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Article

Steven J. Niven

businessman and politician, was born a slave in West Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Sosthene Allain, a wealthy white planter, and one of Allain's slave mistresses, whose name is not recorded. Sosthene Allain appears to have favored his son, to whom he gave the nickname “Solougue,” after a Haitian dictator of the 1840s and 1850s. In 1856, when Théophile was ten, his father called him to France to attend the christening of the son of Louis Napoleon III in Paris and also to travel with him to Spain and Britain. Théophile returned to the United States in 1859, where he studied with private tutors in New Orleans and at a private college in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Although Allain had been born a slave his education and foreign travel prepared him well for a leadership position in Louisiana business and politics after the Civil War So too did ...

Article

John Gilmore

Politician, born in Jamaica into a family of wealthy plantation owners. Sent to England in 1723, he was educated at Westminster School and Oxford. He later studied medicine at Leiden in Holland, but broke off his course there when the death of his father obliged him to return to Jamaica in 1735. When his elder brother died in 1737, he inherited most of the family properties and continued to add to them by inheritance and purchase over the next 30 years. At the time of his death he was sole owner of thirteen sugar plantations in Jamaica, together with other real estate and about 3,000 slaves.

In 1737William Beckford became a member of the Jamaican House of Assembly, but by 1744 he had left Jamaica for Britain where he settled in London as a West India merchant selling the produce of his own estates ...

Article

John Gilmore

Writer, art collector, and owner of plantations in Jamaica. He was the son of William Beckford, on whose death in 1770 he inherited an enormous fortune. This came under his control when he attained his majority in 1781 and for many years enabled him to travel extensively in Europe, to fund his enthusiasm for building Fonthill Abbey in Wiltshire as a Gothic extravaganza to house himself and the books, pictures, and works of art that he collected on a prodigious scale. In the 1790s his income was estimated at well over £100,000 a year, and in 1809 the poet Lord Byron hailed him as ‘England's wealthiest son’. From the 1820s the income from his Jamaican estates declined significantly, and he was forced to sell Fonthill and major parts of his collections. Beckford is remembered as the author of the novel Vathek an Orientalist fantasy published in ...

Article

Nicole S. Ribianszky

free woman of color, property holder, and slave owner, was a resident of Natchez, Mississippi. Nothing is known about her early life. Her status at the time of her birth, free or enslaved, as well as her parentage, is undetermined. Butcher lived in Natchez for at least twenty years of her life and accrued property during that time due to a relationship with a white man, John Irby. She then came close to losing it when another white man, Robert Wood, attempted to wrest it from her by exploiting her vulnerability as a free woman of color.

In 1834John Irby wrote his last will and testament which clearly named Butcher as the administrator of his estate which consisted of the White House Tavern surrounding land buildings two horses and buggy household and kitchen furniture his bank deposits and two slaves Alexander and Creasy Two years later ...

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 ...

Article

Trevor Hall

and his elder son, Diego Columbus (1479?–1526), governor of Hispaniola during the first recorded revolt by enslaved Africans in the Americas, both had significant connections to Africa. The elder Columbus, known as Cristoforo Colombo in Italian and Cristóbal Colón in Spanish, remains a mysterious historic figure, even though, in the twentieth century alone, more than 250 scholarly articles and books were written on his origins (Sale, The Conquest of Paradise). Over a dozen birthdates have been claimed for him as well as at least twenty-five nationalities (Catz, p.83). Most biographers agree, though, that he was born in the Italian port of Genoa, the eldest son of Domenico Colombo, a wool worker and merchant, and Susanna Fontanarossa.

The sources also agree that, from about 1477 to 1485 Columbus and his brother Bartolemeu were mariners in Portugal involved in trade with West Africa Very little has been written ...

Article

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

Thomas Clarkin

politician, was born in Iberville Parish, Louisiana, the son of Antoine Dubuclet Sr., a plantation owner, and Rosie Belly. The Dubuclets were members of the gens de couleur libre, the class of free blacks permitted certain social and legal rights not typically accorded blacks in the antebellum South. Dubuclet's father owned slaves and a share of a plantation. After his father's death in 1828, Dubuclet remained on the plantation, while his mother and siblings moved to New Orleans. He learned the family business and prospered, owning more than one hundred slaves and an estate valued in 1864 at $94,700. Such substantial holdings made Dubuclet the wealthiest of Louisiana's free blacks and more successful than many white planters.

Dubuclet s fortunes suffered during the Civil War a time of economic chaos in Louisiana The demise of slavery meant the end of ready and inexpensive labor a ...

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

Michael P. Johnson

cotton-gin maker and planter, was born a slave in Fairfield District, South Carolina. His father was probably the planter Robert Ellison or his son William, and his mother was a slave woman whose name is unknown. Originally named April, the biracial child received exceptional treatment. His master apprenticed him to William McCreight, a white cotton-gin maker in Winnsboro. From 1802 to 1816 Ellison worked in McCreight's gin shop, learning the skills of gin making from a master craftsman. During his training, he learned reading, writing, arithmetic, and basic bookkeeping skills. He also became well versed in interracial social skills, as he met scores of planters who came to negotiate with McCreight for gins. These encounters provided him with a valuable network of strategic acquaintances and contacts. Ellison's owner, William Ellison, allowed him to work extra hours and eventually to purchase his freedom on 8 June 1816 ...

Article

David Dabydeen

Slave owner, instigator of the ‘coolie trade’, and father of the British prime minister William Ewart Gladstone (1809–98). Sir John Gladstone was a leading member of the West Indian Association of Liverpool, a group of plantation owners and merchants trading with the West Indies in slave‐produced commodities. He owned sugar estates in Jamaica and British Guiana and was a passionate opponent of abolition. In 1830, in a series of last‐ditch attempts to persuade the government not to end West Indian slavery, Gladstone (then a member of Parliament and spokesman for the West India interest) argued that slavery was normal in primitive societies, and that West Indian Blacks had peculiar constitutions, enabling them to work easily under a tropical sun. He held up the dreadful prospect of freed slaves slaughtering the smaller white populations.

In 1833 Gladstone was deputed by Liverpool's West Indian interest ...

Article

Nicole L. Phillip-Dowe

was a free Frenchman of color, born in 1733, probably on the French colony of Martinique, before moving to the smaller island of Grenada, which was then also controlled by the French.

As a member of the free colored population of the region, La Grenade recognized that economic autonomy was the key to attaining social mobility and some measure of political power. To this end, La Grenade was able to significantly increase his economic standing by 1778. He owned a schooner La Louise, the 51-acre Guinard Plantation in the parish of St. Patrick, and a 16-acre lot in the parish of St. George; along with another free colored, Jean Baptiste St. Bernard, he purchased a 99-acre plot at Morne Jaloux in the parish of St. George. The combined cost of the land purchased amounted to 5,901 pounds, 19 shillings (Cox, 1984).

La Grenade was not ...

Article

John Gilmore

Historian of Jamaica and writer on slavery. Long was born in England, a member of a family that had long been settled in Jamaica and owned plantations there. Long himself spent only twelve years (1757–69) in Jamaica, where he was a judge, a member of the House of Assembly, and (for a very brief period) its Speaker, but he always identified himself with the interests of the Jamaican plantocracy, that is, the group of white landowners whose prosperity depended on the ownership of sugar plantations worked by slaves.

Long's major work was The History of Jamaica (1774 This contains an enormous amount of information on all aspects of the island and is still an essential source for historians of the Caribbean However the work is strongly marked by his partisan support for the plantocracy which leads him not only to emphasize Jamaica s importance to Britain ...

Article

David Mark Silver

planter and founder of Mound Bayou, Mississippi, was born on the “Hurricane” plantation of Joseph Davis at Davis Bend, Mississippi, the son of Benjamin Montgomery, the plantation business manager and later a planter and owner of a mercantile store, and Mary Lewis. As a result of his father's prominent position among the slaves, Montgomery was chosen at the age of nine or ten to serve as Davis's personal secretary and office attendant. Davis, the older brother of Confederate president Jefferson Davis, granted Montgomery full access to all the books, newspapers, and periodicals within his home, enabling Montgomery to continue the education begun first by his father and later continued by another slave. Following the Civil War, in November 1866 Davis sold his two plantations to the Montgomery family During the next fifteen years the Montgomerys struggled and ultimately failed to make the plantations profitable yet ...

Article

Kit Candlin

was born on either Petite Martinique or Carriacou, near Grenada, around the year 1760. She was the eldest daughter of Honoré Philip, a white French baker turned planter, and his African wife, Jeannette, who had formerly been his slave. Judith had seven brothers and sisters and was the eldest daughter. Steadily over the course of the 1760s and 1770s, Honore and his wife increased their property holdings in Petite Martinique, Grenada, and Carriacou. By the time of Honore’s death in 1779, the family owned several hundred acres spread across Grenada and its dependencies. The family also owned property in Grenada’s capital, St. George’s, and in the second town of Gouyave as well as Hillsborough, the principal settlement of Carriacou. By the time of her father’s passing, the family owned at least eighty slaves and had a fortune estimated at 400,000 livres.

This property in people and in land ...

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

John Gilmore

Poet born in Jamaica, the son of John and Dorothy Williams, who were free black people. John Williams was a former slave who had been freed by the will of his master, Colonel John Bourden (a prominent local figure who died in 1697), and who subsequently became a successful merchant, whose activities included moneylending on an extensive scale, and trade between Jamaica and Britain.

As a young man, Francis Williams lived in Britain, possibly for several years, and may have been entrusted with the British end of his father's business concerns. On 8 August 1721 he was admitted as a member of Lincoln s Inn while there is no evidence to suggest that he was ever called to the Bar or practised as a lawyer the Inns of Court often functioned in this period as a sort of finishing school for young men of gentlemanly status who ...