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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

Miles M. Jackson

explorer and businessman, was born a slave in German Flats, New York. He was owned by the Dougal family and spent his youth in Schenectady. It is very likely his mother was a slave (New York did not abolish slavery until 1827); his father was a freeman and a mariner. Following the death of his master, he was purchased by another owner. After gaining his freedom in 1796, Allen arrived in Boston in 1800 and went to sea just as his father had done. Indeed, many African Americans living in Boston had ties to the maritime industry in some way. Like other black mariners, Allen faced the risk of reenslavement when he traveled to Southern ports. Once he was saved from imprisonment by one of the ship's owners, who paid $300 for his release.

Allen's years at sea between 1800 and 1810 provided him with unique experiences ...

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

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

Jeff Berg

teacher, farmer, and entrepreneur, was born Frances Marion Boyer in Pelham, Georgia, the son of Henry Boyer, a former slave and one-time teamster for the U.S. Army. Nothing is known of Boyer's mother. In 1846 the elder Boyer passed through the Pecos Valley region of -New Mexico. Impressed by the -spaces the elder Boyer returned to his home in Georgia and reportedly spoke regularly about returning to New Mexico with his family and friends. Henry Boyer was never able to realize his dream, but his youn son Frank, one of eight children, probably went well beyond anything his father had thought of doing when he later founded Blackdom, one of the first -towns in New Mexico, albeit one of the last founded in -America. Frank Boyer was educated at the Atlanta Baptist Seminary and later received his bachelor s degree in teacher s education from ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

teacher, landowner, and businessman, was born to Caroline Cox (sometimes recorded as Caroline Griffin) on the Griffin plantation near Ebenezer, in Holmes County, Mississippi, on the eastern edge of the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta. The name of Wayne's father is unknown, but several accounts suggest that his mother was widowed either shortly before or shortly after her son was born.

From an early age, perhaps as early as three or four, Cox worked in the cotton fields of the Griffith plantation alongside his mother. During the years of Reconstruction he benefited from the establishment of the first state-supported public schools for African American children in Mississippi. Though the school year was only a few weeks long, Cox displayed a precocious talent at the Holmes County School, and by age eleven he had completed all of the courses on offer in the school's rudimentary curriculum. In 1875 he won ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

was the first African American and perhaps the first of any color to become a millionaire in Texas. His life reflects substantial changes in the social and legal implications of skin color from the late eighteenth century to the mid-nineteeth century, distinct from, but closely related to, changes in the institution of slavery.

His father was a “free colored” man named William Goyens Sr. (or Goin), born in 1762, who enlisted in a company of the Tenth North Carolina Regiment May 1781–May 1782 for the Revolutionary War. After discharge from the militia, Goyens Sr. married an unknown woman referred to as “white,” who was the mother of the younger William Goyens. Goyens Sr. then remarried a colored woman named Elizabeth in 1793. Goyens Sr. received an invalid pension for North Carolina militia service in 1835, at the age of seventy-two (Research of Cindy Goins Hoelscher ...

Article

Melissa Nicole Stuckey

cofounder of Boley, Oklahoma, the largest all-black town in the United States, was the eldest child of Matthew and Dottie Haynes and was born in Red River County, Texas. Very little is known about Haynes's childhood and young adulthood. He was the eldest of more than twelve brothers and sisters, grew up on a farm, and had very little education during his formative years. By 1900 his parents had moved to Paris, Texas, a small city, which increased the educational opportunities available to Haynes's younger siblings, but whether the move took place early enough to allow Haynes to attend city schools is unknown. In the late 1880s or early 1890s, Haynes married and started a family. In 1899, shortly after his wife, whose name is unknown, passed away, he moved to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Territory, to begin anew. He was soon joined by his daughters, Winnie and George ...

Article

David B. McCarthy

was born Oliver Toussaint Jackson in Oxford, Ohio, the fifth of six children of Caroline Chavons and Hezekiah Jackson. His parents named him after Toussaint Louverture, leader of the Haitian slave revolution of 1791.

At age fourteen Jackson moved to Cleveland, Ohio to work as a steward and caterer at the Vendome Hotel. In 1887 he moved to Colorado and ran catering businesses in Denver and Idaho Springs. On 5 September 1889 he married Sarah “Sadie” Cook, whose sister Jennie was married to Oliver’s older brother James; Sadie was the aunt of composer Will Marion Cook. Census records report that they had one child, who apparently did not survive early childhood.

In December 1892 Jackson began to operate the Stillman Cafe and Ice Cream Parlor in Boulder, Colorado. He and Sadie bought a house on Pine Street in 1893, and in 1894 they bought a farm just ...

Article

R. Iset Anuakan

barber, entrepreneur, and inventor was born in Greene County, Alabama, the oldest of Holly and Olean (Jordan) Morrow's seven children. As a child, Willie worked on a farm planting corn and cotton. He worked in the fields before going to school, and he learned to cut hair by practicing on the children there. He became a barber at the age of seventeen when his mother took him to meet Jim Pierson, the owner of the Oak City Barber Shop in Tuscaloosa. Pierson employed him for three years and gave him a set of Oster clippers that replaced the rudimentary clippers he had used. Barbering became his lifelong vocation and would lead him into the beauty business—a world in which many African Americans had made their fortunes.

In 1959 Morrow took a train to San Diego, California, to work with his uncle, barber Spurgeon Morrow and to ...

Article

Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni

Zimbabwean schoolteacher and farmer, one of the early colonially educated elite in present-day Zimbabwe, was born on 17 July 1920 in Matshetsheni at a place called Mgwanda near Mgwanda Mountain west of the Shake ward and east of the Lumene River in the district of Gwanda His full name was Phinda Mfakazi Sayimana Ndlovu Gatsheni His father Sayimana Simpa Ndlovu Gatsheni traced his historical roots from the Zulu people of South Africa owned a large herd of cattle and was a successful peasant farmer His mother Mnqgibanto Nale Moyo hailed from the Kalanga people of the Matopo area Ndlovu Gatsheni s father was born during precolonial times and experienced the colonial conquests of the 1890s during which white settlers appropriated the land of many Africans Ndlovu Gatsheni was born into a hardworking family that fought fiercely for grazing land for their cattle To this family which treasured its large ...

Article

Loren Schweninger

former slave and wealthy North Carolina planter, was born a slave in Craven County, North Carolina, the son of an African Ibo woman who had been brought to America on a vessel owned by the merchant-shipper John Wright Stanly in the decade prior to the American Revolution. Described as a “dark-skinned mulatto,” he was almost certainly the son of John Wright Stanly, although his apparent father did not acknowledge paternity. As a young boy he was turned over to Alexander Stewart, who captained the ship that brought his mother from Africa, and Stewart's wife, Lydia Carruthers Stewart, who taught Stanly to read and write and arranged for him to open a barbershop in New Bern as a teenager. Intelligent, gracious, and personable, Stanly quickly became a success, and as New Bern expanded commercially, he earned a good livelihood, even as a slave. In 1795 the Stewarts petitioned ...

Article

Nicholas Westbrook

sailor, cooper, soldier, surveyor, farmer, and innkeeper, was born in Lunenburg, Worcester County, Massachusetts. Taylor's father was probably Prince Taylor (?–1804), a slave of John Taylor of Lunenburg. It is not known if the younger Prince Taylor was born a slave or free. In occupation and location, Taylor continually reinvented himself to cope with changing circumstances. He did not marry.

Taylor served as steward on the fourteen-gun brig Diligent under Captain Brown for five months in 1779 during the failed Penobscot expedition, America's greatest naval disaster until Pearl Harbor. In his 1818 Revolutionary War pension deposition, Taylor declared, “I am by trade a Saylor” (Revolutionary War Pension Application, Massachusetts service, dossier #S.42.463, National Archives). On 6 March 1781 he accepted the bounty paid by the town of Lunenburg to enlist in the Continental Army for the next three years His enlistment ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Beninese trader and political leader, was born in the mid-nineteenth century in the kingdom of Dahomey (present-day Benin). His father Padounou Houénou was a leading adviser to Gele, king of Dahomey from 1858 to 1887. His son eventually would follow his father’s career in trade, since Padounou’s main task was to watch over European and Afro-Brazilian traders in the southern port city of Porto-Novo, a vassal of Dahomey. Unfortunately, Tovalou-Quenum’s father backed a rival heir of Glélè to Kondo, the future king of Dahomey. Kondo (later known as Behanzin) had Padounou jailed as a result, and he died in prison in 1887 Tovalou Quenum first chose to settle in Ouidah in part to avoid the court intrigues that had brought so much adversity to his father By the late 1880s Tovalou Quenum had become one of the most wealthy and innovative businessmen in the city Later he moved ...

Article

Darrell M. Milner

George Washington was born near Winchester in Frederick County, Virginia, the son of a mixed-race African American slave father named Washington and a white mother whose name is unrecorded. The nature of his parentage violated social conventions; his father was immediately sold, never to be involved in his life again, and his mother allowed baby George to be adopted by James C. Cochran and his wife, a white family. At age four George moved west with the Cochrans, settling first near Delaware City, Ohio; when he was nine, the family moved farther west, eventually to Bloomington on the Missouri frontier. As a black youth in the slave state of Missouri, Washington was denied a formal education, but he taught himself the rudiments of reading, writing, and mathematics. He also acquired the skills in woodcraft and marksmanship for which he would later become renowned.

By 1841 Washington and a partner ...