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Marlene L. Daut

Medal of Honor recipient, actor, and playwright, was born in Richmond, Virginia, of unknown parentage. Beaty (sometimes spelled Beatty) was born a slave, but little else is known of his early years or how he came to be free. Beaty left Richmond in 1849 for Cincinnati, where he would spend the majority of his life, and became a farmer. Later, Beaty's education consisted of an apprenticeship to a black cabinetmaker in Cincinnati, as well as a tutelage under James E. Murdock, a retired professional actor and dramatic coach.

On 5 September 1862 Powhatan Beaty along with 706 other African American men was forced to join Cincinnati s Black Brigade after Confederate troops repeatedly threatened the city The Black Brigade was one of the earliest but unofficial African American military units organized during the Civil War but it did not engage in any military action since the city was ...

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Lisa E. Rivo

mountain man, fur trapper and trader, scout, translator, and explorer, was born James Pierson Beckwith in Frederick County, Virginia, the son of Sir Jennings Beckwith, a white Revolutionary War veteran and the descendant of minor Irish aristocrats who became prominent Virginians. Little is known about Jim's mother, a mixed-race slave working in the Beckwith household. Although he was born into slavery, Jim was manumitted by his father in the 1820s. In the early 1800s, Beckwith moved his family, which reputedly included fourteen children, to Missouri, eventually settling in St. Louis. Some commentators suggest that Beckwith, an adventurous outdoorsman, was seeking an environment less hostile to his racially mixed family.

As a young teenager, after four years of schooling, Jim Beckwourth as his name came to be spelled was apprenticed to a blacksmith Unhappy as a tradesman he fled to the newly discovered lead mines in Illinois s Fever ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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John C. Fredriksen

soldier and engineer, was born in Thomasville, Georgia, the son of Festus Flipper and Isabelle (maiden name unknown), slaves. During the Civil War and Reconstruction he was educated in American Missionary Association schools and in 1873 gained admission to Atlanta University. That year Flipper also obtained an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy through the auspices of Republican Representative James C. Freeman. He was not the first African American to attend West Point, as Michael Howard and James Webster Smith preceded him in 1870, but neither graduated. Flipper subsequently endured four years of grueling academic instruction and ostracism from white classmates before graduating fiftieth in a class of sixty-four on 14 June 1877. He was commissioned second lieutenant in the all-black Tenth U. S. Cavalry, and the following year recounted his academy experience in an autobiography, The Colored Cadet at West Point (1878 ...

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Glenn Allen Knoblock

Civil War soldier and Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Gloucester, Virginia, and was likely a slave prior to the Civil War. When Gardner enlisted for service in the Union army on 15 September 1863, he listed his occupation as that of an oysterman. The service of James Gardner and thousands of other African Americans in the Union army represented a quest to destroy slavery and establish a foundation for postwar demands for full citizenship For the federal government and most of the North however black patriotism was unwillingly accepted only out of sheer necessity two years of battle and staggering Union casualties compelled Northerners to swallow their opposition to black recruitment and the measure of racial equality that service implied in order to fill their depleted army ranks Indeed early war time fever had dissipated and voluntary enlistments faded making it difficult for states to ...

Article

Gordon  

Frank H. Goodyear

escaped slave and Union soldier, was likely born on the plantation of John Lyon near Washington, Louisiana, an important steamboat port before the Civil War. Lyon was a cotton planter whose property was located on the Atchafalya River. The names of Gordon's parents and details about his youth are not known.

Gordon received a severe whipping for undisclosed reasons from the plantation's overseer in the fall of 1862. This beating left him with horrible welts on much of the surface of his back, and for the next two months Gordon recuperated in bed. Although Lyon discharged the overseer who carried out this vicious attack, Gordon decided to escape.

In March 1863 Gordon fled his home heading east toward the Mississippi River and Union lines Upon learning of his flight his master recruited several neighbors and together they chased after him with a pack of bloodhounds Gordon had anticipated ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

Civil War soldier and Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Austin, Texas, the son of slaves Jack and Emily Holland. Milton had three known brothers, Toby, William, and James, all part of “the third generation of African-Americans born as slaves” on the Holland Family Plantation run by Bird Holland later the Texas secretary of state Arlington National Cemetery Perhaps because of his light complexion and the fact that he was later freed and sent to school in the North Bird Holland may have been the real father of Milton as well as his brothers William and James a fact speculated upon by some historians Bird Holland would later free Milton William and James and send them north to Ohio in the late 1850s Here Milton Holland attended the Albany Manual Labor Academy an educational institution that accepted blacks and women This school was ...

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Glenn Allen Knoblock

Civil War soldier and Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Pennsylvania, the son of the Pennsylvania natives David Kelly, a coal miner, and Nancy. The family resided in South Versailles Township, Allegheny County, McKeesport, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, in the heart of coal-mining country. A coal miner like his father, Alexander Kelly, at five feet, three inches, was ideally suited for a profession where working in constricted spaces was the norm. However, he took up another profession, that of soldier, and there too he proved more than able to measure up to the tasks required of him.With the Union army in need of increasingly greater numbers of men, President Abraham Lincoln and the War Department came around to the idea of raising black troops. The idea became policy in May 1863 when General Order Number 143 established the Bureau of Colored Troops which oversaw activities ...

Article

Tina C. Jones

was a Patriot of the American Revolutionary War. Legend has it that Oscar grew up on the same plantation as his famed master and war hero, Brigadier General Francis Marion, in Berkeley County, South Carolina, and that they played together as childhood friends in the 1730s. Francis Marion's family owned the plantation. Francis fondly referred to Oscar by his nickname, “Buddy.” In time, these childhood playmates would mature and, as adults, find fame as patriotic heroes and fierce guerrilla fighters in the Revolutionary War. Francis Marion grew up to become the wily general known to his enemies as the “Swamp Fox.” Oscar Marion's place fighting alongside Francis has only recently come into full focus, although his role in the war has often been portrayed in art and literature over the past two centuries.

Oscar Marion served in the 2nd Continental Army Regiment of South Carolina His volunteer service of ...

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Karen E. Sutton

Revolutionary War veteran, credited with causing the death of the British lieutenant colonel James Abercrombie at the Battle of Bunker Hill on 17 June 1775. Folklore has it that a teenage Lydia Abbott and her father purchased an African American male infant at a Salem, Massachusetts, slave auction block. The Abbotts lived in nearby Andover and were traveling by horseback. According to tradition, the baby rode either on the “bow” of the saddle or in the saddlebag of Lydia's horse. However he got to Andover, Lydia's family owned him, and had him baptized in the Congregational Church in 1747. In later years, Lydia Abbott gave Poor to her daughter, Chloe. As a child this African American male slave became known as “Salem Pony.” At approximately twenty-seven years of age, Salem purchased himself for twenty-seven pounds. The date was 10 July 1769 and the other party ...

Article

Lois Kerschen

Salem Poor was an African American hero at the battle of Bunker Hill. Little is known about Poor's life before or after the American Revolution. Some biographical sources say that he was born free in the late 1740s or early 1750s, while others say that he was born a slave but managed to buy his own freedom in 1769 for twenty-seven pounds. He lived and attended church in Andover, Massachusetts, with his wife, Nancy, a free African American woman, and their son. However, in May 1775 he left his family to join the fighting.

Poor belonged to Captain Benjamin Ames's company in Colonel James Frye's Fifth Massachusetts Regiment. There were approximately three dozen black soldiers at Bunker Hill (near Boston), including Peter Salem, Alexander Ames, Cato Howe, Barzillai Lew, and Titus Coburn According to surviving documents Poor was sent to Bunker Hill to build ...

Article

Caryn E. Neumann

who was born a slave in Framingham, Massachusetts. Salem's master, Jeremiah Belknap, named the newborn slave after his Massachusetts hometown. Salem was eventually sold to Major Lawson Buckminster, who freed the young man to allow him to serve in the Framingham militia. In 1774 the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts set up the Committee of Safety under John Hancock to call out the entire militia of the colony should events lead to its necessity. Special groups were formed within militia units to be ready at a moment's notice, and Salem became one of the few black minutemen.

As a militiaman Salem attacked the British at Concord after a group of Royal Marines under Major John Pitcairn fired the shots that started the war, assaulting minutemen at Lexington in April 1775 Salem joined the Fifth Massachusetts Regiment led by Colonel John Nixon The regiment rushed to Boston as reinforcements ...

Article

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 ...

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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 ...