourteen her master moved to Clay County Missouri bringing with him ...

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Selma Pantoja

was a queen and warrior of Ngola, a territory now within the borders of the present-day People’s Republic of Angola. She was also known as Ana de Sousa. There are many stories told about this queen, yet many fundamental aspects of her life are unknown. Her place of birth, the kingdom of Ndongo, was mainly occupied by the Mbundu people, who spoke Kimbundu, and bordered on various cultural and linguistic frontiers in West Central Africa. Nzinga grew up during the first attacks by the Portuguese conquerors. She was twenty years old when the Portuguese built a fort in the Ngola territory. In 1618, Nzinga aided in the construction of another fort in the heart of Ndongo, which continued for some time as an independent political entity.

After the death of her father her brother Ngola Mbandi became king The new Mbundu ruler faced devastating wars that slowed the Portuguese ...

Article

Lynn Downey

legendary woman of influence and political power in Gold Rush and Gilded Age San Francisco, was born, according to some sources, a slave in Georgia; other sources claim that her mother was a Louisiana slave and her father was Asian or Native American. Many sources agree that she lived in Boston, as a free woman, the wife of James W. Smith, a Cuban abolitionist. When he died in 1844 he left her his estate, valued at approximately forty-five thousand dollars.

Mary Ellen next married a man whose last name was Pleasant or Pleasants and made her way to California, arriving in San Francisco in 1849 Her husband s whereabouts after this time have never been made clear She started life in San Francisco as a cook for wealthy clients then opened her own boardinghouse Her guests were said to be men of influence and it was rumored ...

Article

Lynn Hudson

Mary Ellen Pleasant arrived in San Francisco during the Gold Rush, probably sometime in 1852. For the next fifty years, she worked as cook, accountant, abolitionist, and entrepreneur in the bustling town on the bay. Histories of the West describe her as madam, voodoo queen, and prostitute. Pleasant herself requested that the words “she was a friend of John Brown’s” be printed on her gravestone, indicating her own desire to be remembered as an abolitionist. She was the target of what one historian has called an “avid conspiracy” that sought to silence her, and it was said that she harbored the skeletons of San Francisco’s elite in her closet.

The folklore about Pleasant reveals conflicting stories of her background (some say she was from Georgia, others Virginia), but Pleasant herself claimed she was born in Philadelphia She described her mother as a free colored woman and her ...

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One of San Francisco's most colorful and controversial characters in the late nineteenth century was Mary Ellen Pleasant, a former slave who moved to the city in 1849. She began managing a boarding house whose reputation for cards, liquor, and beautiful women—it is likely her services included procuring prostitutes—earned it a devoted following.

No mere businesswoman, Pleasant involved herself in both local and national politics. In 1858, she personally presented abolitionist John Brown with a $30,000 U.S. Treasury Bond, after which she traveled south to promote his upcoming revolt. When Brown was captured at Harpers Ferry, Pleasant returned to California under an assumed name, where she raised money for the Union cause in the Civil War, and continued her work for civil rights.

Throughout her life Pleasant helped escaped and former slaves find work in San Francisco mostly as domestic servants Some historians speculate that Pleasant ...

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Alexandrine Tinné was born in The Hague, Netherlands, to a wealthy family. An unhappy love affair may have prompted her to leave home and embark on a voyage in search of the Nile River’s source. In 1862 Tinné hired a small fleet of boats in Cairo Egypt and left on her first expedition up the Nile Accompanying her were her mother her aunt several scientists and a number of assistants and servants Tinné ascended the Nile as far as Gondokoro in present day southern Sudan above which the river became unnavigable She planned to meet British explorer John Hanning Speke who was exploring the upper reaches of the Nile to the south When Speke s expedition failed to arrive when expected Tinné set off on her own to determine the source of the Nile Traveling overland she ventured into the watershed region between the Congo and Nile rivers in ...

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Jean Ouédraogo

princess, ruler, and military leader, was born in Gambaga of the Dagomba country of northern Ghana. Her father was Naba Nedga and her grandfather Naba Gbewa of Pousga. An intrepid warrior, she married a hunter named Rialle late in life after fleeing the Dagomba. From their union was born a son named Ouedraogo, who is credited by historians with founding the sprawling medieval empire of the Mossi. Grief-stricken upon learning of the news of Ouedraogo’s death on the battlefield near Ouagadougou, Yennenga and Rialle both died within weeks and were buried in Zambanlga, Rialle’s native village.

It may never be possible to definitively elicit the facts dates and events surrounding the life of Yennenga Nonetheless the relevance and continued importance of their matriarch to the Mossi and to West Africa more generally cannot be overstated Despite the variations in the main narrative whose twists and turns remain rooted in the ...