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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 ...

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Kimberly Cheek

enslavedAfrican-American woman, was born free in Illinois around 1818. The exact date and place of her birth, and the names of her parents are not known. The memoir From Darkness Cometh Light; or Struggles for Freedom, which was published by her daughter Lucy Ann Delany in 1891, provides an account of her mother's life. Despite this extant narrative the chronological record of Berry's origins, movements, and transfer of ownership during her enslavement remains vague.

Her enslavement began in the 1820s, when Polly was abducted, taken to St. Louis, Missouri, and sold into slavery. Shortly afterward she resided in Wayne County, Kentucky. Eric Gardner in Unexpected Places asserts that the Beatty family of Wayne County Kentucky were Polly s first owners p 33 Eventually the Beattys sold her to a poor farmer named Joseph Crockett and she became known as Polly Crockett When she was fourteen ...

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Celia  

Steven J. Niven

a slave executed for killing her master, was probably born in central Missouri. The names of her parents are unknown. Practically all the information that is known about Celia is taken from court records and newspaper accounts of her trial for the murder in 1855 of Robert Newsom, a farmer and slave-owner in Calloway County, Missouri. Newsom had purchased Celia in neighboring Audrain County, Missouri, some five years earlier. Celia was the only female slave in the Newsom household; the five others included a young boy and four young adult males who herded the livestock and harvested the eight hundred acres of prime land that had helped elevate Robert Newsom to a position “solidly among the ranks of Callaway's residents who were comfortably well-off” (McLaurin, 8). Newsom's wife had died in 1849 and it may have been that he purchased Celia a cook to assist his thirty six ...

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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 ...

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Sara Kakazu

autobiographer and religious leader, was born Lucy Ann Berry in St. Louis, Missouri, to Polly Crocket Berry, who was born free in Illinois, but was kidnapped and enslaved as a child. She and her husband, whose name is not known, were enslaved by Major Taylor Berry of St. Louis and had two children, Lucy and Nancy. Delaney's early childhood was relatively happy; she was not aware of her position as a slave nor was she expected to perform any labor for her owners. Lucy Delaney's peaceful childhood was interrupted when Major Berry who had paradoxically been both a master and a friend to her father was killed in a duel After Berry s death his widow remarried and Delaney s father was sold south contrary to the Major s will This traumatic separation only increased Polly Berry s determination to escape with her daughters to freedom she ...

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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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Laura Murphy

was born to an enslaved mother on Maplewood Plantation in Boone County, Kentucky. Her mother, Priscilla, worked in the plantation house and helped to raise the children of John P. Gaines, her owner and later a U.S. congressman and governor of the Oregon territory. While Priscilla is listed as “black” in the 1850 census, Margaret Garner is listed as “mulatto” suggesting that John Gaines was perhaps Margaret's father. When Gaines left to govern Oregon, he abruptly sold his plantation and all of the slaves on it to his brother, Archibald James, who thus became Margaret's owner.

On 27 January 1856 Garner and sixteen other slaves escaped from the various Kentucky plantations on which they worked They stole two horses to which they hitched a sled to carry them to the Ohio River Leaving Covington Kentucky together they crossed the frozen Ohio River after which they split up ...

Article

Rhondda Robinson Thomas

believed to be the last fugitive slave returned to the South under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, was born Sara Lucy Bagby. Details about her ancestry, place of birth, and early years are unknown. At the time of her arrest in Cleveland, Ohio, on 19 January 1861, U.S. marshals identified Bagby as a slave of William S. Goshorn, a merchant from Wheeling, Virginia (now West Virginia). In 1852 Goshorn's father, John Goshorn, had purchased Bagby in Richmond, Virginia, and transported her to Wheeling. There she worked for John Goshorn until he sold her to his son William.

Bagby toiled for the Goshorns about eight years before seeking freedom. Shortly after federal marshals arrested and jailed her in Cleveland, she described her escape from slavery during an interview with a reporter from the Cleveland Morning Leader Bagby identified herself as twenty four year old ...

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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 ...

Article

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 ...

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Cassandra Veney

slave, participant, and co-conspirator in an attempted slave revolt in 1800. There is a scant historical record of the life of Nancy Prosser. She is best known for her role in the 1800 aborted slave revolt led by her husband, Gabriel, and his two brothers, Solomon and Martin. Nancy, who went by the nickname Nanny, was born a slave in Henrico County, Virginia. She married Gabriel sometime around 1799. There is no record of any children born of the union. Gabriel was the slave of Thomas Henry Prosser the couple has often been called Prosser but there is no evidence that they used their owner s surname After the two were married it is not certain if Nancy lived with Gabriel on the Prosser plantation Brookfield located approximately six miles from Richmond Whether the two lived together or not they probably influenced ...

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Sara Kakazu

slave who sued for freedom, was born to a white mother and a father of African descent, most likely a slave. Slew lived as a free woman until 1762, marrying several times. At the age of forty-three she was forcefully kidnapped from her Massachusetts home and enslaved by John Whipple Jr.

Three years after her capture Slew filed a civil suit, Jenny Slew, Spinster, versus John Whipple, Jr., Gentleman against her would be master asserting through her counsel that as a child s legal status follows that of the mother she was like her white mother a free woman Though at the time most colonies denied slaves legal protection Massachusetts allowed an enslaved individual though still recognized as property to bring a civil suit As one of the first slaves to sue for freedom Slew faced a panel of judges who had no precedent to follow She accidentally ...

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Glenn Allen Knoblock

slave of President George Washington, was the daughter of Andrew Judge, a white indentured servant who came to North America from England in 1772, and an enslaved woman named Betty. Andrew Judge worked at the Washingtons' Mount Vernon estate for a term of four years before becoming free. Betty was originally a slave of Martha Washington's first husband. Upon his death and Martha's subsequent marriage to George Washington, Betty came to Mount Vernon, where she met Judge. Though Ona's father was free, the children of slave women in Virginia were, as virtually everywhere else in the New World, legally considered the property of their owners and remained in bondage.

Betty was an expert seamstress for the Washington family Like her mother Ona Judge was assigned to work in the Washington mansion performing domestic duties and she learned sewing skills from her mother She became such ...

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Rosetta E. Ross

Underground Railroad conductor, abolitionist, spy and scout, and social reformer, was born Araminta Ross in Dorchester County on Maryland's Eastern Shore, one of nine children, to slave parents Harriet Green and Ben Ross. She took her mother's name, Harriet, around 1844. This was also about the time she married John Tubman, a free black of about thirty-two years in age. The couple had no children.

The black community in which Harriet grew up comprised a mix of free and slave, skilled and unskilled people who married one another and formed interconnected, extended families. Freedmen and slaves worked together in the fields, swamps, forests, and canals. Harriet's father worked as a skilled slave, cutting and hauling timber for his master, Anthony Thompson, a lumber supplier for the area's shipbuilding industry. A favorite of Thompson's, Ross eventually won his freedom in 1840 by ...

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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 ...