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Article

Miles M. Jackson

explorer and businessman, was born a slave in German Flats, New York. He was owned by the Dougal family and spent his youth in Schenectady. It is very likely his mother was a slave (New York did not abolish slavery until 1827); his father was a freeman and a mariner. Following the death of his master, he was purchased by another owner. After gaining his freedom in 1796, Allen arrived in Boston in 1800 and went to sea just as his father had done. Indeed, many African Americans living in Boston had ties to the maritime industry in some way. Like other black mariners, Allen faced the risk of reenslavement when he traveled to Southern ports. Once he was saved from imprisonment by one of the ship's owners, who paid $300 for his release.

Allen's years at sea between 1800 and 1810 provided him with unique experiences ...

Article

Esther Aillón Soria

of three oral history books, was born on 27 January 1950 in the Dorado Chico community, in the municipality of Coripata (Yungas region of La Paz). His parents were Santiago Angola Larrea, born in Cala Cala, and Irene Maconde Zambrana, also born in Dorado Chico. Both were illiterate, and they served as pongo (man) and mitani (woman), a system of servitude for peasant laborers until 1947, at a “hacienda” (latifundia after which they worked as farmers in the coca and citrus fields Based on his experience and a self taught quest Angola Maconde became a researcher and in the twenty first century he has embraced a historical perspective from his experience as an Afro descendant in Bolivia in his numerous published works He is part of the first Afro Bolivian generation born in the Yungas region who have migrated to the city of La Paz though many ...

Article

Wanda F. Fernandopulle

farmer and centenarian, was born in Pamplico, South Carolina, one of six daughters of Daisy Timmons Blaine and Ben Blaine, sharecroppers. As a child she lived on the land of Joe Law, one of the richest African Americans in the state of South Carolina. Both parents worked in the fields planting and gathering cotton, tobacco, wheat, and corn, and the family attended the local St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church. As a youth Spears attended the McKnight School, finishing ninth grade. She would recall of her schooling that biscuits and ham were the morning school breakfast, that books were read by kerosene lamps, and classes ended at noon. Spears was then picked up by her father from school in a mule and wagon to help him set tobacco, which was tied and hung and brought to the market.

Looking back on her early life Spears recalled that she rolled ...

Article

Joellyn Pryce El-Bashir

Thomas Campbell was born on February 11, 1883, on a small farm in Elbert County, Georgia. His father, William Campbell, was a Methodist preacher and tenant farmer; his mother died when he was five years old. Possessing little but the determination to get an education, Campbell began, in January 1899 at the age of fifteen, a trek to Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (now Tuskegee University) in Macon County, Alabama. Arriving a few months later, he enrolled in the lowest grade of the agricultural course of the school. In his largely autobiographical work The Movable School Goes to the Negro Farmer (1936), Campbell gives a poignant account of his impoverished childhood, the arduous journey to Tuskegee, and his long struggle to receive an education there. By 1906 he had worked his way through to completion of the agricultural course That same year he ...

Article

J. Todd Moye

civil rights activist, was born Mae Bertha Slaughter to Isaiah (“Zeke”) Slaughter and Luvenia Noland, sharecroppers, on the Smith and Wiggins Plantation in rural Bolivar County, Mississippi. Mae Bertha and her four brothers and sisters were expected to join their parents in the cotton fields as soon as they were old enough to pick bolls at harvest time.

The Slaughter children attended all-black, separate and unequal schools during “split sessions” that were scheduled around the planting, chopping, and harvest seasons in the cotton calendar. After Zeke Slaughter left the family, nine-year-old Mae Bertha began working for wages in the cotton fields at thirty cents an hour to help support the family. When she was sixteen years old, in 1939, she married Matthew Carter. Their family, which would eventually include thirteen children, began sharecropping for themselves. From 1956 to 1965 they lived and worked on the Pemble plantation ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

sharecropper and minister, was born in the Mississippi Delta, the tenth of twelve children of Miles Carter, a sharecropper descended from Georgia slaves owned by the forebears of President Jimmy Carter. The name of Miles Carter's wife is not recorded The Carters lived a peripatetic existence moving from one plantation to another but never escaping the cycle of poverty that characterized much of black life in the Jim Crow South Despite the hopelessness of that situation Miles Carter was an ambitious man who occasionally advanced to the position of renter Unlike sharecroppers who usually possessed antiquated farming tools and equipment and received only half of the value of their crop renters often owned their own mules and implements and could expect to earn a three quarter share of their crop which in the Delta was inevitably cotton Miles Carter s success as a renter required however that his ...

Article

Aaron Myers

George Washington Carver was born in Diamond, Missouri, of a slave mother and probably a slave father. His interest in plants began at an early age. Growing up in postemancipation Missouri under the care of his mother's former owner, Carver collected from the surrounding forests and fields a variety of wild plants and flowers, which he planted in a garden. At the age of ten, he left home of his own volition to attend a black school in the nearby community of Neosho, where he did chores for a black family in exchange for food and a place to sleep. He maintained his interest in plants while putting himself through high school in Minneapolis, Kansas, and during his first and only year at Simpson College in Iowa. During this period, he made many sketches of plants and flowers. He made the study of plants his focus in 1891 ...

Article

Linda O. McMurry

scientist and educator, was born in Diamond (formerly Diamond Grove), Missouri, the son of Mary Carver, who was the slave of Moses and Susan Carver. His father was said to have been a slave on a neighboring farm who was accidentally killed before Carver's birth. Slave raiders allegedly kidnapped his mother and older sister while he was very young, and he and his older brother were raised by the Carvers on their small farm.

Barred from the local school because of his color, Carver was sent to nearby Neosho in the mid-1870s to enter school. Having been privately tutored earlier, he soon learned that his teacher knew little more than he did, so he caught a ride with a family moving to Fort Scott, Kansas. Until 1890 Carver roamed around Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa seeking an education while supporting himself doing laundry, cooking, and homesteading.

In 1890 Carver ...

Article

Carolyn Wedin

naturalist, agricultural chemurgist, and educator. With arguably the most recognized name among black people in American history, George Washington Carver's image is due in part to his exceptional character, mission, and achievements; in part to the story he wanted told; and in part to the innumerable books, articles, hagiographies, exhibits, trade fairs, memorials, plays, and musicals that have made him a symbol of rags-to-riches American enterprise. His image has been used for postage stamps, his name has been inscribed on bridges and a nuclear submarine, and he even has his own day (5 January), designated by the United States Congress in 1946.

Thanks in large part to Linda O. McMurry's 1981 book, George Washington Carver: Scientist and Symbol it is now possible to separate legend from fact and discover the remarkable child youth and man behind the peanut McMurry concludes that Carver ...

Article

Edward J. Robinson

evangelist, farmer, educator, postmaster, justice of the peace, and “race man,” was born Samuel in Prince William County, Virginia. Even though an oral tradition among Cassius's descendants insists that Robert E. Lee was his biological father, circumstantial evidence suggests that James W. F. Macrae, a white physician and politician and relative of Robert E. Lee, was probably his father and Jane, an enslaved African, was his mother (Robinson). After emancipation Cassius probably added the names “Robert” to commemorate Robert E. Lee's kindness of purchasing him and his mother to prevent them from being sold to the Deep South and he may have attached Cassius to honor the ancient Roman general as many slaves adopted names of famous people from classical antiquity Robinson Little is known about Samuel s mother a slave who served in the Macrae household While working for the Macrae family as a house servant ...

Article

Hassoum Ceesay

district colonial chief and master farmer, was born in Njau Village, in the Upper Saloum District of present-day Gambia in 1890. His name is also spelled Sise or Sisi. He was among the few formally educated Gambian colonial chiefs, having attended the prestigious Mohammedan School in Bathurst (now Banjul) in the 1910s before working as an interpreter for the Traveling Commissioner North Bank Province. Interpreters were central to the running of the colonial machinery. As the intermediaries between the local people who could not speak English and colonial officials, they wielded influence because of their perceived proximity to the colonial powers. European officials also did not always trust the interpreters, who were occasionally sacked or jailed for suspected treachery.

Unlike the French colonizers who completely replaced local chiefs with French officials the British in West Africa administered their colonies through preexisting traditional authorities and used local customary institutions ...

Article

clerk, farmer, historian, and scion of several chiefly Kaonde lineages was born in Chimimono in present-day northwestern Zambia in 1899. The title chibanza, first held by Jilundu's father, Kunaka Mwanza (d.1916), was brought into being when Kunaka inherited one of the names of Kasongo Chibanza, his mother's maternal uncle. Muyange (d.1901), Jilundu's mother, was a daughter of Kamimbi, son of Kabambala, holder of the kasempa title until his assassination in around 1880. Muyange's mother was Lubanjika, sister of Nsule, holder of the bufuku title. The history of these titles and his defense of their prerogatives were to dominate Jilundu's later life. By 1912 or 1913 Jilundu had moved to the center of his mother's matrilineage, the village of Nsule Bufuku, and enrolled in the South Africa General Mission's (SAGM) newly established Lalafuta boarding school. In 1916 Kunaka Mwanza Chibanza died and was succeeded ...

Article

Bill McCulloch and Barry Lee Pearson

blues singer and songwriter, was born in Forest, Mississippi, between Jackson and Meridian, the son of Minnie Louise Crudup, an unmarried domestic worker. His father was reputed to be a musician, but Crudup recalled seeing him only twice. Raised by his mother in poverty, Crudup began singing both blues and religious music around age ten. In 1916 he and his mother moved to Indianapolis. After she became ill, Crudup dropped out of school and took a job in a foundry at age thirteen.

According to his own account Crudup did not start playing guitar until around 1937, by which time he had returned to the South, married and divorced his first wife, Annie Bell Reed and taken work as a farmhand Supposedly he found a guitar with only two strings and one by one added the other four while picking up rudimentary chords from a local musician ...

Article

Laura A. Lewis

was born in 1923 in San Antonio Ocotlán, a small town north of Pinotepa Nacional, Oaxaca, Mexico. His mother was an indigenous Amuzgo woman from Cacahuatepec, Oaxaca, and his father was of African descent, from San Nicolás Tolentino on the Costa Chica of Guerrero state. Melquiades was a sickly child, and when his parents separated, soon after his birth, his father brought him back to San Nicolás, where his paternal grandmother and aunt raised him. His paternal grandmother was Zapotec. Thus, Domínguez is indigenous on both his mother’s and his father’s side. He is also one of the most well-known residents of the African-descent community of San Nicolás.

Domínguez’s paternal grandmother and grandfather never married. The Costa Chica is a strongly patrilineal region, but in the tradition of the era, “illegitimate” children—who were said to be “of the wilderness” (del monte inherited their mothers surnames Domínguez s father ...

Article

Karen E. Sutton

one of about 635 African American males involved in the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis (TSUS), was the son of Wiley West and Mae Burke, born in Tuskegee, Macon County, Alabama. His parents put him up for adoption at an early age, and Sam's adoptive parents raised him. Sam had at least one sibling, Willie Doner A lifelong resident of Macon County Doner attended Cooper Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church most of his life His favorite adult pastime was serving there as a deacon until he became too ill to attend services Local churches served as recruiting centers for the Tuskegee study Doner worked as a school bus driver and a farmer and owned over ten acres of land He married Emily Chambliss Though there were no children born to that union they adopted a son Willie M Doner After his wife died Doner developed a relationship ...

Article

Denise Burrell-Stinson

writer and professor, was born Percival Leonard Everett II, the elder of the two children of Percival Leonard Everett, a dentist, and Dorothy (Stinson) Everett, who assisted her husband in his practice for thirty years. The younger Percival was born on a U.S. Army base in Fort Gordon, Georgia, while his father was assigned a post as a sergeant and communications specialist. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to Columbia, South Carolina, where he spent his childhood, eventually graduating from A. C. Flora High School in 1974.

The climate of Everett s youth was stimulating nurturing a strong intellect The senior Everett was part of a long family legacy in the field of medicine his own father and two brothers were all doctors and he was also a voracious reader filling the family home with books The younger Everett inherited his father s literary ...

Article

Harmony O'Rourke

Cameroonian politician, educator, and farmer, was born Ngu Foncha in the fondom (similar to the concepts of kingdom or chiefdom) of Nkwen, of the colonial Southern Cameroons, to Foncha, a prince of the fondom, and his fourth wife, Ngebi. Though his father never became the fon (king or chief) of Nkwen, the boy Ngu grew up in the Nkwen palace precincts. He attended a Christian mission at Big Babanki, where he was baptized in 1924 and took the name John. In 1926 he went to the Bamenda Government School, where he impressed a Nigerian teacher, who enrolled him in Calabar’s St. Michael’s School. In 1934, Foncha returned to Cameroon to serve as a teacher but headed back to Nigeria in 1936 to seek further training at the Saint Charles’ Teachers Training College at Onitsha. From 1939 to 1947 Foncha taught in Njinikom Cameroon a stint that was ...

Article

Nancy T. Robinson

laborer and sharecropper and unwitting participant in the infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiment, was born Ernest L. Hendon in Roba, Alabama, to North and Mary Reed Hendon, sharecroppers. The family resided in rural Alabama, where Ernest Hendon spent his childhood working the family farm.

Hendon studied agriculture at the Macon County Training School. When his father died in 1933, Hendon helped his mother raise his nine siblings: Willie Harvey, Mary Lou, Johngiene, Mable, Louie, Girlie, Lydar, Willion, and North. The family was poor, enduring days of laboring under unforgiving weather conditions, tending small plots of land and picking cotton.

Like many others in his community Hendon suffered from mysterious physical ailments that often went undiagnosed and untreated With limited financial or social resources and in the midst of the oppressive and segregated South there was little opportunity for medical attention in sharecropper communities Travel to seek out a ...

Article

Hassoum Ceesay

also called Tamba Jammeh, a Gambian colonial chief, farmer, and political figure, was born probably in 1880, to Jatta Selung Jammeh, a Serere-Mandinka, and Awa Job, a Wollof in the Baddibu district of Gambia. He retired in 1964 and died on 13 October 1987. When the British colonialists declared a colonial protectorate in Gambia in 1893, Jatta Selung was allowed to become the first chief of the Illiasa district. His son, Mama Tamba, attended the Muhammedan School in Bathurst (now Banjul) from 1905 to 1913. Soon after, he was employed as a scribe in his father’s court. In 1925, he was appointed deputy chief, as his father was infirm. Mama Tamba Jammeh became chief of Illiasa on 28 February 1928.

The new chief of Illiasa embodied tradition modernity sagacity and innovation At a time when only European colonial officials could afford cars Mama Tamba ...

Article

Neil ten Kortenaar

sharecropper in the Transvaal, South Africa, was born in 1894 to Sekwala Maine, who came from a BaSotho family that had emigrated to the Transvaal, and his wife Motheba. Kas Maine was also known as Ramabonela Maine and Kas Teeu. Maine was raised among SeTswana-speakers. His full name, Kasianyane, was a SeTswana praise name alluding to where he was born, in the southwestern corner of the Transvaal. Teeu was a Tswana pronunciation of “dou,” the Afrikaans translation of phoka meaning “dew,” the family totem. As an adult, Maine was baptized Philip in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Maine spent his long life working on other people’s land, growing grain and raising livestock. He also worked as a cobbler and saddle-maker, a ngaka or traditional healer and diviner, a transport rider, a stable hand, a buyer and seller of livestock, and a cook.

When researchers from the University of the Witwatersrand ...