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Article

Abraham  

Kenny A. Franks

also known as “Prophet,” was a runaway slave who became a prominent leader among the Seminole. Nothing is known about his parents or childhood. Fleeing his master, Abraham escaped south into Florida, and was eventually adopted into the Seminole tribe, with whom he enjoyed considerable status. In 1826 he accompanied a tribal delegation to Washington, D.C., and became an influential counselor to Micanopy, a leading Seminole leader. The Seminole, or Florida Indians, once were a part both of the Muskogee (Creek) nation that had been driven out of Georgia by the early English colonists, and also of the Oconee and Yamasee tribes that had been driven out of the Carolinas following the Yamasee uprising of 1715. They had first settled among the Lower Creeks in the Florida Panhandle and created a haven for runaway slaves. Indeed, Semino'le is the Creek word for “runaway.”

In 1818Andrew Jackson led ...

Article

Jack Borden Watson

scout and pioneer of the West, was one of the free blacks in Texas who experienced some degree of freedom under four different governing entities—Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, and the United States. Free blacks never constituted a large population in Texas in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. For example, a census in 1860 put the number of free blacks at four hundred, but later estimates by historians suggest that their numbers approached eight hundred. Despite their small numbers free blacks made a significant contribution to the early history of Texas. Hendrick Arnold played a pivotal role in the Texas Revolution (1835–1836) and beyond.

The date of Hendrick Arnold's birth is not known. He emigrated from Mississippi with his parents, Daniel and Rachel Arnold, in the winter of 1826 His father was likely white while his mother was black nothing else is known about ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

pioneer settler in Los Angeles County, California, in the 1850s, blacksmith, teamster, firewood salesman, and landowner, was born in Kentucky around 1827. Although it is commonly assumed that he had been enslaved there, he arrived in California a free man prior to the Civil War, and nothing has been established about his previous life.

He was married on 6 November 1859 to a woman named Amanda, born in Texas, by Jesse Hamilton, the earliest pastor of First African Methodist Episcopal church, Los Angeles. Their first two children, Dora and Julia, were born in 1857 and 1859. In 1860 the household included a laborer named Juan Jose, recorded by the census as being of Indian ancestry. Another man of African descent, Oscar Smith from Mississippi lived next door and no race was specified for the other neighbors who had either English or Hispanic names ...

Article

Robinson A. Herrera

who lived in Trujillo, Honduras, an important Caribbean port during the colonial period, which is today an area with a substantial population of Garifuna people, the descendants of Africans and indigenous peoples from St. Vincent. Juan’s origins are unknown, as no documents indicate where he was born. He was married and was the father of several children, but the names of his family members are also unknown. In accordance with the Spanish pattern of naming African slaves, Bardales likely received his surname from a former owner. Juan’s origins and years of birth and death remain unclear, although the evidence indicates that he was likely born in the early sixteenth century and lived past 1565.

In 1544 and again in 1565, Bardales sought a royal reward for his services to the Spanish Crown. As a necessary step in requesting royal favors, Bardales had a probanza de méritos proof ...

Article

Elizabeth Mitchell

slave and guide, achieved fame in the decades preceding the Civil War. Nothing is known of his parents or early life, but it is known that Bishop was a slave belonging to Kentucky lawyer Franklin Gorin, who in the 1830s purchased Mammoth Cave for $5,000. Previous cave guides had been local white men, but Gorin either saw something promising in the teenaged Bishop or reasoned that he could save money by training a slave to do the same work. Either way, beginning in the spring of 1838 Bishop received training from the previous guide and quickly took to the job, learning the several miles of trail and numerous pits, rock formations, and other attractions of his underground place of employment.

Bishop was allowed to spend many hours exploring the cave on his own. In the fall of 1838 he penetrated a confusing maze of trails known as the ...

Article

Frank L. Green

pioneer, farmer, and cattleman, was born probably in Pennsylvania or Louisiana. His mother was Scotch-Irish, his father perhaps West Indian. He may have been born as early as 1770, but that would have made him seventy-four years old by the time that he came to Oregon in 1844. Oral tradition among the family gives his birth year as 1779.

Bush was a successful cattle trader in Missouri beginning around 1820, and he became quite wealthy. In 1831 he married Isabella James, a German woman; they had five children. Because Missouri was not well disposed toward people of color, Bush took the opportunity to travel west in a wagon train led by Michael T. Simmons of Kentucky.

Bush found Oregon only a little more tolerant than Missouri The provisional government voted to exclude blacks and to whip those who would not leave but the legislation was ...

Article

Moya B. Hansen

noted farmer, was born to George Washington Bush (c. 1790–1863), a pioneer in the Oregon Territory, and Isabella James (c. 1809–1866), a German American. William was the eldest of five sons born in Missouri: Joseph Tolbert, Rial Bailey, Henry Sanford, and January Jackson.

William's grandfather Mathew Bush is believed to have been the son of a sailor from the British West Indies who married an Irish American woman named Maggie. William's father, George, was born in Pennsylvania and received a Quaker education from the Stevenson family for whom Mathew worked. The Bush family moved to Cumberland County, Tennessee, with the Stevensons and, as a free black man, Mathew was later able to inherit a portion of the Stevenson estate.

George Bush left Tennessee as a young man to join the U.S. Army. He fought at the 1812 Battle of New Orleans ...

Article

Julie Winch

writer, adventurer, and perennial litigant, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the grandson of Jacques Clamorgan, a French entrepreneur and land speculator. Jacques died in 1814, leaving as his heirs the four children he had fathered with his various slaves whom he then emancipated. One of those children, Apoline, was Cyprian Clamorgan's mother. Apoline never married. Instead, she lived with a series of white “protectors.” A Catholic by upbringing in a deeply Catholic community, she presented each of her children for baptism at the Old Cathedral and revealed to the priest the name of the father so it could be entered in the baptismal register. However, she did not live long enough to have Cyprian baptized, and the identity of his father died with her.

Clamorgan and his siblings, Louis, Henry, and Louise, were left in the care of a white neighbor, Charles Collins ...

Article

Minor Ferris Buchanan

slave, soldier, hunter, guide, and pioneer, was born on Home Hill plantation, Jefferson County, Mississippi, the son of slaves Harrison and Daphne Collier. Little is known of Daphne Collier, although it is believed that she had some Native American ancestry. In 1815Harrison Collier accompanied the famed General Thomas Hinds when he fought alongside General Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812 at the Battle of New Orleans. As house servants the Colliers maintained a higher status on the plantation, and from all indications young Holt was a favorite of the Hinds family. At age ten he was taken into the upriver wilderness to serve as a juvenile valet and hostler on Plum Ridge plantation in what would later become known as Washington County in the Mississippi Delta.

At Plum Ridge plantation Holt was trained to hunt and kill anything that could be used as food for the growing ...

Article

Peter Hudson

The history of black people in Canada can be dated from the early seventeenth-century expeditions of French explorer Pierre du Gua sieur de Monts Traveling with du Gua was an African man Mathieu da Costa who worked as an interpreter between the French and the indigenous Mic Mac people ...

Article

Erica Lorraine Williams

a warrior who, along with her husband Zumbi, helped to defend Palmares, a famed Maroon community (quilombo) established in the late sixteenth century in the northeastern Brazilian captaincy of Alagoas. While many scholars have estimated that Palmares was home to up to 20,000 inhabitants, James Lockhart and Stuart Schwartz (1983) question such a high figure, which would have made Palmares the largest city in colonial Brazil. Nonetheless, Palmares is generally regarded as the largest and longest-lived fugitive community in Brazil. Today, Zumbi and Dandara maintain symbolic importance as Afro-Brazilians continue to struggle for racial and social equality.

While there are no public records of Dandara’s exact place or date of birth, her full name, or her parents’ names, sources say that she was most likely born in Brazil and moved to Palmares as a girl. Palmares was not a single community, but rather several mocambos ...

Article

Eric J. Morgan

Portuguese ex-plorer, was born around 1451. Details of his early life are unknown, though some scholars believe Dias may have been related to João Dias and Diniz Dias, other prominent Portuguese explorers of the fifteenth century. Bartolomeu Dias was the first European to sail around the southern coast of Africa, which he accomplished in 1488. Born into a prominent noble family, by his mid-thirties Dias was a member of the Portuguese royal court, in charge of the crown’s warehouse of goods, and an accomplished sailor. Dias had accompanied the nobleman Diogo de Azambuja on his expedition to the Gold Coast in 1481, where São Jorge da Mina, a Portuguese fort on the Gulf of Guinea, was constructed. On 10 October 1486 King John II of Portugal appointed Dias as the head of an expedition to sail around Africa to find a trade route to India The ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

African-born slave who became one of the first Spanish explorers of North America, was probably born somewhere in Morocco in the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century. No sources are available for his early life. His travel companion Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca reported that Esteban was born in the Portuguese-controlled town of Azemmour, Morocco, around 1513. He may have been bought there and brought from elsewhere in Morocco or had come from somewhere else in the north of West Africa. He may also have chosen to sell himself into slavery to improve his life, given Azemmour’s numerous economic and environmental problems. He converted to Christianity after his enslavement. In 1520 he was sold to Andrés Dorantes de Carranza, a Spanish aristocrat. When Dorantes decided to make his fortune in North America in 1527, Esteban joined him.

This expedition led by Pánfilo Narváez of five caravels left Spain ...

Article

Ann T. Keene

frontiersman and interpreter, was known as “Teat,” or the Wasicun Sapa (Black White Man), among the Sioux of Dakota Territory. Nothing is known of his life before he entered the territory as a young man around 1850. He is thought to have been an escaped slave who fled to the wilderness to avoid capture. Sioux tribal history records his presence in their midst from that date. He became known to white settlers in 1865, by which time he had become fluent in the Sioux dialect. About this time he married a Sioux woman and built a log cabin near Fort Rice, in Dakota Territory, not far from present-day Bismarck, North Dakota. For a while he earned a living cutting wood for the fort and for a trading firm, Durfee and Peck.

In November 1865 Dorman was hired by the U S Army to carry the ...

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

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 ...

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 ...

Article

Esteban  

E. Thomson Shields

Esteban (?–1539), African-born slave and explorer for Spain, , became the first African-American character portrayed in North American literature. What is known about Esteban (also called Estevan, Estevanico, and Stephen) comes from reports concerning two Spanish explorations into North America, the first led by Pánfilo de Narváez begun in 1527 and the second led by Fray Marcos de Niza in 1539. Esteban was a slave on the Narváez expedition to la Florida, or what is now the southeastern United States. He was one of the expedition’s four survivors, with Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, whose Relación (1542) tells about the men’s adventures; Andrés Dorantes de Carranza, Esteban’s owner; and Alonso Castillo Maldonado.

The first mention of Esteban in the Relación appears after the account of the expedition s second shipwreck near Galveston Island in 1528 Most of the expedition s members were lost at ...

Article

Esteban  

Penny Anne Welbourne

Also known as Estevan, Estevanico, Stephen the Black, and the Black Moor, Esteban was born in Azamor (or Azemmour), Morocco, between 1500 and 1503. By 1527 he had been taken from Africa, most likely by Spanish or Portuguese slave traders, and brought to Spain, where he became the “personal servant” (that is, slave) of Andrés Dorantes de Carranza.

In 1527 Dorantes volunteered himself and Esteban for a Spanish expedition to the New World, commanded by Don Pánfilo de Narváez. The purpose of the journey was to conquer and claim land from the Isle of Florida (discovered and named fifteen years earlier by Juan Ponce de León) to northeastern Mexico. At its start the exploration included approximately six hundred men aboard five vessels; of those men only four were still alive when they reached what is today Galveston Island, Texas: Esteban, his master, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca ...

Article

Liliana Obregón

Born in Azemmour, Morocco, Estebanico (also known as Estevanico, Esteban, Estevanico the Moor, Black Stephen, and Esteban de Dorantes) may have been captured by Portuguese slave traders in North Africa between 1513 and 1521, and later sold in Europe. In 1528 he accompanied his owner—a Spanish explorer named Andrés de Dorantes—on an expedition led by conquistador Pánfilo de Narváez to settle unknown territory in North America. When they arrived in Florida, Narváez's group of some 300 men encountered many obstacles and were forced to split up in order to survive.

The legendary explorer Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca headed the group that included Estebanico They traveled around the area now known as the Florida Panhandle and the Mississippi River and eventually wound up shipwrecked on what is now Galveston Island in Texas Over time almost all of the expedition s members ...