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Article

Rob Garrison

José Antonio Aponte, a free black man, worked as a carpenter and a wood carver in Havana, Cuba, before taking the role of revolutionary leader. Like many other Afro-Cubans in the early 1800s, he was discontented with the continuation of slavery and Spanish dominance that kept blacks from freedom. Afro-Cubans had already supported an unsuccessful independence movement in 1810, and had their hopes raised when Spanish courts briefly considered ending slavery. Once this proposal was rejected, blacks knew that freedom could be achieved only through their own means. Aponte seized this opportunity and proceeded to gather both the free and enslaved blacks of Havana in 1811 to form the Central Revolutionary Junta. The group quickly expanded and established smaller units throughout Cuba. Aponte solicited the help of Haitian general Jean François, who promised support for the proposed revolt.

Aponte s intention was not only to end Afro ...

Article

Michael J. Murphy

automobile worker and activist, was born General Gordon Baker Jr. in Detroit, Michigan, one of five children of General Gordon Baker Sr., an automobile worker, and Clara Baker, a housewife. Baker attended Southwestern High School in Detroit and went on to take classes at Highland Park Community College and Wayne State University. In the early 1960s he took a job with Ford Motor Company and continued to work in the automobile industry for almost forty years. In 1941 Baker s father had moved his family to Detroit from Georgia in search of a job in the booming war production industries taking part in the massive migration of African Americans from the rural South to cities in the North during the first half of the twentieth century Becoming an autoworker allowed Baker Sr to dramatically improve his family s standard of living especially in comparison to his prospects ...

Article

Richard Watts

Jean-Jacques Dessalines was born to Congolese parents on a plantation in Saint-Domingue (as Haiti was known prior to independence). He was given the name of the plantation owner, Duclos, before adopting the name of the freed black landowner, Dessalines, who purchased his services as a slave. Unlike his future comrade-in-arms, François Dominique Toussaint Louverture, Dessalines was treated harshly as a slave and joined the ranks of maroons (runaway slaves) at a young age. In 1792 he became a partisan of the slave uprising led by Boukman, a slave of Jamaican origin, and impressed his compatriots with his courage. Yet Dessalines committed acts of cruelty that frightened some in the rebellion. His capacity for violence would contribute in equal measure to his precipitous rise and fall.

Following the abolition of slavery in Saint-Domingue in 1793 Toussaint Louverture allied himself with the French Dessalines joined him eventually becoming Toussaint ...

Article

Graham Russell Hodges

Born to petit bourgeois parents in Vého, Lorraine, in rural France, Henri-Baptiste Grégoire was educated at a Jesuit college. He then became a teacher and was consequently ordained as a priest in Lorraine at the age of twenty-five. Frustrated by hierarchical barriers to advancement, he turned to writing.

Grégoire's first essays, published in the late 1770s, advocated tolerance of Jews, a position that placed Grégoire in opposition to the wave of anti-Semitism in France. In 1785 he won awards for a book reflecting his passion for Jewish rights Grégoire contended that temporal salvation by which he meant absorption into the Roman Catholic Church was individual rather than racial or national He defined his duty as working for the creation of conditions under which Jews could convert to Catholicism and be eligible for salvation To avoid social corruption he believed Jews were to be encouraged to migrate to the countryside ...

Article

Stacy Braukman

radical black nationalist and anti-prison activist, was born George Lester Jackson in Chicago, Illinois, the second of the four children of Robert Lester Jackson and Georgia (maiden name unknown). George Jackson attended St. Malachy, a Catholic school located in what he later described as the “heart of the ghetto,” from kindergarten through ninth grade (Jackson, Soledad Brother, 5). In 1956 Robert Jackson transferred his postal job to southern California, and he took young George with him—in large part to remove him from his increasing involvement in local gangs and from his minor scuffles with police. The two drove from Chicago to Watts, California, and were soon joined by the rest of the family.

In Watts George Jackson engaged in an escalating series of petty thefts and acts of rebellion against local police officers and he was arrested three times over the next two years He spent several months ...

Article

Norman O. Richmond

Black Panther known as one of the Soledad brothers and the author of a best-selling collection of letters written from prison. George Jackson was born in Chicago and spent his formative years in Southern California. He went to prison at age eighteen for a seventy-dollar robbery and spent a large part of the rest of his life behind bars. Jackson rose to be the leading prison intellectual of his time and during his incarceration became a member of the Black Panther Party. His two books, Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson (1970) and Blood in My Eye (1972), were international best sellers. The great Caribbean intellectual C. L. R. James (1901–1989) considered Jackson's letters to be “the most remarkable political documents that have appeared inside or outside the United States since the death of Lenin” (Marable, p. 11).

Jackson wrote passionate letters ...

Article

George Lester Jackson grew up on the West Side of Chicago, the son of Lester Jackson, a postal worker, and Georgia Jackson. He was the second oldest of five children. Street-smart and rebellious, Jackson had several run-ins with the law for petty crimes by the time he was ten. His family moved to Los Angeles in 1956, where Jackson's troubles with the law continued, and included several arrests for robbery. Paroled in June 1960 after serving time for a gas station holdup, Jackson was arrested later that year for a gas station robbery that netted seventy-one dollars. Due to his previous convictions, he received an indeterminate sentence of one year to life. He was nineteen, and remained in prison for the rest of his life.

While in prison, Jackson studied the writings of Karl Marx, Frantz Fanon, Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro and ...

Article

Sam Hitchmough

During a period of political turbulence in Europe, Lajos (Louis) Kossuth became president of the newly formed and ultimately short-lived independent republic of Hungary following the 1848 revolution. When the 1849 intervention of Russian troops in support of Austrian armies against the fledgling republic proved decisive, Kossuth fled to the Ottoman Empire before spending the last forty-five years of his life in exile in England and Italy. He toured the United States in 1851 and 1852 to the great interest of enthusiastic audiences.

Born in Monok, Hungary (then part of Austria), Kossuth was educated in Budapest and trained as a lawyer before entering politics in 1825 As a young member of the Hungarian Diet parliament he acted as the deputy to Count Hunyadi at a time when there was growing sentiment against Austrian rule and a move to reassert Hungarian national identity To avoid censorship of published reports of ...

Article

Gary Ashwill

A self-educated former slave, François Dominique Toussaint-L'Ouverture joined the Haitian Revolution in 1791 and became its foremost general, defeating both French and British forces. In 1802, he was betrayed and captured, and he died imprisoned in France.

Toussaint figures importantly in the early-nineteenth-century writings of James McCune Smith, David Walker, and Henry Highland Garnet, among others, as a symbol and exemplar of resistance to slavery, and as an example of the potential of the black race. William Wells Brown, in his pamphlet St. Domingo: Its Revolution and Its Patriots (1854), compares Toussaint favorably to Napoleon and George Washington: “Toussaint liberated his countrymen; Washington enslaved a portion of his.” George Clinton Rowe's seventy-stanza poem, Toussaint L'Ouverture (1890), lauds Toussaint as the “deliverer of his race.” Later African American writers such as Carter G. Woodson and W. E. B. Du Bois argued ...

Article

Christopher Tucker

former member of the Black Panther Party (BPP) and a fugitive from the United States Federal government, was born Felix L. O’Neal Jr. in Kansas City, Missouri, son of Felix L. O’Neal Sr. and Florence F. O’Neal. O’Neal was raised on 12th Street in segregated Kansas City, near an area known as the 18th and Vine district, which remains well known for its jazz, barbeque, and African American culture. After World War II Felix Sr. worked as a laborer for the Kansas City Water Department, eventually retiring as a foreman. “From as far back as I can remember, up until 1953 my family and I lived in a dilapidated ghetto three story building each floor had six two room apartments with a shared toilet and bath tub in the hall I shudder to recall how cramped we were O Neal explains My father was a very hard worker ...

Article

Alva Moore Stevenson

revolutionary, governor, city councilman, landowner, and businessman, was born Pío de Jesus Píco at the San Gabriel Mission in California, the fourth of the ten children of José María Píco, founder of the Píco family in Southern California, and a native of Fuerte, Sinaloa, Mexico, and María Eustaquia Gutiérrez, from San Miguel de Horcasitas, Sonora, Mexico. Pío's ancestry was a combination of African, Hispanic, Native American, and European. José Píco migrated to California in 1801 with the Anza Expedition, which was authorized in 1775 by the viceroy of Spain. Soldiers and their families were recruited from Sonora to occupy and settle the port of San Francisco. A successful overland emigration and supply route was established between Sonora and Alta California. Among the positions he held were sergeant and corporal Many members of the Píco family served in the military including Pío Píco s ...

Article

William E. Burns

soldier and rebellion participant, was born in Stoughton, Massachusetts, the son of Moses Sash and Sarah Colley, free blacks who were listed as “molatoes” in the church record of their marriage. Moses Sash the younger served in the American Revolution, enlisting on 17 August 1777 in Colonel Ruggles Woodbridge's regiment and serving until 29 November 1777. His unit saw action at the battle of Saratoga. On 17 April 1781 Sash reenlisted for a term of three years as part of the quota of men assigned to the town of Cummington, Massachusetts. He was a private in the Seventh Regiment of Lieutenant Colonel John Brooks, serving mostly in the area of West Point, New York.

Sash played a significant role in the western Massachusetts uprising of 1786 and early 1787 led by Captain Daniel Shays over matters of debt taxation and the feeling of western Massachusetts ...

Article

Caryn Cossé Bell

military officer, was born into an influential family of free persons of African descent in the city of Saint-Marc in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (later Haiti). He married the Saint-Marc native Marie Charlotte Lajoie, and the couple had at least two sons, Belton and Bertile Savary. The family fled their native land during the Haitian Revolution and eventually emigrated to New Orleans in a massive Saint-Domingue refugee movement in 1809 and 1810 that nearly doubled the size of the city.

Charles Joseph Savary s life spanned the American French and Haitian revolutions and because of the tumultuous age in which he lived the facts related to his history are scarce fragmentary and sometimes contradictory Part of the problem also stems from circumstances that forced Savary to conceal his identity In Saint Domingue s repressive three caste society and in slave regimes throughout the Americas free men ...

Article

Roy E. Finkenbine

Born to African slave parents on the Bréda plantation near Cap Français (contemporary Cap-Haïtien) in Saint Domingue, the leading French sugar colony in the Caribbean, Toussaint remained in slavery for nearly the first five decades of his life. His manager, Bayou de Libertas, recognizing his intelligence, assigned him the less physically demanding task of serving as his coachman, taught him to read, and allowed him to read extensively on a variety of subjects. Among his favorite books were histories of the military campaigns of Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great, which undoubtedly helped familiarize him with military strategy.

When the French Revolution—with its slogan of liberty, equality, and fraternity—precipitated slave revolts in Saint Domingue in 1791 Toussaint seized his chance for freedom After helping his master flee to safety in the United States he entered the fighting on the rebel side quickly earning a reputation as a skilled ...

Article

Caryn E. Neumann

a member of the radical black liberation group MOVE who survived the 1985 fire that destroyed a Philadelphia neighborhood, was born as Oywolffe Momer Puim Ward, the only child of Rhonda Cheryl Harris and Andino R. Ward. The couple separated in 1973 when Andino Ward enlisted in the US Air Force and Harris became a part of MOVE. The boy went with his mother and received the new name of Birdie Africa as part of the family of MOVE founder, John Africa.

In MOVE all members shared the same age, one, and the same last name. They followed John Africa's teachings about the “system” or establishment, as well as his directions about going back to nature and life in general. Ward later categorized the organization as a cult.

John Africa believed that children could thrive on a diet of only raw vegetables so Ward s body grew slowly because ...

Article

James Thomas Jones

civil rights activist. Born in Monroe, North Carolina, Williams was reared in a racially charged Jim Crow environment that made racial matters omnipresent for local blacks. Toward solidifying such realities in young Robert, his grandparents, former slaves themselves, rehashed stories regarding the cruelty of the slave system and the whites who facilitated it. Naturally such teachings had a profound effect upon young Robert, who decided as a teenager that collective political agitation was critical to African Americans’ survival.

Similar to other southern blacks, Robert and his family sought freedom and opportunity in the North and migrated to Detroit. The teenage Williams quickly discovered that racial tensions undergirding the North equaled those of his southern roots. The Detroit riot of 1943 destroyed any illusions he may have had about the North A dozen years later following his discharge from the U S Marines Williams returned to Monroe North Carolina where ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

civil rights radical, broadcaster, and writer, was born in Monroe, Union County, North Carolina, the fourth of five children of John Williams, a railroad boiler washer, and Emma (Carter) Williams. In school Robert excelled at history, an interest encouraged by his grandmother, Ellen Williams, who passed on to the young boy tales of slavery and of the violent white supremacy campaigns of the 1890s. Ellen also passed on to Robert the rifle owned by his grandfather, Sikes Williams, who had been a prominent Republican Party activist and newspaper editor.

Even at an early age Robert understood the powerful sexual dynamics that shaped Southern race relations. One incident in particular from Robert's childhood haunted him. As an eleven-year-old he looked on in horror as Monroe's burly police chief, Jesse Helms Sr. the father of the U S senator dragged a black woman to ...

Article

Timothy B. Tyson

Robert Franklin Williams grew up in a tradition of resistance to white supremacy. His grandfather, born a slave, had been a Republican Party activist during Reconstruction after the Civil War, when former slaves sought to establish themselves as equal citizens but found their efforts dashed by white terrorists. His grandfather edited a newspaper called The People's Voice. His grandmother, who lived through these struggles, was a daily presence in his life as he grew to manhood. She told young Williams stories of the crusading editor's political exploits and gave him his grandfather's gun before she died.

World War II transformed Williams's life; he moved to Detroit to work in the defense industries, fought white mobs in the Detroit Riot of 1943 and marched for freedom in a segregated U S Army Military training instilled in us what a virtue it was to fight for democracy he said but ...