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Johnie D. Smith

lawyer and judge, was born A. Macon Bolling in Indiana; the names of his parents and the exact date of his birth are unknown. He changed his name to Macon Bolling Allen by an act of the Massachusetts legislature on 26 January 1844. Details of Allen's early life and education are sparse and contradictory. His birth name is given in some sources as Malcolm B. Allen, and his birthplace as South Carolina. Evidence suggests that he lived in Maine and Massachusetts as a young man. Maine denied his initial application to the Maine bar because of allegations that he was not a state citizen, but he purportedly ran a Portland business before 1844. It is known that he read law in the Maine offices of two white abolitionist lawyers, Samuel E. Sewell and General Samuel Fessenden and that Fessenden promoted his admission to the Maine ...

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Werner Stangl

jurist and notable in the viceroyalty of Nueva Granada (present-day Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and Panama), was born in Portobelo, Panama, the oldest son of Pedro Antonio de Ayarza. He had two brothers, Pedro Crisólogo and Antonio Nicanor. The existing biographic data on José Ponciano are tenuous and largely based on a series of petitions to the Spanish king presented by his father Pedro.

Ponciano’s father was a Portobelo merchant of considerable wealth, despite his status as a pardo (free person of darker skin color). He served as captain of the town’s pardo militia for decades. His commercial activity was long-distance trade, which rested in the hands of a very small group and was heavily dependent on mutual trust, most often including forms of kinship.

Although this degree of success was remarkable, pardos were generally the most upwardly mobile social group in colonial Nueva Granada However their integration could not ...

Article

Bemoim  

Trevor Hall

(covering part of the territory now known as Senegal). His mother was married to the Wolof king Bor Biram, and they had a son, Bira, who later became king himself. She remarried and it was this second husband who fathered Bemoim. After King Bira died, family members tried to place Prince Bemoim on the Wolof throne. Prince Bemoim was renowned for his travel to Portugal, where he converted from Islam to Christianity, in order to receive Portuguese military assistance to overthrow the Wolof king.

In 1487 Bemoim encountered the Portuguese nobleman Gonçalo Coelho who sailed to the River Senegal where he bartered Portuguese horses and textiles for gold ivory hides and African captives Bemoim had lost a successional battle for the Wolof throne and sought military assistance from the Christian trader To further that goal Bemoim captured a hundred young Muslim men from local districts and sent them as ...

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George C. Wright

journalist and lawyer, was born on the island of Saint Kitts in the West Indies. Details about his early life, including the names of his parents and the nature of his education, are unknown. In the fall of 1869 he arrived in New York, where he worked as soliciting agent for the New York Star and then as city editor for the Progressive American. Benjamin apparently became a U.S. citizen in the early 1870s, and in 1876 he gave speeches in support of Rutherford B. Hayes the Republican candidate for president He was rewarded with a position as a letter carrier in New York City but quit after nine months and moved to Kentucky where he taught school While there Benjamin also took up the study of law He continued his studies after being named principal of a school in Decatur Alabama and he was admitted to ...

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Kimberly Cheek

slave and pirate, was an African war chieftain who became a member of the brotherhood of pirates who sailed the Atlantic Ocean during the period known as the golden age of piracy, which spanned 1630 to 1730 Caesar operated during the height of the Atlantic slave trade Although his exploits have been exaggerated and obscured by legend he is a symbol of early black resistance to the tyranny of slavery that defined the existence of many blacks in the eighteenth century Atlantic world He was born in West Africa although the exact place of his birth and the names of his parents are unknown Caesar was very astute and evaded capture from many different slave traders occupying the West African coast during the eighteenth century Ultimately he was captured when a deceitful slave ship captain enticed him and twenty of his warriors aboard a slave ship by showing ...

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Tayren Woodard

lawyer, politician, missionary, and diplomat, was born in Ohio to Rebecca and Billy Bowser in 1831, the year of the Nat Turner Revolt in Virginia. To avoid being sold into slavery, the Bowsers, who were free-born black natives of Virginia, left the state soon after the revolt, in which over sixty whites were killed. The Bowser family relocated to Logan County, Ohio. Rebecca, who worked as a house servant, owned about $500 worth of real estate around the time of her death. During this time, her real estate was considered impressive for a free black in Ohio. Shortly thereafter, Billy also died.

At the time Bolding was the only boy and the oldest of four children Bolding had three younger sisters Cristine Mary and Elizabeth All of the Bowser children attended school Although little is known about his early years we do know that Bolding attended school at the ...

Article

Brian Tong and Theodore Lin

retiring room attendant, activist, most renowned for winning the 1873 Supreme Court Case Railroad Company v. Brown, was born Katherine Brown in Virginia. There are many variations of her name; in some documents, she is referred to as “Catherine Brown,” “Katherine Brown,” “Kate Brown,” or “Kate Dodson.” In the New York Times article “Washington, Affairs at the National Capital,” her name appears as “Kate Dostie.” Very few records of Brown's life survive today; as a result, much of her childhood and personal life remains unknown.

Kate Brown's recorded personal life begins with her marriage to Jacob Dodson. Jacob Dodson had a colorful past. Born in 1825, Dodson was a freeman. He spent most of his early life as a servant for the Missouri senator Thomas Hart Benton, but in 1843 Dodson began to accompany John C. Fremont, son-in-law of Senator Benton ...

Article

Russell Hopley

jurist, was born in al-Qayrawan in southern Tunisia to a family that originated among the Banu Birzal tribe of Zenata Berbers. His full name was Abu ʾl-Qasim b. Ah.mad b. Muh.ammad al-Balawi al-Qayrawani al-Burzuli.

Burzuli received his early education in al Qayrawan where he pursued a traditional course of study in the Islamic sciences and showed considerable promise in the field of Islamic law Central to his training in jurisprudence was the eminent theologian Ibn ʿArafa d 1401 who played a significant role in the elaboration of the Maliki school of Islamic law in North Africa in the fourteenth century Burzuli likewise received a firm grounding in the various fields of Islamic learning at the hand of several influential scholars from al Qayrawan among them Abu Muh ammad al Shabibi d 1380 an important jurist with whom Burzuli served a lengthy apprenticeship and from whom he learned the skill of ...

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Agnes Kane Callum

slave, farmer, teacher, Reconstruction-era state legislator and lawyer, was born in South Carolina's famed Edgefield District. He was literate and the favored slave of Major Thomas Carwile the commissioner in equity of Edgefield Cain was probably raised much like other slave children on Edgefield plantations they would be cared for by an elderly lady while their mothers worked in the fields until the children were about six or seven years old when they were sent to work in the fields many serving as water carriers or weed pullers In some instances they were sent to work by the side of an adult Generally the children were called quarter workers since they produced about one fourth as much labor as an adult It is not known exactly how Cain learned to read and write but it is likely that he was taught by his owner as he was known as ...

Article

Timothy J. McMillan

slave, janitor, magistrate, teacher, principal, and the first black elected official in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, was born Wilson Swain at the home of University of North Carolina president David Swain in Chapel Hill. His father was (Doctor) November Caldwell, a slave of the former university president Joseph Caldwell; his mother was Rosa Burgess, a slave of Swain's. Under the law and practice of slavery in North Carolina, children took on the surnames of their owners, not of their fathers. As a child Wilson Swain was a personal servant to Robert Swain, his owner's son, and then as a young teenager he was an apprentice to the University of North Carolina's chief gardener, Mr. Paxton. In violation of law and custom, but due, no doubt, to the university atmosphere, he was taught to read and write.

As an adult Wilson Swain served the University of North Carolina ...

Article

Russell Duncan

abolitionist and Georgia politician, was born free in Middlebrook, New Jersey, the son of John Campbell, a blacksmith, and an unknown mother. From 1817 to 1830 he attended an otherwise all-white Episcopal school in Babylon, New York, where he trained to be a missionary to Liberia under the auspices of the American Colonization Society. Rebelling against his training and calling himself “a moral reformer and temperance lecturer,” Campbell moved to New Brunswick, New Jersey, converted to Methodism, joined an abolition society, and began to preach against slavery, colonization, alcohol, and prostitution. He joined Frederick Douglass on speaking tours and participated in the Colored Convention Movement, a new nationwide organization that aimed at racial uplift and black voting rights.

From 1832 to 1845 Campbell lived and worked in New York City as a steward at the Howard Hotel Later for an undetermined period he worked at the Adams House ...

Article

Celia  

Steven J. Niven

the first woman executed by the state of Florida, was born a slave in Georgia, the eldest of six children of Jacob Bryan, a white planter, and Susan (maiden name unknown), who was Bryan's slave and also his common-law wife. Legal documents indicate that in January 1830 Bryan brought Susan and his children to a plantation in Duval County, Florida.

In November 1842Jacob Bryan executed a legal deed of manumission to emancipate Susan and several of his children though the historical record is unclear as to whether Celia was one of those freed Manumission of slaves had been possible in Florida under Spanish law though usually for male slaves who had fought for the Spanish Empire and for the common law slave wives and slave children of white planters As a result a sizeable free black population developed in eastern Florida making it possible for interracial couples ...

Article

Celia  

Steven J. Niven

a slave executed for killing her master, was probably born in central Missouri. The names of her parents are unknown. Practically all the information that is known about Celia is taken from court records and newspaper accounts of her trial for the murder in 1855 of Robert Newsom, a farmer and slave-owner in Calloway County, Missouri. Newsom had purchased Celia in neighboring Audrain County, Missouri, some five years earlier. Celia was the only female slave in the Newsom household; the five others included a young boy and four young adult males who herded the livestock and harvested the eight hundred acres of prime land that had helped elevate Robert Newsom to a position “solidly among the ranks of Callaway's residents who were comfortably well-off” (McLaurin, 8). Newsom's wife had died in 1849 and it may have been that he purchased Celia a cook to assist his thirty six ...

Article

Julie Winch

writer, adventurer, and perennial litigant, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the grandson of Jacques Clamorgan, a French entrepreneur and land speculator. Jacques died in 1814, leaving as his heirs the four children he had fathered with his various slaves whom he then emancipated. One of those children, Apoline, was Cyprian Clamorgan's mother. Apoline never married. Instead, she lived with a series of white “protectors.” A Catholic by upbringing in a deeply Catholic community, she presented each of her children for baptism at the Old Cathedral and revealed to the priest the name of the father so it could be entered in the baptismal register. However, she did not live long enough to have Cyprian baptized, and the identity of his father died with her.

Clamorgan and his siblings, Louis, Henry, and Louise, were left in the care of a white neighbor, Charles Collins ...

Article

Connie Park Rice

newspaper editor and civil rights lawyer, was born in Williamsport, Virginia (later West Virginia), the youngest of three sons born to Isaac Clifford, a farmer, and Mary Satilpa Kent, free blacks living in Hardy County. John Robert joined the Union army on 3 March 1865, rising to the rank of corporal in the 13th U.S. Heavy Artillery. After serving in Kentucky, Tennessee, and eastern Virginia under General Ulysses S. Grant, Clifford volunteered for service at Chicago, Illinois.

After the Civil War, Clifford remained in Chicago, staying from 1865 to 1868 with the Honorable John J. Healy, an acquaintance of his father, and graduating from Chicago High School. Clifford worked as a barber before going to live with an uncle in Zeno, Muskingum County, Ohio, where he attended a school taught by Miss Effie McKnight and received a diploma from a writing school conducted by a Professor ...

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

Carl V. Hallberg

black cowboy and rustler, also known as Ned Huddleston, was born in Arkansas. Dart's early life is an enigma. Biographical accounts give a lively Wild West picture of an itinerant cowboy and occasional gang member based on legend and folklore. What is known is that sometime in the mid-1880s Dart settled in Brown's Hole, an isolated area where the borders of Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah meet. He worked initially for the Middlesex Land and Cattle Company but later found gainful employment on the Bassett Ranch.

Dart was adept at many practical trades but his true calling was as a cowboy His skill in handling horses and in the use of the rope soon distinguished him as one of the best cowhands in the region Dart s congeniality also helped him gain acceptance in social circles He became an adopted member of the Bassett family In time he became quite ...

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María Eugenia Chaves Maldonado

was born near the city of Guayaquil, on the Pacific coast of present-day Ecuador, but then part of the Royal Audience of Quito, in the Viceroyalty of Peru. When María Chiquinquirá was around 45, she decided to legally claim her own and her daughter’s freedom in a major legal battle that lasted nearly five years, from 1794 to 1798. She was the daughter of an African woman brought as a slave to Guayaquil, presumably in 1730 Named María Antonia she was one of the many slaves belonging to the Cepeda family among the most influential and richest in Guayaquil Some years before Díaz was born María Antonia had become infected with leprosy Expelled from the family house she finally died abandoned in a miserable hut by the Baba River in the mountainous outskirts of the city Her illness did not prevent her from becoming pregnant with several offspring ...

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Kris Lane

was born around 1600. According to various witnesses, Diego Martín was of mixed African-Spanish heritage and a native of Havana, Cuba. It is unclear if he was enslaved or free, or what occupation he pursued prior to his career in piracy.

Names such as Francis Drake Piet Heyn and Henry Morgan still dominate histories of early modern piracy in the Americas but it is often forgotten that all three corsair captains regularly relied on men and women of African descent for inside knowledge of Spanish ports forts and shipping schedules Enslaved and free Africans and their descendants filled the Atlantic world from its inception in the fifteenth century and well before the time of Francis Drake there was virtually no Spanish or Portuguese ship or coastal town without some African presence In the Americas autonomous Africans could also be found Drake was famously aided by the so called Bayano ...

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Xiomara Santamarina

civil rights litigant, known as Mum Bett, was born a slave in Claverack, New York, most likely to African parents. Mum Bett and her sister were owned by the Dutch Hogeboom family in Claverack. At an uncertain date, the sisters were sold to the family of John Ashley, a judge in the Massachusetts Court of Common Pleas and a prominent citizen of Sheffield, Massachusetts. Little is known about Mum Bett's life with the Ashleys, but it probably resembled the life of many northern slaves during the eighteenth century. Most slaves lived in small households in close proximity to their owners and performed a wide range of tasks to support the North's diversified economy.

Mum Bett's decision to sue for freedom was sparked by an incident of cruelty that is prominent in accounts of her life. When her mistress, Hannah Ashley struck Mum Bett s sister in ...