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Leigh Fought

Ruth Cox Adams, a fugitive slave from Maryland, adopted the name Harriet Bailey and lived with Frederick Douglass and his family from 1844 to 1847. Ruth Cox was born in Easton, Maryland, sometime between 1818 and 1822. Her father was an unknown free black man who disappeared after he went to Baltimore in search of better wages during Ruth's childhood. Her mother, Ebby Cox, was a slave in the Easton household of John Leeds Kerr, a lawyer who represented Maryland first in the House of Representatives (1825–1829 and 1831–1833) and then in the Senate (1841–1843).

When Kerr died in February 1844 he left instructions for all his property to be sold, including the slaves, and for the proceeds to be used to pay his debts. This turn of events probably prompted Ruth to flee north. By August 1844 she was ...

Article

Kimberly Springer

educator, writer, and activist, was born Anna Julia Haywood in Raleigh, North Carolina, to Hannah Stanley, a slave. There is no consensus regarding her father, although he was most likely her mother's owner, Dr. Fabius J. Haywood, or his brother, George Washington Haywood. Anna exhibited a love of books and a gift for learning early in her childhood. Hannah was hired out as a nursemaid to a successful local lawyer, whose family most likely assisted her daughter in learning to read and write. Most important, however, was Anna's mother herself, who although illiterate, encouraged her daughter's education.

In 1867 Anna was one of the first students admitted to St Augustine s Normal School and Collegiate Institute a recently founded Episcopal school for newly freed slaves At age nine she found herself tutoring students older than herself and decided to earn her teaching credentials At St Augustine s ...

Article

Cecily Jones

Enslaved husband and wife abolitionists whose self‐liberation from slavery in Georgia to freedom in England represents one of the most daring escapes from American enslavement. In 1848 light‐skinned Ellen conceived a plan to escape by cutting her hair, donning male clothing, and ‘passing’ as a southern white male slaveholder travelling to the North for medical treatment, while her darker‐skinned husband William posed as a faithful slave valet. After a dangerous journey through the South, the couple reached Boston, where their story of escape made them causes célèbres in abolitionists circles. With the fugitive slave William Wells Brown, the Crafts gave a series of anti‐slavery lectures throughout New England. Their freedom was threatened, however, by the passing of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, which provided for the return of fugitive slaves to their masters in the South, and also mandated the assistance of northerners in the fugitives' capture. In November ...

Article

Leigh Fought

The enigmatic first wife of Frederick Douglass, Anna Murray Douglass, has been misunderstood and misrepresented by historians as well as by her husband's associates since he first rose to fame in 1842. Her early life, including her birth and parentage, remain sparsely documented. Most historians agree that she was the daughter of Bambarra and Mary Murray, emancipated slaves from Denton in Caroline County, Maryland. As a young adult she lived in Baltimore, Maryland, working as a housekeeper and laundress in white homes. Despite refusing to demonstrate reading or writing skills throughout her life, she clearly had some interest in self-improvement in her youth because she first met Frederick Douglass, then known as Frederick Bailey, through mutual friends at the East Baltimore Mental Improvement Society, an organization of free blacks who promoted literacy.

The two had met by the late summer of 1838 when Anna sold many of ...

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Cecily Jones

The first female African‐American author of a fugitive slave narrative, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861). Born in North Carolina to an enslaved mother, who died when Jacobs was aged 6, she then lived with her grandmother and her mistress, from whom she learnt to read and write. Following her mistress's death, Jacobs was sent to Dr James Norcom, who subjected her to prolonged physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. To avoid Norcom's unwanted sexual attentions, Jacobs began a relationship with a white attorney, with whom she had two children.

Hoping that by running away she might persuade Norcom to sell her children to their father, in 1835 Jacobs concealed herself above a storeroom in her grandmother's house, before escaping to the North in 1842. She joined a circle of abolitionists who worked for the North Star, Frederick Douglass's newspaper. In 1853 ...

Article

Russell H. Davis

Lucy Bagby Johnson's capture, detention, and trial in Cleveland, Ohio, created great excitement in the city in January 1861 and for a time threatened serious consequences. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 (one of two federal Fugitive Slave Laws passed by Congress) had led to other attempts to remove fugitive slaves from the city between 1850 and 1860, but the case of Johnson overshadowed them all in the interest and indignation it aroused.

On the morning of January 19, 1861 a group of law officers led by a deputy marshal forcibly entered the home where Lucy Bagby was employed removed her and placed her in the county jail on a charge filed by her owner of being a runaway slave A mob gathered about the jail and threatened to remove her from the custody of the sheriff Three of Cleveland s prominent white lawyers volunteered to act as ...

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Lisa E. Rivo

poet, essayist, teacher, and activist, was born in Harlem, New York, the daughter of Jamaican-born parents Mildred Maud Fisher, a nurse, and Granville Ivanhoe Jordan, a postal clerk. Mildred, who was half East Indian, was a quiet and religious woman who had given up a career as an artist to marry; she struggled with depression and eventually committed suicide in 1966. Jordan's father, who was half Chinese and a follower of the black nationalist Marcus Garvey made no apologies for his dissatisfaction with his only child s gender He had wanted a boy and treated Jordan as such Referring to her as he and the boy Granville subjected his young daughter to rigorous mental and physical training regimens that included camping fishing and boxing instruction aggressive mathematical and literary testing and often brutal physical beatings Jordan describes her father s abuse in ...

Article

Kate Clifford Larson

Harriet Tubman was one of the most famous conductors on the Underground Railroad. Her successful, secret journeys into Maryland during the 1850s to rescue enslaved women, men, and children have immortalized her in the minds of Americans for one hundred and fifty years. Born into slavery on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Tubman gained international acclaim during her lifetime as an Underground Railroad operator, abolitionist, Civil War spy and nurse, suffragist, and humanitarian. After escaping from enslavement in 1849, Tubman dedicated herself to fighting for freedom, equality, and justice for the remainder of her long life, earning her the biblical name “Moses” and a place among the nation’s most famous historical figures.

Article

Maria Lauret

writer, activist, and educator, was born in Eatonton, Georgia, the youngest daughter of Willie Lee and Minnie Lou Grant Walker, who were sharecroppers. As the youngest of eight children growing up in the South, Walker experienced her share of familial and racial tension but also a good deal of closeness between, particularly, the female members of her family, whose talents and achievements she celebrates in her novels, poems, and essays. When she was eight years old, her brother shot her in the eye with a BB gun while they were playing cowboys and Indians, causing an injury that, despite later corrective surgery, scarred her for life. The incident led Walker into the first of several recurrent episodes of self-reflection and isolation, which, although desperately difficult, often resulted in the reassertion of her artistic voice.

A gifted child Walker graduated from her high school as its valedictorian in ...