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Asselin Charles

a mixed-race member of a noble Scottish family, was the illegitimate daughter of Captain John Lindsay of the Royal Navy and a slave of African origin, Maria Belle. Her parents met in the West Indies where Maria may have been captured from a Spanish ship. Belle may have spent part of her childhood in Pensacola, Florida, where Captain Lindsay was stationed for a year, from 1764 to 1765. He brought the child to England. His uncle, William Murray, first Earl of Mansfield, and his wife were childless. They were already raising another motherless great-niece, Elizabeth Murray, and they took Dido into their household, perhaps as a companion for Elizabeth. She was baptized on 20 November 1766 in St George s Bloomsbury London the parish church of Lord Mansfield s London house in Bloomsbury Square Her age is given as 5 years and her father is recorded as a ...

Article

Michael Berthold

backwoods legend, was born on Sourland Mountain, New Jersey, the daughter of Cuffy Baird, a Revolutionary War fifer who may have seen action at the battles of Trenton (1776) and Princeton (1777), and Dorcas Compton. Although they had different masters, both of Dubois's parents were slaves. Dubois may in part have inherited her own ferocious desire for freedom from her mother, who tried repeatedly but unsuccessfully to buy her own freedom. Dubois was owned by Dominicus (Minna) Dubois, a strict yet accommodating master much more congenial to Silvia than was his wife, who beat Silvia badly. Aside from Dubois's memories of moving as a young girl to the village of Flagtown and as a teenager to Great Bend, Pennsylvania, where her master kept a tavern, little biographical information exists about her childhood.

An imposing physical presence the adult Dubois stood approximately 5 10 ...

Article

Kathleen Chater

was born in Jamaica, the daughter of house slaves of Sir Simon Clarke, a member of the Council of Jamaica. Nothing is known of Amelia’s early life in Clarke’s household, but she had a condition, albinism, that was to change her future.

Albinism is an inherited genetic condition that prevents production of the normal amount of the skin pigment melanin. Although Amelia’s features were those of her parents of African origin, her skin, eyes, and hair were abnormally fair. It now seems distasteful to gawk at physical peculiarities, but this was not the case in the eighteenth century. Amelia and others like her were not regarded with revulsion or embarrassed pity, as they might be today, but as evidence of the wonders of nature. Clarke was determined to improve his family fortunes, and he decided that such a remarkable source of interest could not remain unexploited.

When she was about ...

Article

Micol Seigel

a mythical figure of black womanhood popularized in post-independence Brazilian history and memory. She is a composite of enslaved Afro-Brazilian wet nurses and domestic workers, conjured as an archetype in literature, music, art, public monuments, and political movements. Her image has served a range of ideological missions, shifting in relation to changing social hierarchies, race relations, labor migrations, gender conventions, and urban demography. Revealing as much about the eras that produced them as the historical people her images represent, views of her persona have oscillated from romantic fantasy to antipathy to nostalgia to critique.

For much of the nineteenth century, the Mãe Preta functioned as an iteration of the myth of the faithful slave, free of the risk of sexual corruption represented by the mulata. As the century progressed, particularly after the Law of the Free Womb of 1871 abolitionists invoked a contrastingly menacing Mãe Preta to sound ...

Article

Manuel Benavides Barquero

also known as “La Negrita” (The Little Black Lady), became the patron saint of Costa Rica in the early nineteenth century. In physical form, La Virgen is a small statue almost 6 inches tall and made of a dark granite, a representation of the Christian religion’s Virgin Mary. This black Madonna cradles an infant Jesus. The first written record of La Virgen’s existence appeared in 1629 in the Puebla de los Pardos (Colored or Brown Town) on the outskirts of the Spanish colonial city of Cartago (now in Costa Rica). Tradition states that she was found by an Indian girl, but it was the free black community that first embraced her as their protector and that in 1662 would rename their community “Puebla de la Reina de los Angeles” (Queen of Los Angeles Town).

Her presence among this ethnic group played a key role in forming the identity and defending ...