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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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

zambo (son of a Guaraní Indian father and a black mother), infantry soldier, and Argentine national hero killed at the Battle of San Lorenzo (February 1813). It was in the midst of this battle that the leader of the revolutionary forces, General José de San Martín, had his horse shot from under him. According to both legendary and historical accounts, as the general was about to be killed by a Spanish soldier, Cabral sacrificed himself for the sake of San Martín, though the exact details of Cabral’s actions remain open to speculation. In his martyrdom for the revolution, Cabral entered the pantheon of Argentina’s heroes, remembered and commemorated in verse, song, and monuments. In addition, streets and public schools throughout Argentina bear Cabral’s name, and even the army’s school for noncommissioned officers is named after the hero of San Lorenzo.

Much of Cabral s life remains a matter ...

Article

Dalyce Newby

soldier, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of William Carney and Ann, a former slave. Little is known of his parents or of his early years. As a young boy he expressed an interest in the ministry and, at the age of fourteen, attended a covertly run school under the tutelage of a local minister. Later he moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he took odd jobs in the hope of saving sufficient funds to acquire his religious training.

In 1862, despite strong opposition, Abraham Lincoln signed a bill authorizing the recruitment of African American troops. In January 1863Governor John Andrew of Massachusetts was permitted to raise a black regiment. Since the black community was relatively small in that state, recruiters turned to enlisting men from other states, using such prominent abolitionists as Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, and Wendell Phillips as recruiting ...

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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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Moya B. Hansen

Buffalo Soldier, was born in Big Flats, New York, along the banks of the Chemung River, not far from the town of Elmira. Nothing is known about Denny's family aside from the fact that he had a sister. Denny's career as a Buffalo Soldier in the Ninth Cavalry spanned thirty years, during which time he earned the nation's highest military honor, the Medal of Honor. Denny enlisted in the U.S. Army on 13 June 1867, one year after President Andrew Johnson signed legislation establishing two cavalry and four infantry regiments composed of African American men. All of these units were sent to the western frontier to defend settlers from Indian tribes, rustlers, thieves, and bandits.

Denny was assigned to Company C Ninth Cavalry stationed at Fort Davis Texas near the Mexican border Its orders were to protect stage and mail routes between El Paso and San Antonio patrol ...

Article

Julia Gaffield

general in the Haitian Revolution, first leader of independent Haiti, and a lwa in the Haitian Vodou pantheon. The specifics of Jean-Jacques Dessalines’s early life are not well documented and historians have not come to a consensus regarding his date and place of birth. He was born around the year 1758 in either west central Africa or in the Grande Rivière region in the north of the French colony of Saint Domingue in the Caribbean where he spent much of his life as a slave on two plantations In the late eighteenth century Saint Domingue was the most wealth producing colony in the Americas Much of this wealth was generated through the cultivation and export of sugar and coffee crops Enslaved people often purchased by the plantation owners through the transatlantic slave trade were forced to work on plantations to produce wealth for their masters Some enslaved people were ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Michael Frank Knight

, clerk, editor, Civil War veteran, and recipient of the Medal of Honor, was born to Charles and Anna Marie Fleetwood, free people in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1863 Christian left a lucrative position as a clerk in the Brune shipping and trading empire and joined the Fourth United States Colored Troops as a private. Just over a year later Fleetwood received the Medal of Honor for bravery and coolness under fire at the Battle of New Market Heights (Chaffin's Farm), 29 and 30 September 1864. He was one of only sixteen African American soldiers to receive the Medal of Honor during the Civil War.

Christian Fleetwood's remarkable story begins in the home of the prominent Baltimore businessman John C. Brune Fleetwood s father served for a long time as the majordomo in the Brune household and it was there that Christian received his early education in reading ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 free in Cincinnati, Ohio. Details of Hawkins's early life are unknown, but by 1863 he would join the Union army in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and soon he became an accomplished soldier. By 1863, two years into the war, President Abraham Lincoln and the Union army faced a dilemma. Despite victories, albeit at a high cost, at Antietam, Gettysburg, and Vicksburg, Northern states found it increasingly difficult to raise their quotas of men for the Union army. It may have been Chaplain George Hepworth of the 47th Massachusetts Regiment who summed up the situation best when he wrote in late 1863 We needed that the vast tide of death should roll by our own doors and sweep away our fathers and sons before we could come to our senses and give the black man the one boon he has ...

Article

Kathleen Thompson

Hull was born free in Northampton, Massachusetts. In later years, according to Thomas Egleston, General Paterson's biographer, Hull would say that he was the son of an African prince. He was taken to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, when he was six years old by a black man named Joab. On 1 May 1777, when he was eighteen, he enlisted in the Massachusetts Line, the state militia, as a private. For the next two years he was Paterson's orderly, known among those with whom he served for his intelligence and wit. He was almost certainly among the more than eight hundred African Americans at the battle of Monmouth on 28 June 1778, since he was serving under Paterson at the time and Paterson's brigade fought in the battle. The historian Richard S. Walling includes Hull in a list of those whose presence at the battle is probable but not ...

Article

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

Barrymore Bogues

Former slave, and political and military leader during the late eighteenth century of the revolutionary slave army in the Caribbean French colony of Saint Domingue, Toussaint L’Ouverture is a historical figure of world significance. By the early nineteenth century, he was known as one of the most remarkable men of those times. The English Romantic poet William Wordsworth honored him with a sonnet; major Western newspapers wrote editorials about him, and when he died in a French prison, one newspaper called him a “truly great man.” In the late nineteenth century, the American writer Henry Adams devoted a chapter of his nine-volume history of the United States to Toussaint L’Ouverture. In Adams’s judgment, “The story of Toussaint Louverture [sic has been told almost as that of Napoleon but not in connection with the history of the United States although Toussaint exercised an influence as decisive as that of any ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

Civil War sailor and Medal of Honor recipient, was born John Henry Lawson in Pennsylvania to parents from Delaware. Nothing is known about his early life, and even his date of birth is uncertain. Military records indicate that he was born in 1837, while census records state that he was born five years earlier. Census records also reveal that Lawson likely married his wife, Mary (also called Mary Ann), by 1857, the year in which his eldest child, Joseph, was born. John and Mary subsequently had seven other children: Susan, George, Raymond, Mary, Mariah, Gertrude, and Marien.

Like thousands of other black men, both freeborn and freed, Lawson enlisted for Civil War service in the U.S. Navy on 3 December 1863 in New York Naval records indicate that Lawson was twenty six years old at the time a ...

Article

was born in the French sugar colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), in the west of the island of Hispaniola sometime in the early 1740s. In the first phase of his life he was known as Toussaint à Bréda, his surname adopted from the plantation where he served his time in slavery, not far from the colony’s cultural capital, then called Cap-Français. Legend has it that Toussaint was the son of a royal African warrior, Gaou-Ginou, brought to Saint-Domingue as a captive, and his second wife, known only as Pauline.

As a slave Toussaint served as a herdsman coachman horse trainer veterinarian general assistant to Bréda s French manager Bayon de Libertat nurse at a nearby Jesuit hospital and herbal doctor practicing traditional African medicine After his emancipation he became a planter himself then a military officer politician and de facto head of state Unusual for a slave in Saint Domingue ...

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 ...