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Charlton W. Yingling

military and political figure on the island of Hispaniola in the early nineteenth century, identified himself as being from northern French Saint-Domingue. Despite his importance, little is known about his life, especially his early years. Because of his surname, scholars have conjectured that he was originally Muslim. He was likely enslaved in the northern part of the French colony of Saint-Domingue on the western part of the island until the outbreak of the 1791 slave insurrection that began the Haitian Revolution, after which he rebelled and joined other black troops fighting for Spain against the French Republic. Further complicating the issue are court documents in which he identified himself as ‘Paul’ and claimed he was from Saint Domingue not brought there in captivity from West Africa Regardless of his origins it is known that he accelerated through the ranks becoming a captain under Georges Biassou a leading black general ...

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Ben Vinson

(late seventeenth century–1740s), resident of Mexico City appointed a colonel in the Spanish colonial militia in 1719. This was one of the highest military ranks bestowed upon anyone of African descent in the Americas during the colonial period. Indeed, there were just four free colored military colonels in Mexican colonial history. Details of Almaraz’s early life are unknown. He was not of mixed race but was considered a negro or moreno, referring to what colonial inhabitants believed were “pure” black physical traits. His ascension to the rank of colonel marked the first time that this had been done in Mexico, and it came upon the heels of a protracted lobbying effort that Almaraz himself had spearheaded. Prior to 1719 the Spanish government had scorned the idea of instituting this rank in the colonies But Almaraz cleverly took advantage of his knowledge of developments among black soldiers in ...

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Glenn Allen Knoblock

Civil War soldier and Medal of Honor winner, was born in Mexico, Oswego County, New York. Unrecorded in the 1850 federal census, the names of Anderson's parents are confirmed to be unknown. However, likely candidates are Samuel and Mary Anderson, the only black or “mulatto” family recorded living in Oswego County in the 1840 (town of Granby) and 1850 (town of West Oswego) censuses. Samuel Anderson was a native of Bermuda, and his wife, Mary, was a New York native. Bruce Anderson does appear in the 1860 census, listed as a fourteen-year-old “mulatto” residing in Johnstown, New York, on the farm of Henry Adams and his daughter Margaret; he was likely a simple laborer. How he came to live with the Adams family is unknown, but Anderson would remain a resident in the area—except during the time of his Civil War service—for the remainder of his life.

While some ...

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Zachary Margolis

was born a slave in Connecticut, according to his military records. Andrew's birth year is unclear; his military records state that he was born in 1750, but his death records indicate a birth year of 1743. Nothing is known about his parents or early years.

Andrew was enslaved in Wethersfield, Connecticut until 20 May 1777. He was then released by John Wright and Luke Fortune, on the condition that he serve in the Continental Army; he served during the Revolutionary War, in the Connecticut Line as a corporal in the company of Francis Bernard (1740–1828) in the 18th Connecticut Regiment, fighting in and around New York City.

After three years of service Andrew was discharged from the army in 1780. On 1 June 1780 he received a total of £11 0 1 ¾ for his service On note number 652 issued to Andrew ...

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Bernard Gainot

representative in the French Directory government (1795–1799), was born a slave around the year 1758 in Cap-Français, now Cap-Haïtien, Haiti. His master, Pierre Antoine, a free black man from Le Cap, who was an entrepreneur and mason, took Jean-Louis along with him as an aide-de-camp to the Savannah expedition in 1779 during the American War of Independence. More than five hundred free men of color, many of them from Le Cap, fought as allies of the Americans against the British. Upon his return, Jean-Louis was freed for an amount of £300, according to the notarial deed dated 3 May 1783, as a reward for his faithful service to Antoine.

The slave Jean Louis then became Jean Louis Annecy a surname probably originating from the designation of a house often found on the plains of the Cape and frequently spelled Ansy He may have been the owner of ...

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Charles Rosenberg

a Civil War soldier and veterans leader and Reconstruction-era legislator, was born and lived all of his life in Louisiana. Felix Antoine was born into the distinct community of gens de couleur libre, free persons of color, which existed in the New Orleans area and some other parts of Louisiana since French colonial times. His father was a veteran of the War of 1812, who fought under General Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans, and his mother was a native of the West Indies. His paternal grandmother was reputed to have been the daughter of an African prince, who purchased her freedom from slavery; she saved $150,000 as a free woman (Shreveport Journal obituary of C.C. Antoine, 14 Sept. 1921). Antoine was the younger brother of Louisiana Lt. Governor Caesar C. Antoine who moved from New Orleans to Shreveport prior to ...

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Jack Borden Watson

scout and pioneer of the West, was one of the free blacks in Texas who experienced some degree of freedom under four different governing entities—Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, and the United States. Free blacks never constituted a large population in Texas in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. For example, a census in 1860 put the number of free blacks at four hundred, but later estimates by historians suggest that their numbers approached eight hundred. Despite their small numbers free blacks made a significant contribution to the early history of Texas. Hendrick Arnold played a pivotal role in the Texas Revolution (1835–1836) and beyond.

The date of Hendrick Arnold's birth is not known. He emigrated from Mississippi with his parents, Daniel and Rachel Arnold, in the winter of 1826 His father was likely white while his mother was black nothing else is known about ...

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Charles Beatty Medina

leader of the Afro-Indian Maroon communities of Esmeraldas in early colonial Quito, was born around 1560 in the province of Esmeraldas, Ecuador. According to early reports, Arobe was the son of an African slave named Andrés Mangache and a native woman from Nicaragua, who escaped together from a ship that had anchored on the Esmeraldas coast to take on water and provisions. Arobe and his brother Juan Mangache were two of the “mulatto” leaders of Maroon communities begun by his father that dated back to the late 1550s and 1560s. By 1577, Francisco’s father had been killed in confrontations with other semi-sedentary native communities of the Esmeraldas region. In that year, the Maroon leader Alonso de Illescas attempted to place Francisco and Juan under his leadership, but even with Spanish assistance he failed to do so.

By the 1580s however the brothers were dealing directly with Spanish colonizers In ...

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Jane G. Landers

free barber and captain of the Battalion of Loyal Blacks of Havana, recruited and equipped at his own cost a black battalion to defend the Cuban city against Britain’s surprise attack in 1762. The men of his unit fought under a flag bearing the motto “Victory or Death.” During the American Revolution, Barba and other black troops again fought the British in New Orleans and Pensacola, in The Bahamas, and on Atlantic corsair expeditions.

In 1786 Barba married the wealthy María Isabel Aróstegui who brought a 6 000 peso dowry to the union and they made their home in the Guadalupe neighborhood outside the walled city They had two children and were able to give their daughter María Tranquilina a large dowry when she married Captain Manuel Salazar a member of Barba s battalion Barba s son José Silverio Guadalupe Barba was a carpenter and sublieutenant of the ...

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Glenn Allen Knoblock

Civil War soldier and Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Saint Mary's County, Maryland. He was likely enslaved for most or perhaps all of his life prior to his military service. The 1860 Federal Census Slave Schedules for Saint Mary's County indicate that one J. A. Barnes owned eight slaves aged four to thirty, one of them a fourteen-year-old boy who was probably William Henry Barnes. How he came to join the Union Army is unknown; Barnes may have been freed prior to the war, or he may have run away from his master to seek military service. Whatever the circumstance, Barnes enlisted in the 38th U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) regiment at Norfolk, Virginia, on 11 February 1864, stating his age as twenty-three and his occupation as that of a farmer.

The 38th USCT spent its first months after its formation stationed in the area of Norfolk ...

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Jeffery Lewis Stanley

also spelled Beauvais, a free man of color from the French colony of Saint-Domingue who served as a military commander in the French Republican Army during the Haitian Revolution, was most likely born on 17 June 1756 in the colonial city of Port-au-Prince. Bauvais was a leader of the revolt of free people of color (gens de couleur) against the white supremacy of French colonialism in Saint-Domingue during the early 1790s. Into the late 1790s, Bauvais remained loyal to the French Republic, even in the face of British and Spanish incursions.

Bauvais received his education in France at the Collège de la Flèche. Prior to the French and Haitian Revolutions, Bauvais served with the chasseurs volontaires from Saint Domingue who fought in the battle of Savannah during the American War of Independence under the leadership of the Comte d Estaing a former governor general of the colony ...

Article

Bayano  

Yvette Modestin and Toshi Sakai

(fl. 1540s–1550s) is the most famous of several black liberationist leaders of colonial Panama. By the mid-sixteenth century, thousands of Africans in the isthmus had escaped enslavement and were living free in the forests. Called Cimarrones, from the Taino word sima meaning “flight,” they formed self-governing, African-rooted societies. Bayano was the leader of some 1,200 Cimarrones (Pike, 2007; Araúz, 1997) in the eastern region that extended from the Darien to the Rio Chagres. The earliest references to him appear in the mid-1540s when Spanish colonial authorities warn travelers of the danger of Cimarron ambushes on forest roads.

Details of Bayano’s birth, ethnicity, early life, and path to power are not known, but theories abound. The historian Fernando Romero (1975) speculated that his name may indicate Vai origin one of many ethnic groups from the large area then known as Guinea in West Africa but ...

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Marlene L. Daut

Medal of Honor recipient, actor, and playwright, was born in Richmond, Virginia, of unknown parentage. Beaty (sometimes spelled Beatty) was born a slave, but little else is known of his early years or how he came to be free. Beaty left Richmond in 1849 for Cincinnati, where he would spend the majority of his life, and became a farmer. Later, Beaty's education consisted of an apprenticeship to a black cabinetmaker in Cincinnati, as well as a tutelage under James E. Murdock, a retired professional actor and dramatic coach.

On 5 September 1862 Powhatan Beaty along with 706 other African American men was forced to join Cincinnati s Black Brigade after Confederate troops repeatedly threatened the city The Black Brigade was one of the earliest but unofficial African American military units organized during the Civil War but it did not engage in any military action since the city was ...

Article

Philippe Girard

also known as Jean-Baptiste Mars or Timbaze, was a slave, freedman, officer, and deputy from the French colony of Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti). He was the first black deputy in the French Parliament and introduced the 1794 law that abolished slavery in the French colonies.

Belley’s origins are uncertain. By his own account, he was born on Gorée Island near present-day Senegal around 1747 and transported to Cap-Français (Cap-Haïtien) around the age of 2, presumably as part of the Atlantic slave trade. Another document, however, lists his birthplace as Léogane in 1755 Saint-Domingue. After obtaining his manumission, Belley, like many free people of color, acquired slaves. As a member of a Dominguan mixed-race unit, he may also have taken part in the 1779 siege of Savannah in support of the American Revolution, where he allegedly gained the warlike nickname of “Mars.”

Belley’s role during the Haitian Revolution, which began in 1789 ...

Article

Eduardo R. Palermo

was dedicated to defending the dispossessed and distributing land obtained from anti-revolutionary landowners during the revolution. Benítez, also known as “El Pardo Encarnación,” was likely born in Soriano around 1770. He was one of the leaders under General José Gervasio Artigas (the “father” of the República Oriental del Uruguay) on the southwestern coast of the Uruguayan territory during the revolution that led to independence from the Spanish Crown (1811–1820). In this capacity, Benitez became known for his devotion to the ideals of the revolution. Endowed with a great gift for communication, Benitez traveled throughout the country during that period, distributing land, especially in the area of Cuchilla Grande of Soriano. With the application of the Regulation of Lands and Landowner Development enacted on 10 September 1815 by the Provincia Oriental Western Province government the revolutionaries planned to supply farms to local citizens in order to settle ...

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Laurence Brown

who fought in the revolutionary wars in the Caribbean and Venezuela, was born in Desruisseaux in the southeast of St. Lucia around 1770. Bideau was described by contemporaries as a mulâtre, suggesting he was both mixed race and had lighter skin color. In his early twenties, Bideau repeatedly crossed the Atlantic as a second officer on merchant ships to Saint-Domingue and French Guiana, and by 1794 he was recognized as a sea captain.

During the second half of the 1790s, the Caribbean was the focus of intensive naval warfare as French republican corsairs led by Victor Hugues in Guadeloupe captured or destroyed nearly 2,000 ships. Bideau was commissioned as part of Hugues’s forces, and it was during this period that he established himself in Trinidad, which was occupied by the British in 1797.

From Trinidad Bideau regularly crossed the Gulf of Paria to Spanish Venezuela which had ...

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Ángela Lucía Agudelo González

and possible founder of San Basilio de Palenque, the first free black town in the Western Hemisphere, was born in West Africa on the island of Bissagos in Guinea-Bissau. In 1596 he was captured by the Portuguese slave trader Pedro Goméz Reynel and was sold later on to a Spaniard by the name of Alfonso del Campo at Cartagena de Indias, a major slave-trading port on the Caribbean coast of the New Kingdom of Granada. Campo baptized him with the Christian name Domingo Biohó and employed him as a rower on a boat on the Magdalena River.

After trying various times to escape from his master, in 1599 Benkos managed to escape with a group of other slaves, his wife, and his children. Together they fled the city of Cartagena and installed themselves in swampy, difficult-to-access lands. It was there that they founded the continent’s first palenque maroon community ...

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Balthazar Becker

and entrepreneur, is presumed to have been born in New York in 1736. Most of what is known of Blue’s biography we owe to an 1823 petition, in which he details his participation in both the Seven Years’ War and in the American Revolution, and through his testimony in a court case in 1832. Earlier scholars had discredited these accounts as Blue’s fabrication and had speculated that Blue was born around 1767 in Jamaica. Yet, recent archival research by Ian Duffield and Cassandra Pybus has vindicated the key dates and locales of Blue’s autobiographical accounts, which encompass pivotal eras in the histories of North America, Europe, and Australia. This scholarship has established Blue as a central figure among the black founders of modern Australia.

In all probability William Billy Blue was born in colonial New York It is now assumed that Blue was recruited as a seaman for ...

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Bernard Gainot

There is little documentation on his life before he moved to mainland France. Even though the surname “Boisson” was common in Cap-Français (now Cap-Haïtien), there is evidence that Joseph belonged to the community of free blacks who advanced through the military on the eve of the Haitian Revolution. He was a captain in the Saint-Domingue Gendarmerie when he was elected to the National Convention, the assembly held in Paris from 1792 to 1795 to draft a new constitution following the overthrow of the French monarchy. Reliable sources mention two sisters: Madeleine, who married a black sergeant of the First Battalion of Colonial Troops, and Marguerite, who was living with a white adjutant from the Battalion of the Cap-Français.

Like other representatives of Saint-Domingue, Boisson traveled first to Philadelphia, and then departed from New York on 20 March 1794 along with two parliamentarians Etienne Laforest a mulatto and Pierre Nicolas ...

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David Buisseret

Maroon leader in seventeenth-century Jamaica, was also known as Lobolo, Luyola, Don Wall Bolo, and Boulo. Nothing is known of his early life.

After the English invading army occupied Jamaica in 1655, Juan de Bolas, a former slave of the Spaniards, took to the hills and led a center of resistance. When this pelinco, or settlement, was discovered and raided by the English in 1660, Juan de Bolas came over to the side of the new colonizers, waging war on the other key areas of guerrilla resistance, with him and his men absorbed into the English military hierarchy. Three years later he was ambushed and killed by one of his former comrades-in-arms.

In 1655 after the English conquest of Jamaica some of the Spaniards and their former slaves formed various centers of resistance in the mountainous interior of the island One of these was located in ...