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Susan B. Iwanisziw

activist, was named Oronoco (variously spelled Oronoke, Oranque, or Oronogue) in the earliest documents that record his early life as a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, slave. In 1749 he was inherited upon the death of his master, Henry Dexter, by Dexter's son, James. When James died in debt in 1767, the trustees of the estate freed Oronoco for the price of £100. In his manumission papers he is identified as “Oronoko royal Slave,” presumably an allusion to the African prince in Aphra Behn's novella Oroonoko, or The Royal Slave (1688) or in Thomas Southerne's dramatic transformation of the story entitled Oroonoko, a Tragedy (1696 which remained one of the most popular dramas staged in Britain throughout the eighteenth century If he was indeed born into African royalty Oronoco nevertheless changed his name upon gaining his freedom and he is usually noted in ...

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crystal am nelson

community leader and musician, was born Occramer Marycoo in West Africa. Although his country of origin is unknown, a 1757 ship manifest shows that he was brought to America at the age of fourteen. He was on one of that year's seven slaving voyages that brought a total of 831 African slaves to Rhode Island. Gardner was one of the 106,544 slaves brought to Newport, Rhode Island, between 1709 and 1807. Caleb Gardner, a white merchant and member of the principal slave-trading team Briggs & Gardner, bought the teenage Marycoo and baptized him into the Congregational faith as Newport Gardner.

The forced exposure to Christianity aided Gardner s rise to a leadership position in the New World He quickly learned English from daily Bible studies with his master who freed Gardner after overhearing him pray for emancipation Upon gaining his freedom Gardner combined his new religious fervor with ...

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Richard J. Bell

Methodist preacher and seaman, was born in the port town of Old Calabar, in Nigeria, West Africa, to Margaret and Hambleton Robert Jea. At age two Jea and his family were captured in Old Calabar and transported to America on a slave ship. With his parents and several siblings he was immediately sold to the family of Oliver and Angelika Tiehuen, members of the Dutch Reformed Church who owned land outside New York City. This knowledge comes from Jea's narrative, The Life, History, and Sufferings of John Jea, the African Preacher, written and published in 1815; it is the only source of information about most of Jea's life and travels.

The newly enslaved family was set to work as field hands and quickly felt the hardship of poor conditions and physical abuse Jea found little comfort in the message of obedience and humility preached to ...

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Melanie R. Thomas

businessman, American Revolutionary War soldier, community leader, property owner, and freedman, was born free in Westersfield, Connecticut, to parents who have not yet been identified. Physical descriptions in early documents suggest that Lattimore (sometimes spelled Latimer) was of mixed racial origin. His family worked on a farm in Lower Ulster County, New York, and ran a ferry service. Benjamin Lattimore was one of only a handful of African American heads of households identified by name as a free person of color during the Colonial era.

The contributions of the black community of early Albany are often forgotten in the context of American history. Many, such as Lattimore, made valuable contributions to the military, to community organizations, and to commerce. In 1776 at the age of fifteen Benjamin Lattimore joined New York s Third Regiment of the Continental army The British captured him and forced ...

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Glenn Allen Knoblock

slave of George Washington, attending to him throughout the War of Independence, was likely born in Virginia and was initially the slave of Colonel John Lee of Westmoreland County, Virginia. After his owner's death in 1767, William Lee, who would retain his former master's surname for his entire life, was purchased by George Washington at auction in October 1767. The purchase price of William was high for the time, over sixty-one pounds, and was paid by Washington with a bond that came due in April 1769. At this same time, Washington also purchased from the Lee estate William's brother, Frank, described much like William as a “mulatto,” and two “negro” boys, Adam and Jack (Wiencek, 131). Subsequently transported to their new home at Washington's Mount Vernon estate, Adam and Jack were likely employed as field hands, while William and Frank Lee were set to work inside ...

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Timothy M. Broughton

slave and freeperson, storyteller, and community organizer, was born in what is now Benin, Africa. He was smuggled into Mobile, Alabama, aboard the schooner Clotilda in July 1860, over fifty years after the abolition of the North Atlantic slave trade in the United States. The Clotilda was the last known slave ship, and Lewis and the others were the last known Africans brought to America as slaves. Although Lewis's grandfather owned land, livestock, and a few slaves in Africa, his father Oluale and mother Nyfond-lo-loo lived humble lives. Nyfond-lo-loo was Oluale's second wife and Lewis their second child. Nyfond-lo-loo had five other children. Oluale also had nine by his first wife and three by his third wife.

As a young boy Lewis enjoyed playing with his siblings and playing the drums At the age of fourteen he began training to become a soldier learning how to ...

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Jane G. Landers

Spanish militia captain, corsair, and founder of the first free black town in what became the United States, was born in “Guinea” (a name used by Europeans and Americans for the slave-trading coast of West Africa) to unknown parents. Menéndez's birth date and birth name are also unknown, but when he was baptized a Catholic he took the name of his Spanish godfather, the royal accountant in St. Augustine, and Menéndez's former owner.

Enslaved as a young man, Menéndez was transported to South Carolina by British traders to work alongside large numbers of Africans already herding cattle, cutting timber, and producing naval stores, indigo, and, later, rice. Soon Carolina was said to be “more like a Negro country” (Wood, 132), and planters began to fear retaliation from the slaves who now outnumbered them. Slave revolts rocked Carolina periodically in the first decades of the eighteenth century.

Then ...

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Fiona J. L. Handley

slave, wealthy landowner, and community leader, was born Nicholas Augustin Metoyer in Natchitoches, in the Spanish colony of Louisiana. His mother was Marie-Thérèse Coincoin, a slave and later a free woman and successful agriculturalist, and his father was Claude Thomas Pierre Metoyer, a wealthy French merchant and planter with whom his mother had a nineteen-year liaison. Marie-Thérèse was enslaved when Augustin and his twin sister Marie Susanne were born, and he was subsequently bought by his father on 31 May 1776 from Madame de St Denis along with three of his siblings for 1 300 livres He grew up as the oldest male child in a wealthy household where in an unusual situation an enslaved woman and a white man cohabited almost completely openly Although Pierre Metoyer never explicitly acknowledged his children with Marie Thérèse as his own most of them took ...

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David Brodnax

slave and civil rights litigant, was born Rafe Nelson in Virginia and renamed after his master in infancy; nothing is known about his parents. In 1834 Montgomery, then a slave in Marion County, Missouri, heard stories of fortunes to be made in the lead mines of Dubuque, a rough frontier village of about two thousand people located on the upper Mississippi River in the Iowa Territory. Montgomery's sister Tilda was already living in Dubuque, where she was one of seventy-two other African Americans and sixteen slaves recorded in the county in the 1840 census, although slavery was illegal in Iowa. Ralph and his master Jordan Montgomery drew up an agreement allowing him to work in the mines for five years, after which he would pay $550 for his freedom; he may have hoped to purchase his sister's freedom as well.

When the five year period ended Montgomery had barely ...

Article

Fiona J. L. Handley

slave, freeman, and successful agriculturalist, was either born in Natchitoches, Louisiana, or arrived in the French colony as an enslaved young adult. He may have been born in Africa, as Pacalé is not a Catholic name, while the name Yves would have been given at his baptism. In some records he is called Yves dit Pacalé—Yves known as Pacalé. He was baptized on 2 January 1736 as the son of Jean Baptiste and Marie, black slaves of the white French Derbanne family. Little is known of Pacalé's years as a slave. The period of the mid- to late eighteenth century was one of great change in Louisiana; the state was a French colony that in 1763 became Spanish making Natchitoches s role as a frontier post with Spanish Texas redundant The area s economy transformed from defense and trade to plantation agriculture focusing on the ...

Article

Eric Gardner

fortune-teller and author, does not appear in public records until 1820, at which time she is listed in the federal census, and nothing definitive is known about her parentage or childhood. A purportedly autobiographical text that introduces one extant copy of Russel's The Complete Fortune Teller and Dream Book claims that she was born in 1745 in the “Fuller nation” three hundred miles southwest of Sierre Leone, taken into slavery, and sold to Virginia planter George Russel after experiencing the horrors of the Middle Passage. In Virginia, the narrative asserts, after great torment, she gained the power of divination and then great fame as a seer, was freed, and raised money to free other slaves.

Though the veracity of this narrative is doubtful for several reasons—for example, the birthplace it gives is in the Atlantic Ocean—it is clear that the title-page attribution of The Complete Fortune Teller ...

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Laurel Horton

enslaved servant of John Snoddy, Spartanburg, South Carolina. Her place of birth and the names of her parents are unknown. John Snoddy and his family emigrated from County Antrim, Ireland, in 1773, and by the time of the 1790 census, he owned ten slaves. When his will was executed in 1808, John owned eighteen slaves including a “boy Bill and girl Dilsey” (Spartanburg County Probate Records, #1756), who were bequeathed to his son Isaac and noted as already in Isaac's possession. Dilsey was eighteen years old and valued at $400. This made her one of the most valuable slaves in the estate, along with a man named George ($482.50), and a woman named Fan and her child, Ransom ($500). Dilsey's attributed value strongly suggests that she was a skilled house servant rather than a field hand. Isaac, his wife, Jane their children and their ...

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Loren Schweninger

former slave and wealthy North Carolina planter, was born a slave in Craven County, North Carolina, the son of an African Ibo woman who had been brought to America on a vessel owned by the merchant-shipper John Wright Stanly in the decade prior to the American Revolution. Described as a “dark-skinned mulatto,” he was almost certainly the son of John Wright Stanly, although his apparent father did not acknowledge paternity. As a young boy he was turned over to Alexander Stewart, who captained the ship that brought his mother from Africa, and Stewart's wife, Lydia Carruthers Stewart, who taught Stanly to read and write and arranged for him to open a barbershop in New Bern as a teenager. Intelligent, gracious, and personable, Stanly quickly became a success, and as New Bern expanded commercially, he earned a good livelihood, even as a slave. In 1795 the Stewarts petitioned ...

Article

Melanie R. Thomas

emancipated slave and antebellum businesswoman, grew up on a tobacco plantation in Albemarle County, Virginia. Information about her parentage is scarce, but some reports suggest that Sally Thomas was of mixed racial heritage. She had two sons, John and Henry, apparently by John L. Thomas, who was the brother of her enslaver, Charles L. Thomas. Years later, she had a third son, James P. Thomas, whose father was Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice John Catron.

Following the death of her owners, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Thomas, the remaining members of the Thomas family, led by John L. Thomas, transported Sally Thomas—and about forty other servants of the family estate—to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1817 Charles Thomas s will stipulated that Sally and her two sons John and Henry remain together She feared being sold separately from her sons and worried for the safety and well ...

Article

John Saillant

, slave, farm laborer, plaintiff in a civil suit, and freedman, was purchased as an infant in 1754 along with his mother and father, Dinah (b. c. 1735) and Mingo (b. c. 1734), by James Caldwell of Rutland District, Worcester County, Massachusetts. As a freedman, Walker married Elizabeth Harvey in 1786. The date of his death is unknown; an 1812 public record in Barre, Massachusetts (part of Rutland District that was incorporated separately in 1774 and renamed in 1776), refers to Walker as deceased. Prince Walker (c. 1762–1858), another freed slave who lived nearby, may have been Quok Walker's brother.

Sometime in Walker's youth Caldwell promised him his freedom, to be granted when he was in his mid-twenties. However, Caldwell died intestate when Walker was a minor. Caldwell's widow, Isabell inherited at least some ...

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William J. Harris

Revolutionary-era runaway slave, British Loyalist, and early settler in Sierra Leone, is believed to have been born in the Senegambia region of Africa. George Washington, then a colonel in the army of the British Empire, purchased Harry in 1763, along with Nan (believed to have been his wife) and four other slaves as a part of Washington's Great Dismal Swamp plan. According to this plan, Washington and five other planters would each provide five slaves to form a workforce to drain sixty square miles of the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia and establish a rice plantation. By 1766 Washington had moved both Harry and Nan to work on his Mount Vernon Plantation in Virginia.

In 1771 Washington sent Harry to work on the construction of a mill approximately three miles from the Mansion House Clearly not content with his lot as a slave Harry made his first ...

Article

Valerie Cunningham

teacher, was born Dinah Chase to an enslaved mother in the household of the Congregationalist minister in the tiny fishing village of New Castle, New Hampshire. Chase was emancipated upon reaching her twenty-first birthday. She moved to the adjacent shipbuilding and mercantile center of Portsmouth, and on 22 February 1781 she married an enslaved man of that city, known as Prince Whipple. At the time of Prince's death in 1797, they had seven children. By 1804 the young widow had established a school in her home for the education of Portsmouth's black children.

Dinah Whipple, as the child of an enslaved mother, had been born into slavery. She had later worked as a house servant, and in that capacity she acquired a variety of those skills required to maintain an efficient and gracious household. Her knowledge was useful in later years, when she married Prince Whipple ...

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Jacob Andrew Freedman

slave, mother, and subject of an early slave narrative, was born to parents who were slaves on a plantation in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Her exact birth date and the names of her parents remain unknown. As a field hand first and later a handmaiden to her mistress, Williams's mother could not spend much time with her daughter. This meant that Williams, like many other slave children, was mostly left to her own devices as a child.

When Williams was ten years old she had her first encounter with tragedy when her closest playmate was struck with an illness and died suddenly Saddened deeply by her friend s death she spoke to her master who rented Williams and one hundred other slaves from his sister Williams asked him about the afterlife and her friend s fate having been exposed to organized religion for the first time at her friend ...

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Elizabeth Kuebler-Wolf

slave, was born in West Africa, possibly in Futa Jallon (later Senegal-Gambia). The exact year of his birth is unknown, and little is known of his early life in Africa. While his name is often given as Yarrow Mamout, Yarrow is his surname, the spelling of which has appeared over time as Yarrah, Yorro, and Yoro. Yarrow's appearance in two portraits painted in his old age has led modern scholars to suggest that he may have been a member of the Fulani/Fulbe people. A Muslim, Yarrow fell victim to intra-African religious conflicts when he was captured as a young man and sold into slavery in North America.

According to the painter and naturalist Charles Willson Peale's diary account of meeting Mamout Yarrow, the captain of the ship on which Yarrow endured the Middle Passage was Captain Dow Though no Captain Dow has been located in surviving shipping ...