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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

Edward J. Robinson

evangelist, farmer, educator, postmaster, justice of the peace, and “race man,” was born Samuel in Prince William County, Virginia. Even though an oral tradition among Cassius's descendants insists that Robert E. Lee was his biological father, circumstantial evidence suggests that James W. F. Macrae, a white physician and politician and relative of Robert E. Lee, was probably his father and Jane, an enslaved African, was his mother (Robinson). After emancipation Cassius probably added the names “Robert” to commemorate Robert E. Lee's kindness of purchasing him and his mother to prevent them from being sold to the Deep South and he may have attached Cassius to honor the ancient Roman general as many slaves adopted names of famous people from classical antiquity Robinson Little is known about Samuel s mother a slave who served in the Macrae household While working for the Macrae family as a house servant ...

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 ...

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Paul Finkelman

probably the second black attorney to be admitted to practice law in the United States, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, to York Morris, a waiter, and Nancy Thomas. His grandfather, Cumons Morris, was brought to the United States from Africa while York Morris gained his freedom in 1781 and moved to Salem, working as a waiter. There he married Nancy Thomas, who gave birth to Robert and ten other children. Morris attended a private school in Salem and then became a waiter like his father. At age thirteen he moved to Boston under the patronage of the abolitionist attorney Ellis Gray Loring. Initially he was a servant in the Loring home; then he became a clerk in Loring's office, mostly copying documents. In 1844 be began reading law in Loring's office, and in 1847 shortly after his twenty first birthday he passed the Massachusetts bar ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

farm laborer and justice of the peace, was born a slave in Alabama to parents whose names have not been recorded. It is not known when Parker arrived in Rolling Fork in Issaquena County in the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta, or why he left Alabama. It is possible that Parker, like many former slaves after emancipation, embarked on a perilous journey of several hundred miles to rejoin family members who had been sold to southwest Mississippi. Or he could have made that journey in the late 1860s when thousands of black freedmen and their families began flocking to the Delta in search of their own land. More likely he was himself one of thousands of African American slaves brought to the Delta in the decade before the outbreak of the Civil War by owners seeking the vast fortunes to be made from that region's dark, rich, alluvial soil.

Such fortunes could ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

minister, magistrate, and diplomat, was born Owen Lun West Smith in Giddensville, Sampson County, North Carolina, the son of Ollen Smith and Maria (Hicks), both slaves. Although Owen was only ten years old when the Civil War broke out in 1861, he served for part of the war as the personal servant of a Confederate officer, most likely his owner or a son of his owner. Several accounts suggest that Smith was present at the Battle of Bentonville in North Carolina near the war's end in March 1865. Some of these accounts insist that he was still a body servant for a Confederate soldier. Others claim that that by the age of thirteen, in 1864 Smith like many eastern North Carolina slaves and some buffaloes poor whites hostile to the area s wealthy and all powerful slave owners had fled the Confederate lines to ...

Article

John Evans

Son of a slave and a wealthy planter on St Kitts, Wells became a major landowner in Monmouthshire, South Wales, and Britain's first black sheriff. He was probably the wealthiest black person in the country at the time.

His father, William Wells (1730–94), left Cardiff with his brother Nathaniel for St Kitts to make his fortune in the sugar and slave trade in about 1749. He married a wealthy widow in 1753, Elizabeth Taylor née Fenton. She bore William two children, who died in infancy, before she herself died in 1759. Subsequently William fathered at least six children with various slaves, one of whom, Nathaniel, was born on 10 September 1779, the son of Juggy, his African house slave. He was baptized on 3 March 1783 at Trinity Church Palmetto Point By the age of 9 wells was living in London with ...