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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

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

Demetria Rougeaux Shabazz

Zydeco musician and quarter-horse trainer, was born into a farming community in Dog Hill near Lake Charles, Louisiana, one of seven children, to Marceline Pete and Arthur Chavis, tenant farmers and entrepreneurs who managed a few well-known local horse circuits, or unregulated “bush” horse races. As a young boy he was given the inexplicable nickname Boozoo, which would remain his moniker throughout the entirety of his life. The first instrument Chavis learned to play was the harmonica, but he mastered the button accordion by watching his father, uncles, and Henry Martin, all well-known local musicians in southwest Louisiana. Although his parents separated when he was three years old, he remained in contact with his father and frequently attended the local house dances in Rayne and Dog Hill, where both his father and his great uncle Sidney Babineaux frequently played. At the age of twenty-one he married Leona Predium ...

Article

Jeffrey Green

Black merchant in Africa. He was one of six Liverpool‐born children of Octavia Caulfield and Antigua‐born Jacob Christian. George and his brother Arthur worked for the merchant John Holt in Nigeria, and George then established his own import–export business in German Cameroon. The Germans expelled him in 1904 (his compensation claim led to correspondence with Britain's ambassador in Berlin). His youngest sister, Rubena Laura Patterson, and her husband, Oscar, and three children migrated to Saskatchewan, Canada, in 1906. His eldest sister, Julia Waldren Rogers, a widow, took her six children to Saskatchewan in 1910.

By 1910 Christian had opened four branches of his import–export business in Nigeria, and Alexander (another brother) ran the Liverpool head office, incorporated as G. W. Christian & Co. Ltd in 1911 the year he married a Liverpool nurse Isabella Stanbury The Nigerian enterprise flourished Three children were born in ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

black English entrepreneur and merchant prominent in West and Central African trading, was born in the Toxteth neighborhood of Liverpool, England, on 12 November 1872. His father, Jacob Christian, was a sailor from the Caribbean island of Antigua who had moved to Liverpool at the age of fifteen. Octavia Caulfield, his mother, was originally from Liverpool and was also of African or Afro-Caribbean descent. Christian had at least two brothers and sisters. Although Christian’s father gave up the life of a mariner to become a timber merchant, his son apparently shared some of his father’s wanderlust. After attending primary and perhaps secondary schools in Liverpool, Christian decided to commence the life of a trader in West Africa. In 1888 one of the biggest British trading firms in West and Central Africa John Holt hired Christian at the young age of fifteen to be an agent at one of ...

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

Hassoum Ceesay

merchant and teacher, was born Maryann Benjamin Gabbidon in Bathurst, the daughter of Charles Benjamin, a successful groundnuts trader in the protectorate, and Julia, a kindergarten teacher. Later affectionately known as “Mammy” Gabbidon, Maryann received a sound education in the 1880s, when very few Gambian girls attended school. She attended St. Mary's School in Bathurst, and the famous Annie Walsh Secondary School in Freetown, Sierra Leone, where she was top of her class in the Senior Cambridge Examinations. She returned home in 1888 to teach at her alma mater.

Like many women of the day, Gabbidon engaged in petty trading in order to supplement her meager teacher's salary. From humble beginnings selling cooked food in the Bathurst Albert Market in the 1890s, Gabbidon soon saved enough money to import kola nuts from Portuguese Guinea (now Guinea Bissau) and Sierra Leone. By 1911 she was the ...

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

Blake Wintory

physician, drug store owner, and investor, was born Napoleon Bonaparte Houser near Gastonia, in Gaston County, North Carolina, the son of William H. Houser, a brick mason and contractor, and Fannie Houser, a housekeeper. The elder Houser's $600 in real estate and $200 in personal property, according to the 1870 U.S. census, made him one of the wealthiest black businessmen in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area. The young Houser attended Charlotte public schools and worked as a farmhand on his father's farm from the age of nine until fourteen. At fourteen he began to work at his father's brick factory, and at age sixteen became his father's personal secretary.

In 1881 Houser entered the Presbyterian-affiliated Biddle University in Charlotte, and in 1887 attended the Leonard Medical School at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina. After finishing medical school in 1891 he received his medical ...

Article

Elsie A. Okobi

merchant and king of Opobo, was born in the village of Umuduruoha in the densely populated Igbo heartland of eastern Nigeria (now in Imo State). He was born into the Isu clan, and his father, Ozurumba, was most likely a farmer who supplemented that work by trading or with a skilled profession such as blacksmithing. His mother’s name was Uru. At the approximate age of twelve, Jaja was sent to live with relatives in Nkwerre, from where he was kidnapped and sold into slavery. From Nkwerre he was brought to Akwete and sold to a trader named Odiari from the Royal Canoe House of Opobo. (Canoe houses had begun in the delta as trading and fighting communities capable of manning and maintaining a war canoe; the trading center city-states of the eastern delta—Brass, Nembe, Bonny—each consisted of several organized canoe houses.)

Given the name Jubo Jubogha Jaja stayed with his ...

Article

Erin Royston Battat

the first African American woman licensed as a pharmacist in Connecticut, was born in Hartford, Connecticut, the eighth child of Anna (Houston) and Willis Samuel James. James's father escaped from a plantation in Virginia at the age of sixteen and ventured north with the help of the Underground Railroad. In 1874 he married Anna Houston and purchased a home in the North End of Hartford the following year. As suggested by professional portraits taken in the late nineteenth century, the James family identified with the self-sufficient black middle class of Hartford. While a tiny northern black elite existed there before the Civil War, the black middle class would expand during Anna Louise James's young adulthood, peaking during the Great Migration of 1915–1919.

James lost her mother in 1894 at the age of eight and was raised by her father with the help of relatives She graduated from ...

Article

Elizabeth R. Schroeder

journalist, businessman, military leader, and diplomat, was born in Albany, Georgia, to Richard and Eliza (Brown) Jones. Richard Lee Jones, also known as Dick Jones, moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, with his family at fifteen saying

In the South, I was not the submissive kind, but I learned respect for authority. Many Negroes have not learned that yet. They come up here and try to run away with the town. I had no trouble in the South. I avoided trouble. If you see a nail, why sit on it? Much trouble could be avoided by Negroes in the South if they tried to. Get me straight! I am not for conditions down there. They are bad, but could be bettered.”

(Wilson, “Interview with Dick Jones, Manager of South Center,” Negro in Illinois Papers)

He attended the University of Cincinnati from 1912 to 1915 and later abandoned his law ...

Article

Glen Pierce Jenkins

obstetrician and community leader, was born near Moncks Corner, South Carolina, the son of the former slaves John Lambright and Mary Gelzer, farmers. Middleton was one of thirteen children, and although he was born free, more than half his siblings were born into slavery. As a young man he often accompanied his father to Charleston for supplies. Their route took them by the Medical College of South Carolina, and Lambright questioned his father about the young men in white coats walking on the campus. This experience established in him the notion of studying medicine. When a life-threatening accident brought him into personal contact with a physician for a period of several months, he became convinced of his life's ambition. With the support of his family, Lambright eventually graduated from Claflin College in Orangeburg, South Carolina, with an AB degree. In 1898 he received his MD from the ...

Article

Nana Yaw B. Sapong

domestic slave, slave trader, and merchant prince, was born Adzoviehlo Atiogbe in Agoue in Dahomey (Benin) in 1804 He is also known as Adzoviehlo Atiogbe or Geraldo de Vasconcellos A man of several names he is one of the least understood and most complex characters in modern West African history Geraldo de Vasconcellos probably a Brazilian name given to him by his master in servitude entered into a period of apprenticeship under Brazilian slave trader Cesar Cerquira Lima who had a slave factory warehouse at Vodza in present day Ghana Slaves were kept in the Vodza factory before shipment to various destinations Cesar Cerquira Lima was one of a succession of Brazilian traders who had been establishing factories along the eastern coastline of the Gold Coast in the nineteenth century Geraldo de Vasconcellos became one of Cesar s trusted agents in Anlo who kept the supply of slaves steady ...