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Charles Rosenberg

spent his childhood and early adulthood in Pennsylvania, and may have been born in Philadelphia. Various censuses suggest his year of birth may have been 1818, 1820, or 1824, but a likely 1850 census entry shows his age as thirty-two.

Anderson’s parents have yet to be identified, and little is known about his life growing up in Pennsylvania. Contemporary accounts in California refer to him having worked as a waiter, and a Peter Anderson referenced as mulatto, who worked as a waiter, was recorded in the 1850 federal census living in Philadelphia’s Spruce Ward. Living with him were a woman named Mary Anderson—possibly his wife, or maybe his sister—two boys named Peter and George Anderson, and an unidentified nineteen-year-old named Elizabeth Purnell.

Anderson arrived in California in 1854, as the Gold Rush of 1849 was declining and established a tailor shop described in some directories ...

Article

David M. Fahey

temperance reformer, federal customs official, and educator, was born William Middleton Artrell, of one quarter African and three quarters European ancestry, at Nassau in the Bahamas. There Artrell benefited from a basic education on the British model, acquired experience as a schoolteacher, and became a staunch Episcopalian.

During the American Civil War the Bahamas prospered as a result of services to blockade runners, who transported British cargo in the short but dangerous voyage between the Bahamas and the Confederate coast. When the war ended, however, economic depression forced many Bahamians to seek work in the United States. In 1870 Artrell migrated to Key West, at that time a major port in Florida. Unlike most African Americans in the South, he had never been a slave. In 1870 Key West opened the Douglass School for African American children Artrell became its first principal and as a result he was sometimes ...

Article

David Dabydeen

Journeymantailor and prominent leader of the Chartist movement. Cuffay was born in Chatham, Kent. His father, originally from St Kitts, had come to Britain as a roots on a British Warship. Cuffay became a journeyman tailor in his teens, but involvement in the strike by the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union in 1834 resulted in the loss of his job. Angered by this, he joined the movement in support of the People's Charter, advocating universal suffrage. He was militant in his left‐wing views, and in 1839 contributed to the founding of the Metropolitan Tailors' Charter Association. He also became a member of the Masters and Servants Bill Demonstration Committee, which opposed the power given to magistrates to imprison employees for two months based solely on the employer's statements. His involvement in the Chartist movement grew, and in 1842 he was elected the president of the London Chartists He ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

slave, tailor, and politician, was born in Washington, in Wilkes County, Georgia, to Frances, a slave, and a white man whose surname was Finch. When William was twelve he was sent to live with another Wilkes County native, Judge Garnett Andrews, and in 1847, when he was fifteen, he apprenticed as a tailor. The following year Joseph H. Lumpkin, the chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, purchased William and brought him to his home in Athens, where Finch learned to read and write and also began a lifelong commitment to Christianity. Although he later joined the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, it is likely that Finch first converted to the faith of his master, a devout Presbyterian. In 1854 Finch married Laura Wright, with whom he had five children.

Although still legally enslaved the Finch family enjoyed a fairly high degree of ...

Article

Carol Parker Terhune

abolitionist and social leader, was born in New York City to free parents, James and Dorothy Gardner. Her father was a shipping contractor who made sails for large vessels. About 1845, while Gardner was in her teens, her family took up residence in Boston, Massachusetts, and opened its own business. Gardner attended the Boston Public School for Colored Children (also known as the Smith School, after the white businessman Abiel Smith, who donated funds). She was educated by leaders in the antislavery movement and developed an appreciation for their cause. The school was also used as a meeting place for the “colored citizens” to discuss issues of concern in their communities. During Gardner's time in Boston's only “colored” grammar school, Boston's African American community was fighting tirelessly to abolish colored schools and end school segregation using the Roberts v. Boston case as the catalyst Gardner ...

Article

Mohamed Adhikari

South African trade unionist and political activist, was the only son of David Gomas and Elizabeth Erasmus. John Stephen Gomas was raised in Abbotsdale near Cape Town. After his father abandoned the family, Elizabeth moved with her son to Kimberley in 1911. Here Gomas entered an apprenticeship at a tailor’s workshop in 1915, where his employer, Myer Gordon, a Russian immigrant, introduced him to socialist ideas. In 1919 Gomas joined the International Socialist League, the African National Congress (ANC), and the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU). Toward the end of that year his participation in a successful clothing workers’ strike transformed the quiet, bookish youth into a vociferous champion for workers’ rights.

In 1920 Gomas moved to Cape Town where he worked privately from home as a tailor He was active in the ICU the ANC and the Tailors Industrial Union Attracted by its militancy and ...

Article

LaRay Denzer

Ghanaian political organizer, was a young dressmaker from the Osu (Christianborg) section of Accra. Little is known about her early life. The Italo-Abyssinian conflict galvanized her interest in politics. Like many black people in the colonies, Europe, and the United States, she was outraged by Italy’s brutal attack on Ethiopia, one of Africa’s two remaining independent countries. In October 1935 she was appointed a member of the Ethiopian Defence committee, a body jointly established by the West African Youth League (WAYL) and the Ex-Servicemen’s Association to raise funds to support the Ethiopian resistance. Impressed by her fervor, the editor of the Vox Populi, a Gold Coast (now Ghana) newspaper, described her as a “noble example of sincere racial sympathy.” The editor called on male leaders to pay more attention to women’s issues, especially education and participation in public affairs.

Lokko became involved in the WAYL, established in 1934 ...

Article

Vajid Pathan

tailor, entrepreneur, and civil rights pioneer, was born in Barbados, West Indies. His past prior to 1820 is unknown. The first record of him in Hartford, Connecticut, appears in 1829 when the first city directory was published, stating that he was married to Roxana Cuffee and had four children. An earlier announcement in the 26 September 1828Freedom's Journal noted that Saunders had married Roxana Cuffee of Sag Harbor, New York, in Hartford on the fifteenth of that month in a ceremony presided over by the Reverend Mr. Gardiner. Between 1829 and 1836 the couple had four children: Thomas P., Prince H., Amos, and Elizabeth.

In 1820 William Saunders founded the Cheap Store on 10 Talcott Street Hartford Connecticut He was known to be the finest tailor and his clothiers had the reputation of being the least expensive in the city He often placed advertisements seeking ...

Article

Diane L. Barnes

William Topp figured prominently in the national black convention movement during the 1840s and 1850s. A skilled tailor of African, Indian, and German ancestry, Topp operated a merchant tailor's shop in Albany, New York. Although little is known about his upbringing or family life, by the mid-1840s Topp was clearly a leader in the movement for African American rights in the Northeast. After visiting Topp in Albany, William C. Nell, Frederick Douglass's editorial partner for the North Star newspaper, remarked in a column, “He has long been interested in the ‘ways and means’ of elevating his oppressed brethren, and in their heart's best affections evidently stands Topp of the fraternity.”

In his commitment to black action and reform Topp served as president of the New York State Council of Colored People and as a member of the short lived National Council of Colored People He was also active in ...