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Heidi L. Scott Giusto

Henry Walter Bibb was born a slave on the plantation of David White in Shelby County, Kentucky. His father, James Bibb, was a slaveholding planter and state senator; his mother, Mildred Jackson, was a slave. By 1825 Bibb began what he referred to as his “maroonage,” or scheming of short-term escape. Excessively cruel treatment by several different masters engendered this habit. Bibb's life lacked stability; the slave's owner began hiring him out at a young age, and between 1832 and 1840 he would be sold more than six times and would relocate to at least seven southern states.

In 1833 Bibb met and fell in love with Malinda, a slave who lived four miles away in Oldham County, Kentucky. After determining that they had similar values regarding religion and possible flight, the two pledged honor to one another and considered themselves married in December 1834 Approximately one year later ...

Article

Paul Finkelman and Richard Newman

escaped slave, was born on a plantation in Louisa County, Virginia, to unknown parents. As a youth, Brown lived with his parents, four sisters, and three brothers until the family was separated and his master hired him out at age fifteen to work in a tobacco factory in Richmond, Virginia. Brown's autobiography illuminates the vicissitudes of slave life but does not recount any further major events in his own life other than his marriage around 1836 to Nancy, the slave of a bank clerk, with whom he had three children. In August 1848 Nancy's owner sold her and her three children (Brown's children) to a slave trader who took them South. Brown begged his own master to purchase them, but he refused. Brown later wrote in his autobiography: “I went to my Christian master but he shoved me away According to his autobiography Brown actually saw his wife and ...

Article

Paul Finkelman

Henry “Box” Brown was born a slave in Louisa County, Virginia, probably around 1815. By 1830 he was living in Richmond, where his master hired him out to work in a tobacco factory. Around 1836, when he would have been about twenty-one, Brown married a slave named Nancy, who was owned by a bank clerk. The owner promised not to sell Nancy but soon did so anyway. She was later resold to a Mr. Cottrell, who persuaded Brown to give him fifty dollars of the purchase price. Cottrell also promised never to sell Nancy, but in 1848 he sold her, and her children with Henry, to slave traders, who removed them from the state. Brown pleaded with his own master to buy Nancy and the children. As Brown wrote in his autobiography, “I went to my Christian master but he shoved me away from him as ...

Article

Alice Knox Eaton

slave narrator, novelist, playwright, historian, and abolitionist leader, was born in Lexington, Kentucky, the son of a slave mother, Elizabeth, and George Higgins, the white half-brother of Brown's first master, Dr. John Young. As a slave, William was spared the hard labor of his master's plantation, unlike his mother and half-siblings, because of his close blood relation to the slave-holding family, but as a house servant he was constantly abused by Mrs. Young. When the family removed to a farm outside St. Louis, Missouri, William was hired out in various capacities, including physician's assistant, servant in a public house, and waiter on a steamship. William's “best master” in slavery was Elijah P. Lovejoy, publisher of the St. Louis Times, where he was hired out in the printing office in 1830 Lovejoy was an antislavery editor who would be murdered seven years later for refusing ...

Article

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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 ...

Article

Abha Sood Patel

educator and humanitarian. Cooper was born Anna Julia Haywood in Raleigh, North Carolina, to Hannah Stanley Haywood and purportedly her master, George Washington Haywood. Cooper was a noted scholar at a young age. In 1868 she received a scholarship to attend Saint Augustine's Normal School and Collegiate Institute, founded to provide education to former slaves and their families. Cooper spent fourteen years at the institute, both as a pupil and as a teacher. She excelled at the humanities, as well as at math and science, and she fought for her right to take “men's” courses, such as Greek. On 21 June 1877 she married the Reverend George A. C. Cooper, her teacher in the Greek theological class. Her marriage barred her from teaching at Saint Augustine's. Her husband died two years later, and she never married again.

In 1880 Cooper won a scholarship to Oberlin College ...

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Charles Lemert

Anna Julia Cooper is best known for her book A Voice from the South by a Black Woman of the South (1892), a classic in the tradition known today as the woman of color standpoint in social theory. No one before, except perhaps Sojourner Truth, had so clearly defined what Cooper called “the colored woman’s office” in the moral politics of late-nineteenth-century America.

Anna Julia Cooper was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, the daughter of Hannah Stanley, a slave. Her white biological father, George Washington Haywood, was her mother’s owner. Of her biological father, Cooper once wrote: “I owe him not a sou and she [her mother] was always too shamefaced ever to mention him.” The child grew to carry herself with the mother’s sense of dignity and propriety.

Anna Julia s life began just before the outbreak of the American Civil War and ...

Article

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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Linda M. Perkins

When Fanny Jackson became principal of Philadelphia’s Institute for Colored Youth in 1869, she held the highest educational appointment of any black woman in the nation at the time. While most of her attention, both before and after her marriage in 1881, was given to the institute, she was also active in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the National Association of Colored Women, and, in later life, as a missionary to Africa.

Fanny Jackson Coppin was born a slave in Washington, DC, in 1837. Her freedom was bought during her early childhood by a devoted aunt, Sarah Orr. Jackson moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts, and, by the early 1850s, to Newport, Rhode Island, to live with relatives. While in Newport, Jackson worked as a domestic in the home of George Henry Calvert, great-grandson of Lord Baltimore settler of Maryland Calvert s wife Mary was ...

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Barbara McCaskill

a slave born in Clinton, Georgia, the daughter of a mulatto slave named Maria and their owner, Major James P. Smith. She trained as a house slave, becoming a skillful seamstress, only to be given as a wedding present to her half-sister Eliza, who settled in Macon, Georgia, with the wealthy Robert Collins. Ellen fell in love with William Craft, an urban slave and skilled carpenter, who leased his services to neighboring households and plantations. The desire to enter a Christian marriage and to raise freeborn children catalyzed Ellen and William’s decision to escape to the North during the 1848 Christmas holidays, when southerners traditionally slackened their surveillance of the slaves.

Ellen s flight demonstrates both her own agency and the manipulation of her image in pre Civil War mass culture Using her near white complexion to advantage she planned to disguise herself as an ailing white ...

Article

Mikal N. Nash

Frederick Douglass the American slave turned statesman was a towering figure in the struggle to gain civil and human rights in the United States of America for African Americans thus becoming a pioneer in the struggle to make the country s practices more congruent with its principles That civil rights was so inextricably tied to the African American quest for freedom justice and equality in a country that was established in the name of freedom but which grappled with recognizing the humanity of Americans of African descent is indeed a paradox Douglass like Nat Turner and John Brown though not nearly as militant was a visionary and a much needed voice of passion moderation and reason in an environment that clung to conservatism on the issues of race class and gender equality His brand of militancy would become manifest in his advocacy of black participation in the American Civil ...

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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 ...

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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

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 ...

Article

Kathleen F. Esmiol

entrepreneur, philanthropist, community activist, and businesswoman, was the fourth of seven children born to Herbert and Mattie Brinson Bragg, tenant farmers in Luther, Oklahoma. Duncan's parents were hard working role models, and she learned the basics of business by watching her father manage a sprawling farm. She also gained organizational skills by helping her mother maintain an active family of nine.

Sadly, Herbert Bragg's untimely death at Thanksgiving in 1926 eventually forced the family to leave Depression-era Oklahoma, and in 1933 they sought opportunity in Colorado Springs Colorado where Duncan attended desegregated schools A focused but gregarious student she participated in extracurricular school activities but to support the family she also waitressed and worked as a housekeeper for a real estate developer Russian Count Benjamin Lefkowsky who recognized her potential and became a mentor Financially unable to pursue her goal of attending Langston College upon ...

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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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Oyekemi Oyelakin

Olaudah Equiano (ca. 1745–1797) was a freed slave whose name came to be associated with the abolitionist movement in England during the eighteenth century. His antislavery position was partly responsible for the writing of his experiences in the book The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, published in 1789, which in turn is credited with influencing British lawmakers to enact the Slave Trade Act of 1807, abolishing the slave trade.

Equiano, according to his autobiography, was born in a village called Essaka situated in the Igbo-speaking eastern part of present-day Nigeria around 1745 Going by his early training in the art of warfare he seemed to have belonged to a professional class of titled warriors He was kidnapped with his sister when he was about eleven years old and sold into slavery He endured the pain of loss ...

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Brycchan Carey

slave, writer, and abolitionist, was, according to his autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, born in the village of Essaka in Eboe, an unknown location in the Ibo-speaking region of modern Nigeria. Equiano recorded that he was the son of a chief and was also destined for that position. However, at about the age of ten, he was abducted and sold to European slave traders. In his narrative, Equiano recalls the Middle Passage in which “the shrieks of the women, and the groans of the dying, rendered the whole a scene of horror almost inconceivable” (58). Despite falling ill, Equiano survived the voyage and was taken first to Barbados and then to Virginia, where in 1754 he was bought by Michael Pascal a captain in the Royal Navy Pascal s first act was to rename the ...

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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 ...