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Jeremy Rich

king of the Merina state of central Madagascar and a pivotal figure in its eighteenth-century expansion, was born around 1745 in the northern Malagasy town of Ikaloy. His father, Andriamiaramanjaka, was a member of the Zafimamy royal family of the northern independent kingdom of Alahamadintany. His mother, Ranavalonandriambelomasina, was the daughter of Merina monarch Andriambelomasina, who ruled Merina from roughly 1730 to 1770. He also was the nephew of Andriambelomasina’s successor, Andrianjafy, who was the king of Merina from 1770 to 1787.

He stayed with his father in Ikaloy until he was roughly twelve when he moved to the Merina court As a young man Andrianampoinimerina became a wealthy merchant and probably engaged in slave trading At the same time he presented himself as a defender of ordinary commoners fearful of slave raiding threats from neighbors like the Sakalava kingdom and unjust officials Supposedly Andriambelomasina had stipulated that ...

Article

Ari Nave

Oral traditions recorded by Jesuit missionaries in the late eighteenth century suggest that Andriambélomàsina, ruler of the Imerina (the territory of the Merina ethnic group) from 1730 to 1770 , directed that his eldest son Andrianjàfy succeed him, followed by his grandson Ramboàsalàma, son of his eldest daughter. Andrianjàfy, however, intended for his own son to take his place and plotted to kill Ramboàsalàma, who, fearing for his life, fled to the north. Supported by a dozen Merina chiefs, Ramboàsalàma returned in 1787, overtaking the city of Ambohimànga and exiling his uncle, who was later killed.

Ramboàsalàma was crowned Andrianampoinimerina, “the prince in the heart of Imerina.” After consolidating power through treaties and marriage alliances and establishing a capital at Antananarivo in about 1795 Andrianampoinimerina also known as Nampoina began to expand the Merina Empire Eventually he controlled much of the island conquering and consolidating the Betsileo Sihanaka ...

Article

Asselin Charles

a mixed-race member of a noble Scottish family, was the illegitimate daughter of Captain John Lindsay of the Royal Navy and a slave of African origin, Maria Belle. Her parents met in the West Indies where Maria may have been captured from a Spanish ship. Belle may have spent part of her childhood in Pensacola, Florida, where Captain Lindsay was stationed for a year, from 1764 to 1765. He brought the child to England. His uncle, William Murray, first Earl of Mansfield, and his wife were childless. They were already raising another motherless great-niece, Elizabeth Murray, and they took Dido into their household, perhaps as a companion for Elizabeth. She was baptized on 20 November 1766 in St George s Bloomsbury London the parish church of Lord Mansfield s London house in Bloomsbury Square Her age is given as 5 years and her father is recorded as a ...

Article

Michael Berthold

backwoods legend, was born on Sourland Mountain, New Jersey, the daughter of Cuffy Baird, a Revolutionary War fifer who may have seen action at the battles of Trenton (1776) and Princeton (1777), and Dorcas Compton. Although they had different masters, both of Dubois's parents were slaves. Dubois may in part have inherited her own ferocious desire for freedom from her mother, who tried repeatedly but unsuccessfully to buy her own freedom. Dubois was owned by Dominicus (Minna) Dubois, a strict yet accommodating master much more congenial to Silvia than was his wife, who beat Silvia badly. Aside from Dubois's memories of moving as a young girl to the village of Flagtown and as a teenager to Great Bend, Pennsylvania, where her master kept a tavern, little biographical information exists about her childhood.

An imposing physical presence the adult Dubois stood approximately 5 10 ...

Article

Wolfgang Effenberger Lopez

a mythical figure very popular in the colonial-era oral traditions of Central America, especially those of El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Cuto derives from the indigenous Nahuatl word cutuctic, meaning “cut” or “shortened,” whereas partideño refers to a herdsman in the Spanish-language tradition. A translation to English would be “Cowboy Shorty.” From the seventeenth century (perhaps beforehand) up to the present day, stories about El Cuto Partideño have been reproduced by indigenous, mestiza, and ladina communities of partly African descent. Most often the cowboy is portrayed as a social bandit and cattle rustler, a Robin Hood figure stealing from the rich to share with the poor. But in other interpretations, he kidnaps women and takes them to his hideout. The figure is sometimes a ladino a mixed race person of Hispanic culture from the hot lands of the cattle country coastal plain of Central America although he ...

Article

Joe  

Glenn Allen Knoblock

survivor of the battle of the Alamo, was a slave about whom little is known. He was living with his master in Harrisburg, Texas, in May 1833 and was sometimes rented out as a laborer. One man that rented him was a young lawyer named William Barret Travis. Having arrived in Texas in 1831, Travis was undoubtedly in need of hired help while establishing his law practice. He purchased Joe on 13 February 1834, while living in San Felipe. The time that Joe was owned by Travis, though short, came during the most legendary time in Texas history.

Joe's specific activities from 1834 to 1836 are unknown that Joe would remain a slave he likely knew well as his master was occupied during his first years in Texas working to gain the return of runaway slaves harbored at the Mexican garrison at Anahuac However Joe s ...

Article

John Garst

“steel-driving man” and legendary hero, may have been a historic person born a slave in Mississippi, Virginia, or some other Southern state. In ballad and legend he is simply “John Henry,” but “John Henry” is a common combination of given names, so Henry may not have been his surname.

Songs about John Henry were collected as early as 1905. In 1916 the former West Virginia governor W.-A. MacCorkle confused him with John Hardy, an African American gambler and murderer who was hanged in Welch, West Virginia, in 1894 and is the subject of his own ballad. By the mid-1920s the ballad “John Henry” was being recorded commercially by Riley Puckett (1924), Fiddlin' John Carson (1924), and other white “hillbilly” performers, and shortly thereafter recordings by such African American bluesmen as Henry Thomas (1927) and Mississippi John Hurt (1928 began ...

Article

Kathleen Chater

was born in Jamaica, the daughter of house slaves of Sir Simon Clarke, a member of the Council of Jamaica. Nothing is known of Amelia’s early life in Clarke’s household, but she had a condition, albinism, that was to change her future.

Albinism is an inherited genetic condition that prevents production of the normal amount of the skin pigment melanin. Although Amelia’s features were those of her parents of African origin, her skin, eyes, and hair were abnormally fair. It now seems distasteful to gawk at physical peculiarities, but this was not the case in the eighteenth century. Amelia and others like her were not regarded with revulsion or embarrassed pity, as they might be today, but as evidence of the wonders of nature. Clarke was determined to improve his family fortunes, and he decided that such a remarkable source of interest could not remain unexploited.

When she was about ...

Article

Micol Seigel

a mythical figure of black womanhood popularized in post-independence Brazilian history and memory. She is a composite of enslaved Afro-Brazilian wet nurses and domestic workers, conjured as an archetype in literature, music, art, public monuments, and political movements. Her image has served a range of ideological missions, shifting in relation to changing social hierarchies, race relations, labor migrations, gender conventions, and urban demography. Revealing as much about the eras that produced them as the historical people her images represent, views of her persona have oscillated from romantic fantasy to antipathy to nostalgia to critique.

For much of the nineteenth century, the Mãe Preta functioned as an iteration of the myth of the faithful slave, free of the risk of sexual corruption represented by the mulata. As the century progressed, particularly after the Law of the Free Womb of 1871 abolitionists invoked a contrastingly menacing Mãe Preta to sound ...

Article

Manuel Benavides Barquero

also known as “La Negrita” (The Little Black Lady), became the patron saint of Costa Rica in the early nineteenth century. In physical form, La Virgen is a small statue almost 6 inches tall and made of a dark granite, a representation of the Christian religion’s Virgin Mary. This black Madonna cradles an infant Jesus. The first written record of La Virgen’s existence appeared in 1629 in the Puebla de los Pardos (Colored or Brown Town) on the outskirts of the Spanish colonial city of Cartago (now in Costa Rica). Tradition states that she was found by an Indian girl, but it was the free black community that first embraced her as their protector and that in 1662 would rename their community “Puebla de la Reina de los Angeles” (Queen of Los Angeles Town).

Her presence among this ethnic group played a key role in forming the identity and defending ...

Article

David Dabydeen

Actor, fiddler, and beggar who acted and busked around London in the 1780s. Waters was a common sight outside the Adelphi Theatre in the Strand. Apart from busking, he also acted, appearing as himself in a dramatized version of Pierce Egan'sLife in London (1821) at the Adelphi and at the Caledonian Theatre in Edinburgh in 1822. He would also play his fiddle, becoming a street musician outside the Drury Lane Theatre. His wooden leg as well as his outfit, which resembled that of a military uniform, made him a unique and distinct character. The well‐known cartoonist George Cruikshank caricatured him. Waters ended up penniless on the streets of London in the St Giles area, where the black poor congregated. In 1823 he became ill and died at St Giles s workhouse Just before his death he was elected King of the Beggars by fellow beggars ...

Article

Esther Aillón Soria

son of a slave, a renowned bandolero (bandit), and historical figure of widespread legend in Bolivia. His life story is a mixture of legend and reality. New findings give account of the real existence of this character whose history has been enriched by fantastical elements from various sources. The legend has been kept alive in oral tradition, and has been popularized in both literature and drama. It has also been represented in folk music and art. Given its oral source, many versions have circulated, but the main legend tells the story of a man recognized in colonial Bolivia as a zambo, or a person of mixed African and indigenous descent. Salvador Zea would become the renowned bandolero Zambo Salvito after he and his family had to endure many cruel and discriminatory experiences.

Salvador Zea was born in the region of Los Yungas de La Paz a transition zone in ...