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Eric Gardner

writer and activist, was born in Virginia to parents whose names remain unknown. Newby's enslaved father died in his youth. His free mother moved the family to Philadelphia in the early 1830s. She may have been the laundress Maria Newby listed in the 1850 Federal Census of Philadelphia, though the surname is not uncommon (p. 362). A 20 June 1863Pacific Appeal article on Newby by journalist Philip Alexander Bell referred to him as largely “self-educated” but did note his attendance at the city's segregated public schools. Working first as a barber and then as a daguerreotypist, Newby seems to have stood at least at the fringes of the city's Black society; Bell remembered him as a member of the Philadelphia Library Company of Colored Persons and a “skillful debater.”

Probably in response to the limitations imposed by Northern racism and the hope of the Gold Rush Newby made ...

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Penelope Campbell

journalist and first nonwhite governor of Maryland in Liberia Colony, West Africa, was born in Port Antonio, Jamaica, the son of John Russwurm, a white American merchant, and an unidentified Jamaican black woman. As a boy known only as John Brown, Russwurm was sent to Canada for an education by his father. After his father's settlement in Maine and marriage in 1813 to a white New England widow with children, he entered the new family at his stepmother's insistence. John Brown thereupon assumed his father's surname and remained with his stepmother even after the senior Russwurm's death in 1815 His schooling continued at home and later at preparatory institutes such as the North Yarmouth Academy in Maine He made a short unhappy visit to Jamaica and returned to Portland Maine to begin collegiate study Thrown on his own after just one year because of his sponsor ...

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Roy E. Finkenbine

abolitionist, civil rights activist, and journalist, was born a slave and spent the early years of his life in bondage in the Mohawk Valley near Albany, New York. His master was probably a member of Albany's wealthy Van Rensselaer family. He ran away from slavery in 1819 and, although his master circulated handbills and sent slave catchers as far as Canada to recover him, he eluded recapture. Eight years later he became legally free when slavery was finally abolished in New York State. In 1837 he visited and reconciled with his master, prompting the antislavery press to label him “a modern Onesimus,” a biblical reference to Philemon 10:16.

While residing in Princeton New Jersey in the early 1830s Van Rensselaer became attracted to the emerging antislavery movement He settled in New York City by mid decade married joined an independent black church and established a restaurant that ...