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Charles Rosenberg

spent his childhood and early adulthood in Pennsylvania, and may have been born in Philadelphia. Various censuses suggest his year of birth may have been 1818, 1820, or 1824, but a likely 1850 census entry shows his age as thirty-two.

Anderson’s parents have yet to be identified, and little is known about his life growing up in Pennsylvania. Contemporary accounts in California refer to him having worked as a waiter, and a Peter Anderson referenced as mulatto, who worked as a waiter, was recorded in the 1850 federal census living in Philadelphia’s Spruce Ward. Living with him were a woman named Mary Anderson—possibly his wife, or maybe his sister—two boys named Peter and George Anderson, and an unidentified nineteen-year-old named Elizabeth Purnell.

Anderson arrived in California in 1854, as the Gold Rush of 1849 was declining and established a tailor shop described in some directories ...

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

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

Julia Sun-Joo Lee

slave, shoemaker, and pastor, was born in Madison County, Virginia, to John and Jane Davis, slaves belonging to Robert Patten, a wealthy merchant and mill owner. Both of Davis's parents were devout Baptists who instilled in Davis a strong relationship to the church.

By Davis's account, Patten was a comparatively fair master who valued his slaves and who accorded John Davis many privileges, among them the ability to raise livestock and to keep his children with him until they were old enough to go into trade. John Davis was the head miller at Patten's merchant mill located on Crooked Run, a stream between Madison and Culpeper County. He was able to read and figure, but he could not write.

When Noah Davis was about twelve Patten sold his mill and emancipated Davis s mother and father Davis s family moved to one of Patten ...

Article

Sheila Hassell Hughes

Born in Chicago in 1932, Ronald L. Fair began writing as a teenager. After graduating from public school in Chicago, Fair spent three years in the U.S. Navy (1950–1953) before attending a Chicago stenotype school for two years. While supporting himself as a court reporter and stenographer for the next decade (1955–1966), he produced his first two novels. After then working briefly as an encyclopedia writer, Fair taught for a few years—at Columbia College (1967–1968), Northwestern University (1968), and Wesleyan University (1969–1970). Fair moved to Finland in 1971 and has lived in Europe since that time. He is divorced and has three children.

Ronald Fair's first novel, Many Thousand Gone: An American Fable (1965), both fantastic tale and “protest novel,” is a satiric re-vision of the South, where, in the mythical Jacobs County slaves were never ...

Article

Loren Schweninger

newspaper editor, businessman, and politician, was born in Marion, Alabama. Nothing is known of his parents. He was sent to a primary school, and he later attended the state normal school in his hometown and Talladega College in Talladega, Alabama. At age twenty he married Lillie A. Jones of Marion, and they had two children. At age twenty-six he became editor of the Mobile State Republican, and between 1894 and 1907 he edited the Mobile Weekly Press, described by Booker T. Washington as a “thoughtful Negro journal.”

In his editorials, Johnson attempted to put the best cast on racial conditions and outwardly expressed optimism about the future for African Americans in the South. At other times, however, as when the Alabama Constitutional Convention of 1901 disfranchised blacks he was less optimistic Whites he said then had made a mockery of popular democracy His editorials ...

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

Cynthia Current

entrepreneur, abolitionist lecturer, and autobiographer, was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, the only child of Clarissa Haywood and Edward Lane. Clarissa Haywood was the slave of Sherwood Haywood, an agent for the Bank of Newburn and clerk of the North Carolina State Senate from 1786 to 1798. Edward Lane belonged to John Haywood, the brother of Sherwood Haywood, and though manumitted at the death of John, circa 1830, continued to serve the family as a steward for fourteen years. As a slave, Lunsford Lane was fortunate to be raised by both of his parents who were certainly models for what Lane would later achieve in his life.

About the time that Lane became emotionally aware of his enslaved state when set to work at the age of ten or eleven he recalls that his father gave him a basket of peaches ...

Article

Sandy Dwayne Martin

shoemaker, newspaper publisher, clergyperson, denominational leader and organizer, business leader, and political activist, was born the eighth of ten children to James and Cora Cornelia Morris near Spring Place in Murray County, Georgia, as a slave. On 24 November 1884 Morris married Fannie E. Austin of Alabama; they had five children. His father, James, came to Alabama from North Carolina in 1850. The father, relatively educated for the time, practiced a trade in town and visited the farm twice weekly, during which time he taught his family reading and writing in preparation for their eventual freedom. Elias augmented this home training by attending schools between 1864 and 1875 in Dalton, Georgia; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Stevenson, Alabama; and Nashville, Tennessee (the school that eventually became Roger Williams University). Converted in 1874 he was also licensed to preach by a Baptist church the same year ...

Article

Barry Kernfeld

bandleader, pianist, and columnist, was born in Louisiana. Details of his birth and family life are unknown. Peyton was a member of the clarinetist Wilbur Sweatman's trio in Chicago from about 1908 to 1912, when he became the music director at the Grand Theater. In 1914 he founded his own symphony orchestra of about fifty instrumentalists; they gave monthly concerts. On 29 October 1924 he opened the Plantation Cafe as the leader of the Symphonic Syncopators. They played for dancing and for musical revues, the latter including the show Plantation Follie. Peyton wrote the music for some of these shows. The reed player Darnell Howard played with Peyton's fifteen-piece Symphonic Syncopators, and in November the cornetist King Oliver joined Oliver s purpose may have been to ingratiate himself with the management and take over Peyton s job If so he succeeded this episode might ...

Article

Michael F. Hembree

abolitionist and activist, was born in New York City, the son of Edward Powell, a slave. His mother's name is unknown. A passport application later described Powell as “of mulatto colour but of Indian extraction.” He apparently received some education before becoming an apprentice sailor and spending several years at sea in the 1820s. By the early 1830s he had settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, an active whaling port, and established a boardinghouse for sailors. He married Mercy O. Haskins of Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1832; they had seven children.

Powell readily embraced the immediate abolitionism of William Lloyd Garrison and participated in the immediatist movement from its beginnings in the early 1830s He signed the constitution of the American Anti Slavery Society and joined the New England Anti Slavery Society Powell s abolitionism emanated from a deeply held religious conviction that slavery was a sin and ...

Article

Peter J. Duignan

fifth president of the Republic of Liberia, was born in Newark, Ohio, the son of John Roye, a wealthy merchant. His mother's name is unknown. His father died in 1829, leaving some personal property and land to Roye. He went to public schools in Ohio, attended Oberlin College, and taught for a few years in Chillicothe. He also tried his hand as a sheep trader and shopkeeper in various parts of the Midwest. After his mother died in 1840 he was influenced by the emigration movement to escape American prejudice. He rejected the idea of going to Haiti and instead traveled to Liberia in 1846 just before an independent republic was installed there in July 1847, taking with him a stock of goods.

At the time of Roye s arrival the new republic faced a variety of ills The dominant Americo Liberians remained a small minority threatened ...

Article

Laura Murphy

writer and preacher, was born in Northern Neck, Northumberland County, Virginia, to Rachel and Charles, on the property of Thomas Langdon, on which they were enslaved. Over the course of her life, Smith s mother gave birth to eleven children and labored as a cotton spinner His father managed the Lancaster County plantation his owner had acquired through inheritance When Smith was a young boy he was injured while carrying lumber and remained crippled for his entire life because his owner did not think Smith s life was worth enough to call a doctor As a result of his disability Smith worked in the house with the women knitting and carding Later in his life he was apprenticed to a shoemaker which proved to be the source of his livelihood in all the places he settled For a brief time Smith was hired out to a ...

Article

Toko  

Jeremy Rich

Very little is available about his early life Some traditions collected by researchers in the twentieth century suggest Toko was a slave or of partial slave descent Whether he was born on the coast of the Gabon Estuary or came from another part of the country Toko managed to become a prominent trader by the early 1840s He belonged to the Agakaza clan of the Mpongwe community that dominated trade on the northern bank of the Gabon Estuary Within Mpongwe society many people of partial or full slave descent could own slaves themselves and act relatively independently of their masters Toko s success in business made him one of the wealthiest Mpongwe men in the entire community Mpongwe merchants held a monopoly on direct access to visiting European Brazilian Cuban and São Tomean ships seeking slaves exotic woods ivory and other natural resources Toko lived near the village of Glass ...