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Article

Charles Vincent

Allain was born on October 1, 1846, on a plantation in the Parish of West Baton Rouge, Louisiana. A wealthy white man, Sosthene Allain, owned the plantation. Like some other slaveholders, he made one of his slaves, “a pretty brown woman,” his mistress. They had a son, Théophile, who bore the improbable nickname of Soulouque, after the self-proclaimed black dictator of Haiti, Faustin Élie Soulouque. Théophile accompanied his father on trips to the North and to Europe. In 1856 Sosthene Allain sent for his son to join him in France, where he witnessed the christening of the prince imperial at Notre Dame. They journeyed also to Spain and England. Returning to the United States in 1859, young Allain entered school under a Professor Abadie in New Orleans, Louisiana. In 1868 he was enrolled in a private school in New Brunswick New Jersey He owned ...

Article

pianist, educator, and philanthropist, was born a slave in Trenton, Kentucky, to Mary Dickinson, also a slave, and Mr. Leavell, likely a scion of the white Benjamin Leavell family, pioneers of Trenton. According to family history, Josephine's father wanted to send her and her sister to Canada on the Underground Railroad, but their mother objected because of the danger and distance. Sometime between 1868 and 1875 Josephine attended the Nashville Normal and Theological Institute (also known as the Baptist Institute), a college for African Americans that was later renamed Roger Williams University. Daniel W. Phillips, a white Baptist minister, had started the school in 1864, teaching Bible classes to freed people in his home. The school was later acquired by Vanderbilt University and incorporated into its George Peabody campus, a teachers' college.

While at the Baptist Institute Josephine studied music particularly piano and ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

slave narrative author, was born Mary Rice to Spotswood Rice, an enslaved tobacco roller, and a slave woman perhaps named Caroline on a large plantation near Glasgow, Missouri. In addition to Mary, Caroline and Spotswood Rice had three sons and two daughters, who lived with their mother on a Missouri riverside plantation owned by Katherine Diggs. Spotswood Rice lived and worked on Benjamin Lewis's plantation nearby. Interviewed by the Federal Writers Project in St. Louis in 1937 Bell recalled that slavery was a mighty hard life Her narrative is significant in that it was one of the few of the over two thousand recorded for the Federal Writers Project in which one black woman interviewed another about her life in slavery The historian Paul Escott s analysis of several hundred WPA narratives found that former slaves interviewed by black women reported significantly higher levels of dissatisfaction with ...

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William C. Harris

a slave. The identity of his father is unknown, but he took the surname of the man who owned his mother before he was born. His childhood as a slave on a small plantation, first in Virginia, then briefly in Mississippi, and finally in Missouri did not significantly differ, as he later recalled, from that of the sons of whites. This relatively benign experience in slavery perhaps owed a great deal to the fact that he was the light-skinned favorite of a benevolent master and mistress. He shared a tutor with his master's son and thus obtained the education that prepared him for later success. During the Civil War, despite the benevolence of his owner, he fled to freedom in Kansas, but after slavery was abolished he returned to Missouri, where he reportedly established the first school in the state for blacks, at Hannibal.

After the war Bruce briefly attended ...

Article

Carl Moneyhon

John Edward Bush was born a slave in Moscow, Tennessee. In 1862 his master moved him and his mother to Arkansas to keep them from being freed when the Union army moved into western Tennessee. His mother died when Bush was only seven years old. He was educated in the freedmen's and public schools of Little Rock 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 African American contractor, Solomon Winfrey The couple had four children ...

Article

Faye A. Chadwell

attorney, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the daughter of the Canadian-born William Alphaeus Hunton, an executive with the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), and Addie Waites Hunton, a field worker with the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) in Europe. Carter's parents had three other children, but only Carter and her younger brother lived to adulthood. After the race riots of 1906, Carter's family left Atlanta for Brooklyn, New York, where Carter attended public schools. When her mother went to Strasbourg, which was at that time in Germany, to study at Kaiser Wilhelm University from 1909 to 1910, Carter accompanied her.

Carter attended Smith College in 1917, graduating cum laude with a BA and an MA in 1921 Her master s thesis was titled Reform of State Government with Special Attention to the State of Massachusetts Following in her parents footsteps Carter went into public ...

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Kathleen Thompson

Eunice Roberta Hunton Carter was part of a generation of black women lawyers who actively sought positions of power in white mainstream political and civic leadership. She responded to the call for black women lawyers who would work toward racial justice and the protection of women and children. In the year 2000, the Economic Report of the President, issued each year by the White House, stated that, in her time, Eunice Roberta Hunton Carter was “a trailblazer for expanded labor market opportunities for women and minorities.” Her selection as the first black woman district attorney in the State of New York by New York County District Attorney William C. Dodge made her one of the “twenty against the underworld,” as special prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey called his prosecution team Securing the appointment also made Carter a first among black women lawyers in visible and influential civic social and ...

Article

Leonard Schlup

Henry Plummer Cheatham was born near Henderson, Granville (now Vance) County, North Carolina, the son of a house slave about whom little is known. He attended local public schools and worked on farms during the 1860s and 1870s before graduating with honors from Shaw University in 1882. He became principal of the Plymouth Normal School for Negroes, a state-supported institution, and held this position from 1882 until 1884. He returned to Henderson and, after the retirement of the white Republican incumbent, won election as Vance County registrar of deeds, serving in this capacity from 1885 to 1888. During this time he also studied law, though he never established a practice.

Cheatham's career in national politics began in 1888. Unable to agree on a single candidate, delegates to the Republican convention for the Second Congressional District, the so-called “Black Second,” nominated both Cheatham and George A Mebane ...

Article

Stephen Gilroy Hall

John Wesley Cromwell was born a slave in Portsmouth, Virginia, the son of Willis Hodges Cromwell, a ferry operator, and Elizabeth Carney. In 1851 Cromwell's father purchased the family's freedom and moved to West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where Cromwell entered the public schools. In 1856 he was admitted to the Preparatory Department of the Institute of Colored Youth. Graduating in 1864, he embarked on a teaching career. He taught in Columbia, Pennsylvania, and in 1865 opened a private school in Portsmouth Virginia Cromwell left teaching temporarily after an assault in which he was shot at and his school burned down He returned to Philadelphia and was employed by the Baltimore Association for the Moral and Intellectual Improvement of Colored People Then he served as an agent for the American Missionary Association and went back to Virginia He became active in local politics serving as a ...

Article

Alonford James Robinson

Norris Wright Cuney was born in Waller County, Texas. He was in his mid-twenties when the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was passed, guaranteeing citizenship to all African Americans. Cuney became actively involved in political affairs, especially as a member of the Republican Party ...

Article

Archibald Henry Grimké was born a slave in Charleston, South Carolina, to parents Henry Grimké, a European-American plantation owner, and Nancy Weston, an African American slave. Henry Grimké's sisters Sarah and Angelina were prominent white abolitionists. After emancipation, Archibald Grimké attended Lincoln University (Pennsylvania). With the help of his aunts Sarah and Angelina, he attended Harvard Law School. Graduating in 1874, he practiced law in Boston, Massachusetts, where he became editor of Hub, a Boston Republican newspaper in 1884. He also wrote for the Boston Herald and Boston Traveler. He left the Republican Party in 1886 because of its indifference to the plight of African Americans, joined the Democratic Party, and quickly became one of the most powerful African American Democrats in Massachusetts.

As a scholar and writer, Grimké published major biographies of William Lloyd Garrison (1891 and ...

Article

Johnie D. Smith

Grimké, Archibald Henry (17 August 1849–25 February 1930), lawyer, diplomat, and protest leader, was born a slave on “Caneacres” plantation near Charleston, South Carolina, the son of Henry Grimké, a lawyer and planter, and Nancy Weston, the family’s slave nurse. His parents probably never married, but his mother assumed the Grimké name. Grimké had an extremely difficult early life. After years of virtual freedom—he had attended Charleston schools for free African Americans though technically a slave—he and his brother Francis James Grimké were returned to slavery in 1860 to serve his half-brother, E. Montague Grimké, as house servants. Archibald escaped in 1863 (Francis was sold to a Confederate officer) and spent the last two years of the Civil War in hiding, surfacing only after the fall of Charleston.

After the war Grimké briefly attended the Freedmen s Bureau s newly created Morris Street School before enrolling at ...

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Sylvie Coulibaly

lawyer, editor, diplomat, and civil rights activist. Archibald Henry Grimké was born a slave outside Charleston, South Carolina. His white father was the prominent plantation owner Henry Grimké, and his mother was Nancy Weston, a house slave of mixed ancestry. Widowed in 1843, Henry Grimké fathered two more sons with Weston, Francis in 1850 and John in 1852.

When Henry Grimké died in 1852, the family moved to Charleston. Still legally slaves owned by Henry Grimké's son Montague, Weston and her sons lived as free people, according to Henry's wishes. Weston supported the family alone and sent her sons to school at an early age. In 1860 Archibald and Francis became house slaves in Montague's household. They worked for their half brother for two years until Archibald ran away, hiding in Charleston until the Civil War ended.

In 1865 ...

Article

Alston Fitts and Loren Schweninger

Jeremiah Haralson was born a slave on a plantation near Columbus in Muscogee County, Georgia. Sold twice before becoming the property of Jonathan Haralson of Selma, Alabama, a lawyer and the head of the Confederate Niter Works, the self-taught Jeremiah remained in Dallas County as a freedman following the Civil War. There he married Ellen Norwood in 1870, and his son Henry (who later attended Tuskegee Institute) was born.

Loyal to his former master, and unsure about the future of the Republican Party, Haralson entered politics in 1867 as a Democrat. A gifted orator who combined humor and wit with the discussion of serious issues, he campaigned in 1868 for Democratic presidential candidate Horatio Seymour, who, he said, “represented the true principles of philanthropy and national government” (Selma Times, November 4, 1868 When Democrats failed to attract support from newly enfranchised ...

Article

Frank R. Levstik

William H. Holland was born a slave in Marshall, Texas, the son of Captain Byrd “Bird” Holland, who later became secretary of state of Texas. In the late 1850s, while living in Panola County, Bird purchased William and his two brothers, Milton and James, and sent them to Ohio to attend school just prior to the Civil War. William and Milton attended the Albany Enterprise Academy, one of the early educational institutions in the northern United States that was conceived, owned, and operated by blacks.

On October 22, 1864, Holland enlisted in the Sixteenth U.S. Colored Troops. The regiment, organized in Nashville, Tennessee, included enlistees sent from Ohio. During the war, the regiment participated in the battles of Nashville and Overton Hill, the pursuit of Confederate brigadier general John Bell Hood to his defeat at the Tennessee River and garrison duty in Chattanooga as well as ...

Article

Marc Mazique

John Horse (also known as John Cavallo, Juan Cavallo, Cohia, and Gopher John) was born in 1812 in Florida to Charles Cavallo, a Seminole tribesman, and a black woman living among the Seminole people of the then-Spanish territory. The Seminole were a Native American nation made up of Creek refugees and both free blacks (including numerous runaway slaves) and black slaves. While many Seminole owned slaves—Charles Cavallo presumably owned Horse's mother—modern scholars describe the Seminole practice as more feudally based, with slaves enjoying relative liberty and self-determination (families, homes, and property) for giving a percentage of their harvest to their masters. Blacks even set up independent maroon communities, and Seminole and blacks intermarried.

Little is known of Horse's early years. In 1818 he and his mother fled their home in the village of Sewanee to escape the advance of United States troops commanded by General Andrew ...

Article

Debi Hamlin

Hyman, John Adams (23 July 1840–14 September 1891), North Carolina senator and U.S. congressman, was born a slave near Warrenton, Warren County, North Carolina. Nothing is known about his parents. In 1861 Hyman worked as a janitor for a jeweler who with his wife taught Hyman to read and write. When that was discovered, the jeweler and his wife were driven from Warrenton, and Hyman was sold and sent to Alabama. Having been at least eight times “bought and sold as a brute,” as he described it, Hyman in 1865 returned to Warren County, where he was a farmer and store manager. Sometime between 1865 and 1867 he became a trustee of one of the first public schools in Warren County.

Hyman s formal political career began in September 1866 when at the age of twenty six he was a delegate to the Freedmen s Convention of ...

Article

Elizabeth Zoe Vicary

educator, lawyer, and politician, was born near Raleigh, North Carolina, the son of Columbus Johnson and Eliza A. Smith, slaves. He was taught to read and write by Nancy Walton, a free African American, and later attended the Washington School, an establishment founded by philanthropic northerners in Raleigh. There he was introduced to the Congregational Church and became a lifelong member. Johnson completed his education at Atlanta University in Georgia, graduating in 1883. To pay his way through college, he worked as a barber and taught in the summers. After graduation he worked as a teacher and principal, first in Atlanta at the Mitchell Street Public School from 1883 to 1885 and then in Raleigh at the Washington School from 1885 to 1891. While teaching in Raleigh, he studied at Shaw University, obtaining a law degree in 1891 He joined the faculty ...

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Jennifer Fleischner

slave, dressmaker, abolitionist, and White House memoirist, was born Elizabeth Hobbs in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, the daughter of Armistead Burwell, a white slaveholder, and his slave Agnes Hobbs. Agnes was the family nurse and seamstress. Her husband, George Pleasant Hobbs, the slave of another man, treated “Lizzy” as his own daughter, and it was not until some years later, after George had been forced to move west with his master, that Agnes told Lizzy the identity of her biological father. While her mother taught her sewing, the skill that would make her name and fortune, it was George Hobbs who first instilled in Lizzy a profound respect for learning. Ironically, it was Armistead Burwell, who repeatedly told Lizzy she would never be “worth her salt,” who probably sparked her ambition to succeed and prove him wrong.

As a young girl Hobbs lived in ...

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Martha A. Sandweiss

wife of the eminent geologist, explorer, and writerClarence King and litigant, was born in or around West Point, Georgia. Though little is known of her early life, she was almost certainly born a slave and as a young girl acquired the name Ada Copeland. In the mid-1880s she migrated to New York City and found work as a nursemaid. In late 1887 or 1888 Copeland met a man who introduced himself as a Pullman porter named James Todd. They were married in September 1888 by the Reverend James H. Cook a prominent minister with the Union American Methodist Episcopal Church Although Todd represented himself to Ada as a Marylander of African American descent this was a false identity He was in fact Clarence King a socially and politically prominent white man from Newport Rhode Island educated at Yale who had led the Fortieth Parallel Survey ...