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Timothy P. McCarthy

politician was born in Aiken South Carolina His father was a free black tailor and his mother was a cloak maker of Haitian descent their names are unknown Though several records claim that DeLarge was born into slavery it is more likely that his parents were free blacks who owned slaves This peculiar and paradoxical designation surely inspired the dual sensibilities that later characterized his political and social life as both an advocate for universal black enfranchisement and a member of South Carolina s propertied often exclusionist light skinned elite Fortunate to receive the benefits of the prewar education available to free black children DeLarge attended primary school in North Carolina and Wood High School in Charleston For a short time he was employed as a tailor and farmer and some sources indicate that he was also a part time barber During the Civil War he amassed some money ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Aimee Lee Cheek and William Cheek

political leader and intellectual, was born free in Louisa County, Virginia, the son of Ralph Quarles, a wealthy white slaveholding planter, and Lucy Jane Langston, a part-Native American, part-black slave emancipated by Quarles in 1806. After the deaths of both of their parents in 1834, Langston and his two brothers, well provided for by Quarles's will but unprotected by Virginia law, moved to Ohio. There Langston lived on a farm near Chillicothe with a cultured white southern family who had been friends of his father and who treated him as a son. He was in effect orphaned again in 1839 when a court hearing concluding that his guardian s impending move to slave state Missouri would imperil the boy s freedom and inheritance forced him to leave the family Subsequently he boarded in four different homes white and black in Chillicothe and Cincinnati worked ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Chandra M. Miller

Reconstruction politician and U.S. congressman, was born in Opelousas, Louisiana, the son of free blacks Richard Nash and Masie Cecile. He received little public school education and as a young man worked as a bricklayer in New Orleans.

In 1863 nineteen-year-old Nash joined the Tenth Regiment of the Corps d'Afrique, later renamed the Eighty-second U.S. Colored Infantry. He joined the army as a private but was soon promoted to the rank of sergeant major. Nash's regiment fought at the Battle of Port Hudson, Louisiana, and was involved in the last infantry battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Fort Blakely, Alabama, in April 1865 While storming Fort Blakely Nash received wounds that cost him most of his right leg and earned him an honorable discharge Apparently about ten days before his discharge he received promotion to first lieutenant but the promotion was not approved His ...

Article

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 ...

Article

William C. Hine

Reconstruction politician and U.S. congressman, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, to free parents, whose names are unknown. Contemporary accounts describe his education as “limited.” In the 1850s he secured a position as a shipping clerk with a prominent commercial firm in Charleston. In 1856 he married Louisa Ann Carroll, and they were the parents of eleven children. Carroll died in 1875, and Ransier married Mary Louisa McKinlay in 1876.

Ransier was a leading figure in Reconstruction and Republican politics in South Carolina. He participated in the 1865 Colored Peoples' Convention in-Charleston that urged the state's white leaders to enfranchise black men and abolish the black code, a series of measures designed to limit the rights of black-people and to confine them to menial and agricultural labor. In 1867 Congress passed a series of Reconstruction laws that provided for the reorganization of the southern states ...

Article

Kenneth H. Williams

clergyman, educator, and first African American senator, was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the son of free parents of mixed blood. Little is known of his family or early years. At eight or nine he enrolled in a private school for black children, where he was “fully and successfully instructed by our able teacher in all branches of learning.” About 1842 his family moved to Lincolnton, North Carolina, where Revels became a barber. Two years later he entered Beech Grove Seminary, a Quaker institution two miles south of Liberty, Indiana. In 1845 he enrolled at another seminary in Darke County, Ohio, and during this period may also have studied theology at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Revels's preaching career with the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church began at this time. He was ordained as a minister in the Indiana Conference at some point between 1845 and 1847 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Eric Anderson

lawyer and member of Congress, was born in Bladen County, North Carolina, the son of Mary (maiden name unknown) and Wiley F. White. With one grandmother Irish and the other half American Indian, White jocularly described himself as no more than “mostly Negro.” Like most black boys in the antebellum South, he had little opportunity for education. A biographical sketch in the New York Tribune on 2 January 1898 put it in graphic understatement: “His early studies were much interrupted because of the necessity he was under to do manual labor on farms and in the forests, and it was not until he was seventeen years old that his serious education was actually begun.” After attending a combination of local schools, public and private, and saving one thousand dollars from farm work and cask making, White enrolled at Howard University.

White graduated in 1877 and returned to North ...