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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 ...

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Charles Rosenberg

best known as the reputed inventor of the potato chip, who established his own restaurant in the resort community of Saratoga Springs, New York. His ancestry and ethnicity are a matter of speculation; he may have been best described in Saratoga Springs, New York: A Brief History as “of thoroughly mixed American blood.” He is generally reported in census data from 1850 to 1880 as mulatto and in later censuses as black. It is commonly said that his mother was of Native American descent and that he “looked Indian.”

Crum was born in Malta, New York, to Abraham (or Abram) Speck and his wife Catherine. Although oral accounts suggest Speck was from Kentucky and possibly had been enslaved there, the 1820 Federal Census shows a “Free Colored Person” male, age twenty-six to forty-five, of that name, living in New York, and the 1840 Census shows a free ...

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Steven J. Niven

body servant and minister, was born a slave at Stafford House, on the Potomac River in Westmoreland County, Virginia. The names of Lee's parents are not known, but shortly after the death of his mother he was taken to the Arlington Heights, Virginia, home of Robert E. Lee, later to command the Confederate army of northern Virginia during the Civil War. William Mack Lee married in 1855, but his brief autobiography does not mention the name of his wife, who died in 1910, nor the names of his eight daughters, the youngest of whom was born in 1875. The couple also had twenty-one grandchildren and, as of 1918, eight great-grandchildren.

Lee does not state precisely when he began serving Marse Robert whom he describes as one of the greatest men in the world but his autobiography notes erroneously that Robert E Lee freed all ...

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Steven J. Niven

cook and laborer, was born in Lawrenceville, Virginia, probably in 1862 or 1863. The names of his parents have not been recorded, and it is not known whether or not they were enslaved at the time of their son's birth. Indeed, but for the discovery of a package of letters written to Channing Lewis by Alice Hanley, a white Irish American woman, his life would have been largely lost to history. The letters, enclosed in a black lace stocking, fell from the attic of a house undergoing renovation in Northampton, Massachusetts, in spring 1992. When workmen opened up a hole in the ceiling, the stocking fell. Its contents provide a unique perspective on the southern black migrant experience and on the everyday life of black and white working-class people in New England at the turn of the twentieth century.

The letters also reveal a far from ...

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Steven J. Niven

cook and survivor of the 1864 Fort Pillow Massacre in Tennessee, was born a slave near Brown Mills, Virginia (later Pentress, West Virginia). Practically all that is known about him can be found in his testimony before a joint committee of the U.S. Congress about the Fort Pillow Massacre. He testified that he had been a slave of a man named Colonel Hardgrove in Virginia and had run away from him early in the Civil War then he returned to his master for a short period then ran away again Thompson s indecision was not at all unusual among young male slaves during the Civil War Union advances into Confederate territory emboldened many slaves to make their escape just as Confederate counterattacks gave pause to would be escapees Whatever his hesitation Thompson twice risked being captured by slave patrollers or taken by Confederate troops while making his way to ...

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De Anne Blanton

cook, laundress, and Buffalo Soldier, was born into slavery in Independence, Missouri. Nothing is known of her parents, except that her father was reported to be a free black man. At some point in her early childhood, she went with her master's family to a farm near Jefferson City, where she toiled as a house servant until the start of the Civil War.

Probably in the summer of 1861, when she was nearly seventeen years old, Williams fled the plantation and joined the large group of escaped and newly freed slaves seeking the protection of Union troops occupying Jefferson City. Within months she was pressed into service as a laundress and cook for a Union regiment, possibly the Eighth Indiana Infantry. She maintained that position for nearly two years, accompanying the troops on campaigns in Missouri and Arkansas. In the summer of 1863 Williams found ...