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Marlene L. Daut

escaped slave, navy landsman, and U.S. Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Natchez, Mississippi, in 1841 of unknown parentage. Brown was a slave in Mississippi on a cotton plantation, and nothing is known of his childhood or to whom he belonged. In the early 1860s, at the start of the Civil War, Brown ran away from his master on a skiff that eventually managed to reach a Union ship stationed on the Mississippi River. This encounter with the navy probably accounts for his subsequent enlistment. The navy was a likely choice for an escaped slave; many escaped slaves, as well as free blacks from the North, were often drawn to the service because of its better pay and purported fairer treatment of blacks. Brown enlisted in the Union navy on 18 March 1863 under the title 1st Class Boy and was officially described as a Contraband Negro five ...


Laura Murphy

writer, sailor, soldier, teacher, and minister, was one of ten children born in North Carolina to Abel Ferebee, a slave and minister of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church, and Chloe (maiden name unknown), a slave. When London was young his mother was sold, apparently because of her unwillingness to submit to her master and her ability to beat him in a fight. She was sold to a speculator, who offered to sell her to her husband or his master, who had allowed Ferebee to hire himself out to a local farmer so that they both profited from his labor. When she was subsequently bought by one of the two men—it is unclear which—London and two of his siblings were allowed to move with her, though they all remained enslaved.

Once he was old enough to begin laboring London was immediately set to ...


William B. Gould

Union navy sailor in the Civil War and journalist, was presumably born into slavery, in Wilmington, North Carolina, to Elizabeth “Betsy” Moore of Wilmington, a slave, and Alexander Gould, who was white. William had at least one sibling, Eliza Mabson, who acquired her last name by virtue of a publicly acknowledged relationship with George Mabson, a white man in Wilmington. She eventually became the mother of five children by Mabson, including her son George L. Mabson, the first black lawyer in North Carolina.

Little is known about William B. Gould's early life. As a young man he acquired skills as a plasterer or mason, and he learned how to read and write, although those skills were forbidden by law to slaves. His initials are in the plaster of one of the Confederacy's most elegant mansions, the Bellamy Mansion in Wilmington. Among his young friends were George Washington ...


Glenn Allen Knoblock

Civil War sailor and Medal of Honor winner, was born a slave in Richmond, Virginia. Although nothing is known for certain of his life before the Civil War, it is likely that once the war began Mifflin escaped from his master and made his way to Union forces in Virginia. One of thousands of such slaves who were termed “contrabands” (as opposed to the more legally ambiguous terms “freeman” or “runaway slave”) by Union Army officials, Mifflin was among a large number of such men who would subsequently enlist in the Union Navy. Mifflin, who stood only five feet four inches, was twenty-five years old when he joined the navy in New York on 1 April 1864 He was first rated a landsman which was an entry level position for a recruit with no sea experience and he served on shore at the Brooklyn Navy Yard While Mifflin ...


Eric Gardner

businessman and author of a slave narrative, was born to Jeff Elliott (also known as Jeff Ellick), a slave of William Elliott, and Millie, a slave of Peter Parker, in Chowan County, North Carolina. Parker died while Allen was a young child, and ownership of both Millie and her children passed to Parker's young daughter Annie. Annie Parker's guardians hired Millie out to a series of poor white masters, ranging from “good” masters to some who were quite violent. Allen generally lived with her at least until he was ten. After he reached that age, when slaves usually began to have to work in the field, his time too was being hired out, again to a series of masters of varying temperament. There is some possibility that Parker married another slave in his youth, though definitive documentation is lacking.

The beginning of the Civil ...


Steven J. Niven

lynching victim, was born Ricedor Cleodas Watson near Gethsemane in Jefferson County, Arkansas, the first child of Albert Leak Watson, a logger, and Alonzo (Woolfolk) Watson, a farmer. Both parents had children from previous marriages. Wright believed, probably incorrectly, that his natural father was named Henry Wright and adopted that surname as an alias around 1937 after robbing a grocery store. Cleo Wright's early life was fairly typical of rural blacks in the Jim Crow South in the years between World War I and World War II: he attended the local segregated grade school, but only after the vital work of bringing in his mother's cotton crop, among other tasks, had been completed.

A talented pianist, tap dancer, and baseball pitcher, Wright made friends easily. Like many adolescent young men he got into fights occasionally, though only if provoked, and he did not have a violent reputation. In 1932 ...


David H. Anthony

U.S. Navy veteran, Tuskegee student, SNCC worker, and civil rights martyr, was born in Tuskegee, Alabama, son of Renee and Samuel Younge Sr. His mother was an elementary school teacher, and his father was an occupational therapist, head of the department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Veterans' Hospital (Tuskegee) and later attached to the U.S. Forest Service. Younge's life was marked by a series of uncompromising role models within and beyond his family. In the town of Tuskegee itself, he grew up in a black middle-class enclave that valued both education and self-respect. Yet even among this relatively privileged enclave that existed for Tuskegee's educated African American elite, Samuel L. Younge Jr.'s childhood was far more individualistic than most Credit for this belonged to his mother Renee who although conscious of the negative power of racist stereotypes in limiting the horizons of talented ...