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David M. Fahey

temperance reformer, federal customs official, and educator, was born William Middleton Artrell, of one quarter African and three quarters European ancestry, at Nassau in the Bahamas. There Artrell benefited from a basic education on the British model, acquired experience as a schoolteacher, and became a staunch Episcopalian.

During the American Civil War the Bahamas prospered as a result of services to blockade runners, who transported British cargo in the short but dangerous voyage between the Bahamas and the Confederate coast. When the war ended, however, economic depression forced many Bahamians to seek work in the United States. In 1870 Artrell migrated to Key West, at that time a major port in Florida. Unlike most African Americans in the South, he had never been a slave. In 1870 Key West opened the Douglass School for African American children Artrell became its first principal and as a result he was sometimes ...

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Charles Rosenberg

barber and Underground Railroad station operator, was born to free parents in Virginia, where he lived until moving to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1828. Although records in Ohio do not identify his parents, it is likely that he came from the large extended family of Browns in and around Charles City County, Virginia, descended from William Brown, born around 1670, who all had the status of “free colored.” Abraham Brown, born in 1769, was a founder of Elam Baptist Church of Charles City County. There were several men in the family named John, and newborns were often named for relatives.

“John Brown the barber,” as he was commonly known in Cleveland, may have been related to John Brown, born in 1768, head of a Chesterfield County family of eight “free colored” people in 1810, or John Brown, born in 1764 and his ...

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David Dabydeen

Journeymantailor and prominent leader of the Chartist movement. Cuffay was born in Chatham, Kent. His father, originally from St Kitts, had come to Britain as a roots on a British Warship. Cuffay became a journeyman tailor in his teens, but involvement in the strike by the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union in 1834 resulted in the loss of his job. Angered by this, he joined the movement in support of the People's Charter, advocating universal suffrage. He was militant in his left‐wing views, and in 1839 contributed to the founding of the Metropolitan Tailors' Charter Association. He also became a member of the Masters and Servants Bill Demonstration Committee, which opposed the power given to magistrates to imprison employees for two months based solely on the employer's statements. His involvement in the Chartist movement grew, and in 1842 he was elected the president of the London Chartists He ...

Article

Jane Landers

was born free in St. Ann’s Parish, Jamaica, at an unknown date. In the 1820s, he was active in circum-Caribbean abolitionist movements. Davison lived for some time in New Orleans before moving to Matanzas, Cuba, in 1829. That province had experienced a series of major slave revolts involving hundreds of African-born slaves, the most serious of which broke out on the Solitario coffee plantation in 1825. In 1832 Davison moved to New York City but returned to Matanzas in 1835. That same year, Spanish authorities arrested Davison in Matanzas for hosting gatherings of people of color in his home and for possession of seditious materials that he received from his brother H. W. Davison, an employee of the Anti-Slavery Society in Philadelphia.

The materials Davison possessed included abolitionist tracts and newspapers from Boston New York New Haven Baltimore and Nassau among other places Authorities also confiscated materials ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

slave, tailor, and politician, was born in Washington, in Wilkes County, Georgia, to Frances, a slave, and a white man whose surname was Finch. When William was twelve he was sent to live with another Wilkes County native, Judge Garnett Andrews, and in 1847, when he was fifteen, he apprenticed as a tailor. The following year Joseph H. Lumpkin, the chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, purchased William and brought him to his home in Athens, where Finch learned to read and write and also began a lifelong commitment to Christianity. Although he later joined the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, it is likely that Finch first converted to the faith of his master, a devout Presbyterian. In 1854 Finch married Laura Wright, with whom he had five children.

Although still legally enslaved the Finch family enjoyed a fairly high degree of ...

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Carol Parker Terhune

abolitionist and social leader, was born in New York City to free parents, James and Dorothy Gardner. Her father was a shipping contractor who made sails for large vessels. About 1845, while Gardner was in her teens, her family took up residence in Boston, Massachusetts, and opened its own business. Gardner attended the Boston Public School for Colored Children (also known as the Smith School, after the white businessman Abiel Smith, who donated funds). She was educated by leaders in the antislavery movement and developed an appreciation for their cause. The school was also used as a meeting place for the “colored citizens” to discuss issues of concern in their communities. During Gardner's time in Boston's only “colored” grammar school, Boston's African American community was fighting tirelessly to abolish colored schools and end school segregation using the Roberts v. Boston case as the catalyst Gardner ...

Article

Mohamed Adhikari

South African trade unionist and political activist, was the only son of David Gomas and Elizabeth Erasmus. John Stephen Gomas was raised in Abbotsdale near Cape Town. After his father abandoned the family, Elizabeth moved with her son to Kimberley in 1911. Here Gomas entered an apprenticeship at a tailor’s workshop in 1915, where his employer, Myer Gordon, a Russian immigrant, introduced him to socialist ideas. In 1919 Gomas joined the International Socialist League, the African National Congress (ANC), and the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU). Toward the end of that year his participation in a successful clothing workers’ strike transformed the quiet, bookish youth into a vociferous champion for workers’ rights.

In 1920 Gomas moved to Cape Town where he worked privately from home as a tailor He was active in the ICU the ANC and the Tailors Industrial Union Attracted by its militancy and ...

Article

Theresa Vara-Dannen

seamstress, washerwoman, and founder of a New Haven home for the indigent, first appears in public records as a resident of New Haven, Connecticut in a City Directory in 1848. Nothing is known for certain about her birthplace or her parentage. In 1848 she was listed simply as “Miss Hannah Gray, col’d,” of 5 Winter Street.” In 1850, she was boarding with two white women, but on the census form, her place of birth seems to be deliberately illegible.

Although little is known about her origins, it is clear that she saved money and generously supported Connecticut's Underground Railroad and “poor strangers from slavery” (Black Women of Connecticut, p. 31) seeking freedom. The Yale University Divinity School community patronized her laundry and sewing business. Over time she saved enough to purchase a modest four-room home at 158 Dixwell Avenue in New Haven. In the 1860 ...

Article

David E. Paterson

harness maker, state legislator, community organizer, and barber, was born on James Spier's farm, the Hurricane Place, three and a half miles from Thomaston, Upson County, Georgia, the fourth child of Guilford Speer and Viney, two of Spier's slaves. Guilford and Viney separated soon after William was born, and Guilford moved to Thomaston to operate a harness and shoe shop. William probably spent his earliest years with his mother, his three elder brothers, and several younger half siblings on the Hurricane Place, but by the late 1850s William had undoubtedly moved to the village and was learning his father's trade of harness making. In 1863 a devastating fire destroyed three-quarters of downtown Thomaston, and thereafter William probably worked in a shop organized by his father in Barnesville, Pike County, sixteen miles away.

Sometime during the Civil War, William married Lourinda presumably a slave but ...

Article

Roy E. Finkenbine

abolitionist, civil rights activist, and community leader, was born in Pennsylvania. Almost nothing is known of his parents and early life. He relocated to Boston by the mid-1820s and established himself as a hairdresser, a trade that he would pursue most of his life. In 1825 he married the Bostonian Lavinia F. Ames. The couple had six children over the next dozen years: an unnamed daughter who died in 1826, Lucretia (b. 1828), Louisa (b. 1829), John W. (b. 1831), Henry (b. 1834), and Thomas (b. 1837).

In addition to plying his trade and raising a family, Hilton established himself as a leader in Boston's black community by the late 1820s. He joined the African Baptist Church and became a protégé of the Reverend Thomas Paul the congregation s pastor With Paul s guidance he served as a lay leader ...

Article

Graham Russell Hodges

Born in rural Deptford Township, near Woodbury, New Jersey, Isaac Tatem Hopper was raised on a farm. His parents, Levi and Rachel Tatem Hopper, split between the Presbyterian and Quaker faiths, Levi practicing the former, Rachel the latter. Isaac joined the Society of Friends at the age of twenty-two. He became a staunch Whig after observing British looting of farms and resolved to fight servitude after hearing sad tales from black men of the slave trade and of flight from slavery.

Hopper married Sarah Tatum, a neighboring farm girl, in 1795. That same year he joined the Pennsylvania Abolition Society and taught black children and adults in a Quaker-sponsored school. In 1797 he began advising blacks about legal opportunities for emancipation in Pennsylvania as well as hiding runaways from southern states He combated slave kidnappers and struggled against the practice of buying them running by which agents ...

Article

Mary Frances Berry

washerwoman, seamstress, organization founder, lecturer, and leader, was born into slavery in Rutherford County near Nashville, Tennessee. She had at least one sister, Sarah, and a brother, Charles. Her parents were slaves. Her father, Tom Guy, apparently served in the Union army. The 1880 Census lists her mother, Ann Guy, as a widowed washerwoman. Callie Guy had only a primary school education, probably attending Freedman's Bureau and church schools, but exhibited a high degree of literacy as an adult.

In 1883 she married William House, a laborer in Rutherford County, and bore six children, five of whom survived to adulthood. In the 1890s she was a widow, taking in laundry like her mother and other impoverished black women in the South.

About this time a new idea for political action surfaced in Rutherford County and other communities where former slaves ...

Article

Iman  

Caryn E. Neumann

model and cosmetics-company founder, was born Iman Abdul Majid in Mogadishu, Somalia, the second of five children born to Mohamed, an Ethiopian-born Arabic teacher and diplomat, and Marian Abdul Majid, a Somalia-born midwife. “Iman,” a name generally given to a boy, means “to have faith in Allah.” As the first girl born to her father's family in three generations, Iman appeared as a gift from Allah.

Very much a “daddy's girl,” Iman worshipped her father. A fighter against sexism, Mohamed adhered to the theory that girls should be treated well at home to enable them to surmount any restrictions that society might try to place upon them. Accordingly, Iman was sent to boarding school because her father felt that such an environment offered girls the best education.

To his delight Iman did well in her studies of Arabic Italian geography and mathematics She eventually left boarding school ...

Article

John G. Turner

barber, abolitionist, Freemason, and Latter-day Saint elder, was born in Barre, Worcester County, Massachusetts into a small African American community known as “Guinea Corner.” Lewis's father, Peter, born free, was a yeoman farmer; his mother, Minor, was born a slave. Lewis's name “Quack” is an anglicized variant of the Ghanian name Kwaku.

As a young adult Walker Lewis opened a barbershop in Tewksbury, a town later incorporated into Lowell. In 1826 he became a charter member of the Massachusetts General Colored Association (David Walker was another charter member), an organization that favored immediate emancipation. The abolition society became an auxiliary of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society in 1833. With his money Lewis supported William Lloyd Garrison, and he and many of his relatives quietly supported the Underground Railroad.

In the early 1820s Lewis became a Freemason joining Boston s African Grand Lodge which also supported ...

Article

LaRay Denzer

Ghanaian political organizer, was a young dressmaker from the Osu (Christianborg) section of Accra. Little is known about her early life. The Italo-Abyssinian conflict galvanized her interest in politics. Like many black people in the colonies, Europe, and the United States, she was outraged by Italy’s brutal attack on Ethiopia, one of Africa’s two remaining independent countries. In October 1935 she was appointed a member of the Ethiopian Defence committee, a body jointly established by the West African Youth League (WAYL) and the Ex-Servicemen’s Association to raise funds to support the Ethiopian resistance. Impressed by her fervor, the editor of the Vox Populi, a Gold Coast (now Ghana) newspaper, described her as a “noble example of sincere racial sympathy.” The editor called on male leaders to pay more attention to women’s issues, especially education and participation in public affairs.

Lokko became involved in the WAYL, established in 1934 ...

Article

Noliwe Rooks

entrepreneur and philanthropist, was born Annie Minerva Turnbo on a farm in Metropolis, Illinois, the tenth of eleven children of Robert Turnbo and Isabella Cook, both farmers. Robert and Isabella owned the land they farmed and were able to provide comfortably for themselves and their children. After her parents died of yellow fever in 1877, Turnbo went to live with an older sister in Peoria, Illinois.

As a young woman Turnbo grew dissatisfied with the hair grooming methods then in use by African American women which often involved the use of goose fat soap and harsh chemicals for straightening purposes Stronger products to straighten naturally curly hair generally damaged the hair follicles or scalp One of the methods recommended by such products advised users to wash their hair and lay it out flat while using a hot flatiron to apply the solutions Even washed and laid out ...

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Mary K. Dains

Malone, Annie Turnbo (09 August 1869–10 May 1957), African-American businesswoman, manufacturer, and philanthropist was born in Metropolis Illinois the daughter of Robert Turnbo and Isabella Cook farmers Little is known of the early childhood of Annie Turnbo Malone except that she was second youngest of eleven children Her parents were former slaves in Kentucky Her father joined the Union army during the Civil War and her mother escaped to Illinois with her small children After the war Robert Turnbo joined his family at Metropolis where he became a farmer and landowner Following the death of both parents Annie went to live with older brothers and sisters in Metropolis and later Peoria and Lovejoy Illinois She completed public school education in Metropolis and attended high school in Peoria Because of ill health she did not complete her high school education In these early years Malone dreamed of making ...

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Tiffany M. Gill

The dawn of the twentieth century witnessed the materialization of the black beauty culture industry and the emergence of the black female beauty industry mogul. Annie Turnbo Malone, while not as well known as her contemporary, Madam C. J. Walker, pioneered many of the methods and goals of this global enterprise and transformed the role of African American women in business.

Annie Turnbo Malone was a child of the Reconstruction Era. Her father, Robert Turnbo, fought for the Union in the Civil War while her mother, Isabella Cook Turnbo fled their native Kentucky with their two children Eventually the family reunited in Metropolis Illinois and the couple had nine more children Annie was second youngest Robert and Isabella Turnbo died while Annie was young and her elder sisters raised her After moving to Peoria Illinois Annie attended high school where she acquired a fondness for chemistry which combined ...

Article

Kathryn M. Silva

educator, textile mill supervisor, dressmaker, was born Gertrude C. Hood in North Carolina, the eldest daughter of four children to Sophia J. Nugent, of Washington, D.C., and James Walker Hood of Pennsylvania. Miller's father was a prominent bishop and educator in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) Church. Gertrude Hood Miller, also known as “Gertie,” spent her life in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Miller's mother, Sophia Nugent died in 1875. Two years after her mother's death, James Walker Hood married Keziah “Katie” Price McCoy of Wilmington, North Carolina. The couple went on to have more children, making Hood the eldest of eleven children (Martin, p. 41) Shortly after her birth, Miller's father moved the family to his new post with the Evans AMEZ Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Henry Evans, an African American pastor, built the church in 1796 and it became the ...

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Benjamin R. Justesen

influential barber and longtime Republican Party leader in Ohio, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He was the oldest of three children of Isaac Myers, a prominent shipyard owner and labor activist in Baltimore, and his first wife, Emma Virginia Myers, who died when George was nine. Educated initially in the preparatory division of Pennsylvania's Lincoln University, George returned home to complete his education in Baltimore's public schools after his father married Sarah Elizabeth Deaver.

Barred from attending the racially segregated Baltimore City College High School, and unwilling to study medicine elsewhere, as his father wished, George Myers first moved briefly to Washington, DC, to work as a housepainter. He soon returned to Baltimore to undergo training as a barber, and in 1879, moved to Cleveland, Ohio.

George Myers was married twice. In 1884 he married Annie E. Deans a Baltimore schoolteacher and they had ...