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Jane G. Landers

former slave who became one of the leaders of the 1791 slave revolt on Saint-Domingue, was born on that French Caribbean island in the late eighteenth century. Biassou’s African-born mother, Diana, was a slave in Providence Hospital, affiliated with the Fathers of Charity, in the capital city of Cap-Français. Nothing is known of his father, Carlos. As an adult, Biassou served as a slave driver on a sugar estate owned by the Jesuit order in Haut de Cap. On 14 August 1791 Biassou joined other slave drivers at the Lenormand de Mézy plantation to plan the revolt that changed history. On 22 August 1791 several thousand slaves across the island’s northern plain set fire to the cane fields and great houses, and smashed the sugar-refining equipment on more than thousand plantations.

After the revolt s leader Boukman Dutty was killed Biassou assumed command of the slave armies sharing leadership with ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Silyane Larcher

was born on 17 March 1794 in Fort Royal (now Fort-de-France), Martinique. The legitimate son of Louis Fabien, a freeman of color, and Françoise-Julienne Capieau, a freewoman of color, he grew up with seven brothers and sisters in a prominent family from Fort Royal. As a carpenter, hat seller, tanner, and owner of a cabaret, the elder Fabien was a well-known figure in the local urban community of gens de couleur.

Little information is available about Louis Fabien Jr., an assistant trader (commis de négociant) and business owner in Fort Royal, other than that he was among the convicted after the famous “Bissette affair.” In 1823 several freemen of color were arrested, accused of spreading “seditious libel” by circulating a pamphlet titled De la situation des gens de couleur libres des Antilles françaises On the Situation of the Free People of Color in the French Antilles ...

Article

Blake Wintory

photographer, politician, sheriff, assayer, barber, and lawyer, was born a slave in Carroll County, Kentucky. William Hines Furbush became a member of the Arkansas General Assembly as well as the first sheriff of Lee County, Arkansas. His Arkansas political career began in the Republican Party at the close of Reconstruction and ended in the Democratic Party just as political disfranchisement began.

Little is known about Furbush's early life, though his literacy suggests a formal childhood education. Around 1860 he operated a photography studio in Delaware, Ohio. In March 1862 he traveled to Union-controlled Helena in Phillips County, Arkansas, on Kate Adams and continued to work as a photographer. In Franklin County, Ohio, that December he married Susan Dickey. A few years later, in February 1865 he joined the Forty second Colored Infantry at Columbus Ohio He received an honorable discharge at the ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Carol Parker Terhune

slave, minister, and religious activist, was born into slavery in Kentucky as Mary Frances Taylor. Known as “Fannie,” she was the fifth of sixteen children and the reported favorite of her parents, Mary and Jonathan Taylor Jonathan Taylor was the freeborn son of a slave mother and her white master while Fannie s mother Mary was a slave Although Mary and Jonathan were allowed by her owner to marry he spent only part of each week on the plantation where Mary and their children worked as slaves Fannie s family was not a religious family and although she had an understanding and acknowledgement of God she was anything but pious in her youth and took pleasure in dancing When Fannie was fourteen years old her aunt a religious woman challenged her behavior explaining the evils of dancing and its sinful implications This conversation ultimately led ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

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 ...

Article

Eric Gardner

activist, was born to a free father, a Baptist minister named Beverly Yates, and an enslaved mother, whose name is not now known, in the Alexandria, Virginia–Washington, D.C., area. Owned by Eliza Black, Yates was hired out as a child. It may have been this early work outside his owner's home that spurred his desire for liberty. While he was still in his early teens, Black began to allow Yates to hire himself as a porter at the prestigious Fuller's Hotel in Washington, D.C. (across from the U.S. Treasury Department). He married his first wife (whose name is also now unknown) in 1835. He eventually purchased his freedom—some sources suggest with money made from additional work as a janitor for the U. S. Supreme Court—and was manumitted on 15 May 1841.

Although most sources agree that he worked as a hack driver and purchased his ...