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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

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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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 Du Sable entered North America through either Louisiana or French Canada, and first appeared in historical documents in 1779, when a British officer in the Great Lakes region reported that the local trader “Baptist Point de Sable” was “much in the interest of the French.”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 ...

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Richard C. Lindberg

explorer and merchant, was born in San Marc, Haiti, the son of a slave woman (name unknown) and Dandonneau (first name unknown), scion of a prominent French Canadian family active in the North American fur trade. Surviving historical journals record the name of Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable (Pointe au Sable by some accounts), a Haitian of mixed-race ancestry, as the first permanent settler of Chicago. In her 1856 memoir of frontier life in the emerging Northwest Territory, Juliette Kinzie, the wife of the fur trader John Kinzie makes note of the fact that the first white man who settled here was a Negro Several of the voyageurs and commercial men who regularly traversed the shores of southern Lake Michigan in the last decade of the eighteenth century kept accurate records of their encounters in journals and ledger books One such entry describes du Sable as a ...

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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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Caryn E. Neumann

a street merchant who died at the hands of police during an arrest for selling untaxed cigarettes, was born in New York City to Gwen Carr and her husband. He grew up in the Gowanus Houses, public housing projects in the Boerum Hill section of Brooklyn. Described by friends as a genial, generous, neighborhood peacemaker, Garner completed his education at Ohio Diesel Tech Institute in 1988. Garner met his wife, Esaw “Pinky” Garner, in the 1980s on a telephone party line, an early version of a chat room. The couple raised six children and had two grandchildren.

Garner had a history of arrests for marijuana possession and selling untaxed single cigarettes He typically worked from the corner of Bay Street and Victory Boulevard in Staten Island where he sold bootleg cigarettes at $7 a pack and 75 cents for single cigarettes or loosies New York City places a tax ...

Article

Trevor Hall

a free black female merchant who lived in the Spanish Canary Islands, off the Atlantic coast of Morocco. Nothing is known about her family life, but Goncalvez appears in the historical record in 1515, the year she boarded a ship and transported her merchandise from the Canary Islands to the Portuguese Cape Verde Islands. Seventeen years earlier in 1498 Christopher Columbus had sailed from the Canary Islands to the Cape Verdes in only nine days. Her Spanish name, Goncalvez, identifies her as a Christian. Her Atlantic trading expedition provides information about a little known and sparsely documented maritime trade between Spanish colonists in the Canary Islands and Portuguese colonists in the Cape Verde Islands during the early sixteenth century. Few documents written in Spain and Portugal at this time describe the maritime commerce between the two archipelagos.

According to a Cape Verde customs receipt book for 1513–1516 on ...

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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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Lolita K. Buckner Inniss

vendor, was born in Easton, Maryland, as the slave of Philip Wallis of Maryland. The names of Johnson's parents are unknown. Johnson is said to have run away in his early twenties, after having been sent on an errand for his master. Johnson first took a boat from Maryland and later a train. In 1839 he reached Princeton, New Jersey, where he was employed as a laborer and janitor in Nassau Hall in the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). He had been known as James Collins in Maryland but called himself James Johnson once he reached Princeton.

In 1843 Johnson was recognized as an escaped slave and was seized and put on trial in Princeton as a fugitive slave The son of Johnson s owner Severn Teackle Wallis traveled from Maryland to claim Johnson The younger Wallis was later a well known lawyer politician provost of the ...

Article

Louis S. Gerteis

businessman, was born a slave in Loudoun County, Virginia. As the boyhood companion of his owner's son, Benjamin completed in the afternoon the lessons the young white boy learned from his tutor in the morning. In this manner he gained a basic education. In 1836 he was sold to a trader who transported him to Natchez, Mississippi, where he was purchased by Joseph Davis, elder brother of future Confederate president Jefferson Davis, and settled on Davis Bend below Vicksburg. Davis had determined to apply the reform principles of Robert Owen who sought order and efficiency in the management of industrial labor to the management of his plantations This required a rational relationship between owner and worker that in Davis s application meant a relationship between master and slave based on kindness not cruelty and on wholesome living conditions not squalor Davis sought and gained the confidence ...

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 ...

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Charles Rosenberg

an itinerant merchant from West Africa, who tapped into the desperate yearning of many Americans of African descent to get out from under the vicious Jim Crow laws and culture of the early twentieth century, organized clubs and sold shares of stock in a plan for resettlement in the British colony of Gold Coast (now Ghana).

Sam's age is known only from entries on ship passenger manifests; the names of his parents have never been established. He once told a reporter that he was the son of James K. Sam, that his grandfather had been a chief of Obosse and Appasu in West Akim, and that he had inherited the title from his uncle, Kwawim. He attended the Basel Missionary School at Kibi. The Akim were a people conquered in 1814 by the Asante in modern Ghana the Asante Akim have at least six traditional councils and paramount ...

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Lolita K. Buckner Inniss

vendor and entertainer popularly known as Spader was born in Pennington New Jersey to Joseph and Josephine Seruby His mother was a laundress and his father worked as a coachman for several central New Jersey families Seruby s family roots in New Jersey go back decades before the Civil War His father served in the Civil War as part of the 25th U S Colored Infantry and Seruby himself was said to be a veteran of the Spanish American War He was regularly present at athletic events at Princeton University and frequently appeared at other public venues throughout central and southern New Jersey Seruby was known as the Peanut King because of the principal item that he sold bags of roasted peanuts Seruby s vending featured clever banter and a stylish mode of dress that frequently included a silk top hat a Prince Albert coat or a double breasted Chesterfield ...

Article

Benjamin R. Justesen

public official, Prohibitionist, and legislator in two states, was born a slave in Pasquotank County, North Carolina, the mixed-race son of Jane Sykes, a slave, and an unnamed father. His mother's owner was Caleb Sykes, an Elizabeth City, North Carolina, cabinetmaker. Only the year of his birth is recorded. Nothing is known of Sykes's early life, or his education before the Civil War, although he had learned to read and write by the war's end.

Sykes first appears in public records as a delegate to the North Carolina Colored Convention of 1866, and he soon became active in the state's new Republican Party. In 1868, he was selected as a member of the North Carolina Republican Party Executive Committee and was appointed as a magistrate by Governor William W. Holden The same year Sykes was also elected as Pasquotank County s first ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

waiter, storekeeper, and politician, was born near Montgomery, Alabama, to slave parents whose names-are unknown. His parents had been brought to Alabama from South Carolina in the 1830s by their owner, William H. Taylor, who became a wealthy planter in Montgomery County. Taylor also owned Thompson but appears to have allowed him to hire out his time as a waiter at the Madison House hotel in Montgomery prior to the end of the Civil War. Thompson learned to read and write and probably enjoyed greater freedom than most slaves in Alabama, though as a slave he was not allowed to marry legally. He did, however, have a common-law wife, Binah Yancey, who was born in 1842 in Alabama and was owned by William Lowndes Yancey a prominent Alabama secessionist politician Like her husband Binah Yancey was able to read and write and enjoyed a ...