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Melissa Nicole Stuckey

attorney, freedman, father of the eminent historian John Hope Franklin, and Tulsa race riot survivor, was born Buck Colbert Franklin in the Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory, now part of the state of Oklahoma, the son of David Franklin and Millie Colbert. David Franklin raised cattle, horses, and other livestock for sale. He also farmed. Millie Colbert taught school. The seventh of ten children, B.C. went by his initials as an adult to prevent whites from calling him by his first name. His efforts were only partially successful, as many whites called him Ben, assuming that he was named after Ben Franklin. In reality he was named Buck in honor of his paternal grandfather and Colbert to honor his mother's family name.

Franklin s parents were freedmen a term used to define the black citizens of the Cherokee Chickasaw Choctaw Creek and Seminole Nations known ...

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 ...

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Steven J. Niven

early legal petitioner for freedom, was born near present-day Newport News, Virginia, to an unknown slave woman and Thomas Key, a white Englishman. Key served as a burgess in Virginia's colonial assembly. That Elizabeth's mother is described in colonial records simply as a “slave” is significant for two reasons. First, it means that she was probably not a Christian, since African-born or descended slaves and servants who followed that faith were usually characterized as such in the legal record. Second, it suggests that at least some Africans were being classified as lifetime chattel in Virginia as early as the 1620s, when there were only a few hundred blacks in the colony.

Like that of her mother and of others of African descent in seventeenth century Virginia the precise legal status of Elizabeth Key was not clearly defined Was she free like her father Or a slave like her mother ...

Article

Stephen Mullen

was born in West Africa. He was taken from Guinea as a child by a Captain Knight and later adopted the surname of the slave trader who sold him into chattel slavery in the West Indies. Although Joseph remembered nothing of this sale, a planter John Wedderburn purchased him soon after the human cargo landed in Jamaica around 1766. Neither could have known that Joseph Knight would become a litigant in one of the most celebrated court cases in Scottish legal history.

As a Jacobite loyal to the Stuarts, Wedderburn had fled from Scotland to the West Indies after the failed Jacobite uprising of 1745. In Jamaica, he acquired profitable sugar plantations, including Glenisla in Westmoreland. In a triumphant return home around 1768 he purchased the Ballindean estate in Perthshire As he had developed a liking toward Joseph he took him back home to work as a ...

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Nicole S. Ribianszky

free woman of color, property holder, and washerwoman, was born into slavery in Natchez, Mississippi. The exact date of her birth is not now known. She was born to an enslaved woman, Hannah Frey, and to J. S. Miller, a white planter who lived outside of Natchez near the small town of Washington. Mrs. Margaret Overaker, a white woman, and her husband, George, owned Leiper and her mother. While Leiper was still a young girl, her mother was manumitted, but Leiper herself remained enslaved. Sometime around 1831, when Leiper was approximately twenty or twenty-one, she was freed, reportedly at the insistence of her father, who paid her owner $300. In 1834 or thereabouts, following the instructions of her white father, she was taken by boat up the Mississippi River to Cincinnati, Ohio, in the footsteps of her mother.

As was the case with ...

Article

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

Yesenia Barragan

free black woman and former slave in the province of Chocó in the Republic of New Granada (modern-day Colombia). In 1843 she initiated a successful lawsuit in her hometown of Lloró, a small gold-mining town south of Quibdó, the capital of Chocó, to free her enslaved son Juan. Serna was one of hundreds of free blacks in the Americas throughout the colonial and republican periods who utilized the judicial system to attain the freedom of their enslaved loved ones.

A former slave of Juan Roman a slaveholder and mine owner in Lloró María Antonia Serna acquired her freedom either through self manumission or other means such as being freed in her master s last will and testament sometime in the early nineteenth century She likely mined for gold in the alluvial rivers of Chocó or worked as a domestic slave for the Roman family two common tasks for female slaves ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

minister, magistrate, and diplomat, was born Owen Lun West Smith in Giddensville, Sampson County, North Carolina, the son of Ollen Smith and Maria (Hicks), both slaves. Although Owen was only ten years old when the Civil War broke out in 1861, he served for part of the war as the personal servant of a Confederate officer, most likely his owner or a son of his owner. Several accounts suggest that Smith was present at the Battle of Bentonville in North Carolina near the war's end in March 1865. Some of these accounts insist that he was still a body servant for a Confederate soldier. Others claim that that by the age of thirteen, in 1864 Smith like many eastern North Carolina slaves and some buffaloes poor whites hostile to the area s wealthy and all powerful slave owners had fled the Confederate lines to ...

Article

Pablo Miguel Sierra Silva

a prominent African free woman and fish vendor, whose lengthy judicial case would reach Mexico City’s high court and the Spanish king’s Royal Chancellery circa 1625. Although incorrectly identified in some legal documents as María de San Tomé, the African woman in question self-identified before Puebla’s courts as María de Terranova. María opted for the Terranova surname and toponym as a cultural and geographical identifier, which located her land of origin in present-day Nigeria, where she had been born around 1592. São Tomé, then, would have merely been the island and slaving port from which María was sent to New Spain as part of the massive African slave influx of the early seventeenth century. As a result, she formed part of the slave galleons that reached the port of Cartagena, before disembarking at the port-fortress of San Juan de Ulúa, Veracruz.

María de Terranova reached Puebla circa 1613 ...

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 ...

Article

Gelien Matthews

a former slave who became one of the wealthiest men of African descent in the United Kingdom in the nineteenth century, was born on the West Indian island of St. Kitts. His father, William Wells, was a white merchant turned wealthy sugarcane plantation owner from Cardiff, Wales, and his mother was an enslaved domestic called Juggy, who later adopted the name Joardine Wells upon gaining her freedom.

When William Wells first set off for St. Kitts to make his fortune in 1749, he was married to a white woman with whom he had several children. Within five years of his arrival in the Caribbean, however, his wife and children including his male heir had all died. Williams Wells engaged in sexual relations with several of his enslaved female domestics and sired at least six of their children, but married none of them. In 1783 when Nathaniel was just ...

Article

Alicia J. Rivera

slave, California pioneer, and miner, was born on a South Carolina plantation to a Cherokee Indian father and a slave mother whose names are not now known. In 1849, when he was thirty-two years old, he accompanied his master to the California gold mines, where he was permitted to work in the mines to buy his freedom. After obtaining his freedom, Wysinger settled in Grass Valley, California. In 1853 he married Pernesa Wilson and moved to Visalia, California, in the San Joaquin Valley. They had six boys and two girls, and Wysinger was determined that his children would have access to an education. He became a leading advocate for school desegregation in California.

Visalia had no school for African American children, although an 1869 state law required any town with ten or more black children to provide a school for them or to allow them to attend a ...