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Abraham  

Kenny A. Franks

also known as “Prophet,” was a runaway slave who became a prominent leader among the Seminole. Nothing is known about his parents or childhood. Fleeing his master, Abraham escaped south into Florida, and was eventually adopted into the Seminole tribe, with whom he enjoyed considerable status. In 1826 he accompanied a tribal delegation to Washington, D.C., and became an influential counselor to Micanopy, a leading Seminole leader. The Seminole, or Florida Indians, once were a part both of the Muskogee (Creek) nation that had been driven out of Georgia by the early English colonists, and also of the Oconee and Yamasee tribes that had been driven out of the Carolinas following the Yamasee uprising of 1715. They had first settled among the Lower Creeks in the Florida Panhandle and created a haven for runaway slaves. Indeed, Semino'le is the Creek word for “runaway.”

In 1818Andrew Jackson led ...

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Jane Poyner

Orphan from Dahomey (now Benin) reputed to be of royal lineage, who was brought as a slave to England, where she became Queen Victoria's protégée. Sarah was named, ignominiously, after the ship Bonetta on which she was transported to England. Ironically, she was given to Captain Frederick Forbes by King Gezo of Dahomey in a conciliatory gesture following Forbes's unsuccessful attempt to persuade the King to give up trading in slaves. Forbes, in his account of his travels Dahomey and the Dahomens (1851), used Sarah as an example of the potential for progress in the intellect of the African at a time when pseudo‐scientific enlightenment theories of race were rampant: as Forbes noted, ‘it being generally and erroneously supposed that after a certain age the intellect [of the African] becomes impaired and the pursuit of knowledge impossible’.

Sarah was presented to Queen Victoria and thereafter raised under her ...

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Jeremy Rich

Atlantic slave-trade survivor presented as a gift to Britain's Queen Victoria, was born in the early 1840s in or near the southern Beninese town of Okeadon. Her birth name is not known, but her marriage certificate would list her name as Ina Sarah Forbes Bonetta, perhaps indicating that her original name was Ina. Southern Beninese states had fought for years against the inland kingdom of Dahomey for autonomy, as the slave-trading empire sought to force its southern neighbors to pay tribute and accept Dahomean control over the slaves that were often sold to European and South American merchants. In 1846 Dahomean soldiers seized her and killed her parents during the Okeadon War between Dahomey and its enemies in the Yoruba city of Abeokuta after a traitor had allowed Dahomean troops entry to the town Bonetta was fortunate she did not join the 600 or so town residents ...

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Thomas Clarkin

scholar and diplomat, was born Ralph Johnson Bunche in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Fred Bunch, a barber, and Olive Agnes Johnson. His grandmother added an “e” to the family's last name following a move to Los Angeles, California. Because his family moved frequently, Bunche attended a number of public schools before graduating first in his class from Jefferson High School in Los Angeles in 1922. He majored in Political Science at the University of California, Southern Branch (now University of California, Los Angeles [UCLA]), graduating summa cum laude and serving as class valedictorian in 1927. He continued his studies in political science at Harvard, receiving his MA in 1928, and then taught at Howard University in Washington, D.C., while working toward his PhD at Harvard. In 1930 he married Ruth Ethel Harris they had three children Bunche traveled to Europe and Africa researching ...

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Ben Keppel

Born in Detroit, the son of a barber, Bunche graduated summa cum laude from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1927 and went on to earn a Ph.D. in government from Harvard in 1934. His dissertation, French Administration in Togoland and Dahomey, won an award as the best political science dissertation produced at Harvard that year. Bunche founded the political science department at Howard University, where he taught from 1928 to 1950. His book A World View of Race (1936) saw racial conflict as a product of class conflict. He was an influential adviser to the Swedish social scientist Gunnar Myrdal on his classic 1944 study of U.S. race relations, An American Dilemma. Bunche married Ruth Ethel Harris, a Washington, D.C., schoolteacher, in 1930. They had three children.

During World War II Bunche served in the Office of Strategic Services ...

Article

Lawrie Balfour

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Ralph Johnson Bunche spent his early years with his parents in Detroit and in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He attributed his achievements to the influence of his maternal grandmother, Lucy Johnson, with whom he lived in Los Angeles, California, after he was orphaned at age thirteen. Johnson not only insisted that her grandson be self-reliant and proud of his race, but also that he, a high school valedictorian, go to college.

Bunche enrolled at the University of California at Los Angeles, and after graduating summa cum laude in 1927, he entered graduate school at Harvard University in Massachusetts. He was the first black American to earn a Ph.D. degree in political science from an American university. Bunche won the prize for the outstanding doctoral thesis in the social sciences in 1934 He conducted his postdoctoral research on African colonialism He did his research ...

Article

Joseph C. Heim

scholar, university professor, diplomat, UN administrator, and Nobel Peace Prize recipient. In the 1950s and 1960s Bunche was the most visible African American on the world stage. But his accomplishments were far in the future when he was born in modest circumstances in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Fred Bunche, a barber, and Olive Bunche. His parents, however, were constantly in poor health, and after their early deaths Bunche was raised by his grandmother, Lucy Johnson, in Los Angeles.

His grandmother s diligence and inspiration guided and shaped Bunche s youth and he compiled a record of stellar achievement both in athletics he later was a guard on the basketball team of the University of California at Los Angeles UCLA and in academics This he did while holding numerous jobs from delivering newspapers to laying carpets on merchant ships His early years also ...

Article

Charles C. Stewart

traveler, travel writer, and historian, was born in Wadan (in present-day Mauritania). Talib Ahmad al-Mustafa, whose father’s name, translated literally, makes him the “son of the little bird of paradise” (ibn Twayr al-Janna), was the author of Mauritania’s most widely known example of nineteenth-century travel literature (rihla), but he was also an historian and widely versed author on diverse subjects, including his hometown of Wadan. His name in full is Ahmad al-Mustafa ibn Twayr al-Janna ibn ʿAbd Allah ibn Ahmad Sa’im al-Hajji al-Wadani or, in a shortened version, Ibn Twayr al-Janna.

In Wadan he became a student of the highly acclaimed scholars Sidi ʿAbd Allah ibn al Hajj Ibrahim al ʿAlawi d 1818 Ahmad Salim ibn al Imam al Hajji al Wadani d 1823 al Salik ibn al Imam al Hajji d 1830 Muhammadhan Fal ibn Mbarik al Yadmusi al Shamshawi d 1848 and Abu ʿAbd Allah Muhammad ...

Article

Benjamin R. Justesen

lawyer, public official, legislator, and law school dean, was the youngest son of five children born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to Matthew N. Leary, a successful saddler and a staunch abolitionist and philanthropist, and Julia A. Memorell (Menriel). Matthew Leary helped local slaves buy their freedom and often educated them, despite legal prohibitions on the practice. According to the 1850 federal census, he personally owned three slaves, though these were held for benevolent reasons.

John Leary's birth year is not certain; the 1850 census records his age as ten, although later reports indicate that he was born as late as 1849 His ethnic heritage was a blend of European Native American and African American lineage His mother a native of France migrated as a child to North Carolina from the Bahamas with her French mother His father whose family name had been shortened from ...

Article

Michael E. Latham

economist, development expert, and Nobel Laureate, was born William Arthur Lewis on St. Lucia in the West Indies, the son of George Lewis and Ida Barton teachers When Lewis was only seven his father died and his mother opened a shop to help support her family of five sons Financially assisted by the Anglican Church and inspired by his mother s unrelenting determination the precocious youngster completed the studies required for university admission at fourteen and worked as a government clerk for four years At eighteen Lewis won the St Lucia government scholarship for study in Britain and elected to attend the London School of Economics LSE Although he had wanted to be an engineer Lewis knew that neither local industry nor the British government hired blacks in that field Interested in business and curious about the nature of economics he chose instead to pursue a ...

Article

Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born in the town of Florida, Missouri, to John Marshall Clemens and Jane Lampton, both Virginians. Marshall Clemens, a storekeeper and lawyer, cherished ambitions of wealth—a drive that rendered him a distant parent. His wife was an affectionate mother who struggled to instill her Calvinist beliefs in her seven children. In 1839 the Clemens family moved to nearby Hannibal, a town on the Mississippi River, where Samuel spent his boyhood and which later served as model for the fictional Saint Petersburg in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. With the death of John Clemens in 1847, the young Samuel was forced to leave school to help support the family, working first as a printer's apprentice and later as a printer, which would be his craft for ten years.

At twenty one Clemens planned to set out for South America to seek his fortune but ...

Article

Roy Bridges

whose parentage and date of birth are unknown, was a freed slave of Yao origin who produced a remarkable record of the African initiative to return David Livingstone’s body to the coast in 1873. Until recently, Wainwright’s achievement has been overlooked and his character unfairly condemned.

Taken from near Lake Malawi to the coast for transport perhaps to Arabia, Wainwright was rescued by the British Navy’s anti–slave trade patrol in 1866. British policy was to transfer freed slaves to Christian missionaries, and Wainwright came into the care of the Anglican Church Missionary Society at Sharanpur School at Nasik, near Mumbai in India. Converted to Christianity and given a new name and an elementary education, he was soon able to write and speak clear, coherent English.

In 1871 increasing worries about the fate of Scottish explorer and missionary David Livingstone 1813 1873 led the Royal Geographical Society to ...