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Article

Alice Bernstein

carpenter, newspaper editor, and state representative during Reconstruction, was born free, of “unmixed African blood,” in New Bern, North Carolina, to Israel B. Abbott and Gracie Maria Green. His father died in 1844, and Abbott was raised by his mother and maternal grandmother, Hannah, the wife of Bristow Rue (Rhew). His mother's second husband was Nelson Brown, with whom she had a daughter, Hannah Cora, and stepsons Samuel H. Brown and George M. Brown. She married her third husband, the Reverend Joseph Green, a Methodist Episcopal Zion Church minister, in 1854. When Abbott was four, his grandmother contributed one dollar toward his education, and he attended a school taught by Mrs. Jane Stevens. He went to school regularly until age ten, when he began serving two years as apprentice to a carpenter, completing his trade with his stepfather, Joseph Green ...

Article

George Michael La Rue

sultan of the Sudanese kingdom of Darfur from 1785 to 1801, was born to Sultan Ahmad Bukr and an unknown woman. The youngest of four sons of Ahmad Bukr who ruled Darfur, many thought him a weak choice. He became a very successful monarch, after overcoming internal opposition. During his reign Darfur’s system of sultanic estates (hakuras) flourished, and the sultanate became Egypt’s main supplier of trans-Saharan goods, including ivory, ostrich feathers, and slaves.

After a series of wars and intrigues involving internal factions, the rival Musabbaʾat dynasty in Kordofan, and Wadai, sultan Muhammad Tayrab ibn Ahmad Bukr made peace with Wadai to the west and successfully invaded Kordofan. This war took the Fur armies far from home (reputedly to the Nile), and the sultan was forced to turn back in 1786 By the time the army reached Bara the sultan was dying and the succession ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

landowner, businessman, and state legislator, was born enslaved in Dallas County Alabama, to parents named Sarah and Pete, who had been born in South Carolina. David, like his parents, was the property of a family named Abner. There is some dispute as to his birth date—some giving 1826 and others 1838—but the most reliable date appears to be December 1820, as suggested by a letter from his youngest daughter. It is not known when David took the Abner surname for himself, a common but by no means universal practice for formerly enslaved persons. He was sent to Texas in 1843, driving a covered wagon for the newly married daughter (Thelma) of the man who held title to him.

Her father considered his new son in law unreliable and entrusted David to get his daughter safely to her new home and manage ...

Article

Wilbert H. Ahern

newspaper editor and publisher, civil rights leader, and Republican Party activist, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Henry Adams, a prominent minister and educator, and Margaret Corbin. Both of his parents were free persons of color. Following private schooling in Wisconsin and Ohio, Adams graduated from Oberlin College. After a brief teaching stint in Louisville, in 1870 he followed his uncle, Joseph C. Corbin, to work in Arkansas during Reconstruction. By 1874 Adams had risen from schoolteacher to assistant superintendent of public instruction. His lifelong activism in the Republican Party began in Arkansas; there he twice served as secretary to Republican state conventions, was elected as justice of the peace on the party ticket, and held the offices of engrossing clerk of the state senate and deputy commissioner of public works. The defeat of the Arkansas Republican Party in 1874 and the ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

Revolutionary War sailor, is known for his service on the Continental navy sloop Ranger under Captain John Paul Jones. A story passing as truth has been written about Scipio Africanus stating that he was a slave owned by Jones and accompanied him on the ships he commanded. In fact virtually nothing is known about Africanus except for the fact that he was a free man when he enlisted to serve on board the eighteen-gun Ranger for one year while she was building at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, sometime between March and July 1777.

While we know little about Scipio Africanus the man some guesses as to his servitude and character may be ventured That he was a slave prior to his naval service as suggested by his first name is likely Classical Roman names such as Scipio Cato and Caesar were commonly given at birth by owners to slaves ...

Article

Agonglo  

Robin Law

king of Dahomey (in modern Benin), was the son of Kpengla, his predecessor as king of Dahomey (r. 1774–1789). His official “Queen Mother” (kpojito), appointed as such after his accession to the throne, was a woman called Senume, but it is not clear whether she was also his biological mother. Contemporary European sources give his name as Wheenoohew, but this is not recognized in Dahoman tradition. He was also alternatively called Adarunza, but this seems to be a generic surname which (also in other variants, such as Adahoonzou) was applied by Europeans to all kings of the dynasty (Agonglo being counted as Adarunza VIII).

Agonglo s accession to the throne was contested with two other princes presenting themselves as candidates and his political position at the beginning of his reign appears to have been insecure requiring him to conciliate his senior officials and the populace more generally ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

slave and state legislator, was born to unknown slave parents near Holly Springs in Marshall County, Mississippi, just south of that state's border with Tennessee. His parents were owned by different masters, and in 1857, when George was eleven, his father was sold and forced to move to Texas.

Later when he was in his nineties Albright recalled that he had learned to read and write as a child even though the state of Mississippi prohibited slaves from doing so Historians have estimated that despite legal restrictions at least 5 percent of all slaves were literate on the eve of the Civil War though literacy rates were probably lowest in rural Black Belt communities like Holly Springs In Albright s recollection a state law required that any slave who broke this law be punished with 500 lashes on the naked back and have his or her thumb cut ...

Article

M. W. Daly

Turco-Egyptian soldier and administrator, served in the Sudan as governor during the 1820s–1830s and adopted policies that largely set the course for the entire colonial period. Following Muhammad ʿAli’s conquest of Sinnar and Kordofan in 1820–1821, Egypt’s African empire expanded gradually over a period of sixty years. The exploitive motives of that expansion, and failure ever to extract the quantities of gold, ivory, and slaves that comprised its principal object, were reflected in attempts to administer the territories. The appointment of ʿAli Khurshid was a watershed in this process. His long period of loyal service was marked by pragmatism, a liberal and enlightened outlook, and energetic interest in developing the country.

In 1826 following military service in Greece ʿAli Khurshid was named governor of Sinnar a much larger territory of uncertain southern and eastern borders than the future province of the same name Much of the northern Sudan ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

businessman and politician, was born a slave in West Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Sosthene Allain, a wealthy white planter, and one of Allain's slave mistresses, whose name is not recorded. Sosthene Allain appears to have favored his son, to whom he gave the nickname “Solougue,” after a Haitian dictator of the 1840s and 1850s. In 1856, when Théophile was ten, his father called him to France to attend the christening of the son of Louis Napoleon III in Paris and also to travel with him to Spain and Britain. Théophile returned to the United States in 1859, where he studied with private tutors in New Orleans and at a private college in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Although Allain had been born a slave his education and foreign travel prepared him well for a leadership position in Louisiana business and politics after the Civil War So too did ...

Article

Johnie D. Smith

lawyer and judge, was born A. Macon Bolling in Indiana; the names of his parents and the exact date of his birth are unknown. He changed his name to Macon Bolling Allen by an act of the Massachusetts legislature on 26 January 1844. Details of Allen's early life and education are sparse and contradictory. His birth name is given in some sources as Malcolm B. Allen, and his birthplace as South Carolina. Evidence suggests that he lived in Maine and Massachusetts as a young man. Maine denied his initial application to the Maine bar because of allegations that he was not a state citizen, but he purportedly ran a Portland business before 1844. It is known that he read law in the Maine offices of two white abolitionist lawyers, Samuel E. Sewell and General Samuel Fessenden and that Fessenden promoted his admission to the Maine ...

Article

Milton C. Sernett

abolitionist and educator, was born in Virginia, the son of a Welshman and a free mixed-race mother. After the death of both parents, a young Allen was adopted by a free African American family in Fortress Monroe, Virginia. Allen soon caught the eye of the Reverend William Hall, a New Yorker who conducted a black elementary school in Norfolk. Hall wrote Gerrit Smith, the well-known philanthropist and abolitionist from Madison County, New York, asking him to sponsor Allen's education. With Smith's support, Allen studied at the Oneida Institute, an interracial and abolitionist school in Whitesboro, New York, presided over by the abolitionist Beriah Green. In a letter written to Smith, Green mentioned Allen's good conduct, his accomplishments on the flute, and his service as clerk to Reuben Hough, the institute's superintendent and treasurer.

While attending the institute, Allen spent the summer of 1841 teaching in a school ...

Article

Martin A. Klein

Muslim cleric, major jihad leader and state-builder in early-nineteenth-century Mali, also known as Seku Amadu Lobbo, was born to a modest family of herders and clerics in Molangol, a Fulbe village not far from Mopti, in the inner delta of the Niger River. This area came to be known as Masina. He studied the Qurʾan with his grandfather, but then continued his Islamic education at Jenné, the most important center of commerce and education in the inner delta.

Masina was an area where the Niger River divided into many channels and flooded every rainy season Fulbe pastoralists practiced transhumant pastoralism bringing their herds into the delta during the long dry season The only authorities in Masina were the Ardos heads of small pastoralist groups As the tentacles of the long distance slave trade extended themselves deeper into West Africa many Ardos developed bands of cavalry that raided for slaves and ...

Article

José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva is best known for helping Brazil achieve independence in 1822. It is less often recognized that the year after independence he authored a plan for “the slow emancipation of the blacks.” In this plan he argued: “It is time, and more than time, for us to put a stop to a traffic so barbaric and butcherlike, time too for us to eliminate gradually the last traces of slavery among us, so that in a few generations we may be able to form a homogeneous nation, without which we shall never be truly free, respectable, and happy.”

Andrada e Silva argued that slavery was morally wrong and economically inefficient a violation of God s laws and the laws of justice and a corrupt influence over Brazil s inhabitants Slave labor he believed resulted in the slaveholders idleness and gave ordinary Brazilians little incentive to ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

king of the Merina state of central Madagascar and a pivotal figure in its eighteenth-century expansion, was born around 1745 in the northern Malagasy town of Ikaloy. His father, Andriamiaramanjaka, was a member of the Zafimamy royal family of the northern independent kingdom of Alahamadintany. His mother, Ranavalonandriambelomasina, was the daughter of Merina monarch Andriambelomasina, who ruled Merina from roughly 1730 to 1770. He also was the nephew of Andriambelomasina’s successor, Andrianjafy, who was the king of Merina from 1770 to 1787.

He stayed with his father in Ikaloy until he was roughly twelve when he moved to the Merina court As a young man Andrianampoinimerina became a wealthy merchant and probably engaged in slave trading At the same time he presented himself as a defender of ordinary commoners fearful of slave raiding threats from neighbors like the Sakalava kingdom and unjust officials Supposedly Andriambelomasina had stipulated that ...

Article

Ari Nave

Oral traditions recorded by Jesuit missionaries in the late eighteenth century suggest that Andriambélomàsina, ruler of the Imerina (the territory of the Merina ethnic group) from 1730 to 1770 , directed that his eldest son Andrianjàfy succeed him, followed by his grandson Ramboàsalàma, son of his eldest daughter. Andrianjàfy, however, intended for his own son to take his place and plotted to kill Ramboàsalàma, who, fearing for his life, fled to the north. Supported by a dozen Merina chiefs, Ramboàsalàma returned in 1787, overtaking the city of Ambohimànga and exiling his uncle, who was later killed.

Ramboàsalàma was crowned Andrianampoinimerina, “the prince in the heart of Imerina.” After consolidating power through treaties and marriage alliances and establishing a capital at Antananarivo in about 1795 Andrianampoinimerina also known as Nampoina began to expand the Merina Empire Eventually he controlled much of the island conquering and consolidating the Betsileo Sihanaka ...

Article

Bernard Gainot

representative in the French Directory government (1795–1799), was born a slave around the year 1758 in Cap-Français, now Cap-Haïtien, Haiti. His master, Pierre Antoine, a free black man from Le Cap, who was an entrepreneur and mason, took Jean-Louis along with him as an aide-de-camp to the Savannah expedition in 1779 during the American War of Independence. More than five hundred free men of color, many of them from Le Cap, fought as allies of the Americans against the British. Upon his return, Jean-Louis was freed for an amount of £300, according to the notarial deed dated 3 May 1783, as a reward for his faithful service to Antoine.

The slave Jean Louis then became Jean Louis Annecy a surname probably originating from the designation of a house often found on the plains of the Cape and frequently spelled Ansy He may have been the owner of ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

Union army officer and politician, was born in New Orleans, the son of a West Indian midwife and a free black soldier who had served in the Corps d'Afrique with General Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812. His parents' names are not recorded. Family lore had it that Caesar's maternal grandfather, an African chief, had been enslaved and taken to America and that his paternal grandmother, Rose Antoine, had earned enough money from her work as a midwife to purchase her freedom. Rose Antoine also left each of her seven sons twenty thousand dollars in her will.

As a free black child in New Orleans Antoine attended private schools the public schools of the city were closed to blacks and became fluent in both English and French Upon leaving school as a teenager in the early 1850s he then apprenticed and worked as a barber one of ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

a Civil War soldier and veterans leader and Reconstruction-era legislator, was born and lived all of his life in Louisiana. Felix Antoine was born into the distinct community of gens de couleur libre, free persons of color, which existed in the New Orleans area and some other parts of Louisiana since French colonial times. His father was a veteran of the War of 1812, who fought under General Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans, and his mother was a native of the West Indies. His paternal grandmother was reputed to have been the daughter of an African prince, who purchased her freedom from slavery; she saved $150,000 as a free woman (Shreveport Journal obituary of C.C. Antoine, 14 Sept. 1921). Antoine was the younger brother of Louisiana Lt. Governor Caesar C. Antoine who moved from New Orleans to Shreveport prior to ...

Article

Stephen D. Glazier

African American religious, educational, and political leader, was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel G. Arnett and Mary Louisa (maiden name unknown). Benjamin Arnett was a man of “mixed Irish, Indian, Scots, and African ancestry” (Wright, Eighty‐seven Years, 79). He was educated in a one‐room schoolhouse in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania. Arnett worked as a longshoreman along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and worked briefly as a hotel waiter. His career as a longshoreman and waiter ended abruptly in 1858 when a cancerous tumor necessitated the amputation of his left leg. He turned to teaching and was granted a certificate on 19 December 1863. At that time he was the only African American schoolteacher licensed in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. For ten months during the academic year 1884–1885, Arnett served as a school principal in Washington, D.C. He returned to Brownsville in 1885, teaching there until 1887 ...

Article

David M. Fahey

temperance reformer, federal customs official, and educator, was born William Middleton Artrell, of one quarter African and three quarters European ancestry, at Nassau in the Bahamas. There Artrell benefited from a basic education on the British model, acquired experience as a schoolteacher, and became a staunch Episcopalian.

During the American Civil War the Bahamas prospered as a result of services to blockade runners, who transported British cargo in the short but dangerous voyage between the Bahamas and the Confederate coast. When the war ended, however, economic depression forced many Bahamians to seek work in the United States. In 1870 Artrell migrated to Key West, at that time a major port in Florida. Unlike most African Americans in the South, he had never been a slave. In 1870 Key West opened the Douglass School for African American children Artrell became its first principal and as a result he was sometimes ...