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Alonford James Robinson

Information on the birth and early childhood of Crispus Attucks is inconclusive, but historians believe that he was part African and part Native American, and that he was once the slave of William Brown of Framingham, Massachusetts. In November 1750, Attucks escaped. For the next twenty years, he worked on whaling ships docked in ports throughout New England.

His fame is attributable largely to a single fateful day in Boston, March 5, 1770, when anticolonial patriot Samuel Adams urged dockworkers and seamen in Boston to protest the presence of British troops guarding the customs commissioners Attucks was among an estimated fifty men who gathered that night to confront the British and is alleged to have rallied his comrades by declaring Don t be afraid as he led the ranks When British soldiers fired on the protesters Attucks was the first of five men killed in what ...

Article

Harry M. Ward

probably a sailor, was the first to be killed in the Boston Massacre of 5 March 1770. Generally regarded to have been of mixed ancestry (African, Indian, and white), Attucks seems to have hailed from a Natick Indian settlement, Mashpee (incorporated as a district in 1763, near Framingham, Massachusetts). While Attucks's life and background before the tragic event are uncertain, two reasonable conjectures stand out. First, he was a descendant of those Natick Indians converted to Christianity in the seventeenth century. One tribesman, John Attuck, was hanged on 22 June 1676 for allegedly conspiring with the Indian insurrection of that year. Second, it appears that Attucks may have once been a slave. The Boston Gazette of 2 October 1750 printed this notice Ran away from his Master William Brown of Framingham on the 30th of September last a mulatto Fellow about twenty seven years of age ...

Article

Scott A. Miltenberger

The death of Crispus Attucks is shrouded in myth. John Adams, the future second president of the United States and the defense attorney for the British troops charged with Attucks's murder, accused him of being a rabble-rouser and the instigator of the confrontation that resulted in the now famously known “Boston Massacre” of 1770. John Hancock, a Boston merchant and, like Adams, a member of the Sons of Liberty, celebrated Attucks as a defiant patriot. Attucks's true role remains unclear—much like his life prior to 1770.

Attucks was most probably born a slave in Framingham, Massachusetts, in 1723. He was likely of mixed African and Native American parentage (attuck is the Natick Indian word for “deer”). In 1750, at about age twenty-seven, Attucks ran away from his master, most likely a William Brown For the next twenty years he worked as ...

Article

Graham Russell Hodges

Born free in Barbados, Stephen Blucke moved to New York City sometime before 1770. There Blucke married Margaret Coventry, who was his elder by nine years. She claimed to have purchased her own freedom in 1769, from Mrs. Coventry's family in New York City, as well as that of a six-year-old girl, Isabel Gibbons, who was probably her daughter. Blucke joined the Church of England, which gave him some prominence in the black community of New York City and in rural New Jersey. He chose to remain loyal to the English cause at the outbreak of the American Revolution and gained a patron in Stephen Skinner, a wealthy Loyalist. Stephen Blucke became a commander of the Black Pioneers, an informal black military organization that provided logistical support to the British army.

On 31 July 1783 Stephen Blucke and his family left New York City on HMS Peggy ...

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 ...

Article

Joshunda Sanders

former slave and landowner in central Texas at a time when few southern blacks owned land, was born a slave in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1826. The literate son of a slave mother and an Irish slaveholder father, Collins was freed in Alabama and traveled to Manor, Texas, in the mid-1800s as a skilled carpenter.

At the time he left Alabama, Collins was likely one of an estimated 500,000 free blacks in the United States in the decade before the Civil War. Free blacks were never a large population in Texas; in the 1860 census they numbered fewer than 400, but may have been twice that many. Free blacks, nevertheless, made a significant contribution to the early history of Texas. When Collins arrived in Manor, Texas, in 1863, however, he was re-enslaved.

He may have married his wife, Sarah Elizabeth Harrington at a Methodist church in the Austin ...

Article

Graham Russell Hodges

The son of unknown parents, Titus Corlies was born on the farm of John Corlies, a Quaker farmer and slave owner in Shrewsbury, New Jersey. John Corlies resisted the determination of Quakers to free members' slaves. When elders of the Shrewsbury Meeting visited Corlies at his farm in 1775, he angrily refused to manumit his slaves. Titus Corlies, then about twenty years old, was listening carefully.

After Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia, made his famous proclamation offering freedom to enslaved blacks who joined the British forces, Titus fled. John Corlies described the self-emancipated fugitive as “not very black near 6 feet high, had on a grey homespun coat, brown breeches, blue and white stockings”; he also noted that Titus took along a quantity of clothes. The fugitive slave perhaps joined Dunmore's Ethiopian Regiment when it arrived at Staten Island, New York, in December 1776 Little ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

teacher, landowner, and businessman, was born to Caroline Cox (sometimes recorded as Caroline Griffin) on the Griffin plantation near Ebenezer, in Holmes County, Mississippi, on the eastern edge of the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta. The name of Wayne's father is unknown, but several accounts suggest that his mother was widowed either shortly before or shortly after her son was born.

From an early age, perhaps as early as three or four, Cox worked in the cotton fields of the Griffith plantation alongside his mother. During the years of Reconstruction he benefited from the establishment of the first state-supported public schools for African American children in Mississippi. Though the school year was only a few weeks long, Cox displayed a precocious talent at the Holmes County School, and by age eleven he had completed all of the courses on offer in the school's rudimentary curriculum. In 1875 he won ...

Article

Caroline DeVoe

businessman, landowner, farmer, and lynching victim, was born into slavery in Abbeville, South Carolina, the youngest son of Thomas and Louisa, slaves on the plantation of Ben Crawford in Abbeville, South Carolina. After Emancipation and Ben Crawford's death, his widow Rebecca may have bequeathed land to her former slave, Thomas, Anthony's father. Thomas continued to acquire land, and in 1873 he purchased 181 acres of fertile land from Samuel McGowan, a former Confederate general and South Carolina Supreme Court Justice. Thomas Crawford's “homeplace” was located in an alluvial valley, approximately seven miles west of the town of Abbeville. The rich land was flanked on the east by Little River and on the west by Penny Creek.

While Crawford's brothers worked the family farm Anthony was sent to school walking seven miles to and from school each day Seventeen year old Anthony was ...

Article

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

Rayford W. Logan

Born in Columbus, in Burlington County, New Jersey, Oliver Cromwell is reported to have been born free. He worked as a farmer and enlisted in a company attached to the Second New Jersey Regiment under the command of Colonel Israel Shreve. According to Cromwell's reminiscences when he was by his account one hundred years old, he accompanied General George Washington when he crossed the Delaware in 1776, and fought in the battles of Princeton, Brandywine, Monmouth, and Yorktown. There, he recalled, he saw the last man killed. Regardless of the dependability of his detailed recollections, his honorable discharge as a private in a battalion of the Second New Jersey Regiment was signed by General George Washington at his headquarters on June 5, 1783 An endorsement stated that he was honored with the Badge of Merit for Six Years faithful service He also received a federal pension ...

Article

Penny Anne Welbourne

Oliver Cromwell was born a free African American in Burlington County, New Jersey, in the town that later became Columbus. He lived with the family of John Hutchin, a farmer, and was expected to become a farmer as well. Little else is known about Cromwell's life before he was twenty, the age at which he enlisted in a company attached to the Second New Jersey Regiment, led by Colonel Israel Shreve. In 1772 free African Americans were permitted to fight in the American Revolutionary War, a practice later reinforced by the passage of the Militia Act of New Jersey in 1777.

Ironically, Cromwell served for six years and nine months under the immediate command of George Washington, who was initially opposed to African Americans' enlisting in the Continental army. Along with another African American, Prince Whipple, on Christmas Eve 1776 Cromwell crossed the Delaware River ...

Article

Alton Hornsby

Reported to be the son of a Virginia white woman and a black father, Austin Dabney was probably born in North Carolina. Shortly after the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775, a man named Richard Aycock brought Austin from North Carolina to Wilkes County, Georgia. It was assumed that Austin was a slave. However, when Aycock was ushered into the Georgia militia, Aycock asked that the young mulatto (of African and European descent) be permitted to take his place. The law forbade slaves to bear arms for any reason, but Aycock swore that the boy was indeed a free person of color. Austin was placed under the command of Colonel Elijah Clarke in the Georgia militia. He was assigned to a company headed by a Captain Dabney, who soon gave his own surname to the young soldier.

As Dabney prepared to join American patriots who had ...

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

William Flora 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 2,000 free blacks lived in Virginia. The colony's statutes forbade the manumission of slaves except those who exposed an incipient slave uprising. Consequently, Flora, 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 the British and Loyalist forces commanded by Lord ...

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

Scott A. Miltenberger

David George was born into slavery in Virginia. Both of his parents, John and Judith George, had been captured in Africa and sold to the especially cruel Chapel family in Virginia. George recalled that his mother was often whipped viciously and that one of his brothers nearly died at the hands of their master. In 1762 his master's treatment of his mother prompted George to run away to Georgia.

There George found work with a white man, John Green, but the son of George's former master found him two years later. George fled and for several years eluded his master successfully. Captured first by the Creek chief Blue Salt and later the Natchez chief King Jack, he found enslavement and treatment by Native Americans more equitable and more humane than that by whites. King Jack ultimately sold George to a man named George Galphin who owned a plantation ...