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David Dabydeen

Africanservant who served and died in Henbury, Bristol. Africanus was the servant of Charles William, Earl of Suffolk and Bindon. The Earl married into the Astry family of Henbury House. Africanus, who was named after an ancient Roman general, was a symbol of their wealth. He, like other servants of African origin who worked in aristocratic homes, was a novelty who, besides doing domestic chores, also functioned as a showpiece for wealthy guests.

In the 18th century thousands of male and female slaves arrived in Britain to become servants of the rich minority They mainly came from the New World rather than directly from Africa The common erroneous belief was that Bristol slavers brought Africans back and kept them chained in the Redcliff caves before shipping them across the Atlantic The truth was that most African slaves were part of the triangular trade being transported from ...

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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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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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Glenn Allen Knoblock

Civil War and Indian Wars soldier and Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Prince George County, Maryland. Nothing is known of his early life; he was likely born enslaved, but if so, the circumstances in which he gained his freedom are unknown. His military service began when he enlisted in the Union Army from St. Mary's County, Maryland, on 5 February 1864. Boyne served in Battery C of the 2nd U.S. Colored Light Artillery and saw action in and around Richmond, Virginia, during the last year of the Civil War at Wilson's Wharf and City Point. Boyne and his regiment were subsequently sent westward, and he ended the war stationed in Texas. In March 1866 Thomas Boyne was discharged from the army at Brownsville Texas as his regiment like all other volunteer regiments that served in the Civil War black and white was disbanded when the army ...

Article

Dalyce Newby

soldier, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of William Carney and Ann, a former slave. Little is known of his parents or of his early years. As a young boy he expressed an interest in the ministry and, at the age of fourteen, attended a covertly run school under the tutelage of a local minister. Later he moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he took odd jobs in the hope of saving sufficient funds to acquire his religious training.

In 1862, despite strong opposition, Abraham Lincoln signed a bill authorizing the recruitment of African American troops. In January 1863Governor John Andrew of Massachusetts was permitted to raise a black regiment. Since the black community was relatively small in that state, recruiters turned to enlisting men from other states, using such prominent abolitionists as Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, and Wendell Phillips as recruiting ...

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Glenn Allen Knoblock

a sailor during the War of 1812, fought in the Battle of Lake Erie with Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry. Little is known about Collins's personal life although it is possible he was born into slavery in Newport, Rhode Island, or the surrounding area. As of the 1790 Census there were still over nine hundred slaves in the state, which pursued a policy of gradual emancipation after 1784. Hannibal may have been a slave for less than a decade of his life, although this is not certain. The 1810 Federal Census does detail two white Collins families in Newport that either owned slaves or had black persons residing in their household; the entry for John Collins details just one person of color in his household, whereas that of Job Collins details seven Although not specifically identified as such these individuals may have been slaves However the same census ...

Article

Cudjoe  

D. A. Dunkley

otherwise known as Captain Cudjoe, was a leader of the Leeward Maroons, so named because they were situated in the wind-sheltered mountainous area known as the Cockpit Country in western Jamaica. The Windward Maroons were on the opposite side of the island, in eastern Jamaica. Cudjoe was born around 1690, though some researchers have dated his birth at 1680. He was born after the island became a colony of the English, who captured it from the Spanish in 1655. Cudjoe began life in the parish of St. James, the eastern part of which would form the parish of Trelawny in 1771. His name is sometimes written as “Cudjo” or “Kojo” and corresponds to the West African Ashanti name “Kodjó” and the Akan name “Kwadwó” or “Kwadjó.” The latter is the Akan word for Monday, with the ending dwó or djó associated with peace.

In their oral ...

Article

Michael F. Knight

soldier and Civil War Medal of Honor recipient, was born a slave in Howard County, Maryland. Little is known of his early life, but according to an 1867 slave compensation claim, Edward Rider Jr., of Baltimore, Maryland, bought Decatur Dorsey from the state of Maryland in June 1861. Following his purchase by Rider, Dorsey's status as slave or freedman is not clear from surviving records, but it seems likely he ran away from his master sometime between 1861 and 22 March 1864, when he enlisted as a private in Company B, Thirty-ninth United States Colored Troops (USCT). On his enlistment papers he describes himself as a free laborer. He stood six feet tall, with black eyes and hair, and was twenty-five years old at the time of enlistment.

Military life in the Thirty ninth USCT agreed with Dorsey A private in March he was promoted to ...

Article

Charles W. Jr. Carey

war hero and businessman, was born probably in the vicinity of Portsmouth, Virginia, the son of free black parents, whose names are unknown. On the eve of the American Revolution fewer than two thousand free blacks lived in Virginia. The colony's statutes forbade the manumission of slaves except those who exposed an incipient slave uprising. Consequently, William, who was known as “Billy,” was probably descended from Africans who arrived in Virginia before 1640, when blacks were treated like indentured servants rather than slaves.

Nothing is known about Flora's life prior to 1775, when he joined Colonel William Woodford's Second Virginia Regiment as a private He furnished his own musket suggesting that he had already earned the esteem of his white neighbors because the colony s statutes also barred free blacks from bearing arms and from serving in the militia He fought against British and Loyalist forces ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

a sailor during the War of 1812, was a crewman aboard the brig Niagara during the Battle of Lake Erie. Little is known of Hardy's life prior to the war, except that he was a free man and resident of Philadelphia when he was married to his wife Diane by Reverend John Gloucester of the First African Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia sometime between 1807 and 1813. Hardy, his name also given as “Harely,” was almost certainly working as a sailor prior to the war and probably sailed on vessels operating from the port of Philadelphia. It is unknown when Hardy enlisted in the United States Navy, but it was likely sometime in 1812 to early 1813 with the commencement of the war the merchant shipping trade in the Northeast came to a sudden halt and many sailors black and white were suddenly unemployed Driven by the necessity ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

Civil War soldier and Medal of Honor recipient, was a native of St. Mary's County, Maryland. Though nothing certain is known of Harris's early life, he was likely born into slavery and may have remained enslaved until the Civil War. Harris enlisted in the Union Army on 14 February 1864, joining the 38th U.S. Colored Troop Regiment (USCT) at Great Mills, Maryland, stating his age as thirty-six years and his occupation as that of a farmer. A number of USCT regiments recruited men, many of them formerly enslaved, from the Tidewater region of Maryland and Virginia. Among the other new recruits of these regiments were fellow St. Mary's County resident William H. Barnes, as well as Christian Fleetwood, Alfred B. Hilton, and Charles Veale (4th USCT), Decatur Dorsey (39th USCT), and Miles James (36th USCT). All of these men, like James Harris and a number ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

was a sailor in the War of 1812 who fought in the Battle of Lake Erie under Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry. The details of Hazard's life are largely lost, although some speculation as to his identity may be made from surviving records. That Hazard was a slave is almost certain, although whether he was born a slave or forcibly brought to America from Africa is unknown. Hazard's first name of “Newport” is a common one of the day for enslaved men in New England and is a likely indicator that he was sold as a slave at Newport, Rhode Island, a major port in the slave trade, early in his life. Two candidates present themselves as to Newport Hazard's identity: he may be the man, born sometime between 1727 and 1761, listed as a “Negro” in the 1777 Rhode Island Military Census and living in the household of Steven ...

Article

Patrick G. Williams

Lafayette, James (1748–09 August 1830), patriot spy, also known to history as James Armistead, was born in slavery; little is recorded of his parentage or early life except that he belonged to William Armistead of New Kent County, Virginia. In the summer of 1781 James was attending his master while Armistead worked as a commissary in Richmond, supplying patriot forces under the command of the Marquis de Lafayette. Lafayette’s men had been sent south to counter British units under Charles Cornwallis then operating in eastern Virginia. When it became known that Lafayette was recruiting spies to keep better track of Cornwallis’s intentions, James (with his master’s consent) volunteered, believing such service might win him his freedom.

By late July James had crossed into the British camp at Portsmouth and apparently was employed as a forager His work enabled him in the course of gathering food to ...

Article

Elizabeth Kuebler-Wolf

slave and Revolutionary War spy, was born James Armistead, a slave belonging to the planter William Armistead of New Kent County, Virginia. Nothing is known of his parents, but it is reasonable to assume that William Armistead also held, at least at some point, James's mother and possibly his father as slaves. James Armistead was a skilled worker whom William Armistead employed in his Richmond offices apparently in a clerical capacity. During the Revolutionary War, William Armistead served as a military supply officer, with James Armistead accompanying him as a body servant. Later William Armistead was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.

James Armistead accompanied William Armistead to Richmond in the summer of 1781 while William was fulfilling his duties as the commissary of military supplies to the Continental army. American forces, led by the French Marquis de Lafayette, and British troops led by Lord Cornwallis ...

Article

William H. Brown

soldier and regimental color bearer of the First Regiment of the Louisiana Native Guards, is a person about whom little early information is available. The date and location of Planciancois's birth is not known, but his infantry company was made up of individuals who were descended from free African Americans and Creoles living in New Orleans, Louisiana. According to post-war accounts, the spelling of Planciancois's first name could also be “Anselino.”

One of the first African American regiments raised for service in the Civil War, the First Louisiana Native Guards was mustered into service on 27 September 1862 The entire regiment was native to Louisiana Roughly 11 percent of the unit was made up of educated free African Americans of mixed Creole ancestry from New Orleans Contrabands slaves liberated by the Union occupation of New Orleans and fugitive slaves made up of the rest of the infantry companies ...

Article

Rayford W. Logan

Salem Poor was born free in Massachusetts. Leaving his wife, he enlisted in a Massachusetts militia company under Captain Benjamin Ames. Like black soldier Peter Salem, he served with valor during the American Revolution at the Battle of Bunker Hill (actually fought at Breed's Hill) on June 17, 1775. Similar to Peter Salem, who was credited, perhaps mistakenly, with killing British major John Pitcairn, Poor was perhaps responsible for killing British lieutenant colonel James Abercrombie. Colonel William Prescott and thirteen other officers petitioned the General Court of Massachusetts a few weeks later suggesting that the Continental Congress itself bestow The Reward due to so great and Distinguisht a Caracter The petition read The Subscribers begg leave to Report to your Honble House Which Wee do in justice to the Caracter of so Brave a Man that under Our Own observation Wee declare that A ...

Article

Lois Kerschen

Salem Poor was an African American hero at the battle of Bunker Hill. Little is known about Poor's life before or after the American Revolution. Some biographical sources say that he was born free in the late 1740s or early 1750s, while others say that he was born a slave but managed to buy his own freedom in 1769 for twenty-seven pounds. He lived and attended church in Andover, Massachusetts, with his wife, Nancy, a free African American woman, and their son. However, in May 1775 he left his family to join the fighting.

Poor belonged to Captain Benjamin Ames's company in Colonel James Frye's Fifth Massachusetts Regiment. There were approximately three dozen black soldiers at Bunker Hill (near Boston), including Peter Salem, Alexander Ames, Cato Howe, Barzillai Lew, and Titus Coburn According to surviving documents Poor was sent to Bunker Hill to build ...

Article

Patrick G. Williams

Jack Sisson was also known as Tack Sisson, Guy Watson, or Prince. He was one of those African American patriots whose lives were allowed by their contemporaries to become shrouded in obscurity. Little record exists of his whereabouts, activities, or circumstances before or after the exploit for which he is noted—the July 1777 abduction of Brigadier General Richard Prescott, commander of the redcoat garrison at Newport, Rhode Island. Sisson was among the forty volunteers Lieutenant Colonel William Barton raised from his regiment with the intention of seizing a British officer of sufficient rank that he might be exchanged for the captured American general Charles Lee. Some accounts suggest Sisson was Barton s servant Sisson steered one of the whaleboats that made their way with muffled oars from Tiverton Rhode Island toward Prescott s lodgings at the Overing House near Newport Escaping the attention of ...

Article

Patrick G. Williams

Revolutionary War soldier, was also known as Tack Sisson, Guy Watson, or Prince. His place of birth and the names of his parents are unknown. In fact, little record exists of his whereabouts, activities, or circumstances before or after the exploit for which he is noted—the July 1777 abduction of Brigadier General Richard Prescott, commander of the British garrison at Newport, Rhode Island. Sisson was among the forty volunteers Lieutenant Colonel William Barton raised from his regiment with the intention of seizing a British officer of sufficient rank that he might be exchanged for the captured American general Charles Lee Some accounts suggest that Sisson was Barton s servant Sisson steered one of the whaleboats that made their way with muffled oars from Tiverton Rhode Island toward Prescott s lodgings at the Overing House near Newport Escaping the attention of British ships the force ...

Article

Michael E. Hucles

Caesar Tarrant was born into slavery, probably at Hampton, Virginia. The identity of his parents is unknown. In his early adulthood, Caesar was sold to Carter Tarrant upon the death of his master Robert Hundley. His purchase price exceeded the normal price for male slaves because Tarrant had a particular skill, that of a river pilot. Just how Tarrant acquired the skill is unclear. Typically, the Tidewater area river pilot was white and passed the skill on to his son. In any case, Tarrant would eventually use this skill to parlay his freedom.

Sometime prior to the American Revolution, Tarrant married Lucy, the slave of neighbor John Rogers. This so-called “broad” marriage of slaves who resided apart from one another produced three children. Throughout his life, Tarrant longed for his family's freedom.

The American Revolution provided Tarrant with the opportunity to secure his own freedom As ...