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Article

Charles Rosenberg

landowner, businessman, and state legislator, was born enslaved in Dallas County Alabama, to parents named Sarah and Pete, who had been born in South Carolina. David, like his parents, was the property of a family named Abner. There is some dispute as to his birth date—some giving 1826 and others 1838—but the most reliable date appears to be December 1820, as suggested by a letter from his youngest daughter. It is not known when David took the Abner surname for himself, a common but by no means universal practice for formerly enslaved persons. He was sent to Texas in 1843, driving a covered wagon for the newly married daughter (Thelma) of the man who held title to him.

Her father considered his new son in law unreliable and entrusted David to get his daughter safely to her new home and manage ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

Union army officer and politician, was born in New Orleans, the son of a West Indian midwife and a free black soldier who had served in the Corps d'Afrique with General Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812. His parents' names are not recorded. Family lore had it that Caesar's maternal grandfather, an African chief, had been enslaved and taken to America and that his paternal grandmother, Rose Antoine, had earned enough money from her work as a midwife to purchase her freedom. Rose Antoine also left each of her seven sons twenty thousand dollars in her will.

As a free black child in New Orleans Antoine attended private schools the public schools of the city were closed to blacks and became fluent in both English and French Upon leaving school as a teenager in the early 1850s he then apprenticed and worked as a barber one of ...

Article

Robert Ross

South African businessman, also known as Harry the Strandloper, was born a member of the Khoesan group known as the Goringhaikona, who lived mainly in the vicinity of Table Bay, where modern Cape Town is situated. The group was known to the Europeans as “strandlopers” (beachcombers) because they acquired the majority of their subsistence by harvesting the resources of the sea, including shellfish, sea fish, and marine mammals, including seals, for which on occasion they visited Robben Island in the bay. No doubt they also collected plants as appropriate. They had few, if any, cattle or sheep.

At the time of Autshumao s birth European ships were beginning to use Table Bay with increasing frequency in order to take on fresh water and firewood and to leave messages for each other This provided an evident opportunity for those Africans living in the neighborhood Autshumao quickly came to take advantage of ...

Article

Charles L. Hughes

singer and member of the Supremes, was born in Rosetta, Mississippi, the eighth child of Jessie and Lurlee Ballard. In 1953 the Ballards, following the Great Migration path taken by millions of African Americans, moved to Detroit, Michigan, where Jessie Ballard worked in an automobile factory until his death in 1959. The family lived in the Brewster-Douglass Projects, and Ballard's powerful singing voice distinguished her both in school and around the neighborhood. Two of her neighbors, Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams, who were members of the local singing group the Primes, told their manager, Milton Jenkins, about Ballard, and Jenkins was impressed enough to book Ballard—still in her teens—as a solo act at the Primes' performances.

This early connection between Ballard and the Primes is vitally important both to Ballard s career and to the history of American popular music for two reasons First the Primes would ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

pioneer settler in Los Angeles County, California, in the 1850s, blacksmith, teamster, firewood salesman, and landowner, was born in Kentucky around 1827. Although it is commonly assumed that he had been enslaved there, he arrived in California a free man prior to the Civil War, and nothing has been established about his previous life.

He was married on 6 November 1859 to a woman named Amanda, born in Texas, by Jesse Hamilton, the earliest pastor of First African Methodist Episcopal church, Los Angeles. Their first two children, Dora and Julia, were born in 1857 and 1859. In 1860 the household included a laborer named Juan Jose, recorded by the census as being of Indian ancestry. Another man of African descent, Oscar Smith from Mississippi lived next door and no race was specified for the other neighbors who had either English or Hispanic names ...

Article

Sharon E. Wood

former slave, entrepreneur, steamboat worker, nurse, and church founder, was born in Bourbon County, Kentucky, in 1801 or 1804. Although her father was a white man and also her master, his name is unknown. Her mother, Lydia, was his slave. While she was still a child, Baltimore's father sold her to a trader who carried her to the St. Louis area. Over the next few years, she passed among several masters, including the New Orleans judge Joachim Bermudez, working as a house servant for French, Spanish, and Anglo-American households in Louisiana and eastern Missouri.

In New Orleans Baltimore joined the Methodist Church Her piety so impressed one preacher that he purchased her then allowed her to hire her own time and buy her freedom Baltimore worked as a chambermaid on steamboats and as a lying in nurse According to tradition it took her seven years to earn the ...

Article

Roland Barksdale-Hall

inventor, was born in Jefferson County, Alabama, the son of Milton Beard and Creasey Tatum, both former slaves on the Beard family plantation. He adopted the name of his former master at age fifteen after he was liberated by Union forces. A year later, he married Edie Beard, about whom nothing else is known. The couple raised three children: John, Jack, and Andrew Jr.; the latter died following graduation from high school. Like most former slaves, however, Beard was illiterate and remained so throughout his life.

After the Civil War, Beard worked as a sharecropper on his former master's farm until he was about eighteen years old and then moved to St. Clair County, Alabama. In 1872 he made a three week journey from Birmingham to Montgomery on an oxcart that carried fifty bushels of apples which he sold for approximately two hundred dollars He eventually ...

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

Balthazar Becker

and entrepreneur, is presumed to have been born in New York in 1736. Most of what is known of Blue’s biography we owe to an 1823 petition, in which he details his participation in both the Seven Years’ War and in the American Revolution, and through his testimony in a court case in 1832. Earlier scholars had discredited these accounts as Blue’s fabrication and had speculated that Blue was born around 1767 in Jamaica. Yet, recent archival research by Ian Duffield and Cassandra Pybus has vindicated the key dates and locales of Blue’s autobiographical accounts, which encompass pivotal eras in the histories of North America, Europe, and Australia. This scholarship has established Blue as a central figure among the black founders of modern Australia.

In all probability William Billy Blue was born in colonial New York It is now assumed that Blue was recruited as a seaman for ...

Article

Jacob Andrew Freedman

farmer and entrepreneur, was born near Canton, Mississippi, the only child of Wesley Rutledge and Anne Maben. Rutledge was the nephew of William H. Goodlow, the owner of the estate where Anne Maben was a house slave. Wesley worked as the manager of the house for his aunt and uncle. At birth Bond was given the surname Winfield, and at the age of eighteen months he was sent with his mother to Collierville, Tennessee, where they lived until he was five years old. Subsequently, they were sent to work on the Bond farm in Cross County, Arkansas. In Arkansas Anne Maben met and married William Bond, who gave Scott Bond his surname.

The family remained on the Bond farm until the conclusion of the Civil War when only months after gaining her freedom Anne Maben died leaving Bond in the care of his stepfather Bond his stepfather ...

Article

Barbara A. White

prosperous businessman, whaling captain, and community leader, whose court case against Nantucket led to the integration of the public schools, was a member of one of the largest and most influential black families on the island. His father was Seneca Boston, a manumitted slave, who was a self‐employed weaver. His mother was a Wampanoag Indian named Thankful Micah. They had four sons and one daughter. Absalom Boston, the third‐born, went to sea, as did many of Nantucket's young men, signing onto the whale ship Thomas in 1809 when he was twenty‐four. Little is known about his early education. Anna Gardner, in her memoir Harvest Gleanings, mentions him visiting her family and hints that it may have been her mother, Hannah Macy Gardner, who taught the young man to read.

Shortly before he went to sea, Boston married his first wife, Mary Spywood about whom little is ...

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

David M. Fahey

fraternal society leader and banker, was born in Habersham County, Georgia, the son of Joseph Browne and Mariah (maiden name unknown), field slaves. As a young child he was called Ben Browne and was chosen to be the companion of his owner's son. A subsequent owner who lived near Memphis trained Browne as a jockey for race circuits in Tennessee and Mississippi. During the Civil War he plotted an escape with fellow slaves. When his owner learned of the conspiracy, he transferred Browne to a plantation in Mississippi. Despite the difficulties of tramping fifty miles without a compass, Browne persuaded three other young slaves to join him in a successful escape to the Union army at Memphis. After learning that his owner could demand his return, Browne fled upriver as a stowaway.

Browne later worked as a saloon servant in Illinois where his barroom experiences made him a teetotaler and ...

Article

Rachel Malcolm-Woods

slave craftsman, bateau man, and business agent for John Jordan and the Jordan and Irvine Company of Lexington, Virginia, was born in Amherst County in western Virginia. He grew up along the James River where he apprenticed in blacksmithing, carpentry, and navigation and earned the sobriquet “Dick the Boatman.” Bullock was likely a descendant of the Igbo, who were the predominant cultural group of the region. Many of these people and their descendants became skilled craftsmen. From 1740 to 1790 many Igbo people were brought directly to Virginia from Igboland by William and Thomas Randolph, who were slave traders and plantation merchants. By 1744Nicholas Davies, the former bookkeeper for the Randolphs, brought vast slave holdings to Amherst County derived from the same source. Upon his death in 1794 Davies manumitted many of his blacks bequeathing each family one hundred acres of land The mobility with which ...

Article

Michelle Kuhl

businessman, anti-lynching advocate, and pioneering member of Seattle, Washington's black middle class, was born in Kentucky, but exactly when or where has not been established. Some indications of Burdett's background, however, emerge from the 1850 census of Bullitt, Kentucky. One “Sam'l Burdett” is listed as a four-year-old black child living in the household of a white Burdette family headed by a fifty-year-old man named Pyton Burdett, who had a wife and seven children. A black woman named Louisa Burdett is also included in the household along with three black children, among them, “Sam'l.” The status of Louisa and her three children as either slaves or free persons is not indicated. Whatever her background in 1850, it is clear that ten years later Louisa had prospered. In 1860 the Bullitt Kentucky census listed Louisa Burdett 36 with three children including a fourteen year old Samuel living in their ...

Article

Geraldine Rhoades Beckford

physician, businessman, and writer, was born in Madison County, Kentucky, the youngest of fifteen children of Eliza and Edwin, who were slaves. Burton and his mother remained on the plantation after Emancipation as paid laborers, and he continued working at the “old homestead” after her death in 1869 until he was sixteen, at which time he left following an altercation with the owner.

In 1880 Burton was “converted to God” and subsequently experienced an insatiable desire for learning. Despite discouraging comments from those who thought that twenty was too old to start school, Burton was not dissuaded and determined that nothing was going to prevent him from getting an education except sickness or death. Burton worked for one more year as a farmhand in Richmond, Kentucky. One January morning in 1881 he put a few items in a carpetbag and nine dollars and seventy five cents in his ...

Article

Carl Moneyhon

businessman and politician, was born a slave in Moscow, Tennessee. Nothing is known about his father. In 1862 his master moved him and his mother, whose name is unknown, to Arkansas to keep them from being freed when the Union army moved into western Tennessee. Bush's mother died when he was seven years old. He was educated in the freedmen's and public schools of Little Rock, Arkansas, and was considered a good student by his teachers. He paid his school tuition by molding bricks. In 1876 he graduated from high school with honors and was immediately appointed principal of Capital Hill School, a public institution for African Americans in Little Rock. In 1878 he moved to Hot Springs, where he was named to head that city's African American high school.

In 1879 Bush returned to Little Rock, where he married Cora Winfrey the daughter of a wealthy contractor Solomon ...

Article

Betti Carol VanEpps-Taylor

the first non-Indian woman to view the Black Hills. Conflicting information exists about her early years, but all sources agree that she was born in Kentucky, in 1813 or perhaps 1824. The 1813 date appeared in one of her obituaries. In later years she told of traveling up the Missouri River on the first steamboat in 1831, perhaps as a servant, cook, or lady's maid. Employment on the riverboats plying the Missouri River trade from St. Louis north during the mid-1800s provided opportunities for many black Americans to experience a measure of freedom, save some money, and have an adventure. Often they settled in one of the many northern river ports. Sarah Campbell made the most of that opportunity She worked many years on the river before purchasing property in the river town of Bismarck in present day North Dakota a territory when Campbell settled there North ...

Article

David M. Tucker

one of the first wealthy African Americans of the post-Emancipation era, was born in either Memphis, Tennessee, or Holly Springs, Mississippi, the son of a light-skinned house servant from Virginia, Emmeline, and her white Virginia-born master, Charles B. Church. Robert later said that his African heritage was slight. While giving testimony before a congressional committee holding hearings in response to the 1866 Memphis race riot Church stated My father is a white man my mother is as white as I am Captain Church is my father he used to have a packet line My father owned my mother Robert benefited from a paternity that went unacknowledged my father always gave me everything I wanted although he does not openly recognize me Captain Church owned steamships during the 1850s making regular trips between Memphis and New Orleans and he taught his son how to run the business Beginning as ...

Article

Julie Winch

writer, adventurer, and perennial litigant, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the grandson of Jacques Clamorgan, a French entrepreneur and land speculator. Jacques died in 1814, leaving as his heirs the four children he had fathered with his various slaves whom he then emancipated. One of those children, Apoline, was Cyprian Clamorgan's mother. Apoline never married. Instead, she lived with a series of white “protectors.” A Catholic by upbringing in a deeply Catholic community, she presented each of her children for baptism at the Old Cathedral and revealed to the priest the name of the father so it could be entered in the baptismal register. However, she did not live long enough to have Cyprian baptized, and the identity of his father died with her.

Clamorgan and his siblings, Louis, Henry, and Louise, were left in the care of a white neighbor, Charles Collins ...