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José Antonio Fernández Molina

was born in Sonsonate, currently located in El Salvador. Nothing is known of his early years, but his later actions and writings show that, despite his ethnic category of mulato, he acquired a cultural capital in writing, law, history, the Bible, and the symbolic figures common in Baroque Spanish literature. Abendaño was recognized as mulato letrado, a highly literate mulatto, at a time when literacy was rare among the African-descended population of Spanish America.

Although he had married Lucia Badillo, also from Sonsonate, by 1765 he already lived in Costa Rica He showed his knowledge of basic law regarding maritime trade in a trial related to a ship s contract This expertise probably came from earlier practice because Acajutla the main port on the Central American Pacific coast was an annex to his birthplace As a literate mulatto he became secretary for Juan José de la Madriz ...

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Susan Bragg

tailor, store owner, and newspaper editor, was born in Pennsylvania, to parents whose names and occupations are now unknown. Little is known about Anderson's early life except that he was a member of the Masonic Fraternity, ultimately gaining appointment as Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge for the State of Pennsylvania. Anderson migrated west in the waning days of the California gold rush and in 1854 set up a tailor shop and clothing store in San Francisco. There he plunged into the city's small but energetic black community, a community linked by both the mining economy and by shared protest against injustices in the new state of California.

Anderson soon became a regular contributor to political discussions at the recently organized Atheneum Institute, a reading room and cultural center for black Californians. In January 1855 he and other prominent African Americans joined together to call ...

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David Northrup

Atlantic merchant, was born and lived in Duke Town, a part of the trading community of Old Calabar, near the Cross River in what is now southeastern Nigeria. The names of his parents are unknown. His name is also given as Ntiero Edem Efiom. He married Awa Ofiong, whom he called his “dear wife,” as well as two other wives whose names are not known. His only known child was a son, Duke Antera.

Antera grew up in a family prominent in the marketing of merchandise brought by Europeans in exchange for African slaves and other goods In addition to the local Efik language the young Antera learned to speak English through contact with the British captains and crew who called at Old Calabar The fact that he could also read and write English suggests he may have received some formal education in England as did the sons of other ...

Article

Florencia Guzmán

accomplished master cobbler and organizer of a guild of shoemakers of color in Buenos Aires (Argentina) during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In 1793, with the objective of obtaining official recognition for this guild, he traveled to Spain, where he had a meeting with the royal authorities. While there he managed to obtain the permission he had fought so hard for, but he was prevented from carrying out his plans for the guild because of other restrictions. As a result, he became bitter and left Buenos Aires.

Baquero was born in Buenos Aires in 1748 and began working as an apprentice cobbler at the age of 12 Though no details are known about his parents it is clear that Baquero followed the custom of leaving his home and living with the family of a master cobbler whose scarce resources he shared After four years of working intensely as ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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Barbara A. White

prosperous businessman, whaling captain, and community leader, whose court case against Nantucket led to the integration of the public schools, was a member of one of the largest and most influential black families on the island. His father was Seneca Boston, a manumitted slave, who was a self‐employed weaver. His mother was a Wampanoag Indian named Thankful Micah. They had four sons and one daughter. Absalom Boston, the third‐born, went to sea, as did many of Nantucket's young men, signing onto the whale ship Thomas in 1809 when he was twenty‐four. Little is known about his early education. Anna Gardner, in her memoir Harvest Gleanings, mentions him visiting her family and hints that it may have been her mother, Hannah Macy Gardner, who taught the young man to read.

Shortly before he went to sea, Boston married his first wife, Mary Spywood about whom little is ...

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Benjamin R. Justesen

merchant, public official, religious leader, and longtime state legislator, was born in Perquimans County, North Carolina, the eldest son of free, mixed-race parents John Cail (Cale) and Elizabeth Mitchell, a homemaker, who were married in 1827. His father worked as a miller, later as a fisherman, and moved his large family—as many as nine children—to Edenton in nearby Chowan County in the 1850s. Little is known of Hugh Cale's early life or education, although he had learned to read and write by the end of the Civil War.

After the Union army occupied much of northeastern North Carolina in early 1862, Cale began working as a manual laborer for federal installations at Fort Hatteras and Roanoke Island. In 1867 he moved to Elizabeth City North Carolina where he commenced a singularly successful career as a grocer and held a number of local offices during and after ...

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Benjamin R. Justesen

farmer, shoemaker, and longtime state legislator, was born in Warren County, North Carolina, the third son of free, mixed-race parents Hawkins Carter and Elizabeth Wiggins, who were married in 1845. Few details are known of his early life or education, only that his father, a prosperous farmer, could afford to hire a young white teacher, W. J. Fulford, to tutor his eight children in 1861, the last year before the Civil War.

During the Civil War, the teenage Carter served as an officer's attendant for a Warrenton acquaintance, Captain Stephen W. Jones of the Forty-sixth North Carolina Regiment's Company C, raised at Warrenton in early 1862 Jones s company saw action at Antietam and other battles and Jones was wounded at Spotsylvania Court House where Carter presumably helped care for him The eldest son of the Warren County sheriff and a former deputy sheriff himself ...

Article

Philip J. Havik

merchant and trader in Portuguese Guinea, present-day Guinea-Bissau, was born in the 1780s, in the town of Cacheu on the Guinea coast, into a family with strong connections to administration and commerce in the region. Her father, Manuel de Carvalho Alvarenga, was also Guinean-born; he was descended from Cape Verdeans who had settled there in the 1700s, acting as commanders of the ports of Cacheu, Farim, and Ziguinchor, who intermarried with African women. Her brother, Francisco de Carvalho Alvarenga, became an important trader and held posts in the Portuguese administration in the town of Ziguinchor in the Casamance region (part of Senegal since 1886 Her aunt Josefa de Carvalho Alvarenga was born in the Cape Verde islands and married wealthy officials and owned landed property and slaves in the archipelago Although Rosa de Carvalho Alvarenga s mother s name is unknown she was in all likelihood of Banhun origin ...

Article

Benjamin R. Justesen

carpenter, merchant, public official, and legislator, was born in Beaufort County, near Washington, North Carolina, of unnamed parents, probably free. Little is known of his early life or education, only that he was both free and literate when he moved to Tarboro, the Edgecombe County seat, in 1860, according to that year's federal census.

Within just a decade of his arrival in Tarboro, the mixed-race carpenter acquired significant social standing, a comfortable income, and political influence at both the local and state levels in the state's new Republican Party. Cherry's marriage in March 1861 to Mary Ann Jones (b. 1837) secured his place in the social ranks of the largely African American town. The daughter of a white Edgecombe planter and his free mistress, Miss Jones was the owner of her own house and a respected church leader The rest of her husband s achievements came ...

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John N. Ingham

businessman and politician, was born a free person of color in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Bernard Cohen and Amelia Bingaman, a free woman of color. Although Cohen's father was Jewish, he was raised as and remained throughout his life a Roman Catholic. His parents died when he was in the fourth grade, whereupon he had to quit school, though he later attended Straight University in New Orleans for several years. As a boy Cohen became a cigar maker and later worked in a saloon. His entrée into the world of politics came during the period of Reconstruction, when he worked as a page in the state legislature, then meeting in New Orleans. There, Cohen became acquainted with several influential black Republicans, among them Oscar J. Dunn, C. C. Antoine, and P. B. S. Pinchback Pinchback founder of and dominant figure in the city ...

Article

Bethsaida Nieves

was born on 24 October 1790 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Lucas Andino, a cigar maker and teacher, and Rita Molina, teacher. On his baptismal record, his full name is listed as Rafael Cordero y Molina, and in later life he was known as “El Maestro.” Rafael Cordero’s mother was the daughter of Bibiana Molina, a freewoman of African descent. His father was related to José Campeche, a Puerto Rican artist of African descent, and the son of Juan Eugenio Valentín, a slave of African descent and cigar maker, and Ana Cordero, a freewoman of African descent. It is believed that Rafael’s parents, Lucas Andino and Rita Molina, reclaimed the name “Cordero” as a symbol of Ana Cordero’s freedom. It is not known how Bibiana Molina, Ana Cordero, or Juan Eugenio Valentín obtained their freedom. From 1508 to 1873 slavery was legal and commonly practiced in Puerto Rico ...

Article

Georges E. Fouron

freedman who became a pioneer and fur trader and who is now hailed as the founder of the city of Chicago, was probably born in 1745 in the town of St. Marc in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (today, Haiti). Du Sable (sometimes rendered as du Sable or DuSable) was the son of a black captive from the Congo named Suzanne, and a French mariner and swashbuckler from Marseille, making him a mulatto in Haitian racial nomenclature. It is believed his father’s name was originally Point Dessaible and he later changed it to Du Sable. As was the practice during that period, to elevate their social status in the French colony, many French expatriates would place a “de” or “du” before their name to connote their high-class lineage.

Another much contested version by the historian Milo Milton Quaife claims that his father s name was Pierre He was born in ...

Article

Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable's biography combines conjecture and lore with a few established facts. He was probably born in St. Marc, Saint Domingue (present-day Haiti) around 1750 to a French mariner and an African-born slave. He may have been educated in Paris and employed as a sailor during his young adult life. Du Sable entered North America through either Louisiana or French Canada, and first appeared in historical documents in 1779, when a British officer in the Great Lakes region reported that the local trader “Baptist Point de Sable” was “much in the interest of the French.”

The British detained Du Sable for suspected “intercourse with the enemy,” but he soon impressed his captors as a well-educated and highly capable frontiersman. British governor Patrick Sinclair sent Du Sable to the Saint Clair River region to manage trade and serve as a liaison between Native Americans and ...

Article

Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable is reputed to be the founder of Chicago because he was the first non–Native American to build a home on the future site of the city. As an enterprising free black man on the Revolutionary frontier, Du Sable has become a symbolic figure of great importance to the modern-day African American community, especially in Chicago. The lack of much concrete evidence about his life seems only to enhance his mythic importance as a pioneering black settler and prominent frontiersman. Documents composed by English speakers spell his name variously as “Au Sable,” “Point Sable,” “Sabre,” and “Pointe de Saible.”

Du Sable s birth date is not known It is thought that he was born in the town of Saint Marc on the island of Saint Domingue in what later became the first free black republic in the Americas Haiti At the time of his birth Saint ...

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Jeremy Rich

an influential trader in early nineteenth-century Sierra Leone, was born in the town of Wonkafong in the Sumbuya district near Conakry, Guinea, around 1770. His father, Fendu Modu, was a prominent merchant from the Susu ethnic community who also served as the chief of Wonkafong and advised the ruler of the small Sumbuya kingdom. Dala Modu first came to the fledgling British colony of Sierra Leone in 1794 with his father. Fendu Modu realized the commercial potential of the colony’s capital of Freetown, and so he sent his son and roughly fifty followers to the outskirts of this town in 1795 The community they established would become known as Dalamodiya in honor of Dala Modu Sumbuya was a major producer of white polished rice that was much in demand in Freetown and Fendu hoped to secure new markets for that crop This proved beneficial to the British administration ...

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David E. Paterson

harness maker, state legislator, community organizer, and barber, was born on James Spier's farm, the Hurricane Place, three and a half miles from Thomaston, Upson County, Georgia, the fourth child of Guilford Speer and Viney, two of Spier's slaves. Guilford and Viney separated soon after William was born, and Guilford moved to Thomaston to operate a harness and shoe shop. William probably spent his earliest years with his mother, his three elder brothers, and several younger half siblings on the Hurricane Place, but by the late 1850s William had undoubtedly moved to the village and was learning his father's trade of harness making. In 1863 a devastating fire destroyed three-quarters of downtown Thomaston, and thereafter William probably worked in a shop organized by his father in Barnesville, Pike County, sixteen miles away.

Sometime during the Civil War, William married Lourinda presumably a slave but ...

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Adele N. Nichols

singer, dancer, ventriloquist, and junk merchant, was born in Greenwich Village, New York, on the eve of the Civil War. To date, questions remain about Harmon's real name, parents, siblings, if any, and childhood. In addition, there appears to be no documentation about his years as a performer. The available information indicates that he worked in show business as a singer, dancer, and ventriloquist. Essentially, he was a well-rounded entertainer who had many talents and a knack for the stage. Harmon was married and had two children; however, the names of his wife and children are not readily available. When Harmon was around 38 and 39, his wife and children died from influenza in 1898–1899, during the Spanish American War. Harmon then moved to Harlem and lived in a two-room apartment.

Around 1910 Harmon having left the stage began a new career with a small cart and a ...

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Bruce L. Mouser

trader, traditional medical practitioner, and political arbiter, was born on the coast of Guinea-Conakry. She is also known as Elizabeth, Beth, and Liza Heard. Her likely father was a British merchant attached to commercial firms maintaining factories at Bance Island in the Sierra Leone River or on the nearby Iles de Los. It was customary for African headmen to arrange a husband/wife relationship for resident foreign “strangers”—of which Heard’s father was likely one. Her mother’s name and relationship to local leaders are unknown. At a young age, Betsy was recognized as exceptionally intelligent, and she was sent to Liverpool, where she was boarded and educated, with the expectation that she would return to the Windward Coast as an agent for European commerce and Liverpool interests.

By the 1790s Heard had established a commercial footing at Bereira on the southern Guinea Conakry coast At that time Bereira was a border ...