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James G. Spady

One of thirteen children, Robert Mara Adger was born in Charleston, South Carolina. His father, Robert Adger, was black, and his mother, Mary Ann Morong, was Native American. In 1848 the family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Adger's father first found a job as a waiter in the Old Merchant's Hotel. Later, while working as a nurse, he industriously saved enough funds to open a furniture business. He was involved in many activities and was a founder of the Benjamin Banneker Institute.

Robert Mara Adger received his early training at the Bird School, an early black educational institution in the United States. During his teenage years, he worked in his father's furniture stores, which had expanded from one in 1850 to three by 1858 Serving as a manager provided him with the business experience that he later found valuable as director of the Philadelphia Building and ...

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John Gilmore

Writer, art collector, and owner of plantations in Jamaica. He was the son of William Beckford, on whose death in 1770 he inherited an enormous fortune. This came under his control when he attained his majority in 1781 and for many years enabled him to travel extensively in Europe, to fund his enthusiasm for building Fonthill Abbey in Wiltshire as a Gothic extravaganza to house himself and the books, pictures, and works of art that he collected on a prodigious scale. In the 1790s his income was estimated at well over £100,000 a year, and in 1809 the poet Lord Byron hailed him as ‘England's wealthiest son’. From the 1820s the income from his Jamaican estates declined significantly, and he was forced to sell Fonthill and major parts of his collections. Beckford is remembered as the author of the novel Vathek an Orientalist fantasy published in ...

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Charles Rosenberg

the first African American to manage a public library, founded a widely acclaimed program to train African Americans as library assistants in Louisville, Kentucky, where he supervised the first library department established for African Americans in an era of Jim Crow exclusion. Blue was the first person of African descent to appear in an American Library Association conference program (1922) and a founder of the Conference of Colored Librarians in 1927.

Blue was born in Farmville, Virginia, the second child of Noah and Henri Ann Crowly Blue, who had previously been enslaved. By 1870, Noah Blue was listed in the U.S. Census as a carpenter; he may have been the twelve-year-old male listed in the 1850 slave census as the property of Thomas Blue District No 24 Hampshire County Virginia now West Virginia The family included a six year old daughter Alice and a ...

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Charles Rosenberg

book collector, historian, and journalist, was born in Philadelphia to George Bolivar, and Elizabeth LeCount Proctor Bolivar. There is some uncertainty about his precise year of birth, with historians suggesting 1844 (Silcox) or 1849 (Welborn), while census data inclines toward an 1847 date. His father was employed as a sailmaker by James Forten, a local businessman and founder of the Philadelphia Library Company of Colored Persons.

The family numbered themselves among the “O.P.”—Old Philadelphians—of the African American community. George Bolivar had been born in Philadelphia, to a Pennsylvania-born mother and a father from North Carolina. Elizabeth Bolivar was born in Pennsylvania to parents born in Maryland (1850 census). In 1850George Bolivar owned real estate valued at $8,000, while a North Carolina–born cousin, Nicholas Bolivar, lived with the family, working as a tailor. Throughout Bolivar s life there were relatives or ...

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Charles Rosenberg

librarian, journalist, and African Methodist Episcopal lay church leader, was born in Shannon, Mississippi, the son of William and Sarah Forbes, who had been enslaved until freed by the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, the arrival of the United States Army in Mississippi, and the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Working at a young age in brickyards and farms, Forbes left the state at the age of fourteen, attended Wilberforce University in Ohio for a time, then moved to Boston in the 1880s. Mr. and Mrs. Mungin of Smith Court, a forgotten couple who assisted many struggling students, assisted him in finding work as a laborer at Memorial Hall in nearby Cambridge, saving money and studying. In 1888 Forbes enrolled at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts, where he was a classmate of Sherman W. Jackson later principal of M Street High School in ...

Article

Robin Jones

art educator and art collector, was born in Chicago to Eugene Renfroe and Bertha Wiley and grew up on the South Side with her brothers Everett and Earl. She graduated from Bowen High School and received a teacher's certificate from Chicago Normal College, becoming an elementary art teacher in the Chicago public schools. African American teachers were a rarity in mainstream public schools, and Huggins broke into a segregated teaching field, advancing from teacher to district supervisor of arts. To enhance her qualifications for the supervisor position, she returned to school to obtain her bachelor's degree, graduating from the University of Chicago in 1933. In 1956 she received her master's degree in art education from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

When Huggins entered the teaching profession American public schools were barely one hundred years old and still in the developmental stages Indeed art and music were not ...

Article

Robert L. Harris

The youngest child of George and Eliza Murray, Daniel Murray was born on March 3, 1852, in Baltimore, Maryland. He was named after Daniel Alexander Payne, the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) bishop who pastored Baltimore's Bethel Church from 1845 to 1850. Shortly after 1861, Murray left home for Washington, D.C., where his brother managed the restaurant in the United States Senate. In 1871 he became a personal assistant to the librarian of Congress, Ainsworth R. Spofford. Under Spofford's tutelage Murray broadened his knowledge, became proficient in several foreign languages, and acquired invaluable research skills. In 1879 he married Anna Evans, a graduate of Oberlin College in Ohio. Her uncle, Lewis Sheridan Leary, and cousin, John Anthony Copeland Jr., had participated in John Brown's antislavery raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia). Advancing to assistant librarian in 1881 ...

Article

Elizabeth Simoneau

librarian, bibliographical researcher, and political figure, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the youngest son of George Murray, a free black who worked as a timber inspector, and Eliza (Wilson) Murray, a woman of mixed African and American Indian ancestry. Daniel Murray, who was named after his father's close friend, the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church bishop Daniel Alexander Payne, began school at the age of five at a small primary school in his neighborhood. He continued to study in Baltimore public schools and entered a Unitarian seminary, graduating in 1869. On 19 April 1861 he witnessed the attack on the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment in Baltimore. An early account of Murray's life in Colored American Magazine reported that as a young boy he supplied Union soldiers with water during an attack in Baltimore and earned accolades for spying a rebel soldier trying to ...

Article

Betty Kaplan Gubert

historian, bibliophile, and curator, was born Arturo Alfonso Schomburg in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the son of Mary Joseph, an unwed midwife or laundress who had been born free in 1837 on St. Croix, Virgin Islands. His father's name is unknown, though Schomburg recorded that he was born in 1839, the son of a German émigré merchant.

Details of Schomburg s education are also sparse He may have attended the College of St Thomas a secondary school but there is no documentation Schomburg knew French and his writings in Spanish are both grammatically correct and eloquent His lack of formal education ate away at him all his life and it was surely one of the spurs to his untiring search for information and his efforts to make the results widely known As a child he belonged to a club of young people who studied history ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

journalist, compositor at the Government Printing Office, collector of books and manuscripts on African American history, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, to Charles Henry and Sarah Smith Slaughter. Since Proctor is not his mother's family name, his parents may have chosen to name him after the one-time Kentucky governor of the same name, who died in 1830. Charles Henry Slaughter died when his son was six years old. Slaughter sold newspapers to support himself and his mother. She often heard him read aloud from printed descriptions of slave life, which, having been enslaved at birth, she knew were untrue, and told him so. The existence and frequency of slave uprisings were among the many details she exposed.

Slaughter graduated from Louisville Central High School in keeping with Kentucky law at the time students considered white were sent to other schools He was salutatorian of his class and ...

Article

Connie Park Rice

fraternal and community leader, was born in Kanawha County, West Virginia, the son of Lewis Starks, a cooper, and Mary Starks. While attending the public schools in Charleston, West Virginia, Starks worked as a cooper's apprentice, making and repairing wooden barrels, and later worked in shops along the Elk River.

Dissatisfied with the cooper s trade he took a job as janitor in the offices of the Kanawha Michigan Railroad The constant clicking of the telegraph apparatus intrigued Starks so he bought a minimal amount of telegraph equipment to practice on and convinced one of the operators to teach him how to operate it Soon he was taking the place of absent operators becoming the first black telegraph operator for the Kanawha Michigan Railroad A railroad official a Colonel Sharp soon noticed the ambitious young man and employed him to work as a telegraph operator at the ...

Article

teacher, high school principal, and librarian, was the first African American public school teacher in Little Rock, Arkansas. She was born to slave parents, William Wallace Andrews (usually known as Wallace) and Caroline Sherman Andrews, in Little Rock. When he was four years old, Wallace Andrews had begun working in the home of Colonel Chester Ashley, later the U.S. senator from Arkansas and Little Rock's most prominent citizen. The Ashleys were unusually generous with their slaves, and the senator's wife, seeing Wallace's keen intellect, taught him to read. After Wallace Andrews married Caroline Sherman Colonel Ashley worked with Caroline s owner to enable Caroline to hire her time out This made it possible for the young couple to live together and gave them a home in which to live Caroline Andrews ran a laundry business from her home to compensate her owners for permission ...

Article

librarian, educator, and writer, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the only child of Daniel P. Williams, from a prominent African American family in Ohio, and Mary Kilkary, a white woman born in Tipperary, County Cork, Ireland. Williams attended public schools, graduated from the Cleveland Central High School, and enrolled at Adelbert College of Western Reserve University (later Case Western Reserve University). Though fair enough to pass for white, Williams never hid his racial heritage, and despite the prevailing racism of the era he flourished in college. Acknowledged by his instructors and peers as an outstanding student and athlete, Williams was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in his junior year and participated in a number of team sports, varsity baseball among them. He received his bachelor's degree in 1892 and was class valedictorian.

After graduation Williams was appointed first assistant librarian of Adelbert College, and in 1894 ...