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Aaron Myers

Born a slave in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Allen grew up during the American Revolution (1775–1783), an era characterized by the advocacy of individual rights, the growth of denominational Christianity, and the inception of the antislavery movement. Around 1768 Allen's owner, a Philadelphia lawyer named Benjamin Chew, sold him, his three siblings, and his parents to Stokely Sturgis, a plantation owner in Delaware.

With the permission of Sturgis, Allen began to attend Methodist meetings, and around 1777 he converted to Methodism. In the second half of the eighteenth century, Methodism proliferated in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. This Christian denomination emphasized a simple set of virtues that included honesty, modesty, and sobriety. Following Allen's conversion, in 1780 Sturgis agreed to let Allen hire himself out in order to earn money to purchase his freedom for $2 000 In addition to doing manual labor Allen began to preach ...

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Frederick V. Mills

AmericanMethodist preacher and founder of the African Methodist Episcopal church, was born into slavery to parents who were the property of Benjamin Chew of Philadelphia. He and his parents and three additional children were sold in 1777 to Stokely Sturgis, who lived near Dover, Delaware. There he attended Methodist preaching events and experienced a spiritual awakening. Allen, his older brother, and a sister were retained by Sturgis, but his parents and younger siblings were sold. Through the ministry of Freeborn Garretson, a Methodist itinerant preacher, Sturgis was converted to Methodism and became convinced that slavery was wrong. Subsequently, Allen and his brother were permitted to work to purchase their freedom, which they did in 1780.For the next six years Allen worked as a wagon driver woodcutter and bricklayer while serving as a Methodist preacher to both blacks and whites in towns and rural areas in Maryland ...

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Scott A. Miltenberger

Richard Allen was born a slave into Philadelphia's noted Chew family, whose patriarch Benjamin Chew was a prominent lawyer and served as Pennsylvania's chief justice from 1774 to 1777. In 1767 the family sold Richard to Stokeley Sturgis, a farmer in Kent County, Delaware. There Richard met a Methodist circuit rider, an encounter that transformed his life.

Unlike all other Protestant groups at the time, the Methodists made no distinctions based on color; moreover, they opposed slavery. Sometime around 1780, after attending a revival held by an itinerant Methodist preacher, Richard had a profound religious conversion. He began to attend Methodist prayer meetings, learned to read and write, and eventually presided over the local meetings. Soon after, inspired by a sermon given at his home by the charismatic Methodist preacher Freeborn Garrettson Sturgis became convinced that slaveholding was wrong He drafted a gradual manumission contract with ...

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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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Penny Anne Welbourne

Born a slave in Rancocas, New Jersey, William Boen belonged to a Quaker master. As a young man he met and became friends with John Woolman, the Quaker minister known for his continuing efforts to end slavery. It was most likely Woolman who encouraged Boen to attend worship at the Mount Holly Monthly Meeting of the Society of Friends. Anecdotes and Memoirs of William Boen, a Coloured Man, Who Lived and Died Near Mount Holly, New Jersey. To which is Added, The Testimony of Friends of Mount Holly Monthly Meeting Concerning Him was a memorial written by Quakers from Mount Holly for Boen, who was a member of the Society of Friends from 1814 until his death in 1824 The authors of the memorial stated that although they rarely felt called upon to record the virtues of any of this afflicted race of people they thought Boen ...

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Nicolás Ocaranza

slave and wet nurse for the South American revolutionary Simón Bolívar, was born on 13 August 1763 in San Mateo, Aragua State, in the general captaincy of Venezuela. She was best known as la negra Hipólita (Black Hipólita), and lived much of her life in San Mateo State, where the Bolívar family had sugar plantations dependent on black slave labor.

From 1773, at around age 10, Hipólita served as a domestic servant in the household of Juan Vicente Bolívar and Maria de la Concepcion Palacios y Blanco, the parents of Simón Bolívar, who owned over two hundred slaves across several estates engaged in mining and the cultivation of cacao. As was the custom in a society based on slavery, Hipólita took her master’s last name as her own.

In 1781 the Bolívar family moved some black slaves from the Santo Domingo de Macaira estate in Caucagua to the ...

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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

Mary F. Corey

a founder of the African Methodist Episcopal church, author, and educator, was born a slave in Frederick County, Maryland, the son of Susan Coker, a white indentured servant, and Edward Wright, a black slave belonging to the same plantation owner, whose name is unknown. Daniel Coker was educated with his master's son, who refused to go to school without his slave. When Coker was in his early teens he escaped to New York City where he joined the Methodist Church and was ordained as a lay minister.

Empowered by his education and ordination, Coker returned to Maryland in 1801 to become the first African American teacher at the African Academy a school founded by the Baltimore Abolition Society for the education of free blacks He was the first black licensed minister in Baltimore and the spiritual leader of an independent prayer meeting formed by black Methodists dissatisfied ...

Article

Debra Newman Ham

Daniel Coker was born Isaac Wright in 1780, probably in Frederick County, Maryland, to the enslaved African Edward Wright and the white indentured servant Susan Coker. Isaac's mother also had an older white son, named Daniel Coker, who refused to go away to school unless Isaac could accompany him. While with his half brother, Isaac received a rudimentary education and ran away to New York, where he assumed his brother's name.

The mixed-race Coker was active in the Methodist movement under the traveling bishop Francis Asbury. Coker became a minister in a Baltimore Methodist church that was modeled after the Reverend Richard Allen's church in Philadelphia and opened a school in about 1800 Despite the fact that early Methodists were encouraged to free their slaves welcome African American members and support abolition many white preachers trustees and churchgoers treated African American members of their congregation unjustly ...

Article

Loren Schweninger

businessman, was born a slave in Cabarrus County, North Carolina, the son of Rufus C. Barringer, a white lawyer and politician, and Roxanna Coleman. Little is known about his parents, but as a youngster he learned the shoemaker's trade and also barbering. After the Civil War he briefly attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., hawking jewelry to pay for his board and room. He also worked as an itinerant salesman in North Carolina. Coleman saved his earnings and in 1869 he purchased a 130-acre farm in Cabarrus County, paying $600 for the well-timbered land. In 1870 he was listed in the census as the proprietor of a small grocery store in the town of Concord North Carolina with a total estate of $800 in real and personal property During the same period he also began purchasing low priced rental houses in and around Concord paying between $125 ...

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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 ...

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 ...

Article

Lynette D. Myles

slave and later a wealthy black woman, was born in Hancock County, Georgia, the daughter of Julia Frances Lewis Dickson, a slave, and David Dickson, a wealthy, white Georgian planter, businessman, and slave owner. Amanda America Dickson's birth resulted from the rape of thirteen-year-old Julia Dickson by David Dickson, the forty-year-old son of the slave owner Elizabeth Sholars Dickson. After she was weaned, Amanda was taken from her mother and placed in the home of her white owner and grandmother, Elizabeth Sholars Dickson. Julia, on the other hand, remained in living quarters outside the Dickson house. Until her white grandmother's death in 1864, Amanda lived with her in the same bedroom where she spent most of her time “studying her books and doing whatever she was told to do” (Leslie, Woman of Color 42 According to the Dickson family s African ...

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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 ...

Article

Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable is reputed to be the founder of Chicago because he was the first non–Native American to build a home on the future site of the city. As an enterprising free black man on the Revolutionary frontier, Du Sable has become a symbolic figure of great importance to the modern-day African American community, especially in Chicago. The lack of much concrete evidence about his life seems only to enhance his mythic importance as a pioneering black settler and prominent frontiersman. Documents composed by English speakers spell his name variously as “Au Sable,” “Point Sable,” “Sabre,” and “Pointe de Saible.”

Du Sable s birth date is not known It is thought that he was born in the town of Saint Marc on the island of Saint Domingue in what later became the first free black republic in the Americas Haiti At the time of his birth Saint ...

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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 ...

Article

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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Meca R. Williams

Catherine Ferguson began New York’s first Sunday school in 1793. Not only did she teach catechism and life skills but she also assisted by finding permanent homes for some of the school’s economically disadvantaged students. For these benevolent acts, she is known as a trailblazer in the Sunday school movement, public education, child welfare, and social work.

Ferguson was born Catherine Williams when her mother was en route to her new slave owners for domestic service Williams was delivered on a schooner while her mother was traveling from Virginia to New York Doing domestic work alongside her mother she developed skills that would prove helpful to her in her later employment Her mother also taught her to recite biblical scriptures The young girl acquired a keen ability for memorizing religious texts When she was eight years old her education came to a halt and her family ties were ...