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Giovanni R. Ruffini

Egyptian landowner and Roman imperial official, is the best attested member of a family of large landholders prominent in Egypt from the fifth to the seventh centuries. The Apionic estates were one of the dominant forces in the Oxyrhynchite nome or sub-province of Egypt during the Byzantine period. Its surviving papyrological documentation details the activities of these estates, their financial managers, their farmers, and other related figures. This material makes the Apionic estates, so-called “the noble house,” one of the best documented economic institutions during Roman rule in Egypt. By recent count, the published material from the Apionic archive includes nearly 275 texts covering more than 180 years, from 436 to 620/1. The Apionic estates are likely to have been the largest in the Oxyrhynchite nome.

Procopius a sixth century Byzantine historian describes Apion s role during the Roman Empire s war with Persia during the reign of Anastasius in ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

was born in Charles City County, Virginia, the son of Abraham Brown, and his wife Sarah Brown. (The elder Abraham Brown called himself “Abraham Brown, Jr.” in a 1789 will, but Abraham Brown, Sr. was his uncle, not his father). The Browns were descended from William Brown, born around 1670, sometimes referenced in Virginia court records as “William Brown Negro.” Arthur Bunyan Caldwell, in History of the American Negro and his institutions, briefly refers to the family history being traceable back to England, but provides no details.

The Browns had been free for over a century, and many had owned enough property to be taxable, when Abraham Brown was born. Several had owned title to enslaved persons; Abraham owned three in 1810. His father at various times owned both slaves and indentured servants, including one John Bell, indentured in 1771 Abraham Brown Jr ...

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Glenn Allen Knoblock

Revolutionary War soldier, was born in Black Horse (now Columbus) in Burlington County, New Jersey. Nothing is known of his family except that, of light complexion and likely of mixed descent, Cromwell was never a slave. He was reared by John Hutchins, a farmer. Cromwell himself worked the land until he joined the Continental army in late 1776 at the age of twenty-three, serving in the Second New Jersey Regiment, under the command of Colonel Israel Shreve.

The service of Oliver Cromwell in the American Revolution as a free black from New Jersey is well worth noting. Although black men, both free and slave, such as Prince Whipple and London Dailey served in relatively high numbers in New England regiments such was not the case for regiments raised in the middle and southern colonies In New Jersey blacks were generally forbidden to serve and in one location Shrewsbury ...

Article

Robert Scott Davis

Revolutionary War veteran, was born a slave in Wake County, North Carolina. Not much is known about Dabney's life before the war. Several factors made both slavery and freedom for African Americans especially peculiar institutions in the environment of Revolutionary War–era Georgia, from which Dabney emerged. Slaves were initially prohibited when the colony was founded in 1733. Ethnic groups such as the Continental Protestants at Ebenezer, known as Salzburgers, and the Highland Scots at Darien supported this prohibition until Georgia's trustees, under extreme public pressure, finally allowed slavery in 1749. The Quakers at Wrightsborough never allowed slavery among their membership. The supporters of the American Revolution in Darien issued a declaration against slavery as late as 1775 although this effort was not continued after the war The War of Independence created unusual circumstances for African Americans both those who were free and those who were slaves ...

Article

Charles W. Jr. Carey

war hero and businessman, was born probably in the vicinity of Portsmouth, Virginia, the son of free black parents, whose names are unknown. On the eve of the American Revolution fewer than two thousand free blacks lived in Virginia. The colony's statutes forbade the manumission of slaves except those who exposed an incipient slave uprising. Consequently, William, who was known as “Billy,” was probably descended from Africans who arrived in Virginia before 1640, when blacks were treated like indentured servants rather than slaves.

Nothing is known about Flora's life prior to 1775, when he joined Colonel William Woodford's Second Virginia Regiment as a private He furnished his own musket suggesting that he had already earned the esteem of his white neighbors because the colony s statutes also barred free blacks from bearing arms and from serving in the militia He fought against British and Loyalist forces ...

Article

John Howard Smith

tavern owner and innkeeper in New York City and Philadelphia, was probably born in the French West Indies. There seems to be some controversy regarding his race, as his nickname, “Black Sam,” would indicate an African American identity, while some primary sources imply that he was either white or a Mulatto. Historians are generally agreed, however, that Fraunces was African American. Much of what is known about him comes from his 1785 petition for compensation from Congress for services rendered during the American War of Independence, letters from George Washington, and an obituary in the 13 October 1795 issue of the Gazette of the United States. He owned an inn in New York City in 1755 and the following year obtained a license to operate an ordinary which was a tavern serving meals as well as the usual ales and spirits At this time he was married ...

Article

Karen E. Sutton

free black loyalist in Preston Township, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and one of the founders of Freetown, Sierra Leone, is a person about whom little early information is known. He may have begun life as a slave in one of the former British colonies before the war, and his name may have been a “freedom name”; that is, one that he chose for himself when his personal liberty came. Probably he was the same British Freedome granted land in the Merigumish Township, Pictou County, Nova Scotia, Canada, for service as a private in the 82nd Regiment of Foot (S. Patterson, History of County of Pictou, 460). Some members of that regiment served at the Battle of Yorktown with the British General Cornwallis Freedom s name is not in the Book of Negroes the list of black Americans freed after the American Revolution and who left with ...

Article

Milton C. Sernett

lay preacher and émigré to Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone, was born on a Nottoway River plantation in Essex County, Virginia. His parents, slaves known as John and Judith, were of African origin and had nine children. While a youth David labored in the corn and tobacco fields and witnessed frequent whippings of other slaves, including his mother, who was the master's cook.

When he was about nineteen, George ran away to North Carolina, worked for a brief time, but was pursued and fled to South Carolina. He worked as a hired hand for about two years. After hearing that his first master was again pursuing him, George escaped to central Georgia where he hid among the Creek Indians. George became the personal servant of Chief Blue Salt, who later sold him to the Natchez chief, King Jack.

A trader with the white settlers King Jack sold George to ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

was the first African American and perhaps the first of any color to become a millionaire in Texas. His life reflects substantial changes in the social and legal implications of skin color from the late eighteenth century to the mid-nineteeth century, distinct from, but closely related to, changes in the institution of slavery.

His father was a “free colored” man named William Goyens Sr. (or Goin), born in 1762, who enlisted in a company of the Tenth North Carolina Regiment May 1781–May 1782 for the Revolutionary War. After discharge from the militia, Goyens Sr. married an unknown woman referred to as “white,” who was the mother of the younger William Goyens. Goyens Sr. then remarried a colored woman named Elizabeth in 1793. Goyens Sr. received an invalid pension for North Carolina militia service in 1835, at the age of seventy-two (Research of Cindy Goins Hoelscher ...

Article

Chernoh M. Sesay

abolitionist and founder of the first black Freemasonic lodge, probably received his manumission from William Hall, a Boston leather-dresser, and his wife Susannah in 1770. No extant material confirms Hall as the Barbados son of a white father and a mother of mixed racial heritage, as most of his published biographies state, or as an emigrant to Boston any time before 1760, or as a preacher in a Cambridge church. The slave released by William Hall, only described as Prince, probably went on to become Prince Hall, a Boston leather worker, who, having organized the first black Freemasonic lodge, garnered respect from Boston luminaries and deference from his northern black peers and organized one of the country's oldest African American institutions.

Marriage records show that one or several Prince Halls had several wives. Hall, while a servant to William Hall, married Sarah Richie also ...

Article

Richard Newman

Congregational minister, was born in West Hartford, Connecticut, the son of a black father and a white mother, both unknown, and both of whom abandoned him at birth. He was indentured at five months of age to a white family named Rose through whom he absorbed strong Calvinist theology and evangelical piety. He was educated in the local schools, but, a serious and diligent child, he also taught himself by the light of the fireside at night; he later said, “I made it my rule to know more every night than I knew in the morning.” In 1783 he married Elizabeth Babbit, a white schoolteacher who had proposed to him; they became the parents of ten children.

Haynes fulfilled his indenture and came of age just as the American Revolution was beginning. He signed up as a minuteman in 1774 and joined militia troops at Roxbury Massachusetts ...

Article

Sarah J. Purcell

Revolutionary War soldier, was born free in Northampton, Massachusetts, of unknown parentage. He was taken to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, at the age of six by Joab, an African American former servant to Jonathan Edwards. When Hull was eighteen years old, in May 1777, he enlisted to fight in the Revolutionary War as a private in General John Paterson's brigade of the First Massachusetts Regiment of the Continental army. Free blacks had been allowed by the Continental Congress to enlist in the army since January 1776, but each unit commander determined whether or not he would accept African American recruits.

Hull served as General Paterson's personal orderly for two years. He then attended General Tadeusz Kosciuszko the Polish volunteer in the American cause as an orderly for four years and two months As an orderly Hull performed a variety of personal and military duties for the ...

Article

Karen E. Sutton

property owner and matriarch of eighteenth-century free black Albany, New York. Records indicate that Jackson was the first African American to own property in Albany. In January 1779 she bought a city lot on the South side of lower Second Street. We know little of her origins; however, by the time of this fortuitous purchase she had married Jack Johnson, a free man of color from Albany. They had two sons, Jack and Lewis. In 1790Dinnah Jackson worked as the housekeeper at the Masonic Lodge and at Saint Peter's Episcopal Church. Exactly how she was able to purchase her property is unclear, but she may have been extremely frugal and resourceful, or perhaps she had an unknown benefactor.

In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries people lived near their work and most free blacks lived near one another for support and companionship Unlike many other northern ...

Article

Nicole S. Ribianszky

free woman of color, property owner, and businesswoman in Natchez, Mississippi, was born into slavery. Little is known of her parents or early life. She was emancipated in 1814 at age thirty by her white owner, William Johnson, who was the likely father of her two young children, Adelia and William. He stated in the emancipation document executed in Concordia Parish, Louisiana, that in consideration of five dollars he had liberated Amy, who would be “able to work and gain a Sufficient Livilihood and maintenance” (Davis and Hogan, Barber, 15).

Amy was listed as a free Negro head of household in the Natchez, Mississippi, censuses of 1816, 1818, and 1820. Her children were also freed by William Johnson beginning with Adelia at age thirteen in 1818. Her son, William Johnson (1809–1851), was emancipated two years after this, in 1820 ...

Article

Kari J. Winter

slave, Loyalist during the American Revolution, carpenter, Methodist preacher, and memoirist, was born on a plantation near Charleston, South Carolina, the son of a literate African slave who worked as a driver and a mill cutter and an enslaved mother who made clothes and tended the sick, using herbal knowledge she gained from American Indians. At the age of six Boston King began waiting on his master, Richard Waring, in the plantation house. From age nine to sixteen, he was assigned to tend the cattle and horses, and he traveled with his master's racehorses to many places in America.

At sixteen King was apprenticed to a master carpenter Two years later he was placed in charge of the master s tools on two occasions when valuable items were stolen the master beat and tortured King so severely that he was unable to work for ...

Article

Elizabeth Kuebler-Wolf

slave and Revolutionary War spy, was born James Armistead, a slave belonging to the planter William Armistead of New Kent County, Virginia. Nothing is known of his parents, but it is reasonable to assume that William Armistead also held, at least at some point, James's mother and possibly his father as slaves. James Armistead was a skilled worker whom William Armistead employed in his Richmond offices apparently in a clerical capacity. During the Revolutionary War, William Armistead served as a military supply officer, with James Armistead accompanying him as a body servant. Later William Armistead was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.

James Armistead accompanied William Armistead to Richmond in the summer of 1781 while William was fulfilling his duties as the commissary of military supplies to the Continental army. American forces, led by the French Marquis de Lafayette, and British troops led by Lord Cornwallis ...

Article

Fiona J. L. Handley

slave, wealthy landowner, and community leader, was born Nicholas Augustin Metoyer in Natchitoches, in the Spanish colony of Louisiana. His mother was Marie-Thérèse Coincoin, a slave and later a free woman and successful agriculturalist, and his father was Claude Thomas Pierre Metoyer, a wealthy French merchant and planter with whom his mother had a nineteen-year liaison. Marie-Thérèse was enslaved when Augustin and his twin sister Marie Susanne were born, and he was subsequently bought by his father on 31 May 1776 from Madame de St Denis along with three of his siblings for 1 300 livres He grew up as the oldest male child in a wealthy household where in an unusual situation an enslaved woman and a white man cohabited almost completely openly Although Pierre Metoyer never explicitly acknowledged his children with Marie Thérèse as his own most of them took ...

Article

Fiona J. L. Handley

slave, wealthy landowner, and community leader was born in Natchitoches, in the Spanish colony of Louisiana. His mother was Marie-Thérèse Coincoin, a slave who became a free woman and a successful agriculturalist, and his father was Claude Thomas Pierre Metoyer, a wealthy French merchant and planter with whom his mother had a nineteen-year liaison. Marie-Thérèse was enslaved when Louis was born, and he was subsequently bought by his father on 31 May 1776 from Madame de St Denis along with three of his siblings for 1 300 livres Louis Metoyer s upbringing was unusual for its day His parents shared a household in a scarcely disguised fashion and unlike most other mixed race families in the Louisianan upper classes there was no white family to compete for the financial and emotional affection of the father Pierre Metoyer reunited his children with Marie Thérèse under one ...

Article

David Wheat

master mason, militia captain, and property owner in colonial Mobile, Alabama, was a prominent free black man whose last name meant “my friend” in Mobilian Jargon, a major Native American pidgin used throughout the region during his lifetime. His first name used the French spelling “Nicolas.”

Born in roughly 1720 according to his burial record, the exact place and date of Mongoula's birth are unknown. Nor is much certain about his parentage. He was possibly one of two children named “Nicolas” born the same year to enslaved black mothers in Mobile, which is now a port city of Alabama but which in the colonial era changed hands among France, Great Britain, and Spain. Just as little is known of Nicolas Mongoula's early life; how he came to be identified—and to identify himself—with Mobilian Jargon remains unresolved.

This pidgin also known as the Mobilian Trade Language was used ...

Article

Karen E. Sutton

free black veteran of the American Revolution, was born in Lancaster County, Virginia, to Elizabeth Nicken, a free woman, and an unnamed father. Early in life James indentured himself to Edward Ingram until his thirty-first birthday (1768). In 1776James Nickens may have moved in with his cousin, John Nickens, to establish himself. He was finally on his own when he decided to join the war effort.

Nickens served first as a seaman in the Virginia state navy. Since African Americans dominated the water professions, it was natural that many, including Nickens, chose to serve on the water during the war. Perhaps he heard about hostile British ships entering the Chesapeake Bay and threatening Virginia waters in January 1777. Enlisting in the navy on 19 July 1777, Nickens served three years on board the Revenge and the Hero There he helped perform the ...