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Susan B. Iwanisziw

commercial painter, artist, and activist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the only known child of Jeremiah Bowser from Maryland and Rachel Bustill, daughter of the prosperous black abolitionist and educator Cyrus Bustill. The intermarriage among the region's free black Quaker families headed by Cyrus Bustill, Robert Douglass Sr., Jeremiah Bowser, and David Mapps created a dynamic force that benefited all African Americans and particularly spurred David s personal growth and accomplishments Jeremiah a member of the Benezet Philosophical Society served as a steward on the Liverpool lines and later it seems he was the proprietor of an oyster house near the intersection of 4th and Cherry Streets where David Bowser first hung up his sign as a commercial painter Later the Bowser family moved to the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia into a house at 481 North 4th Street where Bowser remained for the ...

Article

Deborah Bingham Van Broekhoven

antislavery reformer, was born Sarah Ann Harris in Norwich, Connecticut, one of the twelve children of Sallie Prentice Harris and William Monteflora Harris, a West Indian immigrant. The family attended the Congregational Church in Westminster, a village four miles to the west of Canterbury, and it was there in 1818 that young Harris made a profession of faith and joined the church.

In January 1832 her father purchased a farm and house outside of Canterbury village. That fall, twenty-year-old Harris learned that Prudence Crandall, a young Rhode Island woman with a Quaker background, was beginning a school for girls, and she asked to attend as a day student. She seemed unaware that the presence of an African American student, even one appearing “almost colorless ivory,” would be-controversial, but after Harris was accepted, white-parents immediately withdrew their daughters (Brown, 28). Crandall, however, continued her school, advertising in the 2 ...

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

Kenneth L. Kusmer

abolitionist and political leader, was born in Dumfries, Prince William County, Virginia, the son of a slave father (name unknown) and a free black mother, Dalcus Malvin. By virtue of his mother's status, Malvin was born free. As a boy, he was apprenticed as a servant to a clerk of his father's master; he later learned carpentry from his father. An elderly slave taught John how to read, using the Bible as his primary text. Malvin became a Baptist preacher and later, after moving to Cincinnati, was licensed as a minister, although he never held a permanent position in a church.

Malvin moved to Cincinnati in 1827, and two years later he married Harriet Dorsey During his four years in Cincinnati Malvin was active in the antislavery movement and personally helped several escaped slaves find their way north on the Underground Railroad He agitated against Ohio ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

slave, businessman, and politician, was born in Virginia to slave parents whose names are unknown. When William was thirteen he was either sold or brought by his owner to Columbia, South Carolina, where he served his apprenticeship as a barber. Many barbershops in antebellum Columbia were owned by blacks who had purchased their freedom, and Nash, an enterprising young man, may have harbored ambitions to do likewise. He does not appear to have succeeded in doing so prior to the end of the Civil War, but he was able to save some money he earned from tips for his labors as a bootblack, porter, and waiter at Hunt's Hotel in Columbia. It was while working at this hotel that Nash learned to read and write, assisted by his master, W. C. Preston a local politician who fired his slave s interest in political debate According to ...

Article

Michael F. Hembree

abolitionist and activist, was born in New York City, the son of Edward Powell, a slave. His mother's name is unknown. A passport application later described Powell as “of mulatto colour but of Indian extraction.” He apparently received some education before becoming an apprentice sailor and spending several years at sea in the 1820s. By the early 1830s he had settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, an active whaling port, and established a boardinghouse for sailors. He married Mercy O. Haskins of Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1832; they had seven children.

Powell readily embraced the immediate abolitionism of William Lloyd Garrison and participated in the immediatist movement from its beginnings in the early 1830s He signed the constitution of the American Anti Slavery Society and joined the New England Anti Slavery Society Powell s abolitionism emanated from a deeply held religious conviction that slavery was a sin and ...

Article

Eric Gardner

abolitionist leader and journalist, sometimes listed as James H. Townsend and sometimes as J. Holland Townsend, was probably born in New York or Pennsylvania. Nothing is known of his youth or parentage, although by the early 1840s he had established himself in the black community in Albany, New York. He participated in black conventions in Buffalo and Rochester in 1843 and supported Henry Highland Garnet's radical “Address to the Slaves,” which called on enslaved African Americans to rebel against their owners. Between 1845 and 1848 Townsend attended Waterville College (later Colby College), but contrary to most accounts, he did not receive a degree.

He instead returned to New York, where in 1849 he began publication of the short-lived journal Hyperion, which Frederick Douglass favorably reviewed in the 3 August 1849North Star. A correspondent for Frederick Douglass's Paper described him during this period in a 31 ...