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Article

George Yancy

philosopher and first African American to receive a PhD in Philosophy in the United States, was born enslaved of enslaved parents, Thomas Chadwick Baker, a Civil War veteran, and Edith (Nottingham) Baker, on Robert Nottingham's plantation in Northampton County, Virginia. Edith was the daughter of Southey and Sarah Nottingham of Northampton County. Thomas Nelson Baker was one of five children.

Describing the influences on his early intellectual life, Baker remembered:

My mother taught me my letters although I well remember when she learned them herself My first reading lesson was the second chapter of Matthew the Bible being the only book we had I never read a bad book in my life which is one of the blessings I got by being poor I began to attend the common schools at eight and learned to love books passionately I used to read through my recesses Evenings I read the Bible ...

Article

Stewart King

was born on 16 December 1753 in Torbec, on the southern peninsula of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti). His father, François Boisrond (1711–1772), a mixed-race small planter, married Marie Hérard (1724–1773), from a prominent free colored family from the nearby parish of Aquin, sometime before 1743. Louis François was the tenth of their eleven children. (Louis-François’s surname sometimes appears as Boisrond-Jeune. The cognomen “Jeune” means “the younger,” and it was commonly used to distinguish a person from an older relative with the same name. In this case, we do not know who the older Louis-François Boisrond was; perhaps there was an older brother who died in childhood, or perhaps the intent was to distinguish Louis-François from his father, François.)

François Boisrond, along with other free colored and white planters of the regions, participated in an uprising against obligatory militia service in 1763 he suffered no punishment ...

Article

Bernard Gainot

There is little documentation on his life before he moved to mainland France. Even though the surname “Boisson” was common in Cap-Français (now Cap-Haïtien), there is evidence that Joseph belonged to the community of free blacks who advanced through the military on the eve of the Haitian Revolution. He was a captain in the Saint-Domingue Gendarmerie when he was elected to the National Convention, the assembly held in Paris from 1792 to 1795 to draft a new constitution following the overthrow of the French monarchy. Reliable sources mention two sisters: Madeleine, who married a black sergeant of the First Battalion of Colonial Troops, and Marguerite, who was living with a white adjutant from the Battalion of the Cap-Français.

Like other representatives of Saint-Domingue, Boisson traveled first to Philadelphia, and then departed from New York on 20 March 1794 along with two parliamentarians Etienne Laforest a mulatto and Pierre Nicolas ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

book collector, historian, and journalist, was born in Philadelphia to George Bolivar, and Elizabeth LeCount Proctor Bolivar. There is some uncertainty about his precise year of birth, with historians suggesting 1844 (Silcox) or 1849 (Welborn), while census data inclines toward an 1847 date. His father was employed as a sailmaker by James Forten, a local businessman and founder of the Philadelphia Library Company of Colored Persons.

The family numbered themselves among the “O.P.”—Old Philadelphians—of the African American community. George Bolivar had been born in Philadelphia, to a Pennsylvania-born mother and a father from North Carolina. Elizabeth Bolivar was born in Pennsylvania to parents born in Maryland (1850 census). In 1850George Bolivar owned real estate valued at $8,000, while a North Carolina–born cousin, Nicholas Bolivar, lived with the family, working as a tailor. Throughout Bolivar s life there were relatives or ...

Article

Jeremy D. Popkin

an ambitious free man of color in the French colony of Saint-Domingue at the time of the Haitian Revolution, played a role in that group’s revolt against white rule in the 1790s, and was involved in all the major episodes of Haitian politics in the country’s first decades of independence. According to the memoirs published by his son Edmond Bonnet in France in 1864, Bonnet was born in Léogane, a few miles west of the present day capital, Port-au-Prince in 1775; other sources put his birth in 1772 or 1773. His paternal grandfather was a merchant from Nantes; his mother, who was responsible for his education, was a négresse libre. Employed as a clerk in a French merchant’s office, he followed the events of the French Revolution in the newspapers that reached the colony and was inspired by the ideals of liberty and equality.

Bonnet joined ...

Article

David Alvin Canton

journalist and historian, was born in Piscataway, Maryland, the son of Martha Allen Clark and Robert Bruce, who were both enslaved Africans. In 1859Major Harvey Griffin, Robert Bruce's owner, sold Robert to a Georgia slaveholder. Raised by his mother, John lived in Maryland until 1861, when Union troops marching through Maryland freed him and his mother, taking them to Washington, D.C., where John lived until 1892. In 1865 John's mother worked as a domestic in Stratford, Connecticut, where her son received his early education in an integrated school. One year later they returned to Washington, D.C., where John continued his education. Although he did not complete high school, he enrolled in a course at Howard University in 1872. John married Lucy Pinkwood, an opera singer from Washington, D.C. In 1895 he married Florence Adelaide Bishop, with whom he had one child.

Bruce began ...

Article

was born in Trujillo, in northwestern Peru, between 1707 and 1728; his exact year of birth is unknown. He was the son of Magdalena Tirado, who might have been a slave, and Miguel de Herrera, a free man of mixed descent. He defined himself as a pardo, or black man. It has been confirmed that he was a slave belonging to the silversmith Martín de la Cadena, which would explain his last name as well as his knowledge of metalwork; however, during the period of time documented in his biography, José was a free man.

Cadena’s first marriage was to Pascuala Velarde. In 1761 he signed his Cartilla música, a small treatise of musical theory published in Lima two years later. He was imprisoned briefly for debts he acquired in printing the treatise. It is probable that between 1763 and 1767 he might have lived in ...

Article

Jonathan Brennan

John Caesar was born in the mid-eighteenth century and joined the Seminole nation in Florida, one of the many groups of African-Seminole Indians who fought to maintain an autonomous and independent nation. There are few written records of the early life histories of the many escaped Africans and American Indians in the maroon communities across the Americas, and Caesar's life was no exception. By the time his exploits were recorded in U.S. military records, Caesar was well acculturated to Seminole life and politics, and thus he had likely been a long-time member of the Seminole nation. His work as an interpreter between Native Seminoles and the U.S. military, however, reveals his early upbringing among English-speaking Americans. He grew up in a time of intense conflict between the Seminoles and European colonists, and had become a seasoned war veteran by the time of the Second Seminole War (1835–1842 ...

Article

Philip Nanton

Britishwriter best known for his books The French Revolution (1837) and Frederick the Great (1858–65). Born in Scotland, and settling permanently in London in 1834, Carlyle was the author of many other works, including essays and articles in periodicals. Among these was his ‘Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question’, originally published in Fraser's Magazine (London) in December 1849, and later rewritten and republished as a pamphlet called Occasional Discourse on the Nigger Question (1853) and in some of the collected editions of the author's Latter‐Day Pamphlets (first published 1850).

In form, the Occasional Discourse is an imaginary report of a speech by a fictional orator and it would be unwise to assume that everything in the speech should be regarded as identical with the personal opinions of Carlyle who may have deliberately exaggerated some elements for effect The speaker ...

Article

David Dabydeen

Englishpoet who lent his pen to the anti‐slavery cause. Cowper was a supporter of international commerce, which he saw, idealistically, as the means by which mankind could share in God's bounty. In his poem Charity (1782), trade is described as ‘the golden girdle of the globe’, and Cowper writes of the ‘genial intercourse’ between nations effected by 18th‐century mercantile activity. The slave trader, however, betrays the principle of mutuality underpinning international commerce and brings shame to a Christian nation such as Great Britain (‘Canst thou, and honour'd with a Christian name | Buy what is woman‐born, and feel no shame?’). Religion apart, the slave trader also betrays the spirit of the age, its growing championing of liberty. To Cowper, the existence of slavery calls into question the very nature of humanity:

Then what is man? And what man, seeing this

And having human feelings does not blush ...

Article

Mathias Hanses

sailor and classics professor, political activist and first black president of Atlanta's Clark University, was born on St. Martin's in the Caribbean, the son of William Crogman, Sr. and Charlotte Chippendale. A small tropical island in the West Indies' northern Leewards, St. Martin's was occupied jointly by two colonial powers in William Crogman's childhood days, and its sugar plantations had kept slave labor alive. While the French in the North abolished the “peculiar institution” in 1848, the Dutch in the South followed suit only in 1863 Observing slavery intact may have alerted young Crogman to the necessity of serving his race while the reality of at least a partial abolition increased his confidence that even the most adverse circumstances could be overcome However before an ambitious intellectual career catapulted W H Crogman to the top of the African American Talented Tenth he would roam the world ...

Article

Stephen Gilroy Hall

lawyer and historian, was born a slave in Portsmouth, Virginia, the son of Willis Hodges Cromwell, a ferry operator, and Elizabeth Carney. In 1851Cromwell's father purchased the family's freedom and moved to West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where Cromwell attended public school. In 1856 he was admitted to the Preparatory Department of the Institute of Colored Youth. Graduating in 1864, he embarked on a teaching career. He taught in Columbia, Pennsylvania, and in 1865 opened a private school in Portsmouth, Virginia. Cromwell left teaching temporarily after an assault in which he was shot at and his school burned down. He returned to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was employed by the Baltimore Association for the Moral and Intellectual Improvement of Colored People. Then he served as an agent for the American Missionary Association and went back to Virginia. In 1867 he became active in local politics serving as a ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

author, advocate for the civil rights of African Americans in Louisiana, an organizer of the Citizen's Committee that launched the Plessy v. Ferguson legal challenge to racial segregation in public transportation, was the son of Jeremie Desdunes and Henriette Gaillard Desdunes.

Rodolphe Desdunes's grandson, Theodore Frere, recalled in 1971 that Jeremie Desdunes was Haitian and Henriette from Cuba; the couple reported in the 1880 census that both were born in Louisiana, Jeremie's mother was born in Cuba, and Henriette's father in France. All the Desdunes' sons consistently reported that their parents were both born in Louisiana (Census 1880, 1900, 1920). The Desdunes family was part of New Orleans's large community of gens de couleur libre—free people of color, primarily French-speaking. The 1840 census lists a Jeremie Des Dunes in the Third District of New Orleans whose household included five free colored males and ...

Article

Patricia Glinton-Meicholas

was born in 1797 in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (renamed Haiti following its revolution). He was the son of Mary Catherine Esther Argo (also “Hester Argeaux”), a free woman of African descent. His father was purportedly Etienne Dillet, a French army officer. Naturalized as a British subject of The Bahamas in 1828, Stephen Dillet became a member of one of the earliest organized civil rights pressure groups in The Bahamas, and he was the first Bahamian of color to win election to the colony’s Parliament.

Dillet was a man whose character and social and political pursuits were deeply influenced by events of international import, which supplied the context for his life. His birth in 1797 six years after the outbreak of the Haitian revolution was attended by bloody conflict The chief combatants were the free people of color and enslaved blacks who had rebelled to free themselves ...

Article

Michele Valerie Ronnick

professor of ancient Greek, philologist, ordained Methodist minister in the Colored Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church, and missionary to the Congo, was born in Hephzibah, Georgia, not far from Augusta, to Gabriel and Sarah Gilbert. His parents were field hands, and scholars are not certain whether John was born free or enslaved. Some sources give his birth date as 6 July 1864. As a child he was eager to learn, but he had to mix long hours of farm work with brief periods of school. At last overwhelmed by poverty he was forced to withdraw from the Baptist Seminary in Augusta. After a three-year hiatus from schooling he resumed his work when Dr. George Williams Walker, a Methodist pastor who had come to Augusta to teach in 1884, and Warren A. Candler pastor of Augusta s St John Church offered him assistance With the help ...

Article

Adele N. Nichols

sailor, clerk, attendant, author, and mason, is believed to have been born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, even though there is no substantial proof of that location. Various sources cite the District of Columbia or Maryland as his possible birthplace; nevertheless, it seems more probable that he was born in Virginia due to his family background. Grimshaw's parents were Juliet Grimshaw, a slave, and Robert Tyler, a slave owner. Even though there are limited facts on his personal childhood and education, a historical essay, “Winney Grimshaw, A Virginia Slave, and Her Family” by Richard Dunn, provides a detailed history on the Grimshaw family's enslavement and life on the Mount Airy plantation in Virginia. Grimshaw's surname, which was unusual in nineteenth-century Virginia, may have come from Samuel Grimshaw, who immigrated to Virginia in 1795 from England or from Thomas Grimshaw who lived near Alexandria and later ...

Article

Danica Tisdale

religious leader, college founder, and historian, was born near Jackson, Tennessee, to Cullen Lane, a white slave owner, and Rachel, a slave woman. Although born to a white father, young Isaac, by custom and law, occupied the status of his mother and was thus raised a slave by Rachel and her husband Josh, a slave and field hand. Little is known about young Isaac's parents, and, in fact, his autobiography states that he “was reared almost motherless and fatherless having no parental care and guidance” (Lane, 47). Nevertheless he was a precocious child, eager to learn. At the age of eleven he assumed the surname of his white father.

In his formative years Lane began to educate himself and would eventually learn to read write and do math Denied the advantages of early training Lane was able to seize a blue black speller and through ...

Article

Mary Krane Derr

human-rights campaigner, women organizer, and religious leader, often called S. Willie Layton or Layten, was born Sarah W. Phillips in Grenada, Mississippi, to the minister William H. Phillips and Mary H. Phillips, a housekeeper. William Phillips was born in January 1841 in Virginia, also the birthplace of both his parents. Mary Phillips was born in June 1845 in Mississippi, the birthplace of both of her parents. Very likely, both were born enslaved, as was Sarah at the time of her birth. Layton's parents wed in 1862. The 1900 U.S. Census records Layton as the only surviving child of six. Her father worked for denominational self-determination and professionalized clergy in the black churches. Layton's upbringing stressed the intersection of human rights, especially educational rights, of African Americans and women.

As a teenager, she lived in Memphis, Tennessee, with her parents and attended LeMoyne (now LeMoyne-Owen) College, graduating in 1881 ...

Article

Benjamin R. Justesen

lawyer, public official, legislator, and law school dean, was the youngest son of five children born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to Matthew N. Leary, a successful saddler and a staunch abolitionist and philanthropist, and Julia A. Memorell (Menriel). Matthew Leary helped local slaves buy their freedom and often educated them, despite legal prohibitions on the practice. According to the 1850 federal census, he personally owned three slaves, though these were held for benevolent reasons.

John Leary's birth year is not certain; the 1850 census records his age as ten, although later reports indicate that he was born as late as 1849 His ethnic heritage was a blend of European Native American and African American lineage His mother a native of France migrated as a child to North Carolina from the Bahamas with her French mother His father whose family name had been shortened from ...

Article

John Gilmore

Historian of Jamaica and writer on slavery. Long was born in England, a member of a family that had long been settled in Jamaica and owned plantations there. Long himself spent only twelve years (1757–69) in Jamaica, where he was a judge, a member of the House of Assembly, and (for a very brief period) its Speaker, but he always identified himself with the interests of the Jamaican plantocracy, that is, the group of white landowners whose prosperity depended on the ownership of sugar plantations worked by slaves.

Long's major work was The History of Jamaica (1774 This contains an enormous amount of information on all aspects of the island and is still an essential source for historians of the Caribbean However the work is strongly marked by his partisan support for the plantocracy which leads him not only to emphasize Jamaica s importance to Britain ...