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Article

Robert Stepto

professor of English, poet, and essayist, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Sterling Nelson Brown, a minister and divinity school professor, and Adelaide Allen. After graduating as valedictorian from Dunbar High School in 1918, Brown matriculated at Williams College, where he studied French and English literature and won the Graves Prize for an essay on Molière and Shakespeare. He graduated from Williams in 1922 with Phi Beta Kappa honors and a Clark fellowship for graduate studies in English at Harvard University. Once at Harvard, Brown studied with Bliss Perry and, most notably, with George Lyman Kittredge the distinguished scholar of Shakespeare and the ballad Kittredge s example as a scholar of both formal and vernacular forms of literature doubtlessly encouraged Brown to contemplate a similar professorial career though for Brown the focus would be less on the British Isles than on the United States and on ...

Article

George Reid Andrews

The son of former slaves, João Cândido was born in the cattle-ranching country of southern Brazil. In 1895, at the age of fifteen, he joined the Brazilian navy, which at that time had a very clear racial hierarchy. While the officer corps was exclusively white, an estimated 80–90 percent of the enlisted seamen were Afro-Brazilian, many of them forcibly recruited against their will. Slavery had been abolished in Brazil only a few years earlier, in 1888, and many officers continued to treat crews as though they were in fact slaves. Conditions of service were extremely harsh; and even though whipping had been outlawed in the navy in 1890, it was still widely used as a means of discipline.

Brazil joined the naval arms race of the 1890s and early 1900s expanding its fleet to become the largest naval power in Latin America Cândido himself was sent ...

Article

James Sellman

Frederick Douglass was more than a great African American leader. He was, in the words of his biographer William S. McFeely, “one of the giants of nineteenth-century America.” He was a man driven by his anger at injustice, McFeely observed, a man who “never ran away from anything”—except the bondage of slavery. Even in that, he took flight not simply to escape but to engage. After gaining his freedom, the former slave turned in his tracks and confronted the institution head-on.

Douglass played a prominent role in nineteenth-century reform movements, not only through his abolitionism but also in his support for women's rights and black suffrage. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he stayed true to his principles, remaining steadfast in his commitment to integration and civil rights. Douglass was militant but never a separatist. He rejected the nationalist rhetoric and latter-day conservatism of black abolitionist Martin Robison Delany ...

Article

David W. Blight

Frederick Douglass lived for twenty years as a slave and nearly nine years as a fugitive slave. From the 1840s to his death in 1895 he attained international fame as an abolitionist, editor, orator, statesman, and the author of three autobiographies that became classics of the slave narrative tradition. Douglass lived to see the Emancipation of the slaves during the Civil War and made a major contribution to interpreting the meaning of those epochal events. He labored for the establishment of black civil rights and witnessed their betrayal during Reconstruction and the Gilded Age. He advocated women's rights long before they were achieved.

It took nearly a century after his death for Douglass s work to receive widespread attention in school curriculums and in the scholarly fields of literature and history With the flowering of African American history and culture in the 1960s and a greatly increased attention to slavery ...

Article

Charles P. Toombs

and prototype for the title character in Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852). Josiah Henson was born a slave in Charles County, Maryland, on 15 June 1789. The details of his life are recorded in The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself (1849). As a very young child Henson states that he was largely unaware that his life was in any way remarkable. It was not until the death of his master, Dr. McPherson and the sale of his mother and siblings that the real horrors and anxieties of slave life impressed him After his family is sold he recalls earlier times when his mother was sexually assaulted and his father was mutilated In spite of the cruel treatment his mother received at the hands of so called Christians she taught him ...

Article

Peter Hudson

Josiah Henson was originally thought to be the model for Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. He was born into slavery in Charles County, Maryland, but showed such loyalty and devotion that his owner, Isaac Riley, granted him exceptional privileges and responsibilities, and allowed him to work as a Methodist Episcopal preacher. Through his meager salary as a preacher, Henson was able to save almost $300, which he hoped would buy his freedom. Riley agreed with Henson on a price of $450, but knowing that Henson was illiterate, Riley changed the contract to $1,000 and then made plans to sell him. Henson learned of these betrayals and fearing forced separation from his family decided to escape to Canada, settling in Dresden, Canada West (Ontario).

Henson became a British patriot while in Canada and led a volunteer brigade against William Lyon Mackenzie and the Americans ...

Article

Wylene J. Rholetter

James Russell Lowell was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, into a family that traced its ancestry to the first Lowell to arrive in Massachusetts in the mid-seventeenth century. The son of Dr. Charles Lowell, who served as the pastor of West Church in Boston for fifty-six years, and Harriet Spence, who gave her son a love of poetry and tales, Lowell would prove to be the most versatile of the Fireside Poets, the group of Massachusetts poets so-named because the popularity of their poems made them standard hearth-side reading in homes across the country. (In addition to Lowell, the group included William Cullen Bryant, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and John Greenleaf Whittier.)

After receiving his bachelor's degree from Harvard, Lowell briefly considered the ministry and business before entering Harvard's Dane Law School, where he received his degree in 1840 More significant to his ...

Article

Juan Otero-Garabis

As a child, Esteban Montejo escaped a sugar plantation to live as a maroon until the abolition of slavery in 1885. His memories were published by the Cuban writer Miguel Barnet in Maroon's Biography (1966), considered a pioneering work of the Latin American testimonial genre. The first part of the book is one of the most detailed descriptions of the harsh working and living conditions of slaves on the sugar plantations. Montejo's account of his survival as a solitary runaway affirms that hunger and lack of shelter were preferable to living the life of a slave.

In the last part of the book Montejo narrates his experience in the Cuban Liberation Army during the Cuban War of Independence (1895–1898). His account underscores the important role played by the Afro-Cuban officials and soldiers, particularly of Antonio Maceo This section of the book also describes the ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

writer and critic, was born in Nokomis, Alabama, the son of Sudie Graham, a Tuskegee Institute student, and John Young, a businessman. Soon after his birth Mattie Murray, a housewife, and her husband, Hugh, a laborer and timber worker, adopted him. Murray, who later enjoyed a close relationship with Graham and Young, joked of his adoption by less-wealthy parents, “It's just like the prince left among the paupers” (Gates, 30). He learned about the folkways of segregation in Magazine Point, a community on the outskirts of Mobile, Alabama, where his family had moved during World War I. “We didn't dislike white people,” he recalled. “We saw too many bony-butt poor white crackers. We were going to feel inferior to them?” (Maguire, 139). Murray's rejection of any notion of black inferiority was further strengthened by exposure to Mobile's baseball legend Satchel Paige and ...

Article

Kenneth Wiggins Porter

Luis Pacheco owes his fame principally to Republican Joshua R. Giddings's semifictional antislavery work The Exiles of Florida (1858). Pacheco was born on December 26, 1800, in Spanish Florida, at New Switzerland, a plantation on the Saint Johns River. He was the slave of Francis Philip Fatio. His parents were “pureblooded negroes,” and his father, Adam, was a “remarkably intelligent and ambitious negro,” a “carpenter, boat-builder, and driver.” Early on, Pacheco became acquainted with the neighboring Seminoles, among whom he had a sister. A brother had been captured as a child but had returned some twenty years later, and from him Pacheco “picked up a great deal of the language.” During his boyhood, his master's daughter, Susan Philippa Fatio taught him to read and write He was ambitious to learn and of quick perception and acquired a good deal of book learning But he ...

Article

Jerry Gershenhorn

historian, was born in Durham, North Carolina, the son of Eural Endris Thorpe, cotton and tobacco mill worker, and Vina (Dean) Thorpe. Thorpe's mother died before his fourth birthday. In 1932 Eural Thorpe married Bessie Love, who raised Eural's three children with Vina as well as Eural and Bessie's own three children. The Thorpes, who were Baptists, valued religion and education. Despite the limited family income all six children completed college.

Thorpe graduated from Durham's Hillside High School in 1942; he earned a scholarship to attend North Carolina College for Negroes (NCCN), the first state-supported liberal arts college for African Americans, founded in 1910 by James E. Shepard Thorpe attended NCCN for one year before he was drafted into the segregated U S Army during World War II He served in the Ninety second Infantry Division initially assigned to Fort Huachuca Arizona where he ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

rebel leader and politician, was born in 1922 in the village of Kaheti in the South Tetu region of Nyeri district, located in central Kenya. His father, Itote, was a successful famer and his mother was Wamuyu. Like most residents of Nyeri, Itote's family belonged to the Kikuyu ethnic community. Itote began to attend a Church of Scotland mission school at Kiangure in 1929, but his father opposed this education on the grounds it took the boy away from farming. In 1933 Itote continued his primary education at Mihuti school. He then left his hometown for the Kenyan capital of Nairobi in 1939 because he could not progress far in his education and was frustrated with his family. There he worked briefly in a factory before starting a vegetable business with several friends. In 1940 he married Leah Wambura. The produce-selling venture closed in 1941 To make ...