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Bayano  

Yvette Modestin and Toshi Sakai

(fl. 1540s–1550s) is the most famous of several black liberationist leaders of colonial Panama. By the mid-sixteenth century, thousands of Africans in the isthmus had escaped enslavement and were living free in the forests. Called Cimarrones, from the Taino word sima meaning “flight,” they formed self-governing, African-rooted societies. Bayano was the leader of some 1,200 Cimarrones (Pike, 2007; Araúz, 1997) in the eastern region that extended from the Darien to the Rio Chagres. The earliest references to him appear in the mid-1540s when Spanish colonial authorities warn travelers of the danger of Cimarron ambushes on forest roads.

Details of Bayano’s birth, ethnicity, early life, and path to power are not known, but theories abound. The historian Fernando Romero (1975) speculated that his name may indicate Vai origin one of many ethnic groups from the large area then known as Guinea in West Africa but ...

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Marlene L. Daut

escaped slave, navy landsman, and U.S. Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Natchez, Mississippi, in 1841 of unknown parentage. Brown was a slave in Mississippi on a cotton plantation, and nothing is known of his childhood or to whom he belonged. In the early 1860s, at the start of the Civil War, Brown ran away from his master on a skiff that eventually managed to reach a Union ship stationed on the Mississippi River. This encounter with the navy probably accounts for his subsequent enlistment. The navy was a likely choice for an escaped slave; many escaped slaves, as well as free blacks from the North, were often drawn to the service because of its better pay and purported fairer treatment of blacks. Brown enlisted in the Union navy on 18 March 1863 under the title 1st Class Boy and was officially described as a Contraband Negro five ...

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Malini Johar Schueller

author, runaway slave, traveler, and public speaker, was born a slave in 1827 or 1828 in New Orleans. No information is available about his parents except that they were presumably of mixed-racial heritage because Dorr referred to himself as a “quadroon” and was light enough to pass for white. His owner was Cornelius Fellowes, a lawyer, with whom Dorr traveled around Europe and the Near East from 1851 to 1854. Fellowes promised to manumit Dorr upon their return to the United States but reneged on his promise, at which time Dorr escaped to Cleveland. There he decided to publish an account of his travels based upon the diary he had kept. In 1858 his book A Colored Man Round the World was privately printed and attracted enough attention to be reviewed in a number of important Cleveland newspapers.

A Colored Man Round the World ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

fugitive slave, abolitionist, Union spy, and state senator, was born in Smithville (now Southport), Brunswick County, North Carolina, the son of Hester Hankins, a slave, and John Wesley Galloway, the son of a white planter who later became a ship's captain. In 1846 Hester Hankins married Amos Galloway, one of John Wesley Galloway's slaves. Abraham Galloway later recalled that his biological father “recognized me as his son and protected me as far as he was allowed so to do” (Still, 150), but John Wesley Galloway did not own Abraham. Abraham's owner was Marsden Milton Hankins a wealthy railroad mechanic from nearby Wilmington who may also have owned Hester Hankins Abraham considered Marsden Hankins a fair master but he was less forgiving of Hankins s wife who was overly fond of the whip Abraham apprenticed as a brick mason and as was common ...

Article

Gordon  

Frank H. Goodyear

escaped slave and Union soldier, was likely born on the plantation of John Lyon near Washington, Louisiana, an important steamboat port before the Civil War. Lyon was a cotton planter whose property was located on the Atchafalya River. The names of Gordon's parents and details about his youth are not known.

Gordon received a severe whipping for undisclosed reasons from the plantation's overseer in the fall of 1862. This beating left him with horrible welts on much of the surface of his back, and for the next two months Gordon recuperated in bed. Although Lyon discharged the overseer who carried out this vicious attack, Gordon decided to escape.

In March 1863 Gordon fled his home heading east toward the Mississippi River and Union lines Upon learning of his flight his master recruited several neighbors and together they chased after him with a pack of bloodhounds Gordon had anticipated ...

Article

William B. Gould

Union navy sailor in the Civil War and journalist, was presumably born into slavery, in Wilmington, North Carolina, to Elizabeth “Betsy” Moore of Wilmington, a slave, and Alexander Gould, who was white. William had at least one sibling, Eliza Mabson, who acquired her last name by virtue of a publicly acknowledged relationship with George Mabson, a white man in Wilmington. She eventually became the mother of five children by Mabson, including her son George L. Mabson, the first black lawyer in North Carolina.

Little is known about William B. Gould's early life. As a young man he acquired skills as a plasterer or mason, and he learned how to read and write, although those skills were forbidden by law to slaves. His initials are in the plaster of one of the Confederacy's most elegant mansions, the Bellamy Mansion in Wilmington. Among his young friends were George Washington ...

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Beverley Rowe Lindburg

Civil War soldier, cabinetmaker, and fifty-two-year employee of the Rock Island (Illinois) Arsenal, was born free but was kidnapped by slave traders at around the age of five along with his mother, father, brother, and a sister (all of whose names are unknown) from their home near Muscatine, Iowa. He was first sold as house slave to a man named Pickett from Alabama, and later to an Arkansas planter whose last name he took for a surname; he was generally known as “Milt.” Reports of his age vary greatly: census, military, and burial records indicate he was born between 1821 and 1845.

Howard and another house slave were married in a formal ceremony at the Pickett Plantation a privilege that was customarily afforded only to house servants Several children were born to the couple but all family ties were severed when Howard was sold to the Arkansas ...

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Elaine Kemp Bragdon

musician, was born George Washington Kemp, the son of William and Angerline Moors Kemp, in Sperryville, Virginia. George and his siblings were born into slavery and would become the slaves of Major Armistead Brown and his son, Joseph, of Culpeper, Virginia. George and his family were fortunate to have had a kind master, but he decided to run away after hearing, like many others, of the freedom he could gain by escaping North.

He and seventeen other slaves ran away one night to enlist in the Union Army, under the command of General Oliver Otis Howard Mr Kemp soon became an aide to General Howard After earning the General s trust he was persuaded to come North and work at the Howard farm in Leeds Maine This was the beginning of a new life for him It was now fast approaching the end of the Civil War ...

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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Glenn Allen Knoblock

Civil War sailor and Medal of Honor winner, was born a slave in Richmond, Virginia. Although nothing is known for certain of his life before the Civil War, it is likely that once the war began Mifflin escaped from his master and made his way to Union forces in Virginia. One of thousands of such slaves who were termed “contrabands” (as opposed to the more legally ambiguous terms “freeman” or “runaway slave”) by Union Army officials, Mifflin was among a large number of such men who would subsequently enlist in the Union Navy. Mifflin, who stood only five feet four inches, was twenty-five years old when he joined the navy in New York on 1 April 1864 He was first rated a landsman which was an entry level position for a recruit with no sea experience and he served on shore at the Brooklyn Navy Yard While Mifflin ...

Article

Amber Moulton-Wiseman

activist, was born into slavery in Virginia. The names of his parents are unknown. During the Civil War he escaped slavery and in 1864 aided the Eighth Illinois Cavalry Regiment in defense of Washington, D.C. In 1875 Morton migrated to California where he was active in Republican Party politics and rose to become one of the best-known African American activists in the west. In 1888 he married a Canadian, Clara, who had immigrated to the United States.

In 1890, when T. Thomas Fortune founded the National Afro-American League—an organization for civil rights and uplift and early predecessor to groups like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People—Morton was quick to recognize the league's potential. By 1891 he had organized a San Francisco branch of the Afro American League which attracted 150 prominent black Californians to its inaugural congress Morton acted as president of the ...

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Eric Gardner

businessman and author of a slave narrative, was born to Jeff Elliott (also known as Jeff Ellick), a slave of William Elliott, and Millie, a slave of Peter Parker, in Chowan County, North Carolina. Parker died while Allen was a young child, and ownership of both Millie and her children passed to Parker's young daughter Annie. Annie Parker's guardians hired Millie out to a series of poor white masters, ranging from “good” masters to some who were quite violent. Allen generally lived with her at least until he was ten. After he reached that age, when slaves usually began to have to work in the field, his time too was being hired out, again to a series of masters of varying temperament. There is some possibility that Parker married another slave in his youth, though definitive documentation is lacking.

The beginning of the Civil ...

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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

sergeant in the free black militia who helped defend Spanish Florida from Indians, pirates, and the United States Marines, was born in Guinea on the west coast of Africa in about 1756, according to his own estimates. His name is sometimes spelled Witten. He spent perhaps the first twenty years of his life in Guinea, the next ten in South Carolina, another thirty-five in Spanish Florida, and he ended his days in Matanzas, Cuba.

Whitten's African name and the circumstances of his enslavement are unknown, but in the 1770s the man that English records later called Big Prince was carried across the Atlantic by slave traders to be unloaded at Sullivan's Island, South Carolina, the largest slave port of its time. The Charleston planter Peter Whitten purchased Whitten and named him Big Prince perhaps in reference to his great size for the African was described as 6 and ...