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Steven J. Niven

paramilitary leader and agrarian activist, was born of unknown parentage, perhaps in Mississippi. He appears in the historical record on two occasions. The first was in the bloody political conflict known as the “campaign of 1875,” when white Democrats used tactics ranging from fraud to intimidation to violence and assassinations to wrest control of state government from the Republican Party.

In early September 1875, Cromwell traveled to the town of Clinton in Hinds County, Mississippi, to address a gathering of at least six hundred black men—some sources claim there were more than a thousand—who had organized into armed, paramilitary political clubs to defend their families, the black community, and the few remaining white Republicans against violent intimidation by white Democrats and their allies. Like other communities in the central part of the Magnolia State, a slight majority of citizens in Clinton were African American. Black Clintonians, notably Charles ...

Article

Susan M. Reverby and Elizabeth Sims

farmer, civil rights activist, and lead plaintiff in the lawsuit against the government in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, was born in Notasulga, Alabama, the third child of six children of Lucius and Alma Pollard. The Pollard family owned and farmed their land in the Notasulga area, just outside of Tuskegee, for generations after the Civil War. As with many farmers, they often needed to secure liens, with their animals as the collateral, in order to complete their crop. In the early 1900s the family began to buy more acreage, and by 1908 Pollard s father was farming 160 acres and was the first black man in the county to own a mechanical cotton picker Pollard learned early how to horse and cattle trade and to build upon his family s farming skills He was educated in the Shiloh School one of the earliest Rosenwald schools built ...

Article

Stephanie Gordon

the first black deputy marshal west of the Mississippi, was born in Paris, Texas, although some historians believe he was born near Van Buren, Arkansas. The son of slaves, Reeves spent his early years on a small farm in Grayson County, Texas, owned by George Reeves a former colonel in the Confederate army Very little is known about Reeves s early life and even less is known about his parents Early on he labored in the Texas cotton fields as a water boy where he learned stories and songs about black outlaws He liked them so much according to one source that he worried his mother with his preoccupation with badmen violence and guns Reeves was chosen as companion for Colonel Reeves s son and he served in this capacity until he was a young adult The relationship came to a quick end however when the two argued during ...

Article

John Saillant

, slave, farm laborer, plaintiff in a civil suit, and freedman, was purchased as an infant in 1754 along with his mother and father, Dinah (b. c. 1735) and Mingo (b. c. 1734), by James Caldwell of Rutland District, Worcester County, Massachusetts. As a freedman, Walker married Elizabeth Harvey in 1786. The date of his death is unknown; an 1812 public record in Barre, Massachusetts (part of Rutland District that was incorporated separately in 1774 and renamed in 1776), refers to Walker as deceased. Prince Walker (c. 1762–1858), another freed slave who lived nearby, may have been Quok Walker's brother.

Sometime in Walker's youth Caldwell promised him his freedom, to be granted when he was in his mid-twenties. However, Caldwell died intestate when Walker was a minor. Caldwell's widow, Isabell inherited at least some ...

Article

Floyd Ogburn

sharecropper and laborer, was born Odell Jones in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, the son of Dollie Jones and a father whose name is not known. Shortly after Odell was born, his mother requested that her oldest sister, Annie, and her husband, Willis Waller, become his adoptive parents. After marrying Carl G. Harris, Dollie moved to Logan, West Virginia, leaving her sister and brother-in-law to raise the child. Initially the Wallers owned a twenty-five-acre farm near Gretna, Virginia, and co-owned a wheat binder, which they occasionally allowed other farmers to use. Because Odell had to help the Wallers farm, he withdrew from high school at age sixteen, completing only the third year.

While land ownership assigned the Wallers an economic status more secure than that of many of their neighbors—black and white—the Depression years engendered endless toil and struggle. When Willis Waller died in April 1938 Annie could ...

Article

Robert Fay

In July 1940 Odell Waller, an uneducated sharecropper, shot and killed his white landlord, Oscar Davis in a dispute over the shares Davis owed to him Waller claimed self defense but the all white jury found him guilty of first degree murder and sentenced him to death Waller s ...