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The well-known white Cuban Creole author Cirilo Villaverde (1812–1894) published a first version of Cecilia Valdés in 1839 (thirteen years before Uncle Tom's Cabin, in 1852) at the urging of the abolitionist editor and journalist Domingo del Monte. Del Monte had commissioned the novel to be read at his famous tertulia, social gatherings in Havana, where intellectuals presented works to one another and to supporters who would gather to listen. There was the potential of sending the works to England as part of the 1838 dossier that del Monte was preparing for Richard Madden. Madden was the British representative to the International Tribunal of Justice, which oversaw the ban on slave trading and the protection of freedpeople. The purpose of del Monte's circle of liberal planters and professionals was to embarrass Spain into granting abolition and other reforms including Cuban representation in ...

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John Gilmore

Writer, art collector, and owner of plantations in Jamaica. He was the son of William Beckford, on whose death in 1770 he inherited an enormous fortune. This came under his control when he attained his majority in 1781 and for many years enabled him to travel extensively in Europe, to fund his enthusiasm for building Fonthill Abbey in Wiltshire as a Gothic extravaganza to house himself and the books, pictures, and works of art that he collected on a prodigious scale. In the 1790s his income was estimated at well over £100,000 a year, and in 1809 the poet Lord Byron hailed him as ‘England's wealthiest son’. From the 1820s the income from his Jamaican estates declined significantly, and he was forced to sell Fonthill and major parts of his collections. Beckford is remembered as the author of the novel Vathek an Orientalist fantasy published in ...

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Blake  

Allan D. Austin

Martin R. Delany's Blake, or the Huts of America: A Tale of the Mississippi Valley, the Southern United States, and Cuba is an awkward, brave, and complex novel. Twenty-six chapters from a promised eighty appeared in the Anglo-African Magazine (Jan.–July 1859); and, after revisions, the complete tale appeared in the Weekly Anglo-African Newspaper (New York City, Nov. 1861–June 1862). Installments appeared on the front pages; the American Baptist said Blake was “beautifully written”; both Anglo-African introductions encouraged blacks to read it. In part, however, because issues including the last six chapters have been lost, today Blake's realistic portrayal of white carelessness and oppression of black people across the African diaspora is more impressive than its romantic dream of deliverance.

Out of print until 1970 and still lacking an unmodernized critical edition, Blake has received complaints about its untrained author s shortcomings awkward complex plots ...

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Zoe Trodd

fugitive slave and novelist, escaped in 1857 from her owner and authored The Bondwoman's Narrative (c. 1858), which is most likely the first novel written by a black female (or else written in the same year that Harriet Wilson wrote Our Nig) and is the first novel written by a female fugitive slave. A first-person novel that draws on the author's own life experiences, it is our first “unedited, unaffected, unglossed, unaided” glimpse into the mind of a fugitive slave, as literary scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. explains in his introduction to the 2002 edition of the novel (p. xxxiii).

Originally the slave of Lewis Bond, Hannah ended up in the household of the Wheeler family, through Lucinda Bond, the wife of John Hill Wheeler's brother. In 1856 Wheeler and his wife Ellen gained ownership of Hannah Enslaved on Wheeler s plantation in Murfreesboro eastern ...

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R. J. M. Blackett

Brown, William Wells (1814?–06 November 1884), author and reformer, was born near Lexington, Kentucky, the son of George Higgins, a relative of his master, and Elizabeth, a slave. Dr. John Young, Brown’s master, migrated with his family from Kentucky to the Missouri Territory in 1816. Eleven years later the Youngs moved to St. Louis. Although Brown never experienced the hardship of plantation slavery, he was hired out regularly and separated from his family. He worked for a while in the printing office of abolitionist Elijah Lovejoy’s St. Louis Times He was also hired out to a slave trader who took coffles of slaves down the Mississippi River for sale in New Orleans Brown s task was to prepare the slaves for sale making sure that they all appeared to be in good health Among other things that meant dyeing the hair of the older slaves ...

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Alice Knox Eaton

slave narrator, novelist, playwright, historian, and abolitionist leader, was born in Lexington, Kentucky, the son of a slave mother, Elizabeth, and George Higgins, the white half-brother of Brown's first master, Dr. John Young. As a slave, William was spared the hard labor of his master's plantation, unlike his mother and half-siblings, because of his close blood relation to the slave-holding family, but as a house servant he was constantly abused by Mrs. Young. When the family removed to a farm outside St. Louis, Missouri, William was hired out in various capacities, including physician's assistant, servant in a public house, and waiter on a steamship. William's “best master” in slavery was Elijah P. Lovejoy, publisher of the St. Louis Times, where he was hired out in the printing office in 1830 Lovejoy was an antislavery editor who would be murdered seven years later for refusing ...

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John C. Gruesser

Born a slave in Maryland, John Edward Bruce grew up in Washington, D.C. Developing an interest in journalism, he worked as a general helper in the office of the Washington correspondent for the New York Times in 1874. By the time Bruce was twenty he was writing for newspapers, using the pen name “Rising Sun”, and in 1879 he started his own paper, the Argus, in Washington, D.C. In 1884 Bruce began writing under the name “Bruce Grit” in the Cleveland Gazette and the New York Age, eventually becoming one of the most widely read and influential African American journalists of his era. In his writings and speeches, Bruce decried mixed-race marriages, denounced Euro-American imperialism, aggressively promoted race pride and solidarity, championed self-help, and advocated the study of black history to combat the anti-Negro rhetoric of the post-Reconstruction period.

Bruce served as a conduit linking people ...

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David Alvin Canton

journalist and historian, was born in Piscataway, Maryland, the son of Martha Allen Clark and Robert Bruce, who were both enslaved Africans. In 1859Major Harvey Griffin, Robert Bruce's owner, sold Robert to a Georgia slaveholder. Raised by his mother, John lived in Maryland until 1861, when Union troops marching through Maryland freed him and his mother, taking them to Washington, D.C., where John lived until 1892. In 1865 John's mother worked as a domestic in Stratford, Connecticut, where her son received his early education in an integrated school. One year later they returned to Washington, D.C., where John continued his education. Although he did not complete high school, he enrolled in a course at Howard University in 1872. John married Lucy Pinkwood, an opera singer from Washington, D.C. In 1895 he married Florence Adelaide Bishop, with whom he had one child.

Bruce began ...

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Philip Nanton

Britishwriter best known for his books The French Revolution (1837) and Frederick the Great (1858–65). Born in Scotland, and settling permanently in London in 1834, Carlyle was the author of many other works, including essays and articles in periodicals. Among these was his ‘Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question’, originally published in Fraser's Magazine (London) in December 1849, and later rewritten and republished as a pamphlet called Occasional Discourse on the Nigger Question (1853) and in some of the collected editions of the author's Latter‐Day Pamphlets (first published 1850).

In form, the Occasional Discourse is an imaginary report of a speech by a fictional orator and it would be unwise to assume that everything in the speech should be regarded as identical with the personal opinions of Carlyle who may have deliberately exaggerated some elements for effect The speaker ...

Article

Eric Gardner

writer and activist, was probably born in New Orleans or New York with the given name Mary Jane, although information surrounding her parentage and youth is limited. She seems to have spent time in Illinois, New York, and Kentucky, and worked as a teacher as well as, briefly, a governess; she also claimed some involvement aiding fugitive slaves escaping from Missouri via the Underground Railroad. She moved west with her first husband, a Mr. Correll, who is believed to have been a minister, in the early 1860s. It is only after her 29 August 1866 marriage to the musician, educator, and activist Dennis Drummond Carter in Nevada City, California, that Carter's biography begins to come into focus.

In June of 1867, under the name “Mrs. Ann J. Trask,” Carter wrote to Philip Alexander Bell, the editor of the San Francisco Elevator and suggested ...

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SallyAnn H. Ferguson

writer. Charles Waddell Chesnutt was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to free parents, Ann Maria Sampson Chesnutt and Andrew Jackson Chesnutt, who in 1856 had fled the slave-holding South for better opportunities in the North. Chesnutt, the oldest of his father's eleven children from two marriages, became the first black author that the American literary establishment took seriously. Greatly influenced by his intellectual mother—a teacher who shortly after Chesnutt's birth moved her family from Cleveland to Oberlin, Ohio, because of the educational opportunities that Oberlin College might provide—and his abolitionist father, the blue-eyed and white-looking Chesnutt from the age of eight grew up black in Fayetteville, North Carolina (the Patesville of his fiction), where his family resettled at the end of the Civil War.

In The Journals of Charles W. Chesnutt, published posthumously in 1993 Chesnutt documents how he read voraciously to nourish a mind so constituted ...

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Julian Mason

writer, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Andrew Jackson Chesnutt, a horse car driver, and Ann Maria Sampson. His parents were free African Americans who had left Fayetteville, North Carolina, in 1856 to escape the oppressiveness of life in a slave state and its sparse opportunity. They were married in Cleveland in 1857. During the Civil War, Chesnutt's father served four years as a teamster in the Union army, but the family returned to Fayetteville in 1866 because A. J. Chesnutt's father Waddell Cade a local white farm owner the name Chesnutt came from A J s mother Ann helped his son establish a grocery store there Young Charles helped in the store and over the years heard many things there about southern life and folkways that he recorded or remembered and that later became part of or informed his writings Charles attended the ...

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Clotel  

Gary Ashwill

The first known full-length African American novel, Clotel, by William Wells Brown, was originally published in London as Clotel, or The President's Daughter: A Narrative of Slave Life in the United States (1853). It first appeared in the United States as Miralda, or The Beautiful Quadroon: A Romance of American Slavery Founded on Fact (serialized in the Weekly Anglo-African during the winter of 1860–1861), then in book form, substantially revised, as Clotelle: A Tale of the Southern States (1864) and Clotelle, or The Colored Heroine: A Tale of the Southern States (1867).

Based on persistent rumors about Thomas Jefferson's relations with a slave mistress, Clotel begins with the auction of Jefferson s mistress Currer and her two daughters by Jefferson Clotel and Althesa Currer and Althesa both die in the course of the narrative Althesa in particularly tragic circumstances she has ...

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Albert E. Stone

Page for page, no antebellum slave narrative had a swifter impact on the American public than The Confessions of Nat Turner (1831). Published by its Virginian author, a white lawyer and slaveholder named Thomas R. Gray, and printed by Lucas & Deaver, Baltimore, the book followed quickly upon the capture and execution, 5 November 1831, of Nat Turner. Quickly copyrighted, as many as forty or fifty thousand copies were printed. Public curiosity and horror at news of the bloodiest of nineteenth-century American slave revolts led Gray to compile The Confessions speedily and successfully. Historians and critics allege that the book has become a rarity, although many university and some public libraries possess copies. A second edition appeared in 1881 and many reprints followed in this century, especially during the 1960s after the publication of William Styron's controversial novel The Confessions of Nat Turner ...

Article

James Sellman

During the nineteenth century Martin Robison Delany was a prominent African American leader, but his repeated political shifts undermined his standing and obscured his legacy. Recently, historian Sterling Stuckey has emphasized Delany's role in the development of black nationalist thought, concluding that he was an influence on W. E. B. Du Bois.

Delany was the son of a slave father and a free mother; her free status made her son free as well. As a child, he moved to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. He attracted the attention of a prosperous mentor, John B. Vashon, who paid for Delany's education. White abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison described him as “black as jet and a fine fellow of great energy and spirit,” but Delany's separatist views alienated many potential allies.

In contrast to Frederick Douglass whose outlook was integrationist Delany stressed the importance of blacks African heritage and the need for black ...

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Eric Gardner

writer, activist, minister, doctor, and businessman, was born in Washington, D.C., or nearby Maryland, probably to Thomas Detro (or Detrow), a stonemason, and his wife, Eleanor. Detter was educated in Washington, D.C., and was apprenticed to a shoemaker. Little is known of his early years. In 1852 he traveled aboard the steamer John L. Stephens to San Francisco, where he worked as a barber before moving to Sacramento. He quickly became active in northern California's black community and was Sacramento's delegate to the state Colored Conventions of 1855, 1856, and 1857; the 1855 Convention named him to the Executive Board.

Apparently frustrated by the lack of civil rights progress in California, he left the state in late 1857 Over the next decade he traveled throughout Idaho Washington and Oregon spending extended periods in areas around Boise Walla Walla Idaho City ...

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Frances Smith Foster

While details of Thomas Detter's early life are sketchy, it appears he was born in Maryland and educated in Washington, D.C., public schools. According to his father's will, he was to have been apprenticed as a shoemaker until his twenty-first birthday. Detter emigrated to San Francisco, California, in 1852, one of many African Americans lured by the economic prospects of gold and silver mining and the greater freedom of the western frontier. He quickly established himself as a community leader, becoming the Sacramento County delegate to the first Colored Citizens of the State of California Convention; serving on the State Executive Committee of that and other civil rights organizations; and campaigning in California, Nevada, Washington, and the Idaho Territory for public education, voting rights, and the admission of testimony by African Americans in court cases. Along with poet James Monroe Whitfield Detter was one of the first African ...

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Clarence G. Contee

Born about 1846 in New York City on Sullivan Street in Lower Manhattan, a son of Henry Downing and Nancy (Collins) Downing, Henry Francis Downing was the grandson of Thomas Downing, operator of an oyster-selling business and well-known free black. He was the nephew of George Thomas Downing, a well known politician in New York City and in Providence, Rhode Island, as well as a friend of abolitionist Frederick Douglass. The family maintained the oyster business and a refectory (dining hall) on Broad Street into the 1850s. Henry Downing received enough education to enable him to read and to write.

By the time the Civil War began in 1861, Downing was still in school. Eager to serve, he enlisted in the Union Navy at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on August 25, 1864, beginning his service on board the North Carolina He was ...

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Lawrence R. Rodgers

Born in New York City into a family of successful free African Americans who ran an oyster business, Henry Downing was the nephew of the esteemed politician George Thomas Downing. Henry Downing served two terms in the U.S. Navy (1864–1865 and 1872–1875). Following the Civil War, he traveled around the world, a journey punctuated by a three-year residence in Liberia, where his cousin Hilary Johnson later served as president (1884–1892). After returning to New York, he became politically active in the Democratic Party. For his strong support, President Cleveland appointed Downing consul to Loanda, Angola, a West African colony of Portugal, where he served less than a year before resigning in 1888. After returning to New York for several years, he emigrated to London in 1895 where he remained for twenty two years There he began a productive if undistinguished career as a writer ...

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Brian R. Roberts

diplomat, editor, and author, was born in Manhattan to Henry and Nancy (Collins) Downing. His family operated an oyster business and restaurant, and his uncle was George Thomas Downing, a Rhode Island businessman and civil rights leader. Nothing is known of Henry Downing's education before he entered the U.S. Navy at age eighteen.

Serving from 1864 through 1865 he worked on three vessels, the North Carolina, Pawtuxet, and Winooski. Afterward he traveled widely, spending three years in Liberia, where his cousin, Hilary Johnson, later became president (1884–1892). In Liberia, Downing worked as secretary to the Liberian secretary of state. Upon his return to New York he reenlisted in the navy, serving from 1872 to 1875 on the Hartford in the Pacific.

After his discharge Downing again returned to New York City and married Isadora (maiden name unknown) on 8 ...