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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

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

Laura Murphy

politician and memoirist, was born a slave on a farm owned by James Adams in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. When Adams died shortly after Clement's birth, the boy, his mother, and two siblings were sold to a man named Tasswood Ward from nearby Campbell County. The family was treated harshly by the Wards, who beat them cruelly without warning for petty reasons.

On 8 April 1865 the workers in the field heard cannon fire and fighting from nearby Appomattox. The next day the Confederate general Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant's Union forces to end the Civil War.

On Christmas morning of 1865 Clement and his family moved to a piece of land about fifteen miles from the Ward farm where his father struck a deal under which he would clear the land and reap its harvest The family continued to work on farms throughout Clement s youth ...

Article

Thomas M. Leonard

diplomat, lawyer, and journalist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel Durham and Elizabeth Stephens. Two of his uncles, Clayton Durham and Jeremiah Durham, were noted clergymen who helped Bishop Richard Allen establish the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Durham, who could almost pass for white, studied in the Philadelphia public schools and graduated from the Institute for Colored Youth in 1876.

For five years after leaving high school Durham taught in Delaware and Pennsylvania. In 1881 he entered Towne Scientific School, a branch of the University of Pennsylvania, from which he earned a bachelor's degree in 1886 and a civil engineering degree in 1888. He held several positions during his college career, including reporter for the Philadelphia Times. He excelled as a newspaperman, and his unique abilities eventually led him to the assistant editorship of the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin ...

Article

David Dabydeen

Biographer of Ignatius Sancho, the African writer whose letters were published in England in 1782. Jekyll was the only son of Edward Jekyll, a captain in the Royal Navy. Details concerning his place of birth are uncertain. He studied at Christ Church, Oxford, left for France upon completion of his studies in 1774, and was called to the Bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1788.

Jekyll may have met Sancho during this period, but there is no confirmation of this. In fact, information regarding their relationship is scarce and is left to much speculation. However, one piece of evidence affirms that Jekyll and Sancho did indeed meet and had some form of connection that extended beyond the purely professional. A letter written around 1803 by Sancho's son William to Jekyll, suggests that Jekyll was generous to the Sancho family:

To Joseph Jekyll Esq M P From ...

Article

Devorah Lissek

diarist and entrepreneur, was born in Natchez, Mississippi, the son of William Johnson, a slaveholder, and Amy Johnson, a slave. When William was five years old his mother was emancipated and established her household in Natchez. In 1820 the eleven-year-old William was freed by the Mississippi legislature at the request of his owner. Once emancipated, he apprenticed with his brother-in-law, James Miller, in Miller's barber business in Natchez. Johnson became proprietor of the business—reportedly the most popular barbershop in Natchez—when Miller moved to New Orleans in 1830. Johnson and his African American staff ran the shop, which served a predominantly white clientele. Not only did Johnson's barbers offer haircuts and shaves, they also fitted wigs, sold fancy soaps and oils, and, beginning in 1834, operated a bathhouse at the Main Street location.

Between 1830 and 1835 Johnson frequently traveled to New Orleans and ...

Article

Laura Murphy

writer, lawyer, and doctor, was born a slave to Doc and Rosa Lewis probably just prior to the Civil War. In his narrative he writes that he was born at a time when “reconciliation was futile and that disruption and secession hung like a cloud over the horizon.” The Lewis family was owned by Colonel D. S. Cage Sr. who on the day of Lewis s birth celebrated by recording the event in the family Bible with a short annotation that the birth would increase his wealth by one thousand dollars For his part Lewis was mostly oblivious to the fact that he was enslaved at all as he was relatively young when slavery was abolished The end of slavery was a confusing moment for all the people on Cage s plantation they were set free but encouraged to remain on the plantation to work for ...

Article

Jennifer Larson

politician, poet, journalist, and activist, was born in rural Kalkaska, Illinois, to French Creole parents who had traveled up the Mississippi River to escape oppression in Louisiana. Only scattered details about Menard's early life in Illinois remain. He likely spent part of his youth working on area farms before attending an abolitionist preparatory school in Sparta, Illinois. He also attended Iberia College (later Ohio Central College) in his early twenties, though he did not complete a degree there, presumably because of financial setbacks.

In 1859 Menard spoke to a crowd gathered at the Illinois state fairgrounds to celebrate the abolition of slavery in the West Indies. The Illinois State Journal s laudatory coverage of the speech points to Menard s budding career in social activism A year later in response to growing racial discrimination in the Illinois legislature Menard published An Address to the Free ...

Article

Michelle Brattain

editor, Republican Party leader, and civil rights activist, was born near Jonesboro, Georgia, the son of a slave mother and a white planter father whose names are unknown. He received limited formal education as a child but attended Atlanta University as an adult and finally gained entrance to the Georgia bar as a self-taught lawyer in 1894. Little is known of his childhood, though Pledger himself related his early interest in politics to a contemporary journalist. According to a 1902 biographical account by Cyrus Field Adams, brother of John Quincy Adams (1848–1922), one of Pledger's “most pleasant recollections of his youth” was informing his mother in 1856 that presidential candidate John C. Frémont was “for the Negro” (Adams, 147).

After the Civil War Pledger moved to Atlanta and worked in city hotels and on the railroad In the early 1870s he moved to ...

Article

Donald Yacovone

abolitionist, printer, journalist, and civil rights litigant, was born in the heart of Boston's black community on Beacon Hill, the second of Sarah Easton Roberts and Robert Roberts's twelve children. Both parents were active abolitionists—his mother was the daughter of James Easton, the successful black Massachusetts businessman and reformer, and his father was an author and household manager for the elite white families of Christopher Gore and Nathaniel Appleton. Roberts's father had been born in Charleston, South Carolina; he moved to Boston in-1805 and married in 1813. His second son, named-for the famed Benjamin Franklin, reflected the family's commitment to the principles of the American Revolution and foretold his career as a printer.

As a young man Roberts became a shoemaker s apprentice but after completing his training whites refused to hire him They refused I suppose merely on account of ...

Article

The illegitimate son of a Portuguese priest and a mulatto woman, José da Natividade Saldanha was born in Santo Amaro de Jaboatão, Pernambuco, Brazil. He went to Portugal, the colonial power, to study law at Coimbra University. While in law school Saldanha wrote and published his first collection of poems, Poemas dedicadas aos amigos e amantes do Brasil (Poems Dedicated to the Friends and Lovers of Brazil, 1822).

As a poet marked by Arcadianism, the influential neoclassical movement prevailing in some circles in Portugal and Brazil, Saldanha emphasized national and liberal ideologies that included the idea of a Brazilian republic and the abolition of slavery. Upon returning to Brazil the poet joined the secessionist movements brewing in Pernambuco and became a member of the junta that declared the independence of the Republic of Ecuador from Portugal in 1824 Condemned to death after the failure of this ...

Article

Laura M. Calkins

lawyer and judge, was born in Bridgetown, Barbados, the son of John and Margaret Straker, of whom little is known. His father John Straker died when David was less than a year old, and his mother cared for him until he reached age seven, when she enrolled him in a private school. He entered the Central Public School in Bridgetown at age thirteen. Although he was also serving an apprenticeship as a tailor, Straker was deeply attracted to intellectual studies. With the support of Robert P. Elliott, principal of the Central Public School, Straker abandoned tailoring for full-time classical studies, including instruction in Latin and French under the tutelage of a linguist, the Reverend Joseph N. Durant. He also studied history and philosophy under R. R. Rawle principal of Codrington College an Anglican grammar school in Bridgetown which is now part of the University of ...

Article

Benjamin R. Justesen

lawyer, journalist, and diplomat, was born in Perry County, Alabama, the son of a slave, Rufus Carson, and an unnamed slave mother. In 1869, after teaching himself to read and write, the youth ran away from his father's cotton farm to Savannah, Georgia, and took a new surname: Taylor.

An ambitious, gifted student, C. H. J. Taylor enrolled at Savannah's Beach Institute while delivering newspapers and working as a commission house messenger. Much of the higher education he later claimed, however, cannot be documented. No definitive records exist for his claimed enrollments at Oberlin College or the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, though he may well have studied law at Wilberforce University. In 1877 he was admitted to the Indiana state bar and became a deputy district attorney, before arriving in Leavenworth, Kansas, in about 1880 (Smith, p. 494).

Taylor soon moved to Wyandotte ...

Article

Floyd Ogburn

farmer, was born a slave in Southampton County, Virginia. Almost nothing is known of his parents, who were also slaves. Until his nineteenth or twentieth birthday he belonged to a Dr. Seaman, who also owned his mother and father. In August 1841 Walker's master sold him to Natt Blake and General Downs, who kept him and six hundred other slaves in a slave pen in Petersburg, Virginia, pending transportation to cotton farms in the Deep South. After penning the slaves for six weeks amid “echoes and groans,” Blake and Downs marched them aboard the Pellican, which immediately sailed to New Orleans, Walker never seeing or hearing from his parents again (Gaines, 10).

The Pellican a floating carcass on the sea held six hundred slaves like cattle among toxic air and cholera It reached New Orleans six weeks after departing Petersburg losing thirty six of its human ...