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Article

George Michael La Rue

preeminent trans-Saharan merchant and caravan leader (khabir) from the Sudanese kingdom of Darfur, was born in Kubayh, the son of Ibrahim ibn ʿAli, a Tirayfi merchant from Kordofan who immigrated to Darfur, and an unknown mother. He was commonly known as khabir ʿAli. In the nineteenth century Darfur was Egypt’s leading supplier of trans-Saharan goods including ivory, ostrich feathers, and slaves. In 1838, when Darfur’s sultan Muhammad Fadl died, young ʿAli ibn Ibrahim had already crossed the Sahara along the route from Kubayh (Darfur’s commercial capital) to Asyut in Upper Egypt, perhaps as part of a caravan led by his mentor, paternal uncle, and future father-in-law, Muhammad Kannun, or one of the lesser Tirayfi caravan leaders. ʿAli ibn Ibrahim allegedly heard the news of the sultan’s death from Muhammad ʿAli, the viceroy of Egypt.

ʿAli married six times and had numerous children His first marriage was probably ...

Article

Mary Ann Mahony

whose career spanned the late Brazilian Empire through the fifth decade of republican rule, was born to Maria Francisca Vitória, an unmarried, free Afro-Brazilian woman descended from rural slaves, on a small cacao farm in the emerging cacao district of Cachoeira de Itabuna in the municipality of Ilhéus, in the northeastern province of Bahia. Alves dos Reis is an example of the rapid social mobility available to ambitious and well-connected young men of African descent in the emerging cacao region of the northeast as European and US demand took off for cocoa and chocolate.

By 1887, when Alves dos Reis registered with the local National Guard unit, he was already a moderately prosperous merchant. In 1883 he and his wife lived in a one story wattle and daub thatched roof house with a door a window and a dirt floor It resembled the slave cabins on nearby local ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Paul Wermager

pharmacist, chemist, researcher, and instructor, was born in Seattle, Washington, one of four children of James P. Ball Jr., an attorney and photographer, and Laura Howard, a photographer and cosmetologist. Alice grew up in a remarkable family. Her grandfather, James Presley “J. P.” Ball Sr., a photographer, was one of the first blacks in the country to master the new art of the daguerreotype. His famous daguerreotype gallery in Cincinnati, Ohio, displayed a well-publicized six-hundred-yard panorama of pictures and paintings depicting the horrors of slavery. Later he opened photography galleries in Minneapolis, in Helena, Montana, in Seattle, and in Honolulu. Alice Ball's father, in addition to being a photographer, also was a newspaper editor and lawyer and was credited with having a lasting effect on Montana history. The Balls lived in Montana for several years before moving to Seattle, and Ball's newspaper, the Colored ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

a prominent trader in nineteenth-century Ghana, was born in 1790 His mother was a Ga woman from Accra who had family ties with the Alata chief in the neighboring town of Osu and the Asere chief of Kinka His father was Colonel Henry Bannerman a Scottish officer and a trader in the Royal Africa Company stationed at the British fort of Cape Coast Bannerman s father s connections in the British government and his mother s connections in southern Ghana helped prepare the way for his rise as a businessman Bannerman s ambitions were facilitated by the changing nature of trade between European nations and West Africa The British government s efforts to close the international slave trade posed some challenges for coastal communities on the Ghanaian coast although the stabilization of the Asante kingdom s borders had already led to a decline of slave exports from the region ...

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

Amar Wahab

Pan‐Africanistleader in Britain in the early 1900s. Born in Sierra Leone, in 1869 he was sent to Cheshire to be educated and started working for the family firm, Broadhurst and Sons, in Manchester in 1905. By 1936 he is known to have been a cocoa merchant in the Gold Coast. He was heavily involved in the realm of Pan‐Africanist politics in Britain, becoming a founder member of the African Progress Union between 1911 and 1925. He became secretary of the Union in his sixties and continued as a member of the executive committee until its end. He worked with other leading supporters such as Duse Mohamed Ali, Edmund Fitzgerald Fredericks, and ‘the Black doctor of Paddington’ John Alcindor The Union organized around issues related to the welfare of Africans and Afro Peoples worldwide and vociferously advocated self determination This involved for example protests about ...

Article

Edward L. Lach

business executive and civic leader, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Hayward G. Burrell and Fannie Miles. Although his parents’ occupations are unknown, both his father and his mother were natives of the District of Columbia, and Burrell's roots in the area ran deep. After graduating from Dunbar High School at the age of fifteen, he worked as a driver for a local pharmacy and apparently also drove a cab for a while. He married at age sixteen (his wife's name is unknown), and the marriage produced a son before ending in divorce seven years later.

In 1941 Burrell gained a position at the federal Bureau of Standards, where he worked in the glass section producing prisms and bombsights. He also attended nearby Howard University between 1941 and 1943 but did not graduate. He entered the U.S. Army in 1945 and rose to the rank of ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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

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

Roy Bridges

also known as Dallington Scorpion Muftawa, a scribe and adviser to Muteesa I, the kabaka (king) of Buganda (in present-day Uganda) in the late 1870s, was a freed slave whose date of birth and parentage are unknown. Dallington was a Nyasa from near the eastern shore of Lake Malawi. Like many others in this region, he was taken into slavery by Yao or Swahili traders, marched to the coast, and put in a dhow for transport to Arabia or another part of East Africa. His fate, however, was to be rescued by the British anti–slave trade patrol vessel HMS Daphne and to be assigned to the care of the Anglican Universities Mission to Central Africa which had opened a school for freed slaves at Kiungani outside Zanzibar City Converted to Christianity he became known as Dallington which was probably a corruption of the name of one of the missionaries the ...

Article

Peter D. Fraser

was born on either 5 June or 15 August 1803 in Demerara, British Guiana, now Guyana. He was the second of three children and the younger son of John Douglas, a merchant from Glasgow, Scotland, and the “Creole,” almost certainly a free colored woman, Martha Ann Ritchie, later surnamed Telfer (?–1839?). The two were never married. Genealogical research suggests that Martha Ann Ritchie was born in Barbados. Ritchie and her mother were both slave owners until slavery was ended in 1834. His father married in 1809, but moved Douglas and his siblings to Scotland, where he attended preparatory school in Lanark and learned French. Douglas and his elder brother Alexander then went to Canada, where they were apprenticed to the North West Company, which soon merged with the Hudson’s Bay Company—both were fur-trading concerns. Moving westward, he reached the Pacific Coast for the first time in 1826 ...

Article

Lynne B. Feldman

entrepreneur, was born Arthur George Gaston in Demopolis, Alabama, the son of Tom Gaston, a railroad worker, and Rosa Gaston (maiden name unknown), a cook. He grew up in poverty in rural Alabama before he and his mother moved to Birmingham, Alabama, after his father's death. He attended, and for a good time resided at, Tuggle Institute, where he received a moral and industrial education. In 1910 he graduated from the school with a tenth grade certificate. Before and after graduation he worked at a number of part-time jobs, including selling subscriptions for the Birmingham Reporter.

Gaston served in World War I in France as a sergeant in the 317th Ammunition Train of the all black 92nd Division of the U S army Upon his return to the United States he briefly worked at a dry cleaning factory for five dollars a day before landing a job ...

Article

Swithin Wilmot

was a passionate advocate for the rights of freed people in early post-slavery Jamaica. He was summarily tried and executed after the Morant Bay Rebellion in October 1865. Gordon was born into slavery sometime between 1817 and 1820, the son of Joseph Gordon, a Scotsman who owned or managed several coffee plantations, livestock pens, and sugar estates, and an enslaved black woman on Joseph Gordon’s Cherry Garden estate in the St. Andrew foothills overlooking Kingston. This common-law union produced George William and at least three girls. The absence of his mother’s and his sisters’ names from biographies of Gordon underscores the general invisibility of women in the historical record.

Joseph Gordon kept George William and his sisters nominally in servitude until the Emancipation Act in 1834 but early on he recognized his son s intellectual abilities and encouraged his interest in books and figures When George William ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...