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David H. Anthony

Islamic scholar, Jamaican slave, and author, was born in Timbuktu, Mali. When he was two years old his family moved to Jenné in the western Sudan, another major center of Islamic learning and a renowned Sahelian trade city. Heir to a long tradition of Islamic saints and scholars claiming descent from the Prophet Muhammad, he was part of one of several dynasties designated as Sherifian or Shurfaa. Abu Bakr was trained and certified in Jenné by several ulama, the highly intellectual stratum of Islamic teachers. He was in the process of becoming a cleric when he was captured. As was true for many Islamized Africans caught in the vortex of the Atlantic slave trade, Abu Bakr's itinerant life had pre slave African and post slave black Atlantic dimensions His path shares the trajectory of many coreligionists from Muslim areas of the continent as well ...

Article

Mary Krane Derr

slave and later servant, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to Perry Blake, a free African American, and his wife Charlotte, a slave in the household of a prominent merchant, Jesse Levering. The couple had several other children. In 1897 Jesse's daughter Sarah R. Levering published a booklet about Margaret Jane Blake's life through the Press of Innes & Son in Philadelphia. As of 2011 other sources concerning Blake s life were unknown Thus we should read this account with care recognizing that it provides only one perspective on Blake s life and that it comes from a member of the family who once owned her It nonetheless offers several insights on the life of an urban African American woman in slavery and freedom Levering designated the proceeds from the booklet s sale to a Presbyterian affiliated manual labor school for the benefit of the ...

Article

Broteer  

Matthew L. Harris

slave, entrepreneur, and autobiographer, was born in Guinea, Africa, to Saungm Furro, a West African prince with three wives. Broteer was the eldest son of the first wife. When he was six years old an “army supplied by whites” captured him and marched him to the coast (Smith, 544). During the capture Broteer had seen his father tortured and killed, a haunting memory that stayed with him for the rest of his life. After being imprisoned for two years Broteer was one of 260 Africans sold into slavery to a Rhode Island slaver named Robertson Mumford, who purchased Broteer for four gallons of rum and a piece of calico cloth. It was Mumford who gave Broteer his American name, Venture, a result, as Broteer recalled in his memoir, of his master “having purchased me with his own private venture” (Smith, 545).

With new slaves in tow Mumford s first ...

Article

Gloria Grant Roberson

a devout Methodist, was born near New Brunswick, New Jersey, one of five children of slave parents. Buccau's life would have been lost forever if not for Memoir of Quamino Buccau, a Pious Methodist, (1851) published by William J. Allinson, an abolitionist member of a prestigious Burlington, New Jersey, Quaker family and a member of the Burlington County Antislavery Society. The two men, both Burlington residents from different races and backgrounds, shared a profound commitment to the doctrine of Christian love and charity. In an era of racial discord, the force of their mutual esteem is clearly evidenced throughout the pages of Allinson's tract about the humble, old black man whom he characterized as “lowly in heart” (Allinson, 8).

Buccau was someone with keen insight never complaining about his predicament For instance he knew that his name was of African origin that to retain it was ...

Article

Elizabeth Kuebler-Wolf

typesetter, potter, and poet, was born and lived his entire life in and around Edgefield, South Carolina, an important center for pottery production in the nineteenth century. Dave's parents were slaves belonging to Samuel Landrum, a Scottish immigrant who had moved his family and slaves to Edgefield, South Carolina, in 1773. The outlines of Dave's life story can be traced through the business activities and legal papers of his various owners, oral history from Edgefield, and Dave's own pottery upon which he inscribed sayings, verses, and dates.

After moving to Edgefield the Landrum family became involved in the making of pottery and other entrepreneurial enterprises. Amos and Abner Landrum, sons of Samuel, became partners with a third man, Harvey Drake, in a pottery concern. Dave first appears in the legal record in a 13 June 1818 mortgage agreement between Harvey Drake and Eldrid Simkins both ...

Article

Brycchan Carey

slave, writer, and abolitionist, was, according to his autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, born in the village of Essaka in Eboe, an unknown location in the Ibo-speaking region of modern Nigeria. Equiano recorded that he was the son of a chief and was also destined for that position. However, at about the age of ten, he was abducted and sold to European slave traders. In his narrative, Equiano recalls the Middle Passage in which “the shrieks of the women, and the groans of the dying, rendered the whole a scene of horror almost inconceivable” (58). Despite falling ill, Equiano survived the voyage and was taken first to Barbados and then to Virginia, where in 1754 he was bought by Michael Pascal a captain in the Royal Navy Pascal s first act was to rename the ...

Article

Julia Sun-Joo Lee

slave and antislavery reformer, was born in Camden County, North Carolina, the youngest of his mother's children. The names of his parents are unknown. As he recounts in his Narrative of the Life of Moses Grandy, at least eight of his siblings were sold to other slave owners by their master, Billy Grandy. Moses Grandy remembered the day in his childhood when a younger brother was taken away to be sold and his panicked and grief-stricken mother tried to resist. According to his narrative, she was beaten unconscious, then tied to a peach tree and beaten again.

Grandy often played with his master's son, James who was the same age as he When Grandy was about eight years old Billy Grandy died and Grandy was given to James Until James came of age Grandy was hired out by auction at the beginning of each year He had ...

Article

Yuval Taylor

slave and writer, was born in King George County, Virginia. His father was Benjamin Grymes, a wealthy Virginia planter; his mother was a slave of a neighbor, Dr. Steward who was therefore William Grimes s first owner Grimes under three different names served ten masters as a house servant plantation worker stable boy and coachman in Virginia Maryland and Georgia He was severely mistreated more than once coming close to death from too much whipping Grimes made a number of unsuccessful escape attempts on one occasion he tried to break his own leg and on another pretended to starve himself Cunning and combative he several times induced his masters to sell him in order to improve his situation with mixed results he also entered into several bloody fights with other slaves A superstitious man he was frequently haunted by ghosts and was troubled by a woman ...

Article

Kara M. McClurken

minister and abolitionist, was born William Waugh Grimes in Alexandria, Virginia, the eldest of five children of Thomas Grimes and Elizabeth Ann Waugh. Little is known about Grimes's early life other than that he started earning a living at the age of nine, after his father died. In 1841 Grimes traveled to Washington, D.C., to see the inauguration of William Henry Harrison, and he was employed during the early part of the decade by several members of Congress, including Millard Fillmore, then a Whig congressman from New York. In 1847 Grimes married Mary Ann Brown. Following the death of President Zachary Taylor on 9 July 1850, Grimes worked in the White House for the Fillmore family; he remained there until 1855, when he left to work full time as a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church.

Grimes joined Union Bethel African ...

Article

Duncan F. Faherty

poet and preacher, was born on the estate of Henry Lloyd on Long Island, New York, most probably the son of two of Lloyd's slaves, Rose and Opium, the latter renowned for his frequent escape attempts. Few records remain from Hammon's early life, though correspondence of the Lloyd family indicates that in 1730 he suffered from a near-fatal case of gout. He was educated by Nehemiah Bull, a Harvard graduate, and Daniel Denton, a British missionary, on the Lloyd manor. Except for a brief period during the Revolutionary War, when Joseph Lloyd removed the family to Hartford Connecticut Hammon lived his entire life on Long Island in the Huntington area serving the Lloyds as clerk and bookkeeper There is no surviving indication that Hammon either married or had children The precise date of his death and the location of his grave remain unknown although it is ...

Article

Elizabeth Zoe Vicary

escaped slave and preacher, was born in Charles County, Maryland, on a farm owned by Francis Newman. As a child Henson frequently saw his parents abused and severely beaten. On one occasion, as a punishment for defending his wife, Henson's father was sentenced to a physical mutilation that left him permanently scarred. Although he was raised without religion, Henson was immediately converted to Christianity after his first exposure to it at a revivalist camp meeting. As a young boy, he was sold to Isaac Riley.

Because of his unusual strength and intelligence Henson was made superintendent of the farm at a young age He managed the plantation well doubling the annual crop production One day during an argument at a neighboring farm Henson defended his master in an argument with the other plantation s overseer In revenge the overseer and three of his slaves waylaid Henson one ...

Article

Joan R. Sherman

poet, was born in Northampton County, North Carolina, a slave of William Horton; the names of his parents are unknown. As a boy he moved with his master's household to Chatham County, where he tended cows on the farm. Horton's teenage pleasures, he later wrote, were “singing lively tunes” and “hearing people read” (Horton, iv), and he taught himself to read, first learning the alphabet from an old spelling book. He acquired an extraordinary vocabulary and the forms, topics, and styles of his verse from reading the New Testament, Wesley's hymnal, and books given to him by University of North Carolina (UNC) students.

In his early twenties, now the slave of William's son, James Horton, George avoided the manual labor he disliked by walking eight miles from the farm to Chapel Hill on weekends to sell fruit and his poems. From about 1830 on he hired ...

Article

Richard J. Bell

Methodist preacher and seaman, was born in the port town of Old Calabar, in Nigeria, West Africa, to Margaret and Hambleton Robert Jea. At age two Jea and his family were captured in Old Calabar and transported to America on a slave ship. With his parents and several siblings he was immediately sold to the family of Oliver and Angelika Tiehuen, members of the Dutch Reformed Church who owned land outside New York City. This knowledge comes from Jea's narrative, The Life, History, and Sufferings of John Jea, the African Preacher, written and published in 1815; it is the only source of information about most of Jea's life and travels.

The newly enslaved family was set to work as field hands and quickly felt the hardship of poor conditions and physical abuse Jea found little comfort in the message of obedience and humility preached to ...

Article

Kari J. Winter

slave, Loyalist during the American Revolution, carpenter, Methodist preacher, and memoirist, was born on a plantation near Charleston, South Carolina, the son of a literate African slave who worked as a driver and a mill cutter and an enslaved mother who made clothes and tended the sick, using herbal knowledge she gained from American Indians. At the age of six Boston King began waiting on his master, Richard Waring, in the plantation house. From age nine to sixteen, he was assigned to tend the cattle and horses, and he traveled with his master's racehorses to many places in America.

At sixteen King was apprenticed to a master carpenter Two years later he was placed in charge of the master s tools on two occasions when valuable items were stolen the master beat and tortured King so severely that he was unable to work for ...

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

Laura M. Chmielewski

convert to Methodism and religious contemplative, was born probably in New York City, of unknown but most likely enslaved parents. All the details of Zilpah Montjoy's life are derived from Abigail Mott's 1826Narratives of Colored Americans, a collection of biographical sketches of prominent and, in Mott's view, exemplary black Christians that includes Richard Allen, Benjamin Banneker, Paul Cuffe, Gustavus Vassa (Olaudah Equiano), and Phillis Wheatley as well as more obscure figures such as Billy and Jenny Poor Pompey and Old Dinah The circumstances surrounding Zilpah Montjoy s birth and parentage are unknown According to her biographer Montjoy spent her early life in domestic slavery in New York City serving masters who invested nothing in her spiritual development beyond calling her by a name that had biblical origins Montjoy was reportedly bound so tightly to her work that throughout her youth she ...

Article

Paul Walker

outlaw, was born the slave of Samuel Mifflin of Philadelphia, father of the governor of Pennsylvania. He traveled to England when he was seventeen and devoted his life to crime, traveling in Britain and Europe, robbing individuals and coaches at gunpoint. On his return to America in 1790 he was executed for rape at New Haven.

Mountain's biography contains some of the usual elements of slave narratives, but the majority of his story consists of descriptions of the people he robbed, the places the robberies took place, and the value of the loot. The narrative was recorded in 1790 by David Daggett the justice before whom Mountain was tried The frontispiece states that Daggett Has Directed That The Money Arising from the Sales Thereof Be Given to the Girl Whose Life Is rendered Wretched by the Malefactor This raises question of whether Mountain was coerced into making a ...

Article

Pomp  

Timothy J. McMillan

enslaved man and farmer, was probably born in West Africa. He worked as a farmhand and slave in Massachusetts. A transcript of Pomp's dying confession, which survives as a one-page broadside, is the only source of information about his life, but one that provides rare insight into the life of an African American in New England in the days of the early republic.

How exactly Pomp came to America, and specifically Boston, is unclear, but he arrived as a baby along with both his parents. His father died soon after his arrival in Boston and Pomp was put into the service of a Mr. Abbot of Andover whether in slavery or indenture is not known Pomp remained with Mr Abbot until the age of sixteen at which time he was passed on to his master s son also referred to as Mr Abbot It was at this point ...

Article

Alice Knox Eaton

the first woman to publish a slave narrative, was born in Brackish-Pond, Bermuda, the daughter of slave parents. The name of her mother, a household slave, is unknown. The surname of her father, a sawyer, was Prince; his first name is unknown. Mary Prince grew up in her mother's care among five younger brothers and sisters. She later described her first mistress as extremely kind and her early years as carefree. When she was twelve her owners were either unable or unwilling to support her, and she was hired out to a nearby family as a nursemaid. She was treated kindly and permitted to maintain contact with her family and her owners; still, even as a girl Mary sensed the injustice of her circumstances and chafed against them.

Within a year her mistress died and she and her two sisters were sold at auction to different owners Prince s ...

Article

Eric Gardner

fortune-teller and author, does not appear in public records until 1820, at which time she is listed in the federal census, and nothing definitive is known about her parentage or childhood. A purportedly autobiographical text that introduces one extant copy of Russel's The Complete Fortune Teller and Dream Book claims that she was born in 1745 in the “Fuller nation” three hundred miles southwest of Sierre Leone, taken into slavery, and sold to Virginia planter George Russel after experiencing the horrors of the Middle Passage. In Virginia, the narrative asserts, after great torment, she gained the power of divination and then great fame as a seer, was freed, and raised money to free other slaves.

Though the veracity of this narrative is doubtful for several reasons—for example, the birthplace it gives is in the Atlantic Ocean—it is clear that the title-page attribution of The Complete Fortune Teller ...