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Article

Kerima M. Lewis

The African American members of the First Baptist Church in New York City withdrew their membership in 1808 when they were subjected to racially segregated seating. With Ethiopian merchants they organized their own church, called “Abyssinian” after the merchants’ nation of origin. The church was located at 44 Anthony Street, and the Reverend Vanvelser was its first pastor. Abyssinian numbered three hundred members in 1827 when slavery ended in New York. The Reverends William Spellman, Robert D. Wynn, and Charles Satchell Morris served as pastors during the church's early history. By 1902 the church was a renowned place of worship with more than sixteen hundred members.

The appointment of the Reverend Adam Clayton Powell Sr. in 1908 ushered in a new era of the church's history. His pastorate was devoted to spiritual and financial development. In 1920 he acquired property in Harlem and then oversaw the building ...

Article

Adam W. Green

was the second of three children born to two freed slaves, Eben Tobias, a farmer, and Susan Gregory, a mixed-race Pequot Indian, in Derby, Connecticut. An education proponent and political activist, Bassett became America's first black diplomat when he served as Resident Minister in Haiti for eight years, helping pave the way for those seeking opportunities in international diplomacy and public service.

Along with his mixed race birth and royal lineage that his family claimed from Africa Bassett whose surname came from a generous white family close to his grandfather s former owners also had elected office in his blood His grandfather Tobiah who won his freedom after fighting in the American Revolution had been elected a Black Governor as had Bassett s father Eben The largely nominal honorific was bestowed upon respected men in various locales via Election Days sometimes by a voice vote these Black Governors ...

Article

Liliana Obregón

The Black Codes comprise an elaborate set of principles, rules, and procedures that were designed to protect plantation economies and prevent slaves from running away. But because they conflicted with the slaveholders' actual interests and practices—the codes specified minimal standards for slaves' food and clothing, restrictions on punishments, and means of achieving manumission—they were rarely implemented. Nevertheless, the codes give insight into the working conditions, economic interests, and social practices of the French Caribbean and Spanish American slave societies they addressed. These laws contrast with those relating to slavery in the Portuguese colony of Brazil; the Brazilian laws were never codified, though compilations were published to instruct slaveholders on their rights and responsibilities.

Article

The Black Codes were instituted by Southern legislative bodies in 1865 and 1866 in response to the emancipation of the 4 million former slaves in the Southern states during and after the American Civil War (1861–1865). The Black Codes recognized the new status of African Americans as freedpeople and offered them some of the basic rights of citizenship. However, the codes also defined the freedpeople as legally subordinate to whites and attempted to manage their labor in a way that would cause minimal disruption to the labor system instituted under slavery.

Faced with a rapidly transformed political and economic structure in the postbellum South, Mississippi and South Carolina began passing laws in 1865 to limit the freedom of African Americans New vagrancy laws placed blacks in jeopardy of imprisonment or forced labor if they could not prove they were employed or self supporting Often the result was ...

Article

Fred Lindsey

After 1820, when the political climate in the United States began to turn more strongly against black people, black separatism and full integration into American society were the two main trends of discussion among African Americans. Some black people advocated leaving the United States and going to Africa or to other places of freedom, while others—most notably, the black abolitionist Frederick Douglass—suggested that they should stay in America and fight for equality.

In 1792 several hundred black Americans went to Sierra Leone to join a British-governed African resettlement, and in 1815 more blacks joined them under the leadership of Paul Cuffe The act of emigration was seen as a legitimate and progressive response to the oppressive conditions of the slave system especially since many slaves were born in Africa The main criticism of these emigration efforts voiced by African Americans like Douglass was that the institution of slavery ...

Article

Graham Russell Hodges

African American activists in the antebellum and post–Civil War eras invoked a language and political strategy of black uplift or elevation. Composed of ideas and actions about physical, mental, or intellectual and personal morality and the realm of the soul, black activists, through speech and literature, used uplift as a general program to improve the race. Uplift was also intended to refute white racism prevalent in the literature and public activities of the nineteenth century. Accordingly, two key components were respectability and self-help. Frederick Douglass for one noted that only racism kept the avenues of wealth and honor from being open to all who chose to enter them Respectability and wealth were not just accessories to wealth and fame but required individual action particularly virtuous assistance to the race or against slavery as well as a purer soul Blacks also shared the general anxiety over confidence men or tricksters ...

Article

Rose C. Thevenin

educator, was born Sarah Ann Blocker in Edgefield, South Carolina, one of the five children of Sarah A. Stewart of Delaware and Isaiah Blocker of Edgefield, South Carolina. Nothing is known about her early childhood. Blocker briefly attended Atlanta University and enrolled in teacher education classes. At the age of twenty‐two, Sarah Blocker moved to Live Oak, Florida, where she taught at the Florida Baptist Institute, a school established by African American Christian ministers of the First Bethlehem Baptist Association of West Florida in 1879.

Resistance and hostility toward African Americans in Live Oak resulted in escalating violence. Blocker herself was almost wounded in a shooting incident in 1892. Blocker's determination remained steadfast, however. In 1892 she cofounded the Florida Baptist Academy, an elementary and secondary educational institution for African American girls and boys. She was assisted in this project by the reverends Matthew W. Gilbert and J ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

the first African American to manage a public library, founded a widely acclaimed program to train African Americans as library assistants in Louisville, Kentucky, where he supervised the first library department established for African Americans in an era of Jim Crow exclusion. Blue was the first person of African descent to appear in an American Library Association conference program (1922) and a founder of the Conference of Colored Librarians in 1927.

Blue was born in Farmville, Virginia, the second child of Noah and Henri Ann Crowly Blue, who had previously been enslaved. By 1870, Noah Blue was listed in the U.S. Census as a carpenter; he may have been the twelve-year-old male listed in the 1850 slave census as the property of Thomas Blue District No 24 Hampshire County Virginia now West Virginia The family included a six year old daughter Alice and a ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

Civil War and Indian Wars soldier and Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Prince George County, Maryland. Nothing is known of his early life; he was likely born enslaved, but if so, the circumstances in which he gained his freedom are unknown. His military service began when he enlisted in the Union Army from St. Mary's County, Maryland, on 5 February 1864. Boyne served in Battery C of the 2nd U.S. Colored Light Artillery and saw action in and around Richmond, Virginia, during the last year of the Civil War at Wilson's Wharf and City Point. Boyne and his regiment were subsequently sent westward, and he ended the war stationed in Texas. In March 1866 Thomas Boyne was discharged from the army at Brownsville Texas as his regiment like all other volunteer regiments that served in the Civil War black and white was disbanded when the army ...

Article

Simone Monique Barnes

educator and public school administrator, was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the only child of Fannie Bassett of Vineyard Haven, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, and John Briggs of Tiverton, Rhode Island. Her parents were married in 1831. Brigg's mother died when she was a young girl, and as a result, she was raised by her father, with the help of an aunt, Mrs. Bailey. John had grown up poor, in a rural area where he was allowed to attend school only in the winter. At about age twelve, he came to the city of New Bedford to work for George Howland, a Quaker and a whaling ship agent. John stayed employed by the Howland family until his death, more than fifty years later. When his daughter was still an infant, John was fitting Howland's whaling ships, the Java and Golconda and he developed a friendship with another of ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

plaintiff in the 1928 case, Brown v. Board of Education of Charleston [West Virginia], was born in the Union South district of Kanawha County, West Virginia, the seventh living child and fifth son of Henry and Margaret A. Brown. Henry Brown, a farm laborer like his older brothers Charley and John, died before 1900. In addition to older brothers Fred and Enoch, and sisters Maria and Ruth, Anderson had a younger brother James, and younger sisters Della and Nina. All were born between 1865 and 1887.

Around 1900 he worked as a porter in a grocery store in Charleston, where his brothers held jobs as porters, baggage drivers, and a blacksmith, supporting their widowed mother and sisters. Brown moved in 1907 to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where his sister and brother‐in‐law were living, joined at least part of the time by the widowed Margaret Brown He ...

Article

Brian Tong and Theodore Lin

retiring room attendant, activist, most renowned for winning the 1873 Supreme Court Case Railroad Company v. Brown, was born Katherine Brown in Virginia. There are many variations of her name; in some documents, she is referred to as “Catherine Brown,” “Katherine Brown,” “Kate Brown,” or “Kate Dodson.” In the New York Times article “Washington, Affairs at the National Capital,” her name appears as “Kate Dostie.” Very few records of Brown's life survive today; as a result, much of her childhood and personal life remains unknown.

Kate Brown's recorded personal life begins with her marriage to Jacob Dodson. Jacob Dodson had a colorful past. Born in 1825, Dodson was a freeman. He spent most of his early life as a servant for the Missouri senator Thomas Hart Benton, but in 1843 Dodson began to accompany John C. Fremont, son-in-law of Senator Benton ...

Article

educator and clubwoman, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, just before her parents, Elizabeth Hartnett and Joseph Willson, moved their young family to Cleveland, Ohio. Her father, who had been born free in Georgia, was a dentist and the author of Sketches of the Higher Classes among Colored Society in Philadelphia (1841). Willson, her brother, and her three sisters grew up among the black elite. Her parents emphasized education and accomplishment—her mother was both a skilled musician and a music teacher—and Willson trained to be a teacher after graduating from Cleveland's Central High School in 1871. She then served as one of the first black teachers in Cleveland's integrated elementary schools.

She met her future husband, the U.S. senator Blanche Kelso Bruce, in June 1876 when he traveled to Ohio for the Republican National Convention The two corresponded and became friends though the family biographer ...

Article

Eric Gardner

politician and activist, was born into slavery in North Carolina. Both he and his mother, Susan, were owned by the wealthy Thomas Burke Burton, who moved to Fort Bend County, Texas, from Halifax County, North Carolina, in the 1850s. Most accounts claim that the slaveholder favored Burton, taught him to read and write, and, after the Civil War, sold land to him; some accounts claim that Burton supported his former owner's wife when she was widowed during Reconstruction.

On 28 September 1868 Burton married Abba Jones (sometimes listed as Abby and sometimes as Hattie). The couple had three children, Horace J., Hattie M., and an unnamed child who died in infancy. Susan Burton lived with the young family until her death c. 1890.

Propertied, literate, and articulate, Burton quickly became active in the local Republican Party, the local Union League, and larger Reconstruction efforts. In 1869 ...

Article

Denise R. Shaw

In August 1845, shortly after the publication of his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, the author boarded the steamship Cambria of the Cunard Line for Great Britain. The voyage served a dual purpose for Frederick Douglass. First, he was embarking on a speaking tour during which he would gain financial and moral support for the antislavery movement. Second, and perhaps just as important, the trip would get Douglass out of the country, as the publication of his Narrative would not only bring attention to the horrors of slavery but would also garner the attention of slave catchers bent on reenslaving Douglass.

Prior to boarding the Cambria Douglass was notified by his traveling companion James N Buffum that he would not be able to board the ship as a cabin passenger but would be consigned to the steerage section or second class Douglass notes ...

Article

Benjamin R. Justesen

farmer, shoemaker, and longtime state legislator, was born in Warren County, North Carolina, the third son of free, mixed-race parents Hawkins Carter and Elizabeth Wiggins, who were married in 1845. Few details are known of his early life or education, only that his father, a prosperous farmer, could afford to hire a young white teacher, W. J. Fulford, to tutor his eight children in 1861, the last year before the Civil War.

During the Civil War, the teenage Carter served as an officer's attendant for a Warrenton acquaintance, Captain Stephen W. Jones of the Forty-sixth North Carolina Regiment's Company C, raised at Warrenton in early 1862 Jones s company saw action at Antietam and other battles and Jones was wounded at Spotsylvania Court House where Carter presumably helped care for him The eldest son of the Warren County sheriff and a former deputy sheriff himself ...

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 ...

Article

editor, writer, and community leader, was born Susie Sumner Revels in Natchez, Mississippi, the daughter of Senator Hiram Rhodes Revels of Mississippi, the first African American to serve in the U.S. Senate, and Phoebe Revels. The name Sumner was in honor of her father's friend Senator Charles Sumner, a Massachusetts radical Republican and vehement opponent of slavery. Susie's formal education started at the school later known as Alcorn University where her father was president. When the family moved to Holly Springs, Mississippi, she completed her education at Rust College, and then started teaching there at the young age of sixteen.

Revels probably started corresponding with Seattle newspaper publisher Horace Roscoe Cayton Sr. after he sent copies of the Seattle Republican to her father whom he had known as a student at Alcorn She then sent her own articles and short stories to Cayton which he agreed to publish ...

Article

Matthew Dennis

The inescapable culmination of life is mortality, and every community must deal with the death of its members, marking the event appropriately, disposing respectfully of mortal remains, offering condolence to the living, and returning life among survivors to normal. Few human communities have faced greater challenges in this regard than those African Americans enslaved in North America, as well as free blacks, during the colonial and early national periods. African American mortuary practices preserved, synthesized, and reworked African traditions and adapted New World customs imported to America by white European Christian colonists.

There is much about which we cannot be certain given the limited records and archaeological evidence available to us and considerable diversity characterized the people of African descent throughout North America during this era But it is clear that African American funerals and interments were creative hybrid practices expressions of African American culture that signaled the worth and ...

Article

Debra C. Smith

Like the story of many southern cities, Charlotte, North Carolina has endured its portion of racial inequity, civil rights activism, and violent acts surrounding segregation efforts, But Charlotte, the Queen City, the largest city in North Carolina has been and remains an alcove for African American experience steeped in memory and now modern familiarity. Charlotte is a source of progress and pride for African Americans in the city who lean on historical strength to continue to develop political power, economic resources, and educational aspirations.