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Mary Fields was born a slave in Tennessee, but little else is known of her early life. Some historical accounts have placed her on the Mississippi River in the early 1870s, and at least one researcher claims that she was a passenger on the Robert E. Lee when it raced the steamer Natchez in June 1870. By 1884 Fields was living in Toledo, Ohio, where she worked as a handywoman for an order of Ursuline nuns. She became attached to the mother superior of the convent, Mother Amadeus, who is variously reported as a close friend or as the master in a master-servant relationship. Shortly after Fields arrived at the convent, Mother Amadeus left for Montana to open a school for Blackfeet Native American girls. When Mother Amadeus fell ill in Helena, Fields came to her aid and decided to stay in Montana.

Fields assisted the Catholic mission ...

Article

Kelli Cardenas Walsh

The story of Mary Fields is one of race, gender, and age. She was the antithesis of the nineteenth-century Victorian image of womanhood. In an age of domesticity, Fields lived a frontier life dependent upon no one and uninhibited by Jim Crow.

A former slave, in freedom Fields became an independent, gunslinging, liquor-drinking woman in the untamed frontier of Montana. She stood six feet tall and was stout. Details about the early life of Mary Fields are sparse, other than that she was born into slavery in 1832. Judge Dunn in Hickman County, Tennessee, owned Fields and presumably owned her family. She was befriended by her master’s daughter, Dolly, and remained with the family after Emancipation.

Once she left the Dunn family Fields spent an unspecified time in Ohio and along the Mississippi River During this time Dolly joined a convent of Ursuline nuns taking the name of ...

Article

Robert F. Jefferson

postmaster, labor organizer, civil rights advocate, and community leader, was born in Hillsboro, Texas, the eleventh of twelve children of William Henry McGee and Mary Washington. The occupations of his parents are unknown. After his mother died in 1914, Henry moved to Chicago where he lived with his older brother, the Reverend Ford W. McGee—a future bishop of a South Side Holiness Church—for three years before returning to Hillsboro to rejoin his family. Then, Henry returned home to rejoin his father in Texas before the family relocated to Kansas City, Missouri.

After graduating from high school, Henry returned in 1927 to Chicago, where he attended Crane Junior College by day and worked the night shift as a substitute mail clerk in the Chicago Post Office. After earning an associate's degree in 1929 McGee had aspirations to continue his education but like countless ...

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Alexander J. Chenault

politician, the first black and the longest serving postmaster in Mississippi, was born on 11 March 1856 in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi, near what is called the Cowan settlement. He was born a free person of color, as were his parents, Louis Piernas, a brick layer by trade, and Adelle Labat—with some of his male relatives having fought with General Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans. Piernas's father was born in Havana, Cuba, and his mother was born in Haiti. Devoutly Catholic, Louis was christened, baptized, and married Mary Louise Barabino at Our Lady of the Gulf Church in Bay St. Louis. In 1868 he began attending a private school for colored children in the church s yard attended by free mulattos and ex slave children studying French and English One of six children as a child he worked with his uncle in the oyster business He ...

Article

Joy Gleason Carew

journalist, postal systems specialist, and African American expatriate in the Soviet Union from 1932 to 1946, was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His parents' names are not known. Fed up with Jim Crow in the South and discrimination and racism in the North Smith joined hundreds of highly ambitious African Americans in the 1920s and 1930s who were anxious to test out the idea that there were societies outside the United States that would welcome all those of goodwill no matter the color of their skin Many blacks turned their attention to France as a result of experiences of World War I where the French had expressed solidarity with African American servicemen For others the quest was directed to the new Soviet Union a country that overtly offered sanctuary to oppressed people As Smith wrote in his memoirs I read avidly the reports of the Soviet experiment ...