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Jason Philip Miller

servant of Lieutenant Colonel William Washington (1752–1810), hero of the Battle of Cowpens in 1781, is a figure largely lost to history, known exclusively for a single act of heroism for which he has been sometimes celebrated as an early black American patriot and hero of the Revolutionary War.

Though slavery had been slow to find a foothold in Great Britain's New World holdings, by 1776 the practice had become widespread and existed in all thirteen colonies Despite this and despite the paradox of slaves who were noncitizens fighting in a war for national independence black people were quick to join the national debate about the direction in which Americans ought to go Sensing advantage the British sought to exploit this moment by offering freedom to the slaves of the rebels in the southern colonies hoping to arouse fears among slaveholders of slave revolts Thousands of ...

Article

Brian Tong and Theodore Lin

retiring room attendant, activist, most renowned for winning the 1873 Supreme Court Case Railroad Company v. Brown, was born Katherine Brown in Virginia. There are many variations of her name; in some documents, she is referred to as “Catherine Brown,” “Katherine Brown,” “Kate Brown,” or “Kate Dodson.” In the New York Times article “Washington, Affairs at the National Capital,” her name appears as “Kate Dostie.” Very few records of Brown's life survive today; as a result, much of her childhood and personal life remains unknown.

Kate Brown's recorded personal life begins with her marriage to Jacob Dodson. Jacob Dodson had a colorful past. Born in 1825, Dodson was a freeman. He spent most of his early life as a servant for the Missouri senator Thomas Hart Benton, but in 1843 Dodson began to accompany John C. Fremont, son-in-law of Senator Benton ...

Article

Timothy J. McMillan

slave, janitor, magistrate, teacher, principal, and the first black elected official in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, was born Wilson Swain at the home of University of North Carolina president David Swain in Chapel Hill. His father was (Doctor) November Caldwell, a slave of the former university president Joseph Caldwell; his mother was Rosa Burgess, a slave of Swain's. Under the law and practice of slavery in North Carolina, children took on the surnames of their owners, not of their fathers. As a child Wilson Swain was a personal servant to Robert Swain, his owner's son, and then as a young teenager he was an apprentice to the University of North Carolina's chief gardener, Mr. Paxton. In violation of law and custom, but due, no doubt, to the university atmosphere, he was taught to read and write.

As an adult Wilson Swain served the University of North Carolina ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

servant and legal pioneer, was born Joao Geaween in Africa, probably in Angola, and was among the first generation of Africans captured and brought to the English colony of Virginia in the late 1620s and early 1630s. At that time, indentured servants from the British Isles vastly outnumbered the few hundred Africans in the colony. Graweere worked as a servant near James City for a white colonist, William Evans It is not clear whether Graweere was a servant for life or for a fixed term but like most early Virginia settlers white and black he probably helped to cultivate and harvest his master s tobacco which became the colony s staple export commodity in the 1620s Court records show however that Evans also allowed his servant Graweere to keep hogs and make the best benefit thereof to himself provided that Evans might have half the increase of any ...

Article

Joe  

Glenn Allen Knoblock

survivor of the battle of the Alamo, was a slave about whom little is known. He was living with his master in Harrisburg, Texas, in May 1833 and was sometimes rented out as a laborer. One man that rented him was a young lawyer named William Barret Travis. Having arrived in Texas in 1831, Travis was undoubtedly in need of hired help while establishing his law practice. He purchased Joe on 13 February 1834, while living in San Felipe. The time that Joe was owned by Travis, though short, came during the most legendary time in Texas history.

Joe's specific activities from 1834 to 1836 are unknown that Joe would remain a slave he likely knew well as his master was occupied during his first years in Texas working to gain the return of runaway slaves harbored at the Mexican garrison at Anahuac However Joe s ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

early legal petitioner for freedom, was born near present-day Newport News, Virginia, to an unknown slave woman and Thomas Key, a white Englishman. Key served as a burgess in Virginia's colonial assembly. That Elizabeth's mother is described in colonial records simply as a “slave” is significant for two reasons. First, it means that she was probably not a Christian, since African-born or descended slaves and servants who followed that faith were usually characterized as such in the legal record. Second, it suggests that at least some Africans were being classified as lifetime chattel in Virginia as early as the 1620s, when there were only a few hundred blacks in the colony.

Like that of her mother and of others of African descent in seventeenth century Virginia the precise legal status of Elizabeth Key was not clearly defined Was she free like her father Or a slave like her mother ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

slave of George Washington, attending to him throughout the War of Independence, was likely born in Virginia and was initially the slave of Colonel John Lee of Westmoreland County, Virginia. After his owner's death in 1767, William Lee, who would retain his former master's surname for his entire life, was purchased by George Washington at auction in October 1767. The purchase price of William was high for the time, over sixty-one pounds, and was paid by Washington with a bond that came due in April 1769. At this same time, Washington also purchased from the Lee estate William's brother, Frank, described much like William as a “mulatto,” and two “negro” boys, Adam and Jack (Wiencek, 131). Subsequently transported to their new home at Washington's Mount Vernon estate, Adam and Jack were likely employed as field hands, while William and Frank Lee were set to work inside ...

Article

Naseeb Mirza and Laurne Williams

indentured servant and legendary Texas patriot, the “Yellow Rose of Texas,” was born in New Haven, Connecticut, as a free black woman. Little is known about her childhood or her family. West's first appearance in the public record is in 1835 when she traveled to the “wilderness of Texas” (Harris, p. 530). She signed a contract with agent James Morgan on 25 October 1835 to work as a housekeeper for a year at the New Washington Association's hotel in Morgan Point, Texas, serving as an indentured servant. In return for her housekeeping services, Morgan agreed to pay West $100 a year, and to provide her and thirteen other employees transportation from New York to Galveston Bay, Texas. West also traveled with Emily de Zavala, wife of the interim vice president of the Republic of Texas.

On 16 April 1836 during the absence of James Morgan who had gone to ...