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Glenn Allen Knoblock

Revolutionary War sailor, is known for his service on the Continental navy sloop Ranger under Captain John Paul Jones. A story passing as truth has been written about Scipio Africanus stating that he was a slave owned by Jones and accompanied him on the ships he commanded. In fact virtually nothing is known about Africanus except for the fact that he was a free man when he enlisted to serve on board the eighteen-gun Ranger for one year while she was building at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, sometime between March and July 1777.

While we know little about Scipio Africanus the man some guesses as to his servitude and character may be ventured That he was a slave prior to his naval service as suggested by his first name is likely Classical Roman names such as Scipio Cato and Caesar were commonly given at birth by owners to slaves ...

Article

Bridget Brereton

was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, on 30 September 1860, into a light-skinned, mixed-race family of the upper middle class. His parents’ names were John and Pauline (née Durand de Beauval). He was educated at the Roman Catholic high school, St. Mary’s College, in Port of Spain, and qualified as a barrister at Gray’s Inn, London, being called to the Bar in Trinidad in 1882.

As a barrister engaged in private practice in Trinidad from 1882 to his death in 1930, he enjoyed the largest such practice in Trinidad in the first decades of the twentieth century, with important companies among his clients. He was appointed Queen’s (later King’s) Counsel—that is, he was recognized as a senior member of the Trinidad Bar—at the unusually young age of 37 (1897).

Alcazar entered the public life of colonial Trinidad as a young man He was elected ...

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Johnie D. Smith

lawyer and judge, was born A. Macon Bolling in Indiana; the names of his parents and the exact date of his birth are unknown. He changed his name to Macon Bolling Allen by an act of the Massachusetts legislature on 26 January 1844. Details of Allen's early life and education are sparse and contradictory. His birth name is given in some sources as Malcolm B. Allen, and his birthplace as South Carolina. Evidence suggests that he lived in Maine and Massachusetts as a young man. Maine denied his initial application to the Maine bar because of allegations that he was not a state citizen, but he purportedly ran a Portland business before 1844. It is known that he read law in the Maine offices of two white abolitionist lawyers, Samuel E. Sewell and General Samuel Fessenden and that Fessenden promoted his admission to the Maine ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

was a native of South Carolina. Baker was likely born enslaved, but nothing is known of his early life. In 1880, at the age of twenty-two, he was living in Effingham, South Carolina, with his eighteen-year old wife Lavinia and earned a living as a farmer. Nearly two decades later Baker's life, and that of his family, would be turned upside down and end in tragedy as a result of a political appointment following the presidential election of 1896.

By 1897Frazier and Lavinia Baker were living in Lake City, South Carolina, their family having grown to include six children, daughters Cora, Rosa, Sara and newborn Julia, and sons Lincoln and William. In the spring of 1897Frazier Baker received a political appointment from the newly elected president, William McKinley as postmaster of the predominantly white community of Lake City How Baker gained ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

the first woman executed by electric chair in Georgia, was born in Cuthbert, Georgia, to Queenie Baker, a sharecropper, and a father whose name is unknown. Little is known about her early life. If typical of the African American experience in southwestern Georgia in the early 1900s Baker's childhood was probably one of long working hours and low expectations. Indeed, it was in the debt-ridden and desperate Georgia black belt of the early 1900s that W. E. B. Du Bois discovered the Negro problem in its naked dirt and penury Litwack 114 In an attempt to escape from that world of debt and desperation Baker began working at an early age at first helping her mother chop cotton for a neighboring white family the Coxes Like other black women in the community she also worked as a laundress and occasional domestic for white families in town Despite the legacy ...

Article

David A. Spatz

attorney and journalist. Ferdinand Lee Barnett was born in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1859. His father, born a slave, purchased his freedom and worked much of his life as a blacksmith. The family moved to Canada soon after Ferdinand was born and then to Chicago in 1869. Barnett was educated in Chicago schools, graduating from high school in 1874 with high honors. After teaching in the South for two years, he returned to Chicago and attended Chicago College of Law, later affiliated with Northwestern Law School.

Barnett graduated from law school and was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1878. Rather than immediately practicing law, he founded the Conservator, Chicago's first African American newspaper. The Conservator was a radical voice for justice and racial solidarity as means to equal rights for African Americans. The Conservator also drew national attention to Barnett He served as Chicago ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

the last person publicly executed in the United States, was born Joseph Rainey Bethea in Roanoke, Virginia, to Rainey Bethea and Ella Louise Huggins. Most press reports of his execution state that Bethea Jr. was twenty‐two at the time of his arrest, though he also claimed at times that he had been born in 1909. Since Bethea Jr.'s father would have been only fifteen years old in 1909, it appears more likely that the 1913 date is correct. The younger Bethea hardly knew his parents. He was still a child when his mother died in 1919 and barely a teenager when his father died seven years later in 1926, leaving Bethea, his sister Ora, and his brother as orphans. Around that time the siblings separated. While his brother remained in Virginia and his sister moved to Nichols, South Carolina, Bethea traveled west to Owensboro, Kentucky.

In ...

Primary Source

Even in defeat, the states of the former Confederacy were not so willing to go gently into the new, post-slavery world. Between 1865 and 1908 so-called Black Codes began to appear in the law books of southern states—these were statutes designed to regulate the freedom, employment, and voting rights of recently freed slaves. Some codes forced blacks to seek the dispensation of a judge in the event they wanted to find work outside the realm of what whites considered proper and fitting (mostly the agricultural and domestic duties that whites commonly associated with black labor); others prevented blacks from entering certain towns without a permission slip from a white employer; still others prevented blacks from sitting on juries or from offering testimony in court against whites.

Besides infantilizing black men and women black codes also subjected them to legal punishment fines imprisonment and even flogging in the case of unemployment ...

Article

Wigmoore Francis

is known primarily for his advocacy on behalf of the black and colored population of Jamaica, for his resistance to Crown rule, and for his impact on constitutional reform in the late nineteenth century. Samuel was born in Kingston, Jamaica, to William Burke, a wealthy watchmaker, and Elizabeth Staines Burke, a housewife. William owned four residences in Kingston’s upscale districts, and together, he and Elizabeth produced ten children, all of whom were colored.

Burke who may have been born on Harbour Street near the Kingston waterfront grew up on Church Street in downtown Kingston at a transitional time when the residential areas there were being overrun by business operations Here the absence of clear lines of demarcation between business and residence and the physical proximity of poorer black families resulted in a motley demographic arrangement of class color and race From a young age Samuel would therefore have been exposed ...

Article

Bret A. Weber

law enforcement officer, community organizer, and mayor, was born in Stamps, Lafayette County, Arkansas, but lived most of his life and built his career in the state capital, Little Rock. His mother, Annie Bussey, lived in Stamps, with his father Charlie Bussey, who worked at the local sawmill. A childhood friend of Maya Angelou's, Bussey and his sister, Delvira Bussey, who became a schoolteacher, shared a deep concern for the welfare and future of children. He moved to Little Rock in the 1940s and opened an appliance shop and on 11 October 1945 married Maggie Clark. Though unsuccessful in the appliance business, by 1950 he had become the state s first black deputy sheriff and was later assigned to the prosecuting attorney s office as an investigator As deputy sheriff he founded the Junior Deputy Baseball program and many of those ...

Article

Thomas E. Carney

was born in Sacramento, California, where he attended public schools during his childhood before leaving and traveling east through Texas, Illinois, and Alabama. He worked at two engineering concerns in Chicago, the Crane Company and Stockholm Pipe Fitting Company, and attended Tuskegee Institute before arriving in Baltimore in 1917. The following year he wed Julia Lawson, a music tutor and municipal employee. The couple had a son, Marse Jr. In his early Baltimore years Calloway worked as a porter, shoe peddler, and hosiery salesman; he eventually became a shoe store owner before entering into the real estate business and politics, which became his lifelong pursuits. As he established himself as a real estate agent, Calloway realized that African Americans as a community had political power that came in the form of their right to vote.

Calloway was intent on building a strong African American presence in Baltimore politics His ...

Article

Rose Pelone Sisson

survivor of a lynching attempt, civil rights activist, and founder of America's Black Holocaust Museum, was born in La Crosse, Wisconsin, to James Herbert Cameron, a barber, and Vera Cameron who was employed as a laundress, cook, and housekeeper. At the age of fifteen months, James was the first African American baby ever admitted as a patient to the St. Francis Hospital in La Crosse, where he underwent an emergency operation on the abdominal cavity. By the time James started school, his parents had moved to Birmingham, Alabama, and his parents separated.

When Cameron was sixteen he was living with his mother, two sisters, and grandmother in Marion, Indiana. His stepfather Hezikiah Burden hunted and fished long distances from home so was away from his family most of the time The family lived in a segregated section of Marion Indiana which counted about four thousand blacks among its ...

Article

Jason Philip Miller

lawyer, state legislator, and antilynching crusader, was born in Charleston, West Virginia, one of five children born to Joseph Capehart, a merchant, and Maggie Woodyard. It is likely that both of his parents were former slaves. Capehart attended local public schools, but at some point during his early youth—when is not precisely known—his father died, and Harry had to balance his eagerness for continued schooling with the new responsibilities of helping his mother to feed and clothe the family. Times were hard, and the fear of want a persistent problem. He later spoke of having to delay his education “for several years,” though the exact time and duration remain uncertain.

What is known is that Capehart attended Howard University in Washington, DC, intent on taking a degree in law. This he did in 1913 earning his LL B He relocated to Keystone West Virginia ...

Article

Capital punishment was simply an accepted part of life in American society when Frederick Douglass was a young man in the years before the Civil War. After the religious movement known as the Second Great Awakening, in the first third of the nineteenth century, social reformers began to seriously question the validity and usefulness of execution as a punishment and deterrent. Douglass's own opposition to capital punishment grew from a general distaste for violence. Having grown up in the brutality-drenched society of slavery, he had ample experience of the ways in which reliance on physical force to maintain the social order coarsened everyone involved. Furthermore, he had developed firm convictions about the sacredness of human life and could no longer believe that society had the right to deprive even the most heinous criminal of God's gift.

Instead Douglass favored rehabilitation through incarceration His deep belief in the perfectibility of human ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

emigrationist and militant, was born near Pine Bluffs in Copiah County, Mississippi, the fourth of ten children of Jasper Charles and Mariah (maiden name unknown), sharecroppers. Though Robert never lived under slavery, the exigencies of the crop-lien system ensured that his family remained heavily in debt to their landlord and to the local furnishing merchant.-Thus Jasper Charles could neither expand his holdings nor leave them. The family supplemented its-meager earnings by fishing and by hunting the bountiful small game to be found in the nearby pine forests. Although we know few details of Robert Charles's early life, it seems probable that he gained his proficiency with a rifle in the piney groves of Copiah County.

The adolescent Charles witnessed the erosion of African American citizenship rights that had been established during Reconstruction. His father was a loyal Republican and even sat on local juries throughout the 1870s. In 1883 ...

Article

R. J. M. Blackett

lawyer and Civil War correspondent, was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the son of George Chester and Jane Maria (maiden name unknown), restaurateurs. When, as a young man of eighteen, Chester decided to emigrate to Liberia, he wrote Martin H. Freeman, his former teacher at the Avery Institute in Pittsburgh, that his passion for liberty could no longer “submit to the insolent indignities and contemptuous conduct to which it has almost become natural for the colored people dishonorably to submit themselves.” It was a bold assertion of independence for one who had come of age in a household long associated with the anticolonization sentiments of radical abolitionism. But the country's willingness to appease southern interests, symbolized by the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850, persuaded Chester, sometime before his 1853 graduation, to emigrate.

Anxious to recruit the son of such a prominent black family leaders of the ...

Article

Minor Ferris Buchanan

slave, soldier, hunter, guide, and pioneer, was born on Home Hill plantation, Jefferson County, Mississippi, the son of slaves Harrison and Daphne Collier. Little is known of Daphne Collier, although it is believed that she had some Native American ancestry. In 1815Harrison Collier accompanied the famed General Thomas Hinds when he fought alongside General Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812 at the Battle of New Orleans. As house servants the Colliers maintained a higher status on the plantation, and from all indications young Holt was a favorite of the Hinds family. At age ten he was taken into the upriver wilderness to serve as a juvenile valet and hostler on Plum Ridge plantation in what would later become known as Washington County in the Mississippi Delta.

At Plum Ridge plantation Holt was trained to hunt and kill anything that could be used as food for the growing ...

Article

William H. Brown and Graham Russell Hodges

[This entry contains two subentries dealing with law as specifically applied to African Americans from the seventeenth century through the nineteenth century The first article discusses the development of crimes and punishments related to slavery through 1830 while the second article discusses law and legal penalties as applied to ...

Article

Annell Smith

As with other aspects of British society, black people have had a long and sometimes difficult and contentious relationship with the criminal justice system.

1.Historical background

2.The Empire Windrush and after

Article

Steven J. Niven

paramilitary leader and agrarian activist, was born of unknown parentage, perhaps in Mississippi. He appears in the historical record on two occasions. The first was in the bloody political conflict known as the “campaign of 1875,” when white Democrats used tactics ranging from fraud to intimidation to violence and assassinations to wrest control of state government from the Republican Party.

In early September 1875, Cromwell traveled to the town of Clinton in Hinds County, Mississippi, to address a gathering of at least six hundred black men—some sources claim there were more than a thousand—who had organized into armed, paramilitary political clubs to defend their families, the black community, and the few remaining white Republicans against violent intimidation by white Democrats and their allies. Like other communities in the central part of the Magnolia State, a slight majority of citizens in Clinton were African American. Black Clintonians, notably Charles ...