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Graham Russell Hodges

The son of unknown parents, Titus Corlies was born on the farm of John Corlies, a Quaker farmer and slave owner in Shrewsbury, New Jersey. John Corlies resisted the determination of Quakers to free members' slaves. When elders of the Shrewsbury Meeting visited Corlies at his farm in 1775, he angrily refused to manumit his slaves. Titus Corlies, then about twenty years old, was listening carefully.

After Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia, made his famous proclamation offering freedom to enslaved blacks who joined the British forces, Titus fled. John Corlies described the self-emancipated fugitive as “not very black near 6 feet high, had on a grey homespun coat, brown breeches, blue and white stockings”; he also noted that Titus took along a quantity of clothes. The fugitive slave perhaps joined Dunmore's Ethiopian Regiment when it arrived at Staten Island, New York, in December 1776 Little ...


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 ...


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 ...


Sholomo B. Levy

journalist and activist, was born Timothy Thomas in Marianna, Florida, the third of five children, to Emanuel and Sara Jane, slaves of Ely P. Moore. After emancipation his family took the name Fortune from that of an Irish planter, Thomas Fortune, whom Emanuel believed to be his father. Emanuel was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1868 where he served for three years until he was forced to leave Marianna as the reign of terror that drove black office holders from power swept through Florida Before his family joined him in Jacksonville they lived in Tallahassee where the young Fortune worked as a page in the state senate During his four sessions there Fortune developed a distrust of black and white politicians from both political parties Though he spent only a few years at primary schools run by the Freedmen s Bureau he ...


Dickson D. Jr. Bruce

scholar and activist, was born in Colleton County, South Carolina, near Charleston, the eldest of three sons of Henry Grimké, a lawyer and member of one of South Carolina's leading families, and Nancy Weston, a slave owned by Grimké. He was also a nephew, on his father's side, of the noted white southern abolitionists Sarah Grimké and Angelina Grimké Weld. Although Archibald was born a slave, Henry acknowledged him as his son. After Henry's death in 1852 his mother took him to Charleston, where, even though he was still legally a slave, he attended a school for free blacks.

This condition was to change with the coming of the Civil War, when, in 1860, one of Henry's adult white sons, from an earlier marriage, forced the Grimké brothers—Archibald, John, and Francis J. Grimké—to work as household slaves. Archibald escaped in 1863 hiding in ...


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 ...


Alston Fitts and Loren Schweninger

politician, was born a slave on a plantation near Columbus in Muscogee County, Georgia. Sold twice before becoming the property of Jonathan Haralson of Selma, Alabama, a lawyer and the head of the Confederate Niter Works, the self-taught Haralson remained in Dallas County as a freedman following the Civil War. There he married Ellen Norwood in 1870, and their son Henry (who later attended Tuskegee Institute) was born.

Unsure about the future of the Republican Party, Haralson entered politics in 1867 as a Democrat. A gifted orator who combined humor and wit with a discussion of serious issues, he campaigned in 1868 for Democratic presidential candidate Horatio Seymour, who, he said, “represented the true principles of philanthropy and national government” (Selma Times, 4 Nov. 1868). When Democrats failed to attract support from newly enfranchised blacks, Haralson switched his party allegiance in 1869 He and ...


John M. Matthews

Reconstruction-era politician, was born a slave of mixed African and Caucasian ancestry in Knoxville, Crawford County, Georgia. The names of his parents and of his owners are unknown. Sometime before the beginning of the Civil War, Long was taken from rural Crawford County to nearby Macon, where he evidently taught himself to read and write and learned a trade. Freed at the end of the war, he opened a tailor shop in Macon, which he and his son operated for a number of years and which provided him a steady income and a position of some eminence in the black community. Long married Lucinda Carhart (marriage date unknown) and had seven children.Like many who became involved in Republican Party politics in the early years of Reconstruction, Long attended sessions of the Georgia Equal Rights Association, and by the summer of 1867 he was making speeches for that ...


Maceo Crenshaw Dailey

politician, attorney, and businessman, was born on the western outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee. His parents, William C. Napier and Jane E. (maiden name unknown), were slaves at the time of his birth but were freed in 1848. After manumission and a brief residency in Ohio William Napier moved his family to Nashville, where he established a livery stable business. James attended the black elementary and secondary schools of Nashville before entering Wilberforce University (1864–1866) and Oberlin College (1866–1868), both in Ohio.

James Napier began his career as a race leader and politician during the Reconstruction era in Tennessee as Davidson County commissioner of refugees and abandoned lands in the Freedmen's Bureau. In 1870 he led a delegation of black Tennesseans to petition President Ulysses S. Grant and Congress for relief from politically motivated violence aimed at nullifying black voting strength for ...


Lois Kerschen

perhaps the most well-known African in America in the 1820s. Ibrahima Abdul Rahaman was born in Timbo, Futa Jallon, Guinea, to King Suri of the Fulbe, or Fulani, people. As a Muslim prince, he was given a highly advanced university education in Timbuktu. However, while on a military expedition in 1788, Rahaman was captured by enemies and sold to slavers.

Rahaman was transported to Natchez Mississippi and bought by Thomas Foster Sr Ironically he was named Prince because of his noticeably regal bearing and refusal to do manual labor Beaten many times for his resistance Rahaman ran away After trying unsuccessfully to survive in the wilderness and find a way home however he returned to Foster Eventually Rahaman s knowledge of plants geography and medicine gained the attention and respect of the whites in the area Foster s modest tobacco and cotton plantation grew profitably with Prince as ...


William C. Hine

politician, was born a slave in Georgetown, South Carolina, the son of Edward L. Rainey and Gracia C. (maiden name unknown). The elder Rainey purchased his family's freedom and moved with them in about 1846 (the exact date is unknown) to Charleston, where he was employed as a barber at the exclusive Mills House hotel. He prospered and purchased two male slaves in the 1850s. Joseph Rainey received a modest education and was trained by his father as a barber. In 1859 he traveled to Philadelphia and married Susan E. maiden name unknown As a result of the intervention of several friends the couple managed to circumvent the state prohibition against free people of color entering or returning to South Carolina and they moved to Charleston After the Civil War began Rainey was conscripted to serve as a steward on a Confederate blockade runner He was later compelled ...


Stephen W. Angell

black nationalist and land promoter known as “Pap,” was born into slavery in Nashville, Tennessee. Little is known about the first six decades of his life. In his old age Singleton reminisced that his master had sold him to buyers as far away as Alabama and Mississippi several times, but that each time he had escaped and returned to Nashville. Tiring of this treatment, he ran-away to Windsor, Ontario, and shortly thereafter moved to Detroit. There he quietly opened a boardinghouse for escaped slaves and supported himself by scavenging. In 1865 he came home to Edgefield, Tennessee, across the Cumberland River from Nashville, and supported himself as a cabinetmaker and carpenter.

Although Singleton loved Tennessee he did not see this state in the post Civil War era as a hospitable place for African Americans Since coffin making was part of his work he witnessed firsthand the aftermath of ...


Glenda E. Gilmore

congressman, was born in Beaufort, South Carolina, the son of an unknown white man and Lydia, a slave woman who worked as a house servant for the John McKee family in Beaufort. Descendants of Smalls believed that his father was John McKee, who died when Robert was young. The McKee family sent Robert to live with their relatives in Charleston, where he worked for wages that he turned over to his master. Smalls apparently taught himself the rudiments of reading and writing during this period. Later he attended school for three months, and as an adult he hired tutors. In 1856 Smalls married Hannah Jones, a slave who worked as a hotel maid. They had three children, one of whom died of smallpox. The couple lived apart from their owners, to whom they sent most of their income.In 1861 Smalls began working as a deckhand ...


David N. Gellman

Pierre Toussaint was a singular, yet elusive figure. The quality of his life moved some to call for his beatification as a Catholic saint in the twentieth century. His motivations and commitments as a historical figure—including his place in the history of free black life in antebellum New York City—are harder to pin down. Although he made monetary contributions to African American causes in New York and elsewhere, many of the most noteworthy beneficiaries of his assistance and sympathy were whites, with whom he forged unusually cordial connections during an era of increasing segregation and racial hostility.

Toussaint was born a slave in the French sugar colony of Saint Domingue; his year of birth has traditionally been listed as 1766, but a 1995 reassessment estimates 1778 as a more likely date, while another biographer proposes 1781 as Toussaint s birth year His mother and grandmother were house slaves ...


William W. Rogers

Reconstruction politician, was born a slave near Weldon, Halifax County, North Carolina. His parents' names are unknown. He was owned by Elizabeth Turner, a widow, who took the five-year-old Turner with her when, in 1830, she moved to Dallas County in Alabama's rich cotton-producing and slave-dense Black Belt. He grew up in Dallas County and in Selma, on the Alabama River.

When Turner was twenty his owner sold him to Major W H Gee her stepdaughter s husband to pay off debts Turner was intelligent and industrious and an overseer once found him with a spelling book and threatened to whip him if he repeated the offense The powerfully built Turner was placed in charge of Gee House his new owner s hotel in Selma Although state law prohibited the education of slaves Gee s children ignored the statute and taught Turner to read and write He ...


Charles W. Jr. Carey

Reconstruction politician and U.S. congressman, was born near Winchester, Virginia. His parents' names are unknown and Walls's public statements regarding his parents' status during slavery are contradictory. Quite possibly he was born the slave of Dr. John Walls, a Winchester physician, but his dark skin casts doubt on the premise that Dr. Walls was also his father.

In 1861Josiah Walls was kidnapped by Confederate artillerymen and put to work as a servant. He was freed by Union troops during the battle of Yorktown in May 1862 and sent to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where he attended school for a year, his only known formal education. In July 1863 he enlisted in the Third Infantry Regiment, U.S. Colored Troops (USCT), and took part in that unit's siege of Batteries Wagner and Gregg near Charleston, South Carolina. After their fall, his unit was stationed in northern Florida. In June 1864 Walls ...


Joel M. Sipress

soldier and political leader, was born in Charleston, South Carolina. Nothing is known of Ward's parents, and little of his early life, but he was raised a slave in Virginia, and became free during the Civil War. In January 1864 he enlisted in the First United States Colored Cavalry, a federal regiment organized in late 1863 in the Tidewater region of Virginia. A month after enlistment Ward was promoted to sergeant, a rank he held until his discharge in February 1866. Ward's service included duty in Virginia at Fortress Monroe, in Hampton, and in Richmond. During the war he received a bullet wound through the knee.

Following his discharge, he settled in Portsmouth, Virginia, where he worked as a carpenter. In October 1867 Ward reenlisted and served in the Thirty ninth United States Colored Infantry While stationed at Ship Island Mississippi he contracted a serious illness most likely ...


William F. Mugleston

educator and race leader, was born on the plantation of James Burroughs, near Hale's Ford in Franklin County, Virginia, the son of an unknown white father and Jane, a slave cook owned by Burroughs. Washington was never certain of the date of his birth and showed little interest in who his father might have been. His mother gave him his first and middle names, Booker Taliaferro; he took his last name in 1870 from his stepfather, Washington Ferguson, a slave whom his mother had married. In his autobiography Up from Slavery (1901), he recalled the poverty of his early years as a slave on Burroughs's plantation, but because emancipation came when he was around nine, he was spared the harsher experiences of the slave system. In 1865 at the end of the Civil War his mother moved him his half sister ...


Paula J. Giddings

antilynching reformer and journalist, was born Ida Bell Wells, the first of eight children born to James Wells, a carpenter, and Elizabeth Arrington, a cook, in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Her parents worked for Spires Boling, a contractor and architect, as slaves and then as free blacks until 1867, when James Wells, against the wishes of his employer, exercised his new right to vote. After returning from the polls to find his carpentry shop locked, Wells moved the family to a house nearby and went into business for himself. In Holly Springs, Ida Wells attended a freedmen's school, of which her father was a trustee, and Shaw University (later Rust College), founded by the Freedmen's Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church and incorporated in 1870.

Ida Wells's early life as a “happy, light-hearted schoolgirl” (Duster, 16) was upended in 1878 when both of her ...


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 ...