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Article

David L. Weeks

military leader, enslaved and later repatriated to Africa, was born in Timbuktu, the son of Ibrahima Sori (d. c.1788), a West African Fulbe king (also called Fulah, Fulani, Peuls), and one of his four wives. ʿAbd al-Rahman's grandfather, a Moor (a North African Muslim), had been king of Timbuktu.

As the son of an almami (Muslim theocratic ruler), ʿAbd al-Rahman was surrounded by wealth and power. He was raised in Futa Jallon, the lush highlands of modern Guinea, in the city of Timbo. After learning to read, write, and recite the Qur’an, Ibrahima went to Jenne and Timbuktu to study with Islamic clerics. At age seventeen, he joined his father's army. His military prowess soon resulted in significant leadership positions. In 1786 Ibrahima married and had a son (al-Husayn).

Fulbe tribesmen traded with Europeans along the African coast 150 miles 240 kilometers away Taking wares ...

Article

Zachary Margolis

was born a slave in Connecticut, according to his military records. Andrew's birth year is unclear; his military records state that he was born in 1750, but his death records indicate a birth year of 1743. Nothing is known about his parents or early years.

Andrew was enslaved in Wethersfield, Connecticut until 20 May 1777. He was then released by John Wright and Luke Fortune, on the condition that he serve in the Continental Army; he served during the Revolutionary War, in the Connecticut Line as a corporal in the company of Francis Bernard (1740–1828) in the 18th Connecticut Regiment, fighting in and around New York City.

After three years of service Andrew was discharged from the army in 1780. On 1 June 1780 he received a total of £11 0 1 ¾ for his service On note number 652 issued to Andrew ...

Article

Bernard Gainot

representative in the French Directory government (1795–1799), was born a slave around the year 1758 in Cap-Français, now Cap-Haïtien, Haiti. His master, Pierre Antoine, a free black man from Le Cap, who was an entrepreneur and mason, took Jean-Louis along with him as an aide-de-camp to the Savannah expedition in 1779 during the American War of Independence. More than five hundred free men of color, many of them from Le Cap, fought as allies of the Americans against the British. Upon his return, Jean-Louis was freed for an amount of £300, according to the notarial deed dated 3 May 1783, as a reward for his faithful service to Antoine.

The slave Jean Louis then became Jean Louis Annecy a surname probably originating from the designation of a house often found on the plains of the Cape and frequently spelled Ansy He may have been the owner of ...

Article

David W. Bishop

James Armistead had been the slave of William Armistead of New Kent County, Virginia, before being granted permission by his master in March 1781 to serve with General Lafayette, a French statesman who was fighting on the side of the colonists. By July 7, 1781, Armistead was able to infiltrate the headquarters of British general Charles Cornwallis, ostensibly as a servant hired to spy on the Americans but in reality a patriot who spied on the British. Although his birth and early childhood remain in obscurity, he is remembered for his written intelligence reports relating to the Yorktown campaign that ended the Revolutionary War. In the spring of 1781 Cornwallis had moved his British forces from the Carolinas into Virginia quartering near Portsmouth and practically controlled Virginia Lafayette quartered near Richmond at New Kent County Court House and Williamsburg with American forces half the size of ...

Article

Mariana Isabel Lorenzetti

was born in Kalibali (Angola). According to the historian Julián Caceres Freyre (1984), Barbarín was brought in Buenos Aires as a slave at the end of the eighteenth century. In Argentina he married Simona Sarrete, with whom he had seven children. Alongside other enslaved men, Barbarín participated in the defense of the city during the so-called “English Invasions” (1806–1807) carried out by the British Empire in the territory of the Viceroyalty of Río de la Plata, then under Spanish colonial rule. The scholar Carmen Bernand (2010) observes that after the victorious defense of the city the cabildo local government rewarded the slaves by liberating the wounded granting them an annual pension of six pesos and carrying out an emancipation lottery among the rest of the slaves It is estimated that more than 1 000 enslaved men participated in the defense of the ...

Article

María de Lourdes Ghidoli

who achieved the rank of colonel in the Unitarian militia, a political faction in Argentina. In the nineteenth century, he was one of the best-remembered soldiers of African descent, and his life transcended the boundaries of his community. He was born on 23 December in the city of Mendoza. His parents were African slaves, and he himself was a slave of Cristóbal Barcala, a native of Granada (Spain), whose last name he was given, as was the custom. He married Petrona Videla, with whom he had at least three children: Eusebio Toribio, Raymunda de la Concepción, and Ana del Corazón de Jesús. He was also the father of a son born out of wedlock, Celestino Barcala, who was a soldier like Lorenzo and fought the federals in the 1860s.

It is not known when and how Lorenzo Barcala got his liberty Some biographies indicate that General José de San Martín ...

Article

Known as “the Black Caballero” for the leading role he played in the Viceroyalty of la Plata's war of independence from Spain. Barcala was named colonel for his leadership. Born a slave in Mendoza, Argentina, Barcala was freed in 1813.

See also Uruguay.

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

Civil War soldier and Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Saint Mary's County, Maryland. He was likely enslaved for most or perhaps all of his life prior to his military service. The 1860 Federal Census Slave Schedules for Saint Mary's County indicate that one J. A. Barnes owned eight slaves aged four to thirty, one of them a fourteen-year-old boy who was probably William Henry Barnes. How he came to join the Union Army is unknown; Barnes may have been freed prior to the war, or he may have run away from his master to seek military service. Whatever the circumstance, Barnes enlisted in the 38th U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) regiment at Norfolk, Virginia, on 11 February 1864, stating his age as twenty-three and his occupation as that of a farmer.

The 38th USCT spent its first months after its formation stationed in the area of Norfolk ...

Article

Marlene L. Daut

Medal of Honor recipient, actor, and playwright, was born in Richmond, Virginia, of unknown parentage. Beaty (sometimes spelled Beatty) was born a slave, but little else is known of his early years or how he came to be free. Beaty left Richmond in 1849 for Cincinnati, where he would spend the majority of his life, and became a farmer. Later, Beaty's education consisted of an apprenticeship to a black cabinetmaker in Cincinnati, as well as a tutelage under James E. Murdock, a retired professional actor and dramatic coach.

On 5 September 1862 Powhatan Beaty along with 706 other African American men was forced to join Cincinnati s Black Brigade after Confederate troops repeatedly threatened the city The Black Brigade was one of the earliest but unofficial African American military units organized during the Civil War but it did not engage in any military action since the city was ...

Article

Kate Tuttle

James P. Beckwourth, born of mixed-race parentage in Fredericksburg, Virginia, escaped an apprenticeship to a St. Louis, Missouri blacksmith and went west, taking a job with the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. He became an experienced trapper and fighter in the sparsely settled western territories. In 1824 the Crow Indian tribe adopted Beckwourth, who then married the daughter of the chief and earned such renown in battle that he was renamed Bloody Arm. Although he left the tribe after several years—and after earning honorary chief status—he continued a lifelong friendship with the Crows.

Criss-crossing the western and southern frontiers, Beckwourth worked as a guide, prospected for gold, served as a United States Army scout during the third Seminole War and was a rider for the Pony Express He also worked with California s Black Franchise League in an effort unsuccessful at the time to repeal a law barring blacks from ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

mountain man, fur trapper and trader, scout, translator, and explorer, was born James Pierson Beckwith in Frederick County, Virginia, the son of Sir Jennings Beckwith, a white Revolutionary War veteran and the descendant of minor Irish aristocrats who became prominent Virginians. Little is known about Jim's mother, a mixed-race slave working in the Beckwith household. Although he was born into slavery, Jim was manumitted by his father in the 1820s. In the early 1800s, Beckwith moved his family, which reputedly included fourteen children, to Missouri, eventually settling in St. Louis. Some commentators suggest that Beckwith, an adventurous outdoorsman, was seeking an environment less hostile to his racially mixed family.

As a young teenager, after four years of schooling, Jim Beckwourth as his name came to be spelled was apprenticed to a blacksmith Unhappy as a tradesman he fled to the newly discovered lead mines in Illinois s Fever ...

Article

Philippe Girard

also known as Jean-Baptiste Mars or Timbaze, was a slave, freedman, officer, and deputy from the French colony of Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti). He was the first black deputy in the French Parliament and introduced the 1794 law that abolished slavery in the French colonies.

Belley’s origins are uncertain. By his own account, he was born on Gorée Island near present-day Senegal around 1747 and transported to Cap-Français (Cap-Haïtien) around the age of 2, presumably as part of the Atlantic slave trade. Another document, however, lists his birthplace as Léogane in 1755 Saint-Domingue. After obtaining his manumission, Belley, like many free people of color, acquired slaves. As a member of a Dominguan mixed-race unit, he may also have taken part in the 1779 siege of Savannah in support of the American Revolution, where he allegedly gained the warlike nickname of “Mars.”

Belley’s role during the Haitian Revolution, which began in 1789 ...

Article

Jane G. Landers

former slave who became one of the leaders of the 1791 slave revolt on Saint-Domingue, was born on that French Caribbean island in the late eighteenth century. Biassou’s African-born mother, Diana, was a slave in Providence Hospital, affiliated with the Fathers of Charity, in the capital city of Cap-Français. Nothing is known of his father, Carlos. As an adult, Biassou served as a slave driver on a sugar estate owned by the Jesuit order in Haut de Cap. On 14 August 1791 Biassou joined other slave drivers at the Lenormand de Mézy plantation to plan the revolt that changed history. On 22 August 1791 several thousand slaves across the island’s northern plain set fire to the cane fields and great houses, and smashed the sugar-refining equipment on more than thousand plantations.

After the revolt s leader Boukman Dutty was killed Biassou assumed command of the slave armies sharing leadership with ...

Article

Billy  

William Seraile

The treason case of Billy is more significant for what it says about the ambivalence toward slavery of Thomas Jefferson and other Virginians than for the light it sheds on the life of Billy, or Will. Ironically, in 1710 another slave named Will had a brief flirtation with history. This earlier Will was freed for “his fidelity … in discovering a conspiracy of diverse negros … for levying war” in Virginia.

The Will, or Billy, of the treason case was the slave of Colonel John Tayloe, a resident of Richmond County, Virginia. Billy and others were arrested and convicted of seizing an armed vessel on 2 April 1781 in order to wage war against Virginia. He was condemned to death by the court of Oyer and Terminer in Prince William County on 8 May. Henry Lee and William Carr dissenting justices noted that he was not a citizen ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

Medal of Honor winner, was born into slavery in Santee, South Carolina. When war came he was a slave on the Arthur Blake Plantation on the South Santee River, McClellanville, South Carolina, possibly the same plantation on which he was born. The Blake Plantation, one of many rice plantations in the area, was no small affair; according to the 1860 census it had 538 enslaved men and women and was the twelfth largest plantation in the country. When the Union navy invaded the coastal areas of South Carolina, it not only created widespread panic among slave‐holders but also influenced many of those who were enslaved to emancipate themselves and flee to freedom. In May 1862, with the Union navy off the coast of South Carolina, Robert Blake and four others, Prince, Michael, Jack, and Captain Blake fled the Blake Plantation All were picked up by ...

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

Steven J. Niven

sailor, Civil War veteran, and laborer, was born in Liverpool, England, to James Bond, a carter in that city's dockland, and Eliza Kelly. As one of the British Empire's major port cities, Liverpool was home to many migrants. James Bond was of African descent, though it is unclear how long he and his family had lived in England. Kelly was an immigrant from Ireland, probably of the Roman Catholic faith, but the child was baptized as an Anglican, the established state church in England, which was perhaps also James Bond's faith.

Though we know few details of his early life it is probable that Bond witnessed discrimination and violence against both black and Irish immigrants Shortly after Bond s birth the family moved to the Toxteth section of Liverpool then as now the city s most ethnically diverse and desperately poor neighborhood It is not known whether he ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

Civil War and Indian Wars soldier and Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Prince George County, Maryland. Nothing is known of his early life; he was likely born enslaved, but if so, the circumstances in which he gained his freedom are unknown. His military service began when he enlisted in the Union Army from St. Mary's County, Maryland, on 5 February 1864. Boyne served in Battery C of the 2nd U.S. Colored Light Artillery and saw action in and around Richmond, Virginia, during the last year of the Civil War at Wilson's Wharf and City Point. Boyne and his regiment were subsequently sent westward, and he ended the war stationed in Texas. In March 1866 Thomas Boyne was discharged from the army at Brownsville Texas as his regiment like all other volunteer regiments that served in the Civil War black and white was disbanded when the army ...

Article

Laura Murphy

memoirist and soldier, was born in Clark County, Kentucky, twenty miles southeast of Lexington (where, in the decades leading to the Civil War, slaves accounted for approximately half of the population), to an enslaved mother and her white owner, John Bell Bruner. He had two siblings, also presumably the children of his master.

Bruner ran away many times as a young man—on one occasion he even made it all the way to the Ohio River—but each time was recaptured and returned to increasingly brutal treatment. Frustrated by Bruner's repeated escape attempts, his master had a set of leg shackles specially made to tie his slave to the wall each night to keep him from running. Bruner's owner also forced him to march through the town wearing the shackles as a warning to other slaves who might consider running away.

Soon after Peter Bruner s last unsuccessful escape attempt this ...

Article

Genevieve Skinner

Civil War veteran, preacher, and teacher, was born free to an English sea captain and an African American mother on a ship sailing on the Atlantic Ocean. When Angus was two years old, his father died, and Angus and his mother were sold into slavery in Virginia, and later taken to Kentucky. He spent a majority of his early years in Virginia and learned how to read prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, an illegal pursuit for slaves. In 1864, now enslaved in Kentucky, at the age of sixteen Burleigh ran away from his master and enlisted in the Union Army at Frankfort, Kentucky. Upon enlisting Burleigh was trained at Camp Nelson in Kentucky, which was one of the largest areas for gathering African American soldiers during the Civil War. Burleigh became a sergeant with Company G 12th United States Colored Troops U ...