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Charles Rosenberg

landowner, businessman, and state legislator, was born enslaved in Dallas County Alabama, to parents named Sarah and Pete, who had been born in South Carolina. David, like his parents, was the property of a family named Abner. There is some dispute as to his birth date—some giving 1826 and others 1838—but the most reliable date appears to be December 1820, as suggested by a letter from his youngest daughter. It is not known when David took the Abner surname for himself, a common but by no means universal practice for formerly enslaved persons. He was sent to Texas in 1843, driving a covered wagon for the newly married daughter (Thelma) of the man who held title to him.

Her father considered his new son in law unreliable and entrusted David to get his daughter safely to her new home and manage ...

Article

Bilali  

Allan D. Austin

Muslim leader and plantation manager, was born in Africa, sold into slavery, and transported to the Bahamas and then to Sapelo Island, Georgia. His name is also given as Bilali Mahomet and Bul‐Ali. Almost nothing is known about Bilali's life in Africa, but his fellow Fula or Peul (originally Malian) friend, Salih Bilali, who was enslaved on the neighboring island of Saint Simons, said that Bilali came from the village of Timbo, in Futa Jallon (later Guinea). This was an important Muslim educational and political community and the homeland of another Fula, Ibrahima abd al‐Rahman, who was enslaved in Mississippi. Bilali's strict adherence to Muslim ways and the book he wrote in Arabic show that he paid attention to his teachers in Africa. In the Bahamas Bilali married at least one of his four known wives before being brought to Georgia around 1802 He had a ...

Article

Kari J. Winter

slave, sailor, soldier, and farmer, was born Boyrereau Brinch, the seventh of eight children (four boys and four girls) born to Whryn Brinch, the son of Yarrah Brinch, and of Whryn Douden Wrogan, the daughter of Grassee Youghgon. He lived in the city of Deauyah in the kingdom of Bow-woo, which was probably situated in the Niger River basin, in the area that would later become Mali. In 1758 when he was around the age of sixteen Boyrereau was abducted by slave traders transported to Barbados and sold to Captain Isaac Mills of New Haven Connecticut who trained him for British naval service Like thousands of other slaves and freed Africans in the Caribbean Brace as he would come to be called years later after his manumission This may have been an anglicized version of Brinch was forced to labor aboard ship during ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

was born in Charles City County, Virginia, the son of Abraham Brown, and his wife Sarah Brown. (The elder Abraham Brown called himself “Abraham Brown, Jr.” in a 1789 will, but Abraham Brown, Sr. was his uncle, not his father). The Browns were descended from William Brown, born around 1670, sometimes referenced in Virginia court records as “William Brown Negro.” Arthur Bunyan Caldwell, in History of the American Negro and his institutions, briefly refers to the family history being traceable back to England, but provides no details.

The Browns had been free for over a century, and many had owned enough property to be taxable, when Abraham Brown was born. Several had owned title to enslaved persons; Abraham owned three in 1810. His father at various times owned both slaves and indentured servants, including one John Bell, indentured in 1771 Abraham Brown Jr ...

Article

Frank L. Green

pioneer, farmer, and cattleman, was born probably in Pennsylvania or Louisiana. His mother was Scotch-Irish, his father perhaps West Indian. He may have been born as early as 1770, but that would have made him seventy-four years old by the time that he came to Oregon in 1844. Oral tradition among the family gives his birth year as 1779.

Bush was a successful cattle trader in Missouri beginning around 1820, and he became quite wealthy. In 1831 he married Isabella James, a German woman; they had five children. Because Missouri was not well disposed toward people of color, Bush took the opportunity to travel west in a wagon train led by Michael T. Simmons of Kentucky.

Bush found Oregon only a little more tolerant than Missouri The provisional government voted to exclude blacks and to whip those who would not leave but the legislation was ...

Article

Fiona J. L. Handley

slave, agriculturalist, and head of a dynasty, was probably born in Natchitoches, Louisiana, near what was then the border between Spanish Texas and French Louisiana, although it is possible that she was born in Africa and came to Louisiana as a young child. Her name definitely originated in Africa, but no convincing argument has been made that traces it to one particular location. She was baptized in 1742 as the slave of Louis Juchereau de St. Denis, the founder of Natchitoches which was the first permanent settlement in Louisiana. In 1756 she was inherited by the widow of St. Denis, and then became the property of the widow's son, Pierre Antoine de St. Denis Jr., in 1758, ending up the slave of the de Soto family. Between 1761 and 1766 she had three black children—Marie Thérèze Don Manuel, Françoise, and Jean Joseph In ...

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Fiona J. L. Handley

freed slave and successful landowner, was either born in Natchitoches, Louisiana, in the very earliest days of the French colony, or he arrived there as an enslaved young adult. Because his name, Doclas (sometimes spelled Docla) is not French, it is presumed to have an African origin.

Doclas was baptized into the Catholic Church as an adult slave of the white French Derbanne family on 26 September 1737. Three days later, he married Judith, another slave owned by the family. Little is known of Doclas's years as a slave, although he probably served the Derbannes in many capacities. When the Spanish acquired Louisiana from France in 1763 the Derbannes s prominence in trade and local government disappeared with their connections to colonial authorities so they switched to agriculture Nicholas probably worked in the tobacco fields for which the area was famous The Derbannes eventually rewarded Doclas s ...

Article

Tom Stephens

farmer and businessman, was born at Indian Queen Tavern in Danville, Kentucky. Doram was a son of Lydia Barbee, a free black woman, who had been a slave of the Revolutionary War General Thomas Barbee. According to family tradition, Barbee was Doram's father and that of his siblings. Lydia and her six children were the first people mentioned in Barbee's will, which freed her and provided for the emancipation and education of the children.

When Boyle County, Kentucky, was formed in 1842 Doram was already a leading figure in the community and, by 1850, was considered “the wealthiest member of his race” in the county (Brown, 427). His business concerns included the local Caldwell School for Women and a rope factory, in addition to his growing and selling hemp. The county's 1850 tax list shows Doram as the owner of 215 acres along Dix River ...

Article

David O. Whitten

plantation and slaveowner, physician, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Thomas Durnford, an-English immigrant and merchant, and Rosaline Mercier, a free woman of color. Thomas Durnford was a cousin of Colonel Elias Durnford of the Royal Engineers, lieutenant governor of British West Florida. Andrew Durnford, reared by parents who were denied marriage by law, grew up in New Orleans's free colored community with the comforts afforded the family of a successful merchant and speculator. His schooling, like most of his early life, is a matter of conjecture. In his adult years he revealed a working knowledge of written and spoken English and French, the rudiments of elementary arithmetic, and medical procedures. He apparently passed freely between the white community with his father and the free colored community with his mother and her family. For example, John McDonogh a successful merchant and planter ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

was the first African American and perhaps the first of any color to become a millionaire in Texas. His life reflects substantial changes in the social and legal implications of skin color from the late eighteenth century to the mid-nineteeth century, distinct from, but closely related to, changes in the institution of slavery.

His father was a “free colored” man named William Goyens Sr. (or Goin), born in 1762, who enlisted in a company of the Tenth North Carolina Regiment May 1781–May 1782 for the Revolutionary War. After discharge from the militia, Goyens Sr. married an unknown woman referred to as “white,” who was the mother of the younger William Goyens. Goyens Sr. then remarried a colored woman named Elizabeth in 1793. Goyens Sr. received an invalid pension for North Carolina militia service in 1835, at the age of seventy-two (Research of Cindy Goins Hoelscher ...

Article

Barbara A. Desmarais

Revolutionary War veteran, sailor and farmer, was born in 1764 in Nantucket, Massachusetts. That year Nantucket's census counted the number of blacks for the first time. Heuston was one of only fifty African Americans on the island. Many of the blacks counted were slaves, but there was also a small free black community on Nantucket. It is unclear if Heuston was born free or enslaved.

The location and year of Heuston's birth were reported to a local newspaper by his daughter, Lydia Bowe, upon his death. She also reported that he served on an American fighting ship during the Revolutionary War when he was a boy and that he continued to work as a mariner for the next two decades.

Other information regarding the remainder of Heuston s long life is supported by many documents For instance free black mariners carried American Seaman Protection Documents certifying their ...

Article

Bethany Waywell Jay

slave, plantation mistress, and refugee, was born Anta Majigeen Ndiaye in Senegal during years of intense warfare and slave raids. While there is no conclusive evidence of Jai's lineage, legends in both Florida and Senegal suggest that she was a princess in Africa who was captured and sold into slavery after her father led an unsuccessful bid for power in the Wolof states of Senegal. While little is known of Jai's life before her arrival in Spanish Florida, historian Daniel Schafer suggests that she was one of the 120 Africans who survived the nightmarish Middle Passage from Africa to Cuba on board the Sally. In 1806 Jai was purchased by Zephaniah Kingsley a slave trader and planter from Florida From Cuba Jai sailed with Kingsley to his Laurel Grove plantation near what would later become Jacksonville Florida As the nineteenth century progressed Jai s life ...

Article

Fiona J. L. Handley

slave, freeman, and successful agriculturalist, was either born in Natchitoches, Louisiana, or arrived in the French colony as an enslaved young adult. He may have been born in Africa, as Pacalé is not a Catholic name, while the name Yves would have been given at his baptism. In some records he is called Yves dit Pacalé—Yves known as Pacalé. He was baptized on 2 January 1736 as the son of Jean Baptiste and Marie, black slaves of the white French Derbanne family. Little is known of Pacalé's years as a slave. The period of the mid- to late eighteenth century was one of great change in Louisiana; the state was a French colony that in 1763 became Spanish making Natchitoches s role as a frontier post with Spanish Texas redundant The area s economy transformed from defense and trade to plantation agriculture focusing on the ...

Article

Jane Ailes

veteran of the American Revolution and farmer, enlisted at Winchester, Frederick County, Virginia, served for four years in the First Regiment of Light Dragoons of the Continental Army, and was later a resident of Hardy County, Virginia (later Grant County, West Virginia). Nothing is known of John Redman's life prior to his enlistment in probably late 1778. Information about his service in the Continental Army comes from his and his widow's applications for pensions (Revolutionary War Pension Application File, roll number 2013, application number W5691).

It is not easy to estimate the number of black men who served in the Continental forces. Skin color and ethnicity were recorded in very few of the military records that survive, making it difficult to quantify their numbers. Benjamin Arthur Quarles refers to earlier works that estimate there were a total of about 5 000 black soldiers in the Continental ...

Article

Allan D. Austin

Muslim plantation manager on St. Simons Island, Georgia, was called Tom by his master. His history, including details from his earlier life in Africa, was published by America's first student of African—including Arabic—languages, the Georgia linguist William Brown Hodgson. Hodgson prevailed upon Salih Bilali's second master, the prominent James H. Couper, to write him a personal letter about Salih Bilali in 1838. Six years later, disappointed that the master would not grant him a personal interview with Salih Bilali, Hodgson published the letter under the title Notes on Northern Africa, The Sahara and Soudan (1844).

In the letter Couper summarized what Salih Bilali had told him about his African life and homeland of Massina later Mali then contested by the powerful Bambaras a branch of Manding people and his immigrant Fulbe there called Fulani Massina was agriculturally valuable as it lay in the productive Niger ...

Article

Loren Schweninger

former slave and wealthy North Carolina planter, was born a slave in Craven County, North Carolina, the son of an African Ibo woman who had been brought to America on a vessel owned by the merchant-shipper John Wright Stanly in the decade prior to the American Revolution. Described as a “dark-skinned mulatto,” he was almost certainly the son of John Wright Stanly, although his apparent father did not acknowledge paternity. As a young boy he was turned over to Alexander Stewart, who captained the ship that brought his mother from Africa, and Stewart's wife, Lydia Carruthers Stewart, who taught Stanly to read and write and arranged for him to open a barbershop in New Bern as a teenager. Intelligent, gracious, and personable, Stanly quickly became a success, and as New Bern expanded commercially, he earned a good livelihood, even as a slave. In 1795 the Stewarts petitioned ...

Article

Nicholas Westbrook

sailor, cooper, soldier, surveyor, farmer, and innkeeper, was born in Lunenburg, Worcester County, Massachusetts. Taylor's father was probably Prince Taylor (?–1804), a slave of John Taylor of Lunenburg. It is not known if the younger Prince Taylor was born a slave or free. In occupation and location, Taylor continually reinvented himself to cope with changing circumstances. He did not marry.

Taylor served as steward on the fourteen-gun brig Diligent under Captain Brown for five months in 1779 during the failed Penobscot expedition, America's greatest naval disaster until Pearl Harbor. In his 1818 Revolutionary War pension deposition, Taylor declared, “I am by trade a Saylor” (Revolutionary War Pension Application, Massachusetts service, dossier #S.42.463, National Archives). On 6 March 1781 he accepted the bounty paid by the town of Lunenburg to enlist in the Continental Army for the next three years His enlistment ...

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John Saillant

, slave, farm laborer, plaintiff in a civil suit, and freedman, was purchased as an infant in 1754 along with his mother and father, Dinah (b. c. 1735) and Mingo (b. c. 1734), by James Caldwell of Rutland District, Worcester County, Massachusetts. As a freedman, Walker married Elizabeth Harvey in 1786. The date of his death is unknown; an 1812 public record in Barre, Massachusetts (part of Rutland District that was incorporated separately in 1774 and renamed in 1776), refers to Walker as deceased. Prince Walker (c. 1762–1858), another freed slave who lived nearby, may have been Quok Walker's brother.

Sometime in Walker's youth Caldwell promised him his freedom, to be granted when he was in his mid-twenties. However, Caldwell died intestate when Walker was a minor. Caldwell's widow, Isabell inherited at least some ...