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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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

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 ...

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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

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 ...

Article

Rodney P. Carlisle

U.S. congressman, historian, and attorney, was born on Tacony plantation near Vidalia, Louisiana, the son of Patrick Lynch, the manager of the plantation, and Catherine White, a slave. Patrick Lynch, an Irish immigrant, purchased his wife and two children, but in order to free them, existing state law required they leave Louisiana. Before Patrick Lynch died, he transferred the titles to his wife and children to a friend, William Deal, who promised to treat them as free persons. However, when Patrick Lynch died, Deal sold the family to a planter, Alfred W. Davis, in Natchez, Mississippi. When Davis learned of the conditions of the transfer to Deal, he agreed to allow Catherine Lynch to hire her own time while he honeymooned with his new wife in Europe Under this arrangement Catherine Lynch lived in Natchez worked for various employers and paid $3 50 ...

Article

Eric Gardner

minister and activist, was born in Berkley County, at that time a part of Virginia, later West Virginia, to Fannie Riedoubt, a free black woman who had been kidnapped into slavery, and an enslaved man surnamed Hodge. Sources vary as to his birthdate, citing from 1804 to 1818; Moore was one of the family's early owner's surnames. When Moore was six, his parents attempted to escape with their six children. They were captured, and four of the children were sold south. Moore, his brother William, and his parents finally escaped to Pennsylvania a few years later. Moore was bound out to an area farmer, in part because his parents' owner continued to pursue them. Moore did keep in contact with his parents, though, and as late as 1870 his mother was living with him.

Moore worked a variety of jobs and moved to Harrisburg as ...

Article

Roy E. Finkenbine

abolitionist and historian, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of William Guion Nell, a tailor, and Louisa (maiden name unknown). His father, a prominent figure in the small but influential African American community in Boston's West End during the 1820s, was a next-door neighbor and close associate of the controversial black abolitionist David Walker. Nell studied at the all-black Smith School, which met in the basement of Boston's African Meeting House. Although he was an excellent student, in 1829 he was denied honors given to outstanding pupils by the local school board because of his race. This and similar humiliations prompted him to dedicate his life to eliminating racial barriers. To better accomplish that task, Nell read law in the office of the local abolitionist William I. Bowditch in the early 1830s Although he never practiced his legal skills and knowledge proved valuable in the ...

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David Dabydeen

Englishhistorian, writer, and active denouncer of the African slave trade. Roscoe was born in Liverpool and was repulsed by the slave trade and its ubiquity in his home town, where most of its wealth was derived from the trade. He became politically active in the 1790s, and in October 1806 he was elected member of Parliament for Liverpool. One of his earliest speeches called not only for parliamentary reform and peace with France, but for the abolition of the slave trade. He was spoken of highly by William Wilberforce. Wilberforce referred to Roscoe as ‘a man who by strength of character has risen above the deep‐seated prejudices of his townspeople and eventually won their respect’. Roscoe's first published work, Mount Pleasant, a Descriptive Poem (1777), deprecated the slave trade. In 1787 he wrote and published The Wrongs of Africa The poem promoted him ...

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Liliana Obregón

José Antonio Saco received what was a typical education for Catholic boys in early-nineteenth-century Cuba. He first studied in a small schoolhouse next to his home and later transferred to a Catholic school in Santiago de Cuba. Saco continued higher-level education in modern philosophy at the San Carlos seminar in Havana. Under the tutelage of Father Félix Varela y Morales, one of the most influential professors and prominent intellectuals of his time, Saco studied with a group of young men who were to become representatives of the urban bourgeoisie that promoted the independence of Cuba from Spain. In his autobiography Saco claims that these early years with Varela, who provided guidance and friendship and whom Saco considered the “most virtuous man” he ever met, were definitive in the formation of his thinking and ideology.

In 1821 Varela asked Saco to take over his seminar in ...

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Tyler D. Parry

author and activist, was born in Georgetown, South Carolina, to enslaved parents whose names are not known. Sinclair was a witness to the brutality of southern slavery, the disappointment of Reconstruction politics, and the advent of Jim Crow legislation in the American South. Sinclair's legacy in African American history stems from his commitment to African American education, his formative role in establishing the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), his support of radical movements, and his pivotal book The Aftermath of Slavery.

When Sinclair was age four his family was forcibly separated by its owners but in a rare circumstance the family was able to reunite after the Civil War Sinclair s father died shortly thereafter a fact that led the historian Otto H Olsen to suggest that his father may have been lynched by a white mob on account of his position as a Republican ...

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Justin Nystrom

educator, scholar, editor, and political activist, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Paul Trévigne Sr., a free, prosperous Afro-Creole carpenter and a woman known only as a Découdreau. Tévigne grew up in circumstances and enjoyed opportunities unknown to most African Americans living in the antebellum South. Few details of his childhood and education are known, but by around 1848 Trévigne, along with about a dozen other Afro-Creole educators, founded the Institution Catholique des Orphelins Indigents, a private institution for free black children in New Orleans, better known as the Couvent School. Here Trévigne taught foreign languages and developed a reputation among his peers as an accomplished teacher and scholar. By the time Union forces captured New Orleans in 1862 Trévigne had spent over a decade honing his craft as a political thinker and essayist He would put these skills to extensive use during ...