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Roy E. Finkenbine

was an abolitionist and community activist. Nothing is known of the circumstances of his birth, early life, or education, although his surname may indicate West Indian origins.

Barbadoes emerged as an important figure in the small but influential African American community in Boston's West End by the mid-1820s. From 1821 to 1840 he operated a barbershop in Boston. He was a prominent member of the African Baptist Church and of African Lodge #459, the preeminent black fraternal organization in the nation. An amateur musician applauded for both his vocal and his instrumental talents, he performed regularly before local audiences. But he was best known as an “indefatigable political organizer.”

In 1826 Barbadoes joined with the controversial essayist David Walker and several others to organize the Massachusetts General Colored Association MGCA which over the next few years led local protests corresponded with race leaders throughout the North supported the emerging ...

Article

George Derek Musgrove

politician, was born Mervyn Malcolm Dymally in Cedros, Trinidad, to Hamid Dymally, an Indian businessman, and Andreid Richardson, a black Trinidadian. In Trinidad he attended Cedros Government School, St. Benedict School, and Naparima College, from which he graduated in 1944. Upon graduation Dymally took a job as a reporter for the Vanguard Weekly, the newspaper of the local oil workers union.

In 1946 Dymally immigrated to the United States to attend Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, where he planned to study journalism. Unable to adjust to the environment in Missouri, however, he dropped out after one semester and traveled around the United States in search of work and school. After two years of constant travel and countless jobs Dymally settled in Los Angeles, California, and began attending Los Angeles State College, where he received his BA in Education in 1954.

After graduation Dymally ...

Article

Sterling Lecater Bland

slave narrative author, was born in Canaan, Connecticut, the child of slaves. James's father, Jupiter Mars, was born in New York State. He had a succession of owners, including General Henry Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, with whom Jupiter served in the Revolutionary War. He was subsequently owned in Salisbury, Connecticut, and later by the Reverend Mr. Thompson, a minister in North Canaan, Connecticut. Mars's mother, whose name remains unknown, was born in Virginia and was owned there by the woman who became Thompson's wife. His mother, who had one child while living in Virginia, was relocated to Connecticut when Mrs. Thompson moved to Canaan to join her husband. The Reverend Thompson married Mars's parents, and they had James and four other children, three of whom died in infancy.

Of Mrs Thompson James Mars told his father that if she only had him South where she could have ...

Article

Eric Gardner

writer and activist, was born in Virginia to parents whose names remain unknown. Newby's enslaved father died in his youth. His free mother moved the family to Philadelphia in the early 1830s. She may have been the laundress Maria Newby listed in the 1850 Federal Census of Philadelphia, though the surname is not uncommon (p. 362). A 20 June 1863Pacific Appeal article on Newby by journalist Philip Alexander Bell referred to him as largely “self-educated” but did note his attendance at the city's segregated public schools. Working first as a barber and then as a daguerreotypist, Newby seems to have stood at least at the fringes of the city's Black society; Bell remembered him as a member of the Philadelphia Library Company of Colored Persons and a “skillful debater.”

Probably in response to the limitations imposed by Northern racism and the hope of the Gold Rush Newby made ...

Article

Bob Greene

activist, coachman, cook and waiter, was born in Gray, Cumberland County, Maine. His parents are unknown, but they could have been Boston Reuben and Zeruiah Lewis, who were married 6 December 1783 in New Gloucester, Cumberland County, Maine. Boston Reuben could have been the “Boston Black” listed in the 1790 federal census as living in New Gloucester, Maine, with four “other free persons” and the “Moston Ruby” in the 1800 federal census living in Gray with seven “other free persons.”

Reuben Ruby moved to Portland, Cumberland County, Maine, where he married Jennett C. Pierre (1805–1827) on 23 October 1821. Their only child, William, died at the age of three. Two years after the death of first wife, Ruby married Rachel Humphrey (1805–1861) in Boston, Massachusetts, on 23 December 1829 They had at least six children with three living to ...

Article

David E. Swift

black Presbyterian minister and reformer, was born in New Jersey and brought up in Schenectady, New York, the son of R. P. G. Wright, an early opponent of the American Colonization Society's program of returning American blacks to Africa. His mother's name is unknown. He was named after a distinguished Massachusetts jurist, Theodore Sedgwick, whose defense of a slave woman against her master's claim of ownership had effectively abolished slavery in that state.

Wright received a good education in spite of rejection by a number of colleges to which he applied. After several years at New York's African Free School, he was admitted into Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey in 1825 at the age of twenty-eight. Well treated there by both fellow students and faculty, he graduated in 1828 thus becoming the first African American to complete a theological seminary program That same year Wright ...