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Article

Mason I. Lowance

Henry Bibb is best known through his Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb, An American Slave, which was first published by Bibb himself in 1849. While Frederick Douglass gained credibility through his assertion of authorship and by way of the introductions composed for his narrative by William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips, Bibb enjoyed no such reception and was forced to subvene the publication of his own story. The narrative is rich in detail, including an account of Bibb's use of “conjuring” to avoid punishment for running away, and the use of “charms” to court his slave wife. Bibb also gives eloquent testimony to the conditions and the culture of slavery in Kentucky and the South. John Blassingame describes it as “one of the most reliable of the slave autobiographies,” and it firmly established Bibb, together with Douglass and Josiah Henson as one ...

Article

Heidi L. Scott Giusto

Henry Walter Bibb was born a slave on the plantation of David White in Shelby County, Kentucky. His father, James Bibb, was a slaveholding planter and state senator; his mother, Mildred Jackson, was a slave. By 1825 Bibb began what he referred to as his “maroonage,” or scheming of short-term escape. Excessively cruel treatment by several different masters engendered this habit. Bibb's life lacked stability; the slave's owner began hiring him out at a young age, and between 1832 and 1840 he would be sold more than six times and would relocate to at least seven southern states.

In 1833 Bibb met and fell in love with Malinda, a slave who lived four miles away in Oldham County, Kentucky. After determining that they had similar values regarding religion and possible flight, the two pledged honor to one another and considered themselves married in December 1834 Approximately one year later ...

Article

The son of a Kentucky plantation slave and a state senator, Henry Walton Bibb was born a slave in Kentucky. His repeated attempts to escape bondage were successful in 1842 when he fled to Detroit, Michigan. By then his first wife, whom he married in 1833 and with whom he had a daughter, had been sold again. Bibb turned his energies to abolitionism.

In 1850 Bibb published his autobiography, Narrative of the Life and Adventures of an American Slave. That same year Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Laws, which forced him and his second wife to flee to Canada. A leader of the African American community there, Bibb founded the first black newspaper in Canada, Voice of the Fugitive, in 1851.

See also Abolitionism in the United States; Slave Narratives.

Article

Gregory S. Jackson

author, editor, and antislavery lecturer, was born into slavery on the plantation of David White of Shelby County, Kentucky, the son of James Bibb, a slaveholding planter and state senator, and Mildred Jackson. White began hiring Bibb out as a laborer on several neighboring plantations before he had reached the age of ten. The constant change in living situations throughout his childhood, combined with the inhumane treatment he often received at the hands of strangers, set a pattern for life that he would later refer to in his autobiography as “my manner of living on the road.” Bibb was sold more than six times between 1832 and 1840 and was forced to relocate to at least seven states throughout the South later as a free man his campaign for abolition took him throughout eastern Canada and the northern United States But such early instability also made the ...

Article

Michael J. Ristich

physician, editor, abolitionist, activist, and Reconstruction politician, was a native of Virginia who migrated to New Orleans, determined to fight the disenfranchisement of blacks. Nothing is known of Cromwell's upbringing and childhood except that he was born free. Educated in Wisconsin, Cromwell also spent time in the West Indies before settling in New Orleans in 1864. Cromwell was an outspoken proponent of black rights, known for employing controversial rhetoric, and was not averse to the idea of a race war between blacks and whites during Reconstruction.

In 1863, the militant Cromwell wrote to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, seeking to raise black troops in the North. Cromwell moved to New Orleans in January of 1864 and quickly entered the political circles of Louisiana participating in a number of pivotal events that helped shape the politics and civil rights of Reconstruction Louisiana Although never serving in ...

Article

James Sellman

Frederick Douglass was more than a great African American leader. He was, in the words of his biographer William S. McFeely, “one of the giants of nineteenth-century America.” He was a man driven by his anger at injustice, McFeely observed, a man who “never ran away from anything”—except the bondage of slavery. Even in that, he took flight not simply to escape but to engage. After gaining his freedom, the former slave turned in his tracks and confronted the institution head-on.

Douglass played a prominent role in nineteenth-century reform movements, not only through his abolitionism but also in his support for women's rights and black suffrage. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he stayed true to his principles, remaining steadfast in his commitment to integration and civil rights. Douglass was militant but never a separatist. He rejected the nationalist rhetoric and latter-day conservatism of black abolitionist Martin Robison Delany ...

Article

William L. Andrews

Frederick Douglass, author of the most influential African American text of his era, rose through the ranks of the antislavery movement in the 1840s and 1850s to become the most electrifying speaker and commanding writer produced by black America in the nineteenth century. From the outbreak of the Civil War until his death, Douglass was generally recognized as the premier African American leader and spokesman for his people. Douglass's writing was devoted primarily to the creation of a heroic image of himself that would inspire in African Americans the belief that color need not be a permanent bar to their achievement of the American dream, while reminding whites of their obligation as Americans to support free and equal access to that dream for Americans of all races.

The man who became internationally famous as Frederick Douglass was born on Maryland's Eastern Shore in February 1818, the son of Harriet ...

Article

David W. Blight

Frederick Douglass lived for twenty years as a slave and nearly nine years as a fugitive slave. From the 1840s to his death in 1895 he attained international fame as an abolitionist, editor, orator, statesman, and the author of three autobiographies that became classics of the slave narrative tradition. Douglass lived to see the Emancipation of the slaves during the Civil War and made a major contribution to interpreting the meaning of those epochal events. He labored for the establishment of black civil rights and witnessed their betrayal during Reconstruction and the Gilded Age. He advocated women's rights long before they were achieved.

It took nearly a century after his death for Douglass s work to receive widespread attention in school curriculums and in the scholarly fields of literature and history With the flowering of African American history and culture in the 1960s and a greatly increased attention to slavery ...

Article

Roy E. Finkenbine

abolitionist, civil rights activist, and reform journalist, was born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey near Easton, Maryland, the son of Harriet Bailey, a slave, and an unidentified white man. Although a slave, he spent the first six years of his life in the cabin of his maternal grandparents, with only a few stolen nighttime visits by his mother. His real introduction to bondage came in 1824, when he was brought to the nearby wheat plantation of Colonel Edward Lloyd. Two years later he was sent to Baltimore to labor in the household of Hugh and Sophia Auld, where he remained for the next seven years. In spite of laws against slave literacy, Frederick secretly taught himself to read and write He began studying discarded newspapers and learned of the growing national debate over slavery And he attended local free black churches and found ...

Article

William Lloyd Garrison was born and raised in Newburyport, Massachusetts, where at the age of fourteen he was indentured to the owner of the Newburyport Herald. During his indenture, Garrison became an expert printer and grew sympathetic to the struggles of oppressed people. He published articles in the Herald and other newspapers either anonymously or under the pseudonym Aristides. In these articles he tried to arouse Northerners from their apathy toward slavery in the South.

In 1829 Garrison entered into a partnership with fellow abolitionist Benjamin Lundy to publish Genius of Universal Emancipation, a monthly journal based in Baltimore, Maryland Lundy believed in freeing slaves gradually and Garrison at first shared his views Garrison however soon favored immediate and complete emancipation albeit through pacifistic means His eloquent denunciations of slavery aroused great hostility in Baltimore which was then a major center of the domestic slave trade ...

Article

Sean Patrick Adams and Diane L. Barnes

William Lloyd Garrison was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, to a family of modest means. After an apprenticeship with a local printer, he set out to found his own newspaper and became one of the nation's most vocal moral reformers. Garrison tried his hand at editing newspapers in Massachusetts and Vermont, but his radical critique of electoral politics and his air of moral superiority were unpopular with readers. After a series of failed ventures, in 1829 he accepted an offer to work on a Baltimore-based antislavery newspaper, theGenius of Universal Emancipation, edited by Benjamin Lundy. In 1830 Garrison drew national notoriety when he was convicted of libel for an editorial denouncing a wealthy merchant s participation in the slave trade He refused on principle to pay the fine and was jailed for forty nine days Garrison used the time to propagate the idea that he had ...

Article

Delano Greenidge-Copprue

Sydney Howard Gay was born in Hingham, Massachusetts, to Ebenezer Gay and Mary Alleyne Otis. A prominent banker and politician, Ebenezer Gay planned for his son to become a lawyer. To this end, Gay was enrolled in Hingham's Derby Academy, and in the fall of 1829, at the age of fifteen, Gay entered Harvard. At the end of his sophomore year he withdrew because of melancholia and would never return to college, much to his father's disappointment.

In 1832 Gay clerked for Perkins and Company in Boston but resigned in 1834 because of a respiratory illness. From 1834 to 1838 he wandered, living with family members in Charleston, South Carolina, spending a year in China, and losing money in business ventures. Living a seemingly purposeless life, Gay read widely during the winter of 1838, emerging in the spring of 1839 with the idea that he would ...

Article

Debra Jackson

abolitionist, political activist, and journalist, was born in New York City, the son of Hannah (1793–1864, maiden name unknown) and William Hamilton. William Hamilton, a freeborn black, was a carpenter by trade who set a stellar example for the New York black community as a strong leader in the fight for political and civil equality. William Hamilton was a staunch supporter of William Lloyd Garrison and the Liberator but stopped short of adopting Garrison's doctrine of pacifism. This aspect of William Hamilton's abolitionist ideology made a deep impression on his son Robert—one that lasted a lifetime. During the riotous summer of 1834 in New York when the mob spirit was in the city Robert recalled that his father took him to a hardware store purchased a pistol and instructed him to use it if attacked by the rampaging mob Boys as we were ...

Article

Debra Jackson

journalist and abolitionist, was born in New York City, the youngest son of the abolitionist and political activist William Hamilton and Hannah (1793–1864, maiden name unknown). William Hamilton, a freeborn black, worked as a carpenter and was a respected, influential member of the New York City black community. His son Thomas followed this example and became a prominent member of the community in his own right.

As a young boy Thomas Hamilton learned the newspaper business by working in the neighborhood of “Printing House Square,” the lower Manhattan area where many newspaper offices were located. Hamilton first worked as a carrier and in many other capacities for a variety of newspapers, including the Colored American. The journalist Philip A. Bell offered posthumous praise when he recalled that Hamilton went from the offices of the Colored American and worked “as mailing clerk on the Evangelist and ...

Article

Jessica M. Parr

Samuel Gridley Howe was born to a prominent Boston family. His father, Joseph Neals Howe, owned a rope-manufacturing company in this thriving port city. His mother, Patty Gridley, was renowned for her beauty. Howe entered the Boston Latin School at the age of eleven, graduating in 1818. At the age of seventeen he entered Brown University, the only one of the three Howe sons to attend college, owing to a decline in the family's financial situation.

Following Howe's graduation from Brown in 1821, he matriculated at the Harvard Medical School. After he completed his medical studies in 1824, his restless nature and democratic sensibilities led him to join the Greek army as a surgeon and soldier during the Greek war of independence. Howe returned to Boston in 1831, where he met a friend from his undergraduate days named John Dix Fisher. In 1829 Fisher ...

Article

Frank R. Levstik

David Jenkins was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, the son of William Jenkins. It is not known whether his father was a white slaveholder or a free black, and his mother's name is unknown. Jenkins received a sound education at the hands of a private tutor hired by his father. In 1837 he took up residence in Columbus, Ohio, employing himself as a house painter and glazier. Jenkins's business acumen led to real estate investment and capital accumulation. The 1850 census for Franklin County, Ohio, records that Jenkins owned real estate valued at $1,500. The census also shows that he was married to Lucy Ann (maiden name unknown), a native of Virginia, and that they had one child.

On 27 December 1843 Jenkins founded and edited the Palladium of Liberty an antislavery weekly newspaper also dedicated to the advancement of the African American in the United States Inspiration ...

Article

Frank R. Levstik

editor and abolitionist, was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, the son of William Jenkins. It is not known whether his father was a white slaveholder or a free black, and his mother's name is unknown. Jenkins received a sound education at the hands of a private tutor hired by his father. In 1837 he took up residence in Columbus, Ohio, employing himself as a housepainter and glazier. Jenkins's business acumen led to real estate investment and capital accumulation. The 1850 census for Franklin County, Ohio, records that Jenkins owned real estate valued at $1,500. The census also shows that he was married to Lucy Ann (maiden name unknown), a native of Virginia, and that they had one child.

On 27 December 1843 Jenkins founded and edited the Palladium of Liberty an antislavery weekly newspaper also dedicated to the advancement of the African American in the United States Inspiration ...

Article

Wylene J. Rholetter

James Russell Lowell was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, into a family that traced its ancestry to the first Lowell to arrive in Massachusetts in the mid-seventeenth century. The son of Dr. Charles Lowell, who served as the pastor of West Church in Boston for fifty-six years, and Harriet Spence, who gave her son a love of poetry and tales, Lowell would prove to be the most versatile of the Fireside Poets, the group of Massachusetts poets so-named because the popularity of their poems made them standard hearth-side reading in homes across the country. (In addition to Lowell, the group included William Cullen Bryant, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and John Greenleaf Whittier.)

After receiving his bachelor's degree from Harvard, Lowell briefly considered the ministry and business before entering Harvard's Dane Law School, where he received his degree in 1840 More significant to his ...

Article

Merton L. Dillon

Benjamin Lundy's newspaper, The Genius of Universal Emancipation, founded in 1821, was the first antislavery journal in the United States to survive for more than a few issues. At a time when antislavery protest otherwise would have been solitary and isolated, Lundy's Genius provided a forum for the scattered voices of reform. The result was the creation of a network of like-minded men and women intent on exposing the evils of slaveholding and urging its abolition. At the same time, Lundy pursued emigration projects that he supposed would immediately improve the condition of free African Americans.

Lundy was born in Sussex County, New Jersey the only child of Joseph and Elizabeth Shotwell Lundy Quaker farmers His membership in the community of Quakers with its venerable humanitarian tradition provided inspiration and support for his lifelong antislavery crusade While he worked in his youth as a saddler s apprentice ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

who called himself “Agent and Superintendent of the Underground Railroad,” and had also worked as a steamboat steward, was born in Hoosick, Rensselaer County, New York, legally defined at birth as the property of Dr. Johnathan Eights, a doctor who established a practice in Albany in 1810.

New York's 1799 law for the gradual abolition of slavery provided that Myers should be emancipated at the age of twenty-eight, but he was freed earlier, when he was eighteen. He then worked as a grocer before getting a job as steward on the Armenia, one of the faster steamboats on the Hudson River, making the trip from New York City to Albany entirely in daylight.

Myers married in the late 1830s—there is no published record of Harriet Myers's maiden name. Their children, at least those who survived infancy and were still alive in 1860, were Stephen Jr ...