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Like many slaves from Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti) during the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804), Pablo Alí crossed the border to serve in the Spanish colonial army of Santo Domingo (present-day Dominican Republic) as a means of obtaining his freedom. In 1795Spain ceded Santo Domingo to France. Alí subsequently participated in the War of Reconquest, in which French troops were defeated and Santo Domingo was reunited with Spain (1809). In 1811 the Spanish throne named him first colonel and granted him a gold medal in recognition of his service to the Crown.

In 1820 Alí served as colonel of the Batallón de Morenos (Black Batallion) in Santo Domingo. After learning that his application for Spanish citizenship had been denied, in 1821 Alí pledged his loyalty to the insurrectionists, led by José de Núñez Cáceres and served as their chief military commander That same year ...

Article

María de Lourdes Ghidoli

who achieved the rank of colonel in the Unitarian militia, a political faction in Argentina. In the nineteenth century, he was one of the best-remembered soldiers of African descent, and his life transcended the boundaries of his community. He was born on 23 December in the city of Mendoza. His parents were African slaves, and he himself was a slave of Cristóbal Barcala, a native of Granada (Spain), whose last name he was given, as was the custom. He married Petrona Videla, with whom he had at least three children: Eusebio Toribio, Raymunda de la Concepción, and Ana del Corazón de Jesús. He was also the father of a son born out of wedlock, Celestino Barcala, who was a soldier like Lorenzo and fought the federals in the 1860s.

It is not known when and how Lorenzo Barcala got his liberty Some biographies indicate that General José de San Martín ...

Article

Philippe Girard

also known as Jean-Baptiste Mars or Timbaze, was a slave, freedman, officer, and deputy from the French colony of Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti). He was the first black deputy in the French Parliament and introduced the 1794 law that abolished slavery in the French colonies.

Belley’s origins are uncertain. By his own account, he was born on Gorée Island near present-day Senegal around 1747 and transported to Cap-Français (Cap-Haïtien) around the age of 2, presumably as part of the Atlantic slave trade. Another document, however, lists his birthplace as Léogane in 1755 Saint-Domingue. After obtaining his manumission, Belley, like many free people of color, acquired slaves. As a member of a Dominguan mixed-race unit, he may also have taken part in the 1779 siege of Savannah in support of the American Revolution, where he allegedly gained the warlike nickname of “Mars.”

Belley’s role during the Haitian Revolution, which began in 1789 ...

Article

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 ...

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David Buisseret

Maroon leader in seventeenth-century Jamaica, was also known as Lobolo, Luyola, Don Wall Bolo, and Boulo. Nothing is known of his early life.

After the English invading army occupied Jamaica in 1655, Juan de Bolas, a former slave of the Spaniards, took to the hills and led a center of resistance. When this pelinco, or settlement, was discovered and raided by the English in 1660, Juan de Bolas came over to the side of the new colonizers, waging war on the other key areas of guerrilla resistance, with him and his men absorbed into the English military hierarchy. Three years later he was ambushed and killed by one of his former comrades-in-arms.

In 1655 after the English conquest of Jamaica some of the Spaniards and their former slaves formed various centers of resistance in the mountainous interior of the island One of these was located in ...

Article

Laura Murphy

writer, sailor, soldier, teacher, and minister, was one of ten children born in North Carolina to Abel Ferebee, a slave and minister of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church, and Chloe (maiden name unknown), a slave. When London was young his mother was sold, apparently because of her unwillingness to submit to her master and her ability to beat him in a fight. She was sold to a speculator, who offered to sell her to her husband or his master, who had allowed Ferebee to hire himself out to a local farmer so that they both profited from his labor. When she was subsequently bought by one of the two men—it is unclear which—London and two of his siblings were allowed to move with her, though they all remained enslaved.

Once he was old enough to begin laboring London was immediately set 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 ...

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 ...

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Timothy J. McMillan

slave, Civil War veteran, author, and itinerant minister, was born in New Bern, North Carolina. His mother was Lettice Nelson, a slave on John Nelson's plantation at Garbacon Creek in eastern North Carolina; his father was a white man believed to be William Singleton. As a young child of four, William was sold by his owner and thus separated from his mother and two brothers for the first time.

Singleton was purchased by a Georgia widow who speculated in slaves buying people cheaply when they were young and selling them at a premium when they had reached adulthood He was given the common tasks of a slave child running errands and carrying goods Around the age of six Singleton decided to escape the constant whippings and his bondage in Georgia and return to New Bern He was able to ride a stagecoach from ...

Article

Matthew Restall

African-born slave, later free, fought in the Spanish Conquest of Mexico, and lived his adult life in the Spanish American colony of Yucatán. Toral was probably a native of West Africa, although his parents may have been African slaves in the Portuguese town of Mora, so it is possible he was born there. It is not known if Sebastián Toral was his birth name, nor is it clear when he became a slave or servant of Spaniards, or when he first crossed the Atlantic Ocean. But he later stated that he fought for Spanish conquistadors in the failed invasion of the Yucatán peninsula in the 1530s, an experience that probably won him his freedom. He returned to fight against the Maya in Yucatán in 1540 this time as a free member of the Conquest company that carved out a Spanish colony centered on the Maya city of Tihó renamed ...

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Joel M. Sipress

soldier and political leader, was born in Charleston, South Carolina. Nothing is known of Ward's parents, and little of his early life, but he was raised a slave in Virginia, and became free during the Civil War. In January 1864 he enlisted in the First United States Colored Cavalry, a federal regiment organized in late 1863 in the Tidewater region of Virginia. A month after enlistment Ward was promoted to sergeant, a rank he held until his discharge in February 1866. Ward's service included duty in Virginia at Fortress Monroe, in Hampton, and in Richmond. During the war he received a bullet wound through the knee.

Following his discharge, he settled in Portsmouth, Virginia, where he worked as a carpenter. In October 1867 Ward reenlisted and served in the Thirty ninth United States Colored Infantry While stationed at Ship Island Mississippi he contracted a serious illness most likely ...

Article

sergeant in the free black militia of Spanish Florida and leader of free black Floridians in Cuba, was born in West Africa and transported as a teenager to Charleston, South Carolina, by British slavers in the early 1770s. His name is sometimes spelled “Witten.” Peter Whitten bought him, named him Big Prince, and sent him to work on his plantation near Monk’s Corner. There, Prince met Judy, a slave on the nearby Cantey plantation. They formed a lifelong union and had two children, Glasgow (later Francisco Whitten) and Polly (later Maria Rafaela Kenty), before the violence of the American Revolution engulfed the region. In the chaos, the family came into the hands of Jacob Weed, a Patriot who took them to Point Peter, Georgia. After three failed attempts, on 3 December 1786 the Whittens escaped across the international border of the St Marys River and were granted sanctuary in ...