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Eric Gardner

musician, educator, and activist, was born to free parents in Drummondtown, Accomack County, Virginia. His father died when Carter was about eight, and his mother, whose maiden name was probably Drummond, cared for Dennis. When one of his cousins, Henry Drummond, was bound out to an area slaveholder named Thomas R. Joynes because of his status as an orphan, Carter's mother began to fear that her son would also be enslaved should something happen to her. Determined that her son stay free, she moved with him to Philadelphia in about 1825. There Carter's musical talents flowered, in part under the tutelage of the famous black Philadelphia bandleader Francis Johnson.

Carter toured with Johnson's band sporadically during the 1830s, 1840s, and early 1850s, reportedly joining Johnson's 1837 trip to Great Britain and an 1851 trip to Sulphur Springs Virginia In addition to working as a musician Carter ...

Article

singer and teacher, known as the “Black Swan,” was born a slave in or near Natchez, Mississippi. Her father may have been born in Africa, and her mother, Anna, was of mixed ancestry. Various sources offer no fewer than seven different birth dates between 1807 and 1824. Greenfield's use of “Taylor” rather than “Greenfield” in certain documents suggests that her parents used this surname, but little record of them survives.

When their owner, the wealthy widow Elizabeth Holliday Greenfield, joined the Society of Friends and moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the 1820s, Greenfield's parents were manumitted and immigrated to Liberia. Though records suggest her mother planned to return, Greenfield never saw her parents again. She lived with her mistress until she was about eight years old and then rejoined her as a nurse-companion in about 1836 she seems to have lived with relatives in the ...

Article

George A. Thompson

actor and singer, is a person about whom little early information is known. He told an interviewer in 1825 that he had been born in Rockaway, Long Island, New York, but James McCune Smith who had known the Hewlett boy suggested that he might have been born in the West Indies. The 1830 census indicated that he was older than thirty-six, and the 1825 interviewer states that he had been a servant to a well-known actor who died in 1812. This all suggests that he was born in the early- or mid-1790s. It also is not known whether he was born slave or free. A number of his ancestors were Euro-Americans, however, as his light skin tone was frequently remarked upon.

As a young man Hewlett worked on boats as a steward acting as servant to the officers and passengers probably out of New York City He also ...

Article

David Bradford

a renowned vocalist with the Fisk Jubilee Singers, was born near Athens, Alabama, to Mahalia Jackson, a slave. Her father's name is unknown.

“[S]he journeyed around the world, singing in all climes and among all peoples and before all the crowned heads of the land, and wore medals from the most prominent kings and emperors in the world,” according to Malone's obituary in the 1897Annual Report of the American Missionary Association (p. 36). During a fifteen-year career, Malone crisscrossed the globe as a member of the Fisk Jubilee Singers and its successor groups, singing in European capitals and remote Asian backwaters. She was one of the most widely traveled and famous African American performers of her age, entertaining audiences in seventeen countries and singing for six European crown heads.

Malone was born a slave around 1858 at Cedars Plantation near Athens Alabama Her mother Mahalia was ...

Article

Selika  

Eric Gardner

singer, was probably born Marie Smith in Mississippi—most sources say Natchez—and may have been born into slavery. Little is known of her youth, and nothing is known of her parentage. The historian Eileen Southern suggested that Selika's family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where her vocal talent attracted the patronage of a wealthy white family, who apparently paid for singing lessons.

At some point in the early 1870s Selika moved to San Francisco. There she studied with Giovanna Bianchi, an opera singer who, along with her husband, Eugene, gave private lessons. Selika made her debut in 1876, and the San Francisco composer Frederick G. Carnes wrote a piece titled “Selika: Grand Vocal Waltz of Magic” specifically for her a year later. The publication of this piece in 1877 suggests that she had already assumed the name under which she became famous She apparently took the name ...