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Article

Patricia Acerbi

was born into slavery in the northern Brazilian city of São Luís do Maranhão in the mid-nineteenth century. During the middle decades of the Brazilian Empire (1822–1889), São Luís was a prosperous port city organized around the export of sugar, tobacco, cacao, and cotton to major trading centers of the Atlantic world. Adelina participated in the region’s long-established tobacco sector by selling cigars (charutos) on the streets of São Luis as a wage-earning slave (female: ganhadeira; male: ganhador). The slave labor she performed peddling cigars earned her the nickname Charuteira (cigar vendor). Adelina was the daughter of an enslaved woman known as Boca da Noite and a wealthy slaveowner. Her biological father became impoverished and entered the local cigar trade to make ends meet.

Considering common characteristics of small property owners in Brazilian urban slave societies it is likely that Adelina s owner purchased ...

Article

James G. Spady

One of thirteen children, Robert Mara Adger was born in Charleston, South Carolina. His father, Robert Adger, was black, and his mother, Mary Ann Morong, was Native American. In 1848 the family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Adger's father first found a job as a waiter in the Old Merchant's Hotel. Later, while working as a nurse, he industriously saved enough funds to open a furniture business. He was involved in many activities and was a founder of the Benjamin Banneker Institute.

Robert Mara Adger received his early training at the Bird School, an early black educational institution in the United States. During his teenage years, he worked in his father's furniture stores, which had expanded from one in 1850 to three by 1858 Serving as a manager provided him with the business experience that he later found valuable as director of the Philadelphia Building and ...

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Frances Smith Foster

author and activist, was born in Oglethorpe, Georgia, the daughter of slaves. Details of her life are sketchy. Little is known of her parents or her childhood beyond the date and place of her birth and the fact that she was born into bondage; thus, it is particularly intriguing that in 1870, only five years after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery and one year after Atlanta University opened, seventeen-year-old Octavia was among the 170 students enrolled at that institution. Most of the little we know of her life comes from The House of Bondage (1890), the book that made her famous. From that source we learn that in 1873 she was teaching in Montezuma, Georgia, when she met her fellow teacher A. E. P. Albert. They married in 1874 and had one daughter.Sometime around 1877 Albert s husband was ordained as a Methodist ...

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George Michael La Rue

preeminent trans-Saharan merchant and caravan leader (khabir) from the Sudanese kingdom of Darfur, was born in Kubayh, the son of Ibrahim ibn ʿAli, a Tirayfi merchant from Kordofan who immigrated to Darfur, and an unknown mother. He was commonly known as khabir ʿAli. In the nineteenth century Darfur was Egypt’s leading supplier of trans-Saharan goods including ivory, ostrich feathers, and slaves. In 1838, when Darfur’s sultan Muhammad Fadl died, young ʿAli ibn Ibrahim had already crossed the Sahara along the route from Kubayh (Darfur’s commercial capital) to Asyut in Upper Egypt, perhaps as part of a caravan led by his mentor, paternal uncle, and future father-in-law, Muhammad Kannun, or one of the lesser Tirayfi caravan leaders. ʿAli ibn Ibrahim allegedly heard the news of the sultan’s death from Muhammad ʿAli, the viceroy of Egypt.

ʿAli married six times and had numerous children His first marriage was probably ...

Article

Like many slaves from Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti) during the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804), Pablo Alí crossed the border to serve in the Spanish colonial army of Santo Domingo (present-day Dominican Republic) as a means of obtaining his freedom. In 1795Spain ceded Santo Domingo to France. Alí subsequently participated in the War of Reconquest, in which French troops were defeated and Santo Domingo was reunited with Spain (1809). In 1811 the Spanish throne named him first colonel and granted him a gold medal in recognition of his service to the Crown.

In 1820 Alí served as colonel of the Batallón de Morenos (Black Batallion) in Santo Domingo. After learning that his application for Spanish citizenship had been denied, in 1821 Alí pledged his loyalty to the insurrectionists, led by José de Núñez Cáceres and served as their chief military commander That same year ...

Article

Charles Vincent

Allain was born on October 1, 1846, on a plantation in the Parish of West Baton Rouge, Louisiana. A wealthy white man, Sosthene Allain, owned the plantation. Like some other slaveholders, he made one of his slaves, “a pretty brown woman,” his mistress. They had a son, Théophile, who bore the improbable nickname of Soulouque, after the self-proclaimed black dictator of Haiti, Faustin Élie Soulouque. Théophile accompanied his father on trips to the North and to Europe. In 1856 Sosthene Allain sent for his son to join him in France, where he witnessed the christening of the prince imperial at Notre Dame. They journeyed also to Spain and England. Returning to the United States in 1859, young Allain entered school under a Professor Abadie in New Orleans, Louisiana. In 1868 he was enrolled in a private school in New Brunswick New Jersey He owned ...

Article

Kate Tuttle

In an era when African Americans saw many of the gains of Reconstruction overturned, one former delegate to the Republican National Convention created a town that he hoped would serve as a living model for black self-reliance. Upon his retirement from the army in 1906, Lieutenant Colonel Allensworth who had been born a slave in Louisville, Kentucky, began seeking residents for an all-black town in his adopted state of California. Advertising in black newspapers and in his own newsletter, Allensworth appealed to black veterans to realize their dream “to have a home, classic, beautiful, with perfect congenial environment.” In this vision, Allensworth was inspired by the message of African American educator Booker T. Washington that African Americans should “get a bank account. Get a home. … Get some property.”

By 1912 more than one hundred people had settled in Allensworth California which was located on farmland leased ...

Article

Mary Ann Mahony

whose career spanned the late Brazilian Empire through the fifth decade of republican rule, was born to Maria Francisca Vitória, an unmarried, free Afro-Brazilian woman descended from rural slaves, on a small cacao farm in the emerging cacao district of Cachoeira de Itabuna in the municipality of Ilhéus, in the northeastern province of Bahia. Alves dos Reis is an example of the rapid social mobility available to ambitious and well-connected young men of African descent in the emerging cacao region of the northeast as European and US demand took off for cocoa and chocolate.

By 1887, when Alves dos Reis registered with the local National Guard unit, he was already a moderately prosperous merchant. In 1883 he and his wife lived in a one story wattle and daub thatched roof house with a door a window and a dirt floor It resembled the slave cabins on nearby local ...

Article

Michele Valerie Ronnick

newspaperman, bookkeeper, novelist and short fiction writer, was born in Sandusky, Ohio. His father, Richard, had come from Kentucky and his mother, Mary Lott Anderson, from Indiana. After attending common schools in Sandusky, he came to Detroit at age sixteen, and in June 1875 graduated from Detroit High School as a member of the school's sixteenth class. Soon after Anderson began working for the Newcomb Endicott department store, one of the most important emporia in Detroit at that time. He rose from a parcel carrier in the 1870s to become a bookkeeper in the 1880s, and according to John M. Henderson in The Christian Recorder (7 November 1895, p. 2), he held “one of the highest and most responsible places.” His wife, Lucy Bowdree Anderson (1857–1961), from Jefferson, Ohio, whom Anderson had married in 1885 was similarly employed She was a bookkeeper ...

Article

Charles Vincent

Antoine was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1836. His father was a veteran of the War of 1812; he had fought the British at the Battle of New Orleans. Antoine's mother was a native of the West Indies and the daughter of an African chief; her parents were taken as slaves from the shores of Africa. On his father's side (so the story goes), Antoine's grandmother Rose Antoine was a remarkable woman who purchased her freedom and acquired a small fortune through her work as a midwife.

Caesar C. Antoine spent his childhood in New Orleans and attended private schools. He was fluent in both French and English. After graduating, he entered one of the few occupations open to African Americans in the antebellum South: the barber trade. After federal troops captured Baton Rouge in 1862 Antoine organized a black company known subsequently as Company ...

Article

John Garst

the inspiration for the “Frankie and Johnny” song, was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. Her parents were Cedric Baker and his wife Margaret (maiden name unknown), and she had three brothers: Charles, Arthur, and James. Charles, who was younger than Frankie, lived with her on Targee Street in 1900. In 1899 Baker shot and killed her seventeen-year-old “mack” (pimp), Allen “Al” Britt. St. Louis pianists and singers were soon thumping and belting out what would become one of America's most famous folk ballads and popular songs, “Frankie and Johnny,” also known as “Frankie and Albert,” “Frankie Baker,” and “Frankie.”

At age sixteen or seventeen Baker fell in love with a man who, unknown to her, was living off the earnings of a prostitute (this kind of man was known as an “easy rider,” a term made famous by W. C. Handy in his ...

Article

Marcus B. Christian

The names of Barès's parents are unknown. When very young, he began work at the large music store of J. A. Périer on Royal Street in New Orleans. Whether or not he was related to this white merchant, the New Orleans Tribune—a noted periodical of free blacks—frequently referred to him as “Basile Pérrier.” Basile Barès is often referred to as a self-made musician and composer because, unlike many of his musical contemporaries, he never attended recognized conservatories. Like most of them, however, he studied music under some of the leading white instructors of his day. Basile was clearly a musical prodigy; he began to show evidence of this while still in his teens. He began his musical studies under Eugène Prevost a prominent musician who had formerly directed the orchestras of the Orleans Theater and the famed French Opera of New Orleans He later studied harmony and composition ...

Article

Chandra M. Miller

Bayne, Thomas (1824–1889), dentist and politician, was born into slavery in North Carolina and was known as Samuel Nixon before his escape from bondage in 1855. He was sold several times before being purchased by C. F. Martin, a dentist in Norfolk, Virginia. As the slave of Martin, Bayne learned sufficient dentistry to serve as the doctor’s assistant and to make dental house calls. Bayne also developed bookkeeping skills and monitored the doctor’s accounts.

In Norfolk Bayne became involved with the Underground Railroad Befriending the captains of many of the schooners sailing in and out of Norfolk he often convinced them to hide fugitive slaves aboard ship and carry them north usually to Philadelphia or to New Bedford Massachusetts After conducting many other slaves through the Underground Railroad Bayne decided to become a passenger himself in March 1855 He and three other slaves disguised themselves and hid on ...

Article

Amalia K. Amaki

photographer and businessman, was born in New Orleans, where he remained professionally based throughout his sixty-plus-year career.

The leading African American photographer in New Orleans in the first half of the twentieth century, Bedou saw his reputation grow to national proportions as a result of his images of the life and travel of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (later Tuskegee University) President Booker T. Washington from the early 1900s through 1915. He photographed Washington at public-speaking engagements addressing crowds in Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, California, and numerous other locations during his final tour, which ended in 1915. He recorded Washington in transit by coach, train, and automobile in addition to his famous portraits of the education leader posed upon his horse.

As official photographer for the Institute, Bedou covered any number of events for the school. He recorded the 24 October 1905 ...

Article

Jodie N. Mader

diamond magnate, financier, imperialist, and philanthropist in southern Africa, was born in Hamburg, Germany, the eldest of six children. His father was an affluent merchant. Beit performed poorly in school, and in his teens he was sent to be an apprentice at the office of Jules Porges and Company in Amsterdam. In 1875, Beit went to Kimberley, South Africa, as a representative of the firm. While in Africa he went into property speculation and joined up with a young German named Julius Wernher. These two men formed the Wernher, Beit, and Company firm, which was known for its deep-level mining and use of cyanide processing for treating gold ore. His most famous friendship was with Cecil Rhodes, an English financier. They formed the De Beers Mining Company. Much of Rhodes’s success depended on the financial advice he received from Beit.

Together Rhodes and Beit worked to drive out other ...

Article

Theresa Leininger-Miller

artist, was born in Washington, D.C., the daughter of James F. Bell and Susanna County, probably laborers. Little is known about Bell's early life. She presumably attended segregated schools. It is unlikely that she ever received artistic training; she declared that she drew “without human teaching.” She probably worked as a domestic servant, laundress, or seamstress, beginning in her teenage years, and she may have traveled extensively. Bell said she “lived all around” before World War I. Since she does not appear in early-twentieth-century city directories or census records in Washington, D.C., or Boston, Massachusetts, and because she apparently never married or had children, it is likely that she resided with her various employers.

By the mid-1920s Bell was working for Edward Peter Pierce, justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts from 1914 to 1937, and Adele Dutaud Pierce his wife as a live ...

Article

Yuko Miki

also known as Benedito Meia-Légua, was a quilombola (Maroon) leader born into slavery sometime between 1851 and 1856 in Caravelas, in the extreme south of Bahia province, Brazil. In 1872, when Benedito was about 16, he was sold to Rita Maria da Conceição Cunha in São Mateus, a town across the border in Espírito Santo province. His mother and other relatives remained in Caravelas; his father and former owner are unknown. Like many other slaves in São Mateus, Benedito was involved in the production of manioc flour, which was the town’s major commercial product sold to other Brazilian markets.

While many areas of the Brazilian Atlantic seaboard had been settled since the early sixteenth century, the provincial frontier of Bahia and Espírito Santo, where Benedito lived, had only begun to be settled in earnest after independence, in 1822 Indigenous people continued to dominate the region and the expansion ...

Article

Thomas Bethune was born a slave within a few miles of Columbus, Georgia, the twentieth child of Charity Wiggins. He was blind from birth. Tom was included in a bargain when Colonel James Bethune, a Columbus lawyer and journalist, purchased the boy's parents in 1850. From infancy he manifested an extraordinary fondness for musical sounds and showed exceptional retentive skills. Said to have demonstrated musical genius before he was two, he was, by his fourth year, exhibited as the “musical marvel” of the Bethune plantation. At age eight his owner publicly presented him throughout Georgia. Soon after, Tom was hired out for three years to Perry Oliver, a Savannah tobacco planter, who promoted him in concerts throughout the United States. Tom's reputation was so widespread that in 1860 he performed for foreign dignitaries and before President James Buchanan in Washington D C So impressed ...

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John N. Ingham

businessman, banker, and real estate investor, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Robert Binga Jr., a barber, and Adelphia Powers, a builder and real estate owner. Nearly all sources cite William W. Binga as Jesse Binga's father, but all are based on a December 1927 article by Inez V. Cantley in Crisis, which may not be reliable. A family member, Anthony J. Binga Sr., after conducting research in the census records from the Courts of Records of the Dominion of Canada, claimed that Jesse Binga's father was Robert Binga Jr.Who's Who in Colored America (1928–1929) also names Robert Binga as Jesse Binga's father.

The Binga family owned and managed real estate properties and according to a number of sources it was Adelphia Binga who possessed most of the family s business acumen As a youngster Jesse helped his mother collect rents on ...

Article

John Davis

pianist and composer, was born Thomas Greene Wiggins to Domingo Wiggins and Charity Greene, field slaves on the Wiley Jones Plantation in Harris County, Georgia. In 1850 Tom, his parents, and two brothers were auctioned off to General James Neil Bethune, a prominent attorney and anti‐abolitionist newspaper publisher from Columbus, Georgia. The discovery two years later of the toddler, newly renamed Thomas Greene Bethune, blind from birth, possibly mentally impaired, and unusually captivated by random sounds, playing one of the general's daughter's piano pieces “totally 'stonished us,” according to Charity (New York Times, 27 Nov. 1886).

The general, however, viewed Tom's unforeseen musical ability as an opportunity. Eulogized in 1895 as “almost the pioneer free trader in this country” and “the first editor in the south to openly advocate secession” (New York Times, 21 Jan. 1895 Bethune saw the potential for ...