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Article

Kelly Boyer Sagert

Born in Hamburg, Germany, Ottilie Assing was the eldest daughter of David and Rosa Maria (Varnhagen) Assing. Her mother was an energetic teacher with a flair for singing and storytelling; her father was a well-known doctor who penned poetry and was prone to depression. David, born with the surname of Assur, was raised as an Orthodox Jew but associated with Christians. He and Rosa, who was not Jewish, raised Ottilie and her younger sister, Ludmilla, as "freethinking atheists, as true daughters of the Enlightenment, who saw themselves as members of a universal human race of thought and reason." They saw education as a "secular form of individual salvation."

Assing's life was not always easy; she witnessed savage anti-Jewish riots, and by the age of twenty-three she had lost both parents. In 1842 she and her sister moved from their hometown to live with an uncle Ludmilla adapted ...

Article

James McCarthy

Scottish explorer, naturalist, surgeon, and philologist who opened up the Niger region to European trade and influence, was born in Kirkwall, Scotland, the eldest son of a Royal Navy captain, John Baikie. He was educated for a time at Kirkwall Grammar School in Orkney, but mainly privately, in company with his cousins. He gained a medical degree from Edinburgh University, where he also developed his interest in natural history. In 1848, together with Robert Heddie, he wrote the first part of a published study of the natural history of Orkney, Historia naturalis Orcadensis. In the same year he joined the Royal Navy as an assistant surgeon, serving on no less than five different ships in the Mediterranean before being appointed in the same capacity to Haslar Hospital, Portsmouth, from 1851 to 1854. It was from here in 1854 that through the patronage of the influential Sir Roderick ...

Article

Jane Poyner

Orphan from Dahomey (now Benin) reputed to be of royal lineage, who was brought as a slave to England, where she became Queen Victoria's protégée. Sarah was named, ignominiously, after the ship Bonetta on which she was transported to England. Ironically, she was given to Captain Frederick Forbes by King Gezo of Dahomey in a conciliatory gesture following Forbes's unsuccessful attempt to persuade the King to give up trading in slaves. Forbes, in his account of his travels Dahomey and the Dahomens (1851), used Sarah as an example of the potential for progress in the intellect of the African at a time when pseudo‐scientific enlightenment theories of race were rampant: as Forbes noted, ‘it being generally and erroneously supposed that after a certain age the intellect [of the African] becomes impaired and the pursuit of knowledge impossible’.

Sarah was presented to Queen Victoria and thereafter raised under her ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Atlantic slave-trade survivor presented as a gift to Britain's Queen Victoria, was born in the early 1840s in or near the southern Beninese town of Okeadon. Her birth name is not known, but her marriage certificate would list her name as Ina Sarah Forbes Bonetta, perhaps indicating that her original name was Ina. Southern Beninese states had fought for years against the inland kingdom of Dahomey for autonomy, as the slave-trading empire sought to force its southern neighbors to pay tribute and accept Dahomean control over the slaves that were often sold to European and South American merchants. In 1846 Dahomean soldiers seized her and killed her parents during the Okeadon War between Dahomey and its enemies in the Yoruba city of Abeokuta after a traitor had allowed Dahomean troops entry to the town Bonetta was fortunate she did not join the 600 or so town residents ...

Article

Daryle Williams

alias Paula Brito, pardo writer, translator, and publishing entrepreneur, often called the father of the Brazilian black press. Born on 2 December 1809 to Jacinto Antunes Duarte, a carpenter, and Maria Joaquina da Conceição Brito, Paula Brito took the surname of his maternal grandfather, Martinho Pereira de Brito (c. 1730–1830), commander of a pardo (colored) militia regiment and a disciple of famed mulato sculptor Mestre Valentim. He spent his early childhood in Rio de Janeiro, a bustling Atlantic port-city undergoing tremendous changes following the arrival of the Portuguese Court in 1808, before settling in Suruhy, near the upper reaches of Guanabara Bay. The young boy learned to read and write in the household of his older sister.

Returning to the capital in 1824 Paula Brito entered the burgeoning world of print culture first as an apprentice in the national printing office and then as an editor for ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

explorer, the son of Colonel Joseph Burton and Martha Beckwith Burton was born on 19 March 1821 in Torquay, Devon, England. As a military officer in the British Army, Joseph Burton traveled regularly, and his son Richard grew up in France and different Italian states. He showed early in life a tremendous gift for learning languages, and he eventually mastered Arabic to the point he regularly passed for an Arab or Persian or an Indian Muslim. Burton was admitted to Oxford University in 1840, but his wild behavior eventually led to his dismissal in 1842. His taste for adventure led him to join the British colonial army in India, and he first visited Africa en route from England via the Cape of Good Hope to Mumbai (Bombay). From 1842 until 1849, Burton mastered Arabic, Farsi, and Hindustani as he served as a British intelligence officer.

Burton ...

Article

Ari Nave

Sir Richard Burton spoke twenty-five languages and multiple dialects, including Greek, Latin, English, French, Italian, Marathi, Punjab, Arabic, and Hindi. During his travels he observed an enormous range of cultural practices, which he documented in forty-three manuscripts. He also wrote two books of poetry and four volumes of folklore.

Born in Torquay, England, Burton was raised by his English parents primarily in France. He briefly attended Trinity College, Oxford, but was expelled in 1842 for insubordination. He then joined the Bombay army, and served in India (in present-day Pakistan) until 1850. Working as an intelligence officer, Burton learned to impersonate Muslim merchants. His reputation was called into question and his military career cut short, however, when a rival officer spread word that Burton had been investigating homosexual bathhouses in Karachi, failing to divulge that Burton had done so under orders from a senior officer.

After returning to France and ...

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

Jonathan Brennan

African Seminole Black Seminole leader warrior and interpreter 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 to reveal the early life histories of the many escaped Africans and American Indians in the maroon communities across the Americas and Caesar s life proves 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 probably been a longtime 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 ...

Article

Martin Tsang

As a second-generation, Cuban-born Afro-Chinese (his father was Chinese and his mother Afro-Cuban), Chuffat Latour’s Chinese heritage originated with the more than 125,000 indentured laborers who arrived on the island between 1847 and 1874, primarily from China’s southeastern Guangdong Province. He was born while both African slavery and Chinese indenture were active in Cuba and, as such, witnessed as well as formed part of the growing Chinese presence on the island. In addition, his generation of Chinese and mixed Chinese Cubans experienced the struggle for independence from Spain (1868–1898), the gradual abolition of slavery (1870–1886), and the US military intervention (1898) and occupation (1899–1902). Like fellow Afro-Chinese Cuban Wifredo Lam (1902–1982), this generation envisioned on a large scale an ethnically homogenizing national identity later theorized as transculturation by Fernando Ortiz.

Being of mixed race Chuffat Latour was positioned in ...

Article

Melvin D. Kennedy

Crogman was born in Philipsburg on Saint Martin, Leeward Islands, on May 5, 1841. Little is known of his first few years except that he was never a slave. He was orphaned at twelve and shortly thereafter was befriended by B. L. Boomer, of a New England shipowning family. Boomer took young Crogman to his home in Middleboro, Massachusetts. In 1855, at the age of fourteen, Crogman began an eleven-year career at sea on one of the Boomer ships. During this period he visited many ports in Europe, India, and South America. These experiences had a profound effect on the keenly observant young man.

With Boomer's encouragement Crogman began preparations in 1866 to secure an education Two years later he entered Pierce Academy in Middleboro He completed with distinction the four year course in English French and bookkeeping in half the time normally required His ...

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

Reidulf K. Molvaer

was an Ethiopian scholar and legendary wit, although very little is known about him with any great degree of certainty. Ethiopians are known by their own given name, followed by their father’s first name, but even that is not known with certainty: some sources give his father’s name as Gebre Mariyam, others as Desta Tegennye. His dates of birth and death are uncertain as well, variously given as 1804–1901, 1821–1905, and 1821–1915. Even his title, Aleqa, by which he is universally known (Aleqa Gebre Hanna seems of doubtful origin The title may refer to the head of a church or monastery or to a scholar in one of the four branches of learning in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Some think it was given to him by Empress Menen the wife of the later Emperor Menilek before she became empress However we do know that Gebre Hanna was ...

Article

Bahru Zewde

Ethiopian intellectual, educator, administrator, and interpreter, was born in the Gondar region of northwestern Ethiopia around 1855. He got his first exposure to Western education through the German missionary J. Mayer, who was then resident in Ethiopia. He accompanied Emperor Tewodros II to his final stronghold, Maqdala, where the emperor committed suicide in April 1868 as troops led by the British commander General Robert Napier stormed his fortress. As someone who saw that visionary emperor at close range, Gebru was to continue to harbor an abiding admiration for his idealism. Taken out of the country by the conquering troops, Gebru was patronized by the missionaries of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) and was educated in different CMS outposts, including Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Basel (Switzerland).

Returning to his native Ethiopia in 1879 Gebru did missionary work first in Gondar and then after another trip abroad in Wallaga in western ...

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

Heike Becker

the first Herero convert to Christianity, a translator, a teacher, and a midwife, was born in September 1837 as the daughter of Kazahendike and his wife Kariaavihe in Hereroland in what is today central Namibia. Her family was among those Herero who were impoverished and displaced by the conflicts that were ravaging central Namibia in the 1840s (especially those between Jan Jonker Afrikaner and Tjimuhua) and who subsequently gravitated toward the early missions in search of shelter and livelihood. Urieta Kazahendike was about ten or twelve years old when she came to live with German-born missionary Carl Hugo Hahn and his English wife Emma, née Hone, who had arrived in Namibia in 1844. Kazahendike lived with the Hahns first at Otjikango, about 70 kilometers north of Windhoek, which the missionaries called “New Barmen.” In 1855 she followed the Hahn family to Otjimbingwe to the west of Otjikango From ...

Article

Geoffrey Roper

British topographer, ethnographer, and philologist in Egypt, was born at Hereford, England, on 17 September 1801, the son of the Reverend Theophilus Lane and wife Sophia (née Gardiner). Having rejected higher education at Cambridge, Edward went instead to London in 1819, and learned the craft of engraving. There he developed an interest in Egypt, possibly stimulated by Belzoni’s spectacular exhibition of Egyptian antiquities in 1821. But he also seems to have shared in the excitement aroused about that time by the decipherment of the hieroglyphs by Jean François Champollion and Dr. Thomas Young.

Having already acquired some knowledge of Arabic, Lane embarked for Egypt in 1825. On arrival at Alexandria, he felt like “an Eastern bridegroom, about to lift up the veil of his bride, and to see, for the first time, the features which were to charm, or disappoint, or disgust him” (Lane, 2000 ...

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Michele Valerie Ronnick

classicist, educator, and university president, was born in extreme poverty in a cabin a few miles outside of Walhalla, South Carolina. After his father died, his mother Leah (n.d. – 1916) remarried and he gained two additional siblings. He was one of five children. Family tradition says that he was named for two Union soldiers whom Leah had helped during the Civil War. Lovinggood was not able to attend public school as a child. His mother needed his help at home and his only training came from the Freedman's Aid Society of the Methodist church. At the age of eighteen, he entered Clark University in Atlanta, Georgia. Among his teachers were President Edward O. Thayer and Professor William Henry Crogman, who taught ancient Greek.

Having had almost no training, Lovinggood spent considerable effort catching up, but in 1890 at age twenty six he graduated with honors having ...

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Mathias Hanses

classicist, Congregationalist preacher, and the first African American to earn a Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania, was born in Huntsville, Alabama, the youngest child of Henry Moore and his second wife Rebecca (née Beasley). Louis would in his early years have witnessed the black community's enthusiasm toward such new freedoms as political participation. At the same time, he suffered the hardships besetting his family of twenty-eight in the transforming Deep South. Before Louis turned ten years old, his home state's race relations started slipping toward their “nadir.” Alabama endured Ku Klux Klan terrorism and voter intimidation; a “Redeemer” government rose to power in 1874 as black workers and sharecroppers fell into economic dependency on their former owners; and in 1876 federal Reconstruction efforts were sacrificed to political deal making which further impeded blacks access to polls and lecterns Still increasing numbers of African Americans came to ...

Article

Ezekiel Gebissa

Ethiopian evangelist, Bible translator, author, and educator, was born near Hurumu in western Ethiopia around 1856. Named Hiikaa, literally “translator” in the Oromo language (Afaan Oromo), he was sold four times and was renamed Nesib before he was freed by Werner Munzinger (1832–1875), a French consul at Massawa, and entrusted to Swedish missionaries. At the mission school for boys, he converted to the Lutheran faith and was baptized on 31 March 1872. He was given the Christian name Onesimus and became the first Ethiopian Lutheran (Arén, 1978).

Between 1876 and 1881 Onesimus attended the Johannelund Theological Training Institute in Sweden and returned to Massawa with a teacher s diploma Soon after his return he joined a missionary expedition to the Oromo country organized by the Swedish Evangelical Mission The group managed to reach the Ethiopian border through Sudan but local authorities refused to issue a ...