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Florence M. Coleman

slave, Civil War soldier, politician, and Baptist minister, was born Peter Barnabas Barrow, a Virginia slave. The month and day of his birth are unknown. It is believed that he was born near Petersburg, Virginia, and may have been taken to Mississippi or Alabama with his owner. In 1864 Barrow joined Company A, 66th U.S. Colored Infantry and in 1865 became a sergeant. A year later Barrow was discharged because of an injury he received. He went on to teach school at Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Barrow, who was most likely self-educated, served as a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives for Warren County, Mississippi, from 1870 to 1871. From 1872 to 1875 he served in the Mississippi State Senate. He migrated to Spokane, Washington, in 1889 and settled there in the city s African American community Barrow and other African Americans were determined to thrive by establishing ...

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Mason I. Lowance

Henry Bibb is best known through his Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb, An American Slave, which was first published by Bibb himself in 1849. While Frederick Douglass gained credibility through his assertion of authorship and by way of the introductions composed for his narrative by William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips, Bibb enjoyed no such reception and was forced to subvene the publication of his own story. The narrative is rich in detail, including an account of Bibb's use of “conjuring” to avoid punishment for running away, and the use of “charms” to court his slave wife. Bibb also gives eloquent testimony to the conditions and the culture of slavery in Kentucky and the South. John Blassingame describes it as “one of the most reliable of the slave autobiographies,” and it firmly established Bibb, together with Douglass and Josiah Henson as one ...

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Heidi L. Scott Giusto

Henry Walter Bibb was born a slave on the plantation of David White in Shelby County, Kentucky. His father, James Bibb, was a slaveholding planter and state senator; his mother, Mildred Jackson, was a slave. By 1825 Bibb began what he referred to as his “maroonage,” or scheming of short-term escape. Excessively cruel treatment by several different masters engendered this habit. Bibb's life lacked stability; the slave's owner began hiring him out at a young age, and between 1832 and 1840 he would be sold more than six times and would relocate to at least seven southern states.

In 1833 Bibb met and fell in love with Malinda, a slave who lived four miles away in Oldham County, Kentucky. After determining that they had similar values regarding religion and possible flight, the two pledged honor to one another and considered themselves married in December 1834 Approximately one year later ...

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Ralph E. Luker

Methodist educator and theologian, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Edward Bowen and Rose Simon. John's father was a carpenter from Maryland who was enslaved when he moved to New Orleans. After purchasing his own freedom, Edward Bowen bought that of his wife and son in 1858 and served in the Union army during the Civil War. After the war, young J. W. E. Bowen studied at the Union Normal School in New Orleans and at New Orleans University, which was founded by the Methodist Episcopal Church for the education of freedmen. Bowen received a bachelor's degree with the university's first graduating class in 1878. Eight years later, New Orleans University awarded him a master's degree. From 1878 to 1882 Bowen taught mathematics and ancient languages at Central Tennessee College in Nashville.

In 1882 Bowen began theological studies at Boston University While he was ...

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Marlene L. Daut

escaped slave, navy landsman, and U.S. Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Natchez, Mississippi, in 1841 of unknown parentage. Brown was a slave in Mississippi on a cotton plantation, and nothing is known of his childhood or to whom he belonged. In the early 1860s, at the start of the Civil War, Brown ran away from his master on a skiff that eventually managed to reach a Union ship stationed on the Mississippi River. This encounter with the navy probably accounts for his subsequent enlistment. The navy was a likely choice for an escaped slave; many escaped slaves, as well as free blacks from the North, were often drawn to the service because of its better pay and purported fairer treatment of blacks. Brown enlisted in the Union navy on 18 March 1863 under the title 1st Class Boy and was officially described as a Contraband Negro five ...

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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

John Edward Bruce 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 slaveholder, sold him to a Georgia slaveholder. Raised by his mother, Bruce lived in Maryland until 1861 when Union troops marching through Maryland freed him and his mother, taking them to Washington, D.C., where Bruce lived until 1892. In 1865 Bruce's mother worked as a domestic in Stratford, Connecticut, where Bruce received his early education in an integrated school. One year later they returned to Washington, where Bruce continued his education. Although he did not complete high school, he enrolled in a course at Howard University in 1872. Bruce married Lucy Pinkwood, an opera singer from Washington, D.C. They had no children. In 1895 Bruce married Florence Adelaide Bishop with whom he had ...

Article

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 ...

Article

newspaper publisher and editor, and political activist, was born a slave in the Port Gibson area of Mississippi. An intelligent person, he managed to get an extensive formal education, an uncommon feat for a former slave during the post-Civil War period. He furthered his education when he attended Alcorn University, whose president was former U.S. Senator Hiram Revels (the first U.S. senator of African descent). Among the subjects he studied was Latin, which, later as a newspaperman, he would periodically interject in his articles, especially when he was riled.

Cayton was outspoken throughout his life and had several serious scrapes because of it. Indeed, when Cayton left Mississippi after Reconstruction ended, he may have left in a dress disguised as a woman, according to Seattle resident Georgia Spencer, a distant relative. Cayton had been warned that some whites had intentions of lynching him. An older relative of Spencer, Jefferson Thomas ...

Article

Benjamin R. Justesen

journalist, businessman, and civil rights organization leader, was born into slavery, probably near Smyrna, Tennessee, to unnamed parents, and apparently orphaned soon afterward. Little is known of his childhood, except that Cooper moved at an early age to Nashville, where he was educated at the old barracks school for African American children on Knowles Street, later the nucleus of Fisk University.

Cooper later recalled working on a farm for two years before he began selling newspapers on passenger trains. He also worked briefly as a hotel waiter in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, during the Centennial Exposition there in 1876. About 1877 Cooper migrated to Indianapolis, Indiana, where he worked as a book-seller and became one of the first African Americans to graduate from the city's Shortridge High School in 1882 He began working for the Railway Mail Service and soon rose to chief clerk on the Louisville ...

Article

Stephen Gilroy Hall

lawyer and historian, was born a slave in Portsmouth, Virginia, the son of Willis Hodges Cromwell, a ferry operator, and Elizabeth Carney. In 1851Cromwell's father purchased the family's freedom and moved to West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where Cromwell attended public school. In 1856 he was admitted to the Preparatory Department of the Institute of Colored Youth. Graduating in 1864, he embarked on a teaching career. He taught in Columbia, Pennsylvania, and in 1865 opened a private school in Portsmouth, Virginia. Cromwell left teaching temporarily after an assault in which he was shot at and his school burned down. He returned to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was employed by the Baltimore Association for the Moral and Intellectual Improvement of Colored People. Then he served as an agent for the American Missionary Association and went back to Virginia. In 1867 he became active in local politics serving as a ...

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Benjamin R. Justesen

editor and public official, was born in Tarboro, North Carolina, the younger son and third child of John C. Dancy and Eliza Dancy, slaves owned by John S. Dancy, a local planter. After the Civil War, John C. Dancy became a prosperous carpenter and contractor, and was later elected as an Edgecombe County commissioner. John Campbell Dancy was educated in the common schools in Tarboro, where he worked briefly as a newspaper typesetter before entering the normal department at Howard University in Washington, DC.

After his father's death, John Dancy interrupted his studies to return to Tarboro, where he became a schoolteacher and principal of the public school for African American children. U.S. Congressman John Adams Hyman (R-NC) secured an appointment for Dancy at the U.S. Treasury Department in 1876, and Dancy briefly returned to Washington. By 1880 he was again teaching in Tarboro where ...

Article

William L. Andrews

Frederick Douglass, author of the most influential African American text of his era, rose through the ranks of the antislavery movement in the 1840s and 1850s to become the most electrifying speaker and commanding writer produced by black America in the nineteenth century. From the outbreak of the Civil War until his death, Douglass was generally recognized as the premier African American leader and spokesman for his people. Douglass's writing was devoted primarily to the creation of a heroic image of himself that would inspire in African Americans the belief that color need not be a permanent bar to their achievement of the American dream, while reminding whites of their obligation as Americans to support free and equal access to that dream for Americans of all races.

The man who became internationally famous as Frederick Douglass was born on Maryland's Eastern Shore in February 1818, the son of Harriet ...

Article

Roy E. Finkenbine

abolitionist, civil rights activist, and reform journalist, was born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey near Easton, Maryland, the son of Harriet Bailey, a slave, and an unidentified white man. Although a slave, he spent the first six years of his life in the cabin of his maternal grandparents, with only a few stolen nighttime visits by his mother. His real introduction to bondage came in 1824, when he was brought to the nearby wheat plantation of Colonel Edward Lloyd. Two years later he was sent to Baltimore to labor in the household of Hugh and Sophia Auld, where he remained for the next seven years. In spite of laws against slave literacy, Frederick secretly taught himself to read and write He began studying discarded newspapers and learned of the growing national debate over slavery And he attended local free black churches and found ...

Article

Dickson D. Jr. Bruce

William Lewis Eagleson was born a slave in St. Louis, Missouri. The names of his parents and details about his early life are unknown. He married Elizabeth McKinney in 1865 in St. Louis; they had nine children. As a young man, he learned both printing and barbering, trades that he practiced intermittently throughout his life. In the 1870s, he settled in Fort Scott, Kansas, and started a newspaper, the Colored Citizen. In 1878, he moved the paper to Topeka, with its burgeoning African American community, and began his public career.

Teaming up with a prominent African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister, Thomas W. Henderson, Eagleson used the Colored Citizen to become a visible figure in Kansas political life. The newspaper itself was oriented chiefly toward increasing the influence of blacks in Republican Party politics Even before moving to Topeka Eagleson had initiated an unsuccessful effort to ...

Article

Dickson D. Bruce

editor and political activist, was born a slave in St. Louis, Missouri. The names of his parents and details about his early life are unknown. He married Elizabeth McKinney in 1865 in St. Louis; they had nine children. As a young man he learned both printing and barbering, trades that he practiced intermittently throughout his life. In the 1870s he settled in Fort Scott, Kansas, and started a newspaper, the Colored Citizen. In 1878 he moved the paper to Topeka, Kansas, where there was a burgeoning African American community, and began his public career.

Teaming up with a prominent African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister, Thomas W. Henderson, Eagleson used the Colored Citizen to become a visible figure in Kansas political life The newspaper itself was oriented chiefly toward increasing the influence of blacks in Republican Party politics Even before moving to Topeka Eagleson had initiated an ...

Article

Sholomo B. Levy

journalist and activist, was born Timothy Thomas in Marianna, Florida, the third of five children, to Emanuel and Sara Jane, slaves of Ely P. Moore. After emancipation his family took the name Fortune from that of an Irish planter, Thomas Fortune, whom Emanuel believed to be his father. Emanuel was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1868 where he served for three years until he was forced to leave Marianna as the reign of terror that drove black office holders from power swept through Florida Before his family joined him in Jacksonville they lived in Tallahassee where the young Fortune worked as a page in the state senate During his four sessions there Fortune developed a distrust of black and white politicians from both political parties Though he spent only a few years at primary schools run by the Freedmen s Bureau he ...

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Michael W. Fitzgerald

Born a slave in Marianna, Florida, T. Thomas Fortune was the son of a prominent Republican politician during Reconstruction, which enabled him to hold various patronage positions during his adolescence. He studied at Howard University, leaving after a year to pursue a career in journalism. He arrived in New York City in the early 1880s, writing for various black and white publications, most notably as the editor of the Globe. He established himself as a militant, prodding African Americans to abandon their unquestioned loyalty to the party of Lincoln. His near-endorsement of Grover Cleveland for president in 1884 led to management conflicts and the demise of the Globe, though the paper reemerged first as the Freeman and then the Age. Under his proprietorship, the Age would become the leading black paper of the era and he would become the most noted man in Afro American journalism ...

Article

William Seraile

Timothy Thomas Fortune was born in Marianna, Florida, the son of Emanuel Fortune, a literate slave artisan, and Sarah Jane Moore, a slave. Fortune was raised amid tumultuous times in Reconstruction Florida. His father, one of two African Americans elected as delegates to the 1868 state's constitutional convention and a member of the Florida House of Representatives, was targeted by the Ku Klux Klan and had to flee the area for months in 1869. Thirteen-year-old Timothy became the man of the house in his father's absence. “The constant fear, the stories of outrage … the sign of his once high-spirited mother gradually breaking under the strain of anxiety—all these had a lasting influence on the sensitive and imaginative boy” (Thornbrough, p. 17).

Despite less than three years of formal education, Fortune, an avid reader, enrolled at Howard University during the winter 1874 term Inadequate finances ...

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Walter D. Greason

Carrying the mantle of black freedom during the last decades of Frederick Douglass's life, Timothy Thomas Fortune was the voice of African American pride and determination at the worst moment of American race relations. He followed in the footsteps of Martin Robison Delany, Sojourner Truth, and Douglass as a passionate advocate for African American equality. He shaped the ideas, strategies, and opportunities for the following generation of black leaders that included Booker T. Washington, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, and W. E. B. Du Bois. Fortune foreshadowed the emergence of the New Negro movement in northern cities by thirty years. Born in slavery on 3 October 1856, Fortune witnessed the terror of the first Ku Klux Klan through his adolescence in Marianna, Florida. During the early Reconstruction years his father, Emanuel was a convention delegate and state representative whose independent record brought political pressure from ...