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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 ...

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Miles M. Jackson

explorer and businessman, was born a slave in German Flats, New York. He was owned by the Dougal family and spent his youth in Schenectady. It is very likely his mother was a slave (New York did not abolish slavery until 1827); his father was a freeman and a mariner. Following the death of his master, he was purchased by another owner. After gaining his freedom in 1796, Allen arrived in Boston in 1800 and went to sea just as his father had done. Indeed, many African Americans living in Boston had ties to the maritime industry in some way. Like other black mariners, Allen faced the risk of reenslavement when he traveled to Southern ports. Once he was saved from imprisonment by one of the ship's owners, who paid $300 for his release.

Allen's years at sea between 1800 and 1810 provided him with unique experiences ...

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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

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

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

Maria Elena Raymond

former slave, western pioneer, church founder, businesswoman, and philanthropist, was born in Gallatin, Tennessee—some sources offer a birth date of 1800—and at the age of three was sold with her mother to a planter in Virginia. There, at the age of eighteen, she married a slave named Richard and had several children. When her owner, Ambrose Smith, died in 1835Clara and her children were auctioned off to different slaveholders. Her daughter Margaret was sold to a slaveholder in Kentucky and reportedly died a few years later. Clara lost contact with her son Richard, who was sold repeatedly. Another daughter, Eliza Jane, was sold to a James Covington, also in Kentucky.Clara was sold again at auction, this time to a Kentucky slaveholder named George Brown a merchant and for the next two decades served the Brown family as a house slave During this ...

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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

David H. Anthony

adventurer, mariner, and African emigrationist, was born to Susan Cuffe and John Dean in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Harry Foster Dean followed the family profession when he decided to become a seafarer. By the age of thirteen he was on an around-the-world cruise captained by his Uncle Silas. A decade later he had made his way to Southampton, England, where he was mentored by a Captain Forbes. He later reported that he won his captain's license in that port, beginning a new phase in his life. According to Dean, his mother, Susan, was a granddaughter of the black Yankee Paul Cuffe As the progeny of the Cuffe family Dean considered himself a black aristocrat Since Cuffe was a merchant and back to Africa advocate Dean dreamed of reversing the effects and trajectories of the Middle Passage and removing himself to his ancestral continent of origin Much of what ...

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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

Dorman, Isaiah (?–26 June 1876), 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 ...

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

Esteban  

Dedra McDonald Birzer

explorer, enslaved North African, and the first representative of the so-called Old World to encounter peoples of today's American Southwest, was born in Azamor, Morocco. His career as an explorer began in 1528 with the journey to Florida of Pánfilo de Narváez.

This initial Spanish exploration of Florida ended in disaster. The Narváez expedition included four hundred men sailing on five ships. They departed Havana, Cuba, in April 1528 and reached present-day Tampa Bay on 1 May. There Narváez split his forces, ordering the ships to sail along the coast while he marched inward with three hundred men, searching for a fabled city of gold and its attendant riches. A series of attacks by natives reduced the Spanish forces, but they continued their explorations, reaching Apalachen, principal settlement of the Apalachee people (located near present-day Tallahassee) by July 1528 Overwhelmed by native forces defended by highly ...