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Charles Rosenberg

pioneer settler in Los Angeles County, California, in the 1850s, blacksmith, teamster, firewood salesman, and landowner, was born in Kentucky around 1827. Although it is commonly assumed that he had been enslaved there, he arrived in California a free man prior to the Civil War, and nothing has been established about his previous life.

He was married on 6 November 1859 to a woman named Amanda, born in Texas, by Jesse Hamilton, the earliest pastor of First African Methodist Episcopal church, Los Angeles. Their first two children, Dora and Julia, were born in 1857 and 1859. In 1860 the household included a laborer named Juan Jose, recorded by the census as being of Indian ancestry. Another man of African descent, Oscar Smith from Mississippi lived next door and no race was specified for the other neighbors who had either English or Hispanic names ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

was the first African American and perhaps the first of any color to become a millionaire in Texas. His life reflects substantial changes in the social and legal implications of skin color from the late eighteenth century to the mid-nineteeth century, distinct from, but closely related to, changes in the institution of slavery.

His father was a “free colored” man named William Goyens Sr. (or Goin), born in 1762, who enlisted in a company of the Tenth North Carolina Regiment May 1781–May 1782 for the Revolutionary War. After discharge from the militia, Goyens Sr. married an unknown woman referred to as “white,” who was the mother of the younger William Goyens. Goyens Sr. then remarried a colored woman named Elizabeth in 1793. Goyens Sr. received an invalid pension for North Carolina militia service in 1835, at the age of seventy-two (Research of Cindy Goins Hoelscher ...

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Sholomo B. Levy

minister and blacksmith, was born in Leonardtown, Maryland, the son of Jane and Thomas Henry, slaves of Richard Barnes, the largest slave owner in the district. It is thought that Henry's maternal grandmother, Catherine Hill, had been purchased by the Barnes family on a return trip from England and the Caribbean. Thomas's parents were domestic servants of the Barnes family, which owned tobacco plantations and other business interests. Before his death in 1804, Richard Barnes had stated in his will that his slaves were to be freed; one unusual stipulation he added that suggests a special closeness with these individuals was that the manumitted slaves take the name Barnes.

Thomas, however, did not gain his freedom until almost twenty years after his master's death, because John Thomson Mason a nephew of Richard Barnes and the executor of his estate exploited a growing number of ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

, blacksmith and hero of the 1811 Richmond Theatre fire, was born a slave at the Piping Tavern near the Pamunkey River in King William County, Virginia. The names of his parents are unknown, though his mother appears to have been a slave of the keeper of the Piping Tavern. What little is known of Hunt's life comes from a brief biographical sketch published in Richmond, Virginia, on the eve of the Civil War by Philip Barrett, a white journalist. A transcription of Hunt's reminiscences accounts for much of this sketch of the “meritorious old negro” (5), in which Barrett urges his fellow, predominantly white citizens of Richmond to be profoundly grateful for Hunt's long years of service to the community. Hunt, in Barrett's view, was a man of “high integrity” whose bearing and words betrayed his “true, generous-hearted, disinterestedness” (4).

Hunt arrived in Richmond in the first decade ...

Article

Lucia C. Stanton

Isaac Jefferson was born at Thomas Jefferson's home in Virginia, the son of George, a foreman and overseer, and Ursula, a pastry cook and laundress. In 1773 Thomas Jefferson had purchased Isaac's parents from two different owners in Powhatan County. George rose from foreman of labor to become, in 1797, overseer of Monticello—the only slave to reach that position. Ursula, who became a “favorite house woman” of Martha Jefferson's, was given charge of many of the domestic operations of the plantation.

The slave couple's third son, Isaac, spent his childhood at Monticello near his mother. From an early age he performed simple tasks for the Jefferson household—lighting fires, carrying water and fuel, and opening gates. When Thomas Jefferson became governor of Virginia during the American Revolution, Isaac and his family accompanied their master to Williamsburg and Richmond. During Benedict Arnold s raid on ...

Article

Ned  

Steven J. Niven

slave, blacksmith, and inventor, is known only through his owner's application for a patent for the “Stuart Double Plough and Double Scraper,” which Ned invented on a Holmesville, Mississippi, plantation in the late 1850s. Ned was a slave of Oscar J. E. Stuart, a prominent lawyer and planter in Pike County in the piney woods section of southeast Mississippi, on the border with Louisiana. While the growth of the slave population and the rise of cotton culture was less dramatic in the piney woods than in other parts of the Magnolia State like the Delta—where nearly 90 percent of the population were slaves—by 1860 African American slaves accounted for 45 percent of all Pike County residents The less fertile land in the piney woods led planters there to seek new technologies to compete with planters elsewhere in the state since the Delta s salubrious productive soil had created ...

Article

Frank Afari

Ghanaian agricultural innovator, credited as the first successful planter of cocoa in the Gold Coast (present-day Ghana), was born in Christiansborg (Osu) in 1842 to Ga parents. His father, Mlekuboi, was a farmer from Teshie, and his mother, Ashong-Fio, came from Labadi. Though both parents came from poor backgrounds, and were not literate, they were known to be intelligent people of good moral standing.

Like his father, Quarshie could not read and write. In his youth he trained as a blacksmith at the Basel Missionary Industrial Training Institute at Christiansborg Castle, Osu, where the mission had set up training workshops to promote technical and vocational education in order to meet the growing demand for skilled workmen along the coast. Missionary craftsmen who manned these workshops specialized in training African apprentices in carpentry, masonry, chariot-making, blacksmithing, pottery, shoemaking, hat-making, and bookbinding. In 1854 aged twelve Quarshie was apprenticed to one ...

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Walter C. Rucker

inventor, blacksmith, and farmer, was born Anderson Augustus Redding in Juliette, Georgia, to Anderson and Jane Darden Redding, former slaves and sharecroppers. Though his parents had been slaves on the plantation of James P. Redding—the son of a Virginia planter who fought alongside George Washington at Yorktown—the young Redding managed to acquire his own plot of land in Juliette and was relatively wealthy by the time he turned forty-five. He created a lucrative set of operations that included a syrup mill, a blacksmith shop, and a series of distilleries. In addition, Redding grew a combination of sugarcane and corn on a sizable landholding. He could often be seen in a buggy pulled by his white stallion, George, in Juliette in the 1910s and 1920s—a rare sight indeed in the midst of the so-called Black Nadir.

Redding married a total of three times but his first ...

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Bruce D. Bomberger

inventor of agricultural and other machinery, was born on his parents' farm in Ercildoun, Pennsylvania. His father, Samuel Ruth (1850–1937), was born a slave on the plantation of Robert Frederick Ruth in Beauford District, Saint Peter's Parish, South Carolina. Samuel Ruth came north after being swept up by the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Infantry as a thirteen-year-old and subsequently served as a water boy and then as a personal servant to First Sergeant Stephen A. Swails, later an important figure in the South during Reconstruction. In 1865 Samuel traveled north with two army friends from the Fifty-fourth and the same year married Maria “Louisa” Pinn, the sister of one of his friends and the daughter of the Baptist minister, attorney, and war veteran Robert Andrew Pinn The young newlyweds followed other Fifty fourth veterans to settle in the Pennsylvania Quaker area near the town of Chatham Following ...

Article

Gary L. Frost

Lewis Temple was born in Richmond, Virginia. Nothing is known about his parents or about any formal education he might have had. According to one biographer, he was unable to sign his name. Sometime during the 1820s, Temple migrated to the whaling town of New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he married Mary Clark, a native of Maryland, in 1829. Their first child, Lewis Jr., was born in 1830, followed by a daughter, Nancy, in 1832. Several years later, a third child, Mary, was born, but she died at the age of six.

What little is known about Temple suggests that he was a resourceful and principled individual Whether he escaped Virginia as a slave or left as a freeman is uncertain but in any case he had a better life in Massachusetts than the one he would have led in Richmond apparently finding work in New ...

Article

Gary L. Frost

blacksmith, abolitionist, and inventor, was born in Richmond, Virginia. Of his parents and formal education, nothing is known; according to one biographer, he was unable to sign his name. Sometime during the 1820s Temple migrated to the whaling town of New Bedford, Massachusetts, where in 1829 he married Mary Clark, a native of Maryland. In 1830 their first child, Lewis Jr., was born, followed by a daughter, Nancy, in 1832. Sometime later, a third child, Mary, was born; she died at age six.

What little is known about Temple suggests a resourceful and principled individual Whether he escaped Virginia as a slave or left as a freedman is uncertain but in any case he had a better life in Massachusetts than the one he would have led in Richmond apparently finding work in New Bedford soon after his arrival Town records indicate that ...