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Dennis Wepman

slave mutineer, was born Sengbe (also spelled Singbe and Sengbeh) Pieh in the village of Mani, in the Mende territory of Sierra Leone, Africa, the son of a rice farmer. His mother died when he was young, and at about the age of twenty-five he lived with his father, his wife, and his three children. One day while working alone in his rice field, he was seized by four members of the Vai tribe, often employed by Europeans to capture slaves for the market. He was taken to Lomboko, an island at the mouth of the Gallinas River on the coast of Sierra Leone, where he was purchased by Pedro Blanco, a Spanish slave trader, for sale in Cuba. He remained in Lomboko for three months in chains before Blanco filled the ship that was to transport him to Havana.

Slavery was still legal in Cuba but the trans ...

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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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Linda M. Perkins

educator, civic and religious leader, and feminist, was born a slave in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Lucy Jackson. Her father's name and the details of her early childhood are unknown. However, by the time she was age ten, her aunt Sarah Orr Clark had purchased her freedom, and Jackson went to live with relatives in New Bedford, Massachusetts. By 1851 she and her relatives had moved to Newport, Rhode Island, where Jackson was employed as a domestic by George Henry Calvert, a descendant of Lord Baltimore, the settler of Maryland. Jackson's salary enabled her to afford one hour of private tutoring three times a week. Near the end of her six-year stay with the Calverts, she briefly attended the segregated public schools of Newport. In 1859 Jackson enrolled at the Rhode Island State Normal School in Bristol In addition to the normal course she also studied ...

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Roy E. Finkenbine

abolitionist, civil rights activist, and reform journalist, was born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey near Easton, Maryland, the son of Harriet Bailey, a slave, and an unidentified white man. Although a slave, he spent the first six years of his life in the cabin of his maternal grandparents, with only a few stolen nighttime visits by his mother. His real introduction to bondage came in 1824, when he was brought to the nearby wheat plantation of Colonel Edward Lloyd. Two years later he was sent to Baltimore to labor in the household of Hugh and Sophia Auld, where he remained for the next seven years. In spite of laws against slave literacy, Frederick secretly taught himself to read and write He began studying discarded newspapers and learned of the growing national debate over slavery And he attended local free black churches and found ...

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George Boulukos

slave, sailor, writer, and activist (widely known in his time as Gustavus Vassa), became the most famous African in eighteenth-century Britain as the author of his autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African (1789 While the scholar Vincent Carretta has found some evidence placing his birth in South Carolina Equiano identifies his birthplace as Essaka a small ethnically Igbo town in present day Nigeria His parents remain unknown but Equiano s family was prominent he expected to undergo a scarification ritual but was kidnapped by slavers as a young boy He experienced slavery in a variety of West African communities until he was brought to a seaport and sold to European slavers Neither Essaka nor the name Equiano has been definitively identified although both have plausible Igbo analogs such as Isseke and Ekwuano Both his African origin and his exact ...

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John Saillant

Olaudah Equiano identified himself by this name only once in his life—on the title page of The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African (1789). In the Narrative itself Equiano wrote of his forename that it was an Ibo word meaning “change,” “fortunate,” or “loudly or well spoken,” but this derivation has not been corroborated. Words similar to his surname have been identified in languages spoken both east and west of the Niger River, which flows south through Iboland, the southeastern region of present-day Nigeria, where Equiano claimed to have been born. He was accused almost immediately of fabrication, however, and he may have been born in North America. All other documentation of his life, including vital records and his own signatures, used the name Gustavus Vassa (sometimes Vasa, Vassan, and other variations). Both the Narrative and commercial and public ...

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Frances Smith Foster

minister, author, editor, and activist, was born near New Market, Maryland, to an enslaved couple then known as George and Henrietta Trusty. A few weeks after the death of their owner, Henry, his parents, his sister, and seven other relatives escaped to Wilmington, Delaware. Part of the Trusty family went to New Jersey, but George and Henrietta, having changed their surname to Garnet, continued on to New Hope, Pennsylvania, where nine-year-old Henry had his first days of formal education. In 1825 the family moved to New York City. Henry, along with his cousin Samuel Ringgold Ward (whose family were also fugitive slaves) and his neighbor Alexander Crummell, attended the African Free School. About 1830 while apprenticed to a Quaker farmer on Long Island Henry was crippled in an accident The intrepid fifteen year old returned to New York City and enrolled at Canal ...

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Loren Schweninger

businessman, politician, and race leader, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Jonathan C. Gibbs, a Methodist minister, and Maria Jackson. His parents were free blacks. His father died when Mifflin was seven years old, and his mother was an invalid. As a teenager Mifflin attended the Philomathean Institute, a black men's literary society, and, like his brother Jonathan C. Gibbs (who would serve as secretary of state in Florida during Reconstruction), became a carpenter's apprentice, and subsequently a journeyman contractor. During the 1840s Mifflin Gibbs aided fugitive slaves by participating in local Underground Railroad efforts and worked with its famous conductor William Grant Still. It was through this work that he became acquainted with the preeminent black abolitionist Frederick Douglass, accompanying him on an 1849 tour of New York State.

During this tour Gibbs learned that gold had been discovered in ...

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Richard S. Newman

Born on the island of Barbados, Prince Hall forged his reputation in the burgeoning free black community of Boston during the 1770s, 1780s, and 1790s. His birth and early life have been the subjects of much debate. He was reputedly born free in 1748, but Hall's birth may have occurred as early as 1735. He was a child of mixed-race parents: his father was English, and his mother was a free woman of color. Hall journeyed to Boston in 1765 and worked in the leather trade.

Like his birth date, Hall's status in colonial Boston has aroused scholarly debate. Although he was technically the slave of the Bostonian William Hall Prince Hall was said to have believed that he was free as his manumission papers noted In any event Hall secured his liberty and began working as a leather merchant He supplied leather goods to the ...

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Graham Russell Hodges

Born in rural Deptford Township, near Woodbury, New Jersey, Isaac Tatem Hopper was raised on a farm. His parents, Levi and Rachel Tatem Hopper, split between the Presbyterian and Quaker faiths, Levi practicing the former, Rachel the latter. Isaac joined the Society of Friends at the age of twenty-two. He became a staunch Whig after observing British looting of farms and resolved to fight servitude after hearing sad tales from black men of the slave trade and of flight from slavery.

Hopper married Sarah Tatum, a neighboring farm girl, in 1795. That same year he joined the Pennsylvania Abolition Society and taught black children and adults in a Quaker-sponsored school. In 1797 he began advising blacks about legal opportunities for emancipation in Pennsylvania as well as hiding runaways from southern states He combated slave kidnappers and struggled against the practice of buying them running by which agents ...

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Graham Russell Hodges

The early years of Robert Roberts's life are largely unknown. He claimed later to have been freeborn in Charleston, South Carolina, but could not name his parents. Around 1802 to 1804, he entered domestic service to Nathan Appleton, a Boston financier who was then visiting Charleston. Roberts had somehow become literate and had sufficient skills as a domestic to induce Appleton to take him north. On 15 December 1805, Roberts married Dorothy Hall, daughter of Jude and Rhoda Hall, free blacks living in Exeter, New Hampshire. Jude Hall, known as “Old Rock,” was a famous and distinguished Continental Army veteran. His service did not prevent the Halls' loss of several sons to kidnappers who stole young northern blacks to sell in the slave South. Roberts described this man-stealing in a bitter document later in his life.

Roberts made several trips to Europe as Appleton s servant ...

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James Sellman

Sojourner Truth was one of the best-known black women of her time, rivaled only by African American abolitionist Harriet Tubman, yet her life remains surrounded by mystery. Truth, who was illiterate, left no written record apart from her autobiographical Narrative of Sojourner Truth, dictated to white abolitionist Olive Gilbert in the late 1840s. Much of what we know about her was reported or perhaps invented by others. More so than Frederick Douglass, her prolifically autobiographical contemporary, Truth has been transformed into myth. Feminists emphasize her challenge to restrictive Victorian codes of femininity; Marxist historians proclaim her solidarity with the working class. Her spirit has been invoked on college campuses in the United States in struggles to create African American and Women's Studies programs. Yet most interpretations of Truth fail to understand the centrality of her evangelical religious faith.

In their writings, both Harriet Beecher Stowe and ...

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Nell Irvin Painter

Sojourner Truth is one of the two most widely known nineteenth-century black women; the other, Harriet Tubman, was also a former slave without formal education. While Tubman is known as the “Moses of her people” for having led hundreds of slaves to freedom, Truth is remembered more for a few memorable utterances than for her acts. Before the Civil War, she was a feminist abolitionist; after the war, she worked in freedpeople’s relief. Truth is closely identified with a phrase she did not utter, “and ar’n’t I a woman?” She often made the point that women who are poor and black must be included within the category of woman, but not in these precise words. A white feminist journalist, Frances Dana Gage, invented these particular words in 1863 Truth s twentieth and twenty first century persona worked most effectively within the politically minded worlds of black ...

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Alfreda S. James

By the time Sojourner Truth met Frederick Douglass in the early 1840s she had evolved from a fugitive slave to a Pentecostal preacher and a member of the Northampton Association for Education and Industry, an egalitarian community in Massachusetts that honored work and rejected slavery and other class distinctions. In the twenty years since Truth had liberated herself from slavery, she had developed a reputation as a simple yet razor-sharp commentator on religion and people.

Her name at birth was Isabella, and she was the youngest child of two Dutch-speaking slaves, James and Elizabeth Baumfree (or Bomefree). The Baumfrees lived in the town of Hurley in Ulster County, New York, and were the human property of Johannis Hardenbergh, a Revolutionary War veteran. When Hardenbergh died in either 1807 or 1808 his estate sold Isabella to an English speaking family in Ulster County The early circumstances of Isabella s life ...

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Nell Irvin Painter

abolitionist and women's rights advocate, was born in Hurley, Ulster County, New York, the daughter of James and Elizabeth Baumfree, who were slaves. Named Isabella by her parents, she took the name Sojourner Truth in 1843. As a child, Isabella belonged to a series of owners, the most memorable of whom were the John Dumont family of Esopus, Ulster County, to whom she belonged for approximately seventeen years and with whom she remained close until their migration to the West in 1849. About 1815 she married another of Dumont's slaves, Thomas, who was much older than she; they had five children. Isabella left Thomas in Ulster County after their emancipation under New York State law in 1827, but she did not marry again.

In the year before her emancipation Isabella left her master Dumont of her own accord and went to work for the ...

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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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Mark J. Sammons

Prince Whipple was born in “Amabou, Africa,” probably Anomabu, Ghana, formerly the Gold Coast. The names of his parents are unknown, but mid-nineteenth-century oral tradition suggests that he was born free and maintains that he was sent abroad with a brother (or cousin) Cuff (or Cuffee), but parental plans went awry and the youths were sold into slavery in North America. A collective document Whipple signed with twenty others in 1779 describes their shared experience as being “torn by the cruel hand of violence” from their mothers' “aching bosom,” and “seized, imprisoned and transported” to the United States and deprived of “the nurturing care of [their] bereaved parent” (New Hampshire Gazette, July 15, 1780).

Prince was acquired by William Whipple, and Cuff by William's brother Joseph Whipple, white merchants in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. William Whipple's household also included Windsor Moffatt and other slaves There ...