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Kelly Boyer Sagert

Aaron Anthony was the seventh and youngest child of James and Ester Anthony. Neither parent could read or write, and the family eked out a living farming a plot of marshy land on the two-hundred-acre Hackton plantation, owned by relatives. The land was east of Tuckahoe Creek in the town known as Tuckahoe Neck, in Talbot County, Maryland.

Anthony's father died in 1769, leaving Ester and her seven offspring—five of whom were still children—to fend for themselves. Unlike his parents, Anthony learned to read, write, and calculate simple sums. As a young man working on cargo boats on the Choptank River and in Chesapeake Bay, he earned enough money to invest in property. In 1795 he gained employment as a captain at a salary of two hundred dollars per year, hauling and transporting both goods and people for the wealthy colonel Edward Lloyd IV who owned hundreds ...

Article

Alonford James Robinson

Information on the birth and early childhood of Crispus Attucks is inconclusive, but historians believe that he was part African and part Native American, and that he was once the slave of William Brown of Framingham, Massachusetts. In November 1750, Attucks escaped. For the next twenty years, he worked on whaling ships docked in ports throughout New England.

His fame is attributable largely to a single fateful day in Boston, March 5, 1770, when anticolonial patriot Samuel Adams urged dockworkers and seamen in Boston to protest the presence of British troops guarding the customs commissioners Attucks was among an estimated fifty men who gathered that night to confront the British and is alleged to have rallied his comrades by declaring Don t be afraid as he led the ranks When British soldiers fired on the protesters Attucks was the first of five men killed in what ...

Article

Harry M. Ward

probably a sailor, was the first to be killed in the Boston Massacre of 5 March 1770. Generally regarded to have been of mixed ancestry (African, Indian, and white), Attucks seems to have hailed from a Natick Indian settlement, Mashpee (incorporated as a district in 1763, near Framingham, Massachusetts). While Attucks's life and background before the tragic event are uncertain, two reasonable conjectures stand out. First, he was a descendant of those Natick Indians converted to Christianity in the seventeenth century. One tribesman, John Attuck, was hanged on 22 June 1676 for allegedly conspiring with the Indian insurrection of that year. Second, it appears that Attucks may have once been a slave. The Boston Gazette of 2 October 1750 printed this notice Ran away from his Master William Brown of Framingham on the 30th of September last a mulatto Fellow about twenty seven years of age ...

Article

Scott A. Miltenberger

The death of Crispus Attucks is shrouded in myth. John Adams, the future second president of the United States and the defense attorney for the British troops charged with Attucks's murder, accused him of being a rabble-rouser and the instigator of the confrontation that resulted in the now famously known “Boston Massacre” of 1770. John Hancock, a Boston merchant and, like Adams, a member of the Sons of Liberty, celebrated Attucks as a defiant patriot. Attucks's true role remains unclear—much like his life prior to 1770.

Attucks was most probably born a slave in Framingham, Massachusetts, in 1723. He was likely of mixed African and Native American parentage (attuck is the Natick Indian word for “deer”). In 1750, at about age twenty-seven, Attucks ran away from his master, most likely a William Brown For the next twenty years he worked as ...

Article

Jeannine DeLombard

fugitive slave, soldier, and slave narrative author, was born on a tobacco plantation in Calvert County, Maryland, the son of slave parents whose names are unknown. When Charles was four years old, his mother and siblings were sold to slave traders to settle their late master's debts; he never saw them again. Charles was sold to John Cox, a local slave owner, and continued to live near his father and grandfather. After the sale of Charles's mother, his father sank into a deep depression, eventually escaping from slavery on the eve of his purchase by a slave trader. Charles grew close to his octogenarian grandfather, a former African warrior who had arrived in Maryland about 1730.

Cox died when Charles Ball was twelve and the young slave worked for his late master s father until he was twenty years old During this time Ball married a slave ...

Article

Barbara A. White

prosperous businessman, whaling captain, and community leader, whose court case against Nantucket led to the integration of the public schools, was a member of one of the largest and most influential black families on the island. His father was Seneca Boston, a manumitted slave, who was a self‐employed weaver. His mother was a Wampanoag Indian named Thankful Micah. They had four sons and one daughter. Absalom Boston, the third‐born, went to sea, as did many of Nantucket's young men, signing onto the whale ship Thomas in 1809 when he was twenty‐four. Little is known about his early education. Anna Gardner, in her memoir Harvest Gleanings, mentions him visiting her family and hints that it may have been her mother, Hannah Macy Gardner, who taught the young man to read.

Shortly before he went to sea, Boston married his first wife, Mary Spywood about whom little is ...

Article

Rachel Malcolm-Woods

slave craftsman, bateau man, and business agent for John Jordan and the Jordan and Irvine Company of Lexington, Virginia, was born in Amherst County in western Virginia. He grew up along the James River where he apprenticed in blacksmithing, carpentry, and navigation and earned the sobriquet “Dick the Boatman.” Bullock was likely a descendant of the Igbo, who were the predominant cultural group of the region. Many of these people and their descendants became skilled craftsmen. From 1740 to 1790 many Igbo people were brought directly to Virginia from Igboland by William and Thomas Randolph, who were slave traders and plantation merchants. By 1744Nicholas Davies, the former bookkeeper for the Randolphs, brought vast slave holdings to Amherst County derived from the same source. Upon his death in 1794 Davies manumitted many of his blacks bequeathing each family one hundred acres of land The mobility with which ...

Article

David Michel

pastor and religious leader, was born somewhere in the South; however, little is known about his early and adult life. He never went to school but managed to educate himself and learned both Hebrew and Yiddish. He also worked as a seaman, during which time he traveled all over the world. While overseas he claimed to have been appointed a prophet by God. He moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and founded the Church of God (Black Jews) in 1915. He probably married and fathered at least one child, Benjamin Cherry.

Cherry maintained that blacks, whom he also called Jews or Hebrews, descended from the Jews of the Bible, with Jacob as the father of all black people. Cherry was not the first African American to claim a Jewish ancestry for blacks. In 1896William S. Crowdy had founded the Church of God and Saints of Christ viewing its ...

Article

David M. Carletta

William Pancoast Clyde was born in Claymont, Delaware, the son of Thomas Clyde and Rebecca Pancoast. His father, a Scottish immigrant, settled in Chester, Pennsylvania, where he worked as a civil and marine engineer. In 1844 Thomas Clyde built America's first screw propeller steamship and launched the Clyde Steamship Line, which became the nation's largest coastal steamship company.

William Clyde attended Trinity College in Connecticut, but at the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 he left his studies to join the Union forces as a Philadelphia Gray Reserve. In 1865 he married Emeline Field with whom he had seven children and entered the merchant shipping business in which his father had prospered At the age of thirty four Clyde became president of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company enabling him to dominate American shipping on the Pacific coast while his father dominated shipping on the Atlantic coast Clyde became ...

Article

David H. Anthony

adventurer, mariner, and African emigrationist, was born to Susan Cuffe and John Dean in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Harry Foster Dean followed the family profession when he decided to become a seafarer. By the age of thirteen he was on an around-the-world cruise captained by his Uncle Silas. A decade later he had made his way to Southampton, England, where he was mentored by a Captain Forbes. He later reported that he won his captain's license in that port, beginning a new phase in his life. According to Dean, his mother, Susan, was a granddaughter of the black Yankee Paul Cuffe As the progeny of the Cuffe family Dean considered himself a black aristocrat Since Cuffe was a merchant and back to Africa advocate Dean dreamed of reversing the effects and trajectories of the Middle Passage and removing himself to his ancestral continent of origin Much of what ...

Article

Kathryn L. Beard

soldier, sailor, and shipbuilder during the War of Independence, was born free in the British colony of St. Kitts of mixed race parentage. Little is known about his early life. Prior to adulthood he became literate, fluent in French and English, and he trained as a skilled craftsman in building dwellings and ships. As a free person of color in one of the older sugar colonies, he would have benefited from an increasing emigration of whites and, by 1745, a plantation system characterized by a high level of absenteeism by white landowners. These factors contributed to the growth of a small colored elite, financed largely by credit given by white relatives but still facing legal and de facto discrimination. For example, until 1830 the laws of St Kitts prohibited free people of color from attending the colony s few public schools although they paid taxes to ...

Article

Thomas Aiello

football player and entrepreneur. Melvin Farr was born and raised in Beaumont, Texas, the son of Dorothea Farr, a domestic worker, and Miller Farr, a truck driver. There he attended the segregated Hebert High School, where he played baseball and basketball and earned All-State honors in football and track. Farr played at Hebert in the shadow of his older brother Miller, who went on to play collegiate football at Wichita State before a long professional career as a defensive back. Mel's success, however, drove him far from Wichita or Beaumont: he earned a football scholarship to UCLA in 1963 Although Farr remained healthy throughout his high school career he broke his arm the first of many football related injuries during his sophomore year in college Following that injury Farr was an All American running back as a junior and senior gaining 1 630 yards in those ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

flatboat captain and lumber retailer, was probably born a slave in the mid-South in the early nineteenth century and brought to Mississippi in the 1820s after the Indian removal policies of President Andrew Jackson opened up the Deep South for exploitation by American businessmen and planters. The rich, alluvial soil of the Yazoo-Mississippi river basin offered prime opportunities for cotton cultivation, but the region, also heavily wooded with cypresses, first needed to be cleared. As a result an extensive lumber industry emerged in Mississippi in the 1830s and 1840s alongside the expansion of cotton cultivation. Slave labor was central to both enterprises. The hundreds of ambitious businessmen who flocked to Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama needed lumber for the plantations they hoped to construct with the vast profits to be made from cotton. They also built wood cabins for the more numerous slaves whose labors would create those profits.

Nothing ...

Article

Eric W. Petenbrink

political theorist, was born Haywood Hall in South Omaha, Nebraska, the youngest of three children of Haywood Hall, a factory worker and janitor, and Harriet Thorpe Hall. When he was fifteen, racist violence in Omaha prompted the family to move to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where Hall soon dropped out of school and began working as a railroad dining car waiter. In 1915 the family moved to Chicago, Illinois, to be near extended family, and Hall enlisted in the military in 1917. He served in World War I for a year as part of an all-black unit in France, where he grew accustomed to the absence of racism. Hall married his first wife, Hazel, in 1920, but the marriage lasted only a few months. In spite of their lengthy separation, they did not officially divorce until 1932.

Hall s experiences in World War I and defending ...

Article

Angelo Costanzo

slave narrative author, wrote the earliest slave account published in North America. Practically nothing is known about him other than what he stated in the account of his life's events between 1747 and 1760. While living as a slave in New England in 1747, Hammon undertook a-sea voyage that turned out to be a thirteen-year odyssey featuring numerous perils and repeated captures by American Indians and Spaniards. A Narrative, of the Uncommon Sufferings, and Surprizing Deliverance of Briton Hammon, a Negro Man,—Servant to General Winslow, of Marshfield, in New-England, Who Returned to Boston, after Having Been Absent Almost Thirteen Years, published as a fourteen-page pamphlet, was printed and sold in 1760 by Green and Russell, a Boston publishing firm that was bringing out popular Indian captivity narratives.

This remarkable story of sea adventures treachery and multiple captivities is believed to be the first autobiographical slave narrative ...

Article

Roland L. Williams

(?-?), autobiographer. The Narrative of the Uncommon Sufferings and Surprizing Deliverance of Briton Hammon, a Negro Man (1760), which recounts almost thirteen years of Hammon's adventures at sea, contains all that is known about Briton Hammon. Covering a mere fourteen pages, Hammon's account opens with a humble introduction expressing the hope that the reader will overlook any flaws in the text, since the author's “Capacities and Condition of Life are very low.” It turns into a tale of amazing events that occur after Hammon obtains permission from his master, General Winslow, to leave Marshfield, Massachusetts, to go to sea. On Christmas day 1747 he sails from Plymouth on a sloop bound for Jamaica in due course he arrives safely on the island Returning from it however his vessel catches on a reef off the coast of Florida Hostile natives attack the ship and kill everyone on board ...

Article

Joanna Brooks

Briton Hammon wrote A Narrative of the Uncommon Sufferings, and Surprizing Deliverance of Briton Hammon, a Negro Man (1760), the first black-authored text published in America. The Narrative recalls Hammon's adventures for twelve years as a sailor, castaway, captive, prisoner, and slave around the Atlantic littoral. His story began on Christmas Day in 1747, when Hammon left the home of his master, John Winslow, in Marshfield, Massachusetts, to ship himself aboard a vessel bound from Plymouth for the Caribbean.

When the ship foundered on a reef off the Florida coast sixty American Indians attacked killing most of the crew and taking Hammon captive Hammon s captors soon released him to the captain of a Spanish ship headed for Havana Cuba In Cuba Hammon landed in the employment of the Spanish colonial governor and the local Catholic bishop then was impressed into the Spanish navy and imprisoned ...

Article

Graham Russell Hodges

Born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to free but poor black parents, Hodges received no education in his early years and at the age of ten shipped out as a “waiting boy” on a schooner bound from Philadelphia to the West Indies. Over the next few years he visited many European ports. During the American Revolution a British warship forced his vessel into New York harbor; destitute, friendless, and illiterate, he wandered throughout the region before settling in Warwick, in Orange County, New York. His employer, a man named Jennings, had acquired much property through litigation, actions that prompted his legal victims to plot to kill him. The conspirators brought Hodges into the plot and took advantage of his intemperance, developed during his years as a seaman, to persuade him to perform the killing. On 21 December 1819 Hodges shot his master in the woods The bullet severely wounded Jennings ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

U.S. naval officer and submarine commander, was born in Monticello, Florida, one of nine children of John and Mary Isom. The farm the Isoms lived on consisted of sixty-eight acres, a portion of which was once sharecropped by Roger's grandfather. His father was an army veteran, as were six of his siblings. Ironically, when his mother asked Roger early on to consider attending the U.S. Naval Academy, he flatly refused. However, Isom later noted that “when my turn came to join the Army, I looked at the Navy instead, partly to compete with my older brother, and just to be different. I went to the Navy recruiter and said what can you do for me, I want to be an astronaut” (author's interview, 4 Mar. 2007). He subsequently enlisted in the navy in June 1983.

From his earliest navy days Isom both aspired to and was ...

Article

Richard J. Bell

Methodist preacher and seaman, was born in the port town of Old Calabar, in Nigeria, West Africa, to Margaret and Hambleton Robert Jea. At age two Jea and his family were captured in Old Calabar and transported to America on a slave ship. With his parents and several siblings he was immediately sold to the family of Oliver and Angelika Tiehuen, members of the Dutch Reformed Church who owned land outside New York City. This knowledge comes from Jea's narrative, The Life, History, and Sufferings of John Jea, the African Preacher, written and published in 1815; it is the only source of information about most of Jea's life and travels.

The newly enslaved family was set to work as field hands and quickly felt the hardship of poor conditions and physical abuse Jea found little comfort in the message of obedience and humility preached to ...