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Article

Alice Bernstein

carpenter, newspaper editor, and state representative during Reconstruction, was born free, of “unmixed African blood,” in New Bern, North Carolina, to Israel B. Abbott and Gracie Maria Green. His father died in 1844, and Abbott was raised by his mother and maternal grandmother, Hannah, the wife of Bristow Rue (Rhew). His mother's second husband was Nelson Brown, with whom she had a daughter, Hannah Cora, and stepsons Samuel H. Brown and George M. Brown. She married her third husband, the Reverend Joseph Green, a Methodist Episcopal Zion Church minister, in 1854. When Abbott was four, his grandmother contributed one dollar toward his education, and he attended a school taught by Mrs. Jane Stevens. He went to school regularly until age ten, when he began serving two years as apprentice to a carpenter, completing his trade with his stepfather, Joseph Green ...

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Although the colony of Maryland imported indentured servants to work in the burgeoning tobacco industry the law initially allowed for a process of manumission as well as some basic legal rights for workers Moreover blacks were among several ethnic groups who worked as indentured servants In September 1664 however a session of Maryland s General Assembly passed a new law focused specifically on African Americans declaring that all black servants were to now be labeled as slaves on a permanent basis In addition freeborn women who married slaves would also serve their husband s master and their children would also become the master s property for the term of their lives a provision designed to prevent shameful interracial relationships The act demonstrates that slavery was not a practice inherited by the colony but was instead imposed well over a generation after Maryland was founded It would take until 1864 for ...

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Dire rumors of slave rebellions if not actual conspiracies had long haunted the English colonies but the Stono Rebellion of 1739 brought those fears vividly to life for many whites On 9 September 1739 a group of slaves set out from the Stono River near Charleston South Carolina heading south to what they assumed would be safe haven under Spain at St Augustine Florida Along the way the rebels flying banners and banging drums put plantations to the torch and exacted their revenge on their owners An accidental encounter with South Carolina s lieutenant governor William Bull and the subsequent arrival of a heavily armed force of white militia put an end to the rebellion but white fears in the colonies were further enflamed Now conspiracies were seen everywhere wherever slaves gathered and the threat of further bloodshed seemed imminent Many had long argued that the slaves in South Carolina ...

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While most narratives about African Americans in the United States begin with the arrival of a Dutch slaver in Jamestown in 1619, mention is often made of the explorer and slave Esteban de Dorantes, who died at Zuni Pueblo in 1539. A startlingly different starting point is suggested by the historian Dedra S. McDonald, however, in the appearance of Isabel de Olvera in New Mexico in 1600, the first known arrival of either a free African American and or an African American woman. De Olvera is a particularly appropriate symbol of black womanhood because of the agency displayed in her entry into unfamiliar territory. She was a free mulatto from Querétaro, Mexico, the daughter of a black father, Hernando, and an Indian mother, Magdalena.

Because of a 1542 Spanish decree the indigenous population in Spanish America could not be enslaved Magdalena therefore was free as were her children Employed as ...

Article

Agaja  

Elizabeth Heath

The third ruler of the Dahomey Kingdom, Agaja succeeded his brother, Akaba, in 1708. Agaja was a shrewd and powerful king, expanding the kingdom and making it one of the most powerful in West Africa. He spent much of his early reign instituting administrative reforms that centralized and strengthened the kingdom: he created an elite corps of female guards, enlarged the royal army, and employed a group of military spies who acquired information about neighboring groups. These innovations proved crucial to his victorious conquest of the Allada and Whydah Kingdoms in the 1720s. The acquisition of these coastal kingdoms gave the previously landlocked Dahomey access to the sea and, consequently, European trade.

Agaja's ambition to control the transatlantic slave trade that flowed through these ports brought him into rivalry with the neighboring Yoruba kingdom of Oyo, whose attacks on Dahomey forced Agaja to surrender in 1730 and ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

Ahmad Baba was one of the best-known Islamic scholars and writers of his time. Born into the prestigious Aqit family near Tombouctou (Timbuktu) in 1556, he was educated in Islamic theology and law. After completing his studies, he began writing books and treatises on theology, Islamic jurisprudence, history, and Arabic grammar. Over the course of his life he wrote more than fifty-six works. More than half of these are still in existence, and several are still used by West African ulama (scholars). Ahmad Baba also was a great collector of books; he amassed a library containing thousands of volumes. At this time, Tombouctou, ruled by the Songhai empire, was renowned throughout the Islamic world as a center of learning.

In 1591 the sultan of Morocco invaded Tombouctou. Ahmad Baba and other scholars refused to serve the Moroccan rulers and, by some accounts, instigated a 1593 rebellion against ...

Article

religious teacher and expert in Islamic law in Timbuktu, was born 26 October 1556 in the village of Araouane, a few days north of Timbuktu by camel caravan. His full name was Abu al-Abbas Ahmad Baba ibn Ahmad ibn Ahmad ibn ʿUmar ibn Muhammad Aqit al-Sinhaji, al-Tinbukti. His father was Ahmad (1522–1583), his grandfather al hajj Ahmad (1458–1535), and his great grandfather Umar, the son of Muhammad Aqit, the celebrated patriarch of the Masufa Tuareg clan of Aqit (one of the most powerful families of Timbuktu).

Ahmad Baba was raised in Timbuktu, where he studied the hadith and Islamic law with his father and other Aqit family members. His most influential teacher was the famous scholar and historical figure Mahmud Bagayogo, author of numerous qurʾanic commentaries, whose acts of courage are recorded in al hajj Mahmud Kati’s Tarikh al fattash Prior to the Moroccan invasion ...

Article

José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva is best known for helping Brazil achieve independence in 1822. It is less often recognized that the year after independence he authored a plan for “the slow emancipation of the blacks.” In this plan he argued: “It is time, and more than time, for us to put a stop to a traffic so barbaric and butcherlike, time too for us to eliminate gradually the last traces of slavery among us, so that in a few generations we may be able to form a homogeneous nation, without which we shall never be truly free, respectable, and happy.”

Andrada e Silva argued that slavery was morally wrong and economically inefficient a violation of God s laws and the laws of justice and a corrupt influence over Brazil s inhabitants Slave labor he believed resulted in the slaveholders idleness and gave ordinary Brazilians little incentive to ...

Article

Ari Nave

Oral traditions recorded by Jesuit missionaries in the late eighteenth century suggest that Andriambélomàsina, ruler of the Imerina (the territory of the Merina ethnic group) from 1730 to 1770 , directed that his eldest son Andrianjàfy succeed him, followed by his grandson Ramboàsalàma, son of his eldest daughter. Andrianjàfy, however, intended for his own son to take his place and plotted to kill Ramboàsalàma, who, fearing for his life, fled to the north. Supported by a dozen Merina chiefs, Ramboàsalàma returned in 1787, overtaking the city of Ambohimànga and exiling his uncle, who was later killed.

Ramboàsalàma was crowned Andrianampoinimerina, “the prince in the heart of Imerina.” After consolidating power through treaties and marriage alliances and establishing a capital at Antananarivo in about 1795 Andrianampoinimerina also known as Nampoina began to expand the Merina Empire Eventually he controlled much of the island conquering and consolidating the Betsileo Sihanaka ...

Article

Asiento  

Colin Palmer

First introduced in 1595, the asiento (“trading contract”) was a monopoly contract awarded by Spain to individuals, joint stock companies, or nation-states to supply her colonies in the Americas with African slaves. The contract stipulated the number of slaves or, more accurately, piezas de Indias to be delivered annually for a fixed period of time, sometimes up to thirty years. The Spanish did not calculate slaves by individual head; a pieza de India, roughly an “Indian piece,” was a prime or standard slave against whom others would be measured. Slaves who possessed physical disabilities or who were too old or too young constituted a fraction of a pieza.

Prior to 1595 the Spanish awarded licenses to individual traders to supply the colonies with slaves. These licenses determined the number of piezas to be delivered at particular ports Several licenses could be awarded simultaneously Many licensees failed ...

Article

A governor under Ali, Muhammad rebelled against Ali's son and successor and in 1493 ascended the throne. Two years later he went on a prolonged pilgrimage to Mecca that became legendary both in Europe and the Middle East for its pomp and ostentation. On his return, Muhammad set out not only to enlarge his empire, but also to transform the previously African state into an Islamic kingdom. Although he failed in that effort, he restored Tombouctou as a center of faith and learning and favored Muslim scholars with grants of land and high posts in government. Refining the administrative machinery inherited from Ali, he established directorial positions—similar to those of modern cabinet ministers—for finance, justice, agriculture, and other affairs. Although more a statesman than a warrior, he added vast territories to his realm, extending his influence as far west as the Atlantic Ocean. In 1528 Muhammad was overthrown by ...

Article

The triangular shipping route of the slave trade largely formed the banking industry in England. British goods such as textiles, arms, and iron were exchanged for slaves in Africa, which were then transported to the West Indies and traded for sugar, tobacco, cotton, spices, and rum. The triangular trade was a system of immense earnings, as every ship sailed with a profitable cargo. The wealth generated by the triangular trade brought increased affluence to the planters who cultivated the West Indian produce, the merchant capitalists who sold the slaves, and the industrial capitalists who produced the British goods, which in turn demanded new banking facilities and functions.

Primary of these new requirements was insurance Shipowners and slave merchants themselves insured early voyages travelling the triangular trade route However the increasing amount of bills drawn against West Indian merchants and accumulated wealth soon required large scale insurance schemes most often drawn ...

Article

Patricia Reid-Merritt

social activist and spiritual adviser, was born Willie Taplin in the small rural town of Burton, Texas, the daughter of Nelson Taplin, a Baptist preacher, and Octavia, a Methodist congregant. A member of a large extended family, Barrow fondly recalled an upbringing steeped in strict traditional family values and old-time southern religion. She lived with her parents, six siblings, both sets of grandparents, and a great-grandmother in the family home, and they were sometimes joined by a cousin or two in need of temporary housing. The family lived together, worked together, and went to church together. Although they had limited economic resources, they grew the food that they needed on the family farm, and though she came to understand the family's poverty in later years, Barrow said that she never knew hunger as a child.

Barrow discovered her activist voice and spirit early in life Under the state sponsored ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

Dona Beatrice was born Kimpa Vita in the Kongo kingdom (present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo, or Congo Kinshasa). As a young woman, Vita (later baptized Beatrice and known as Dona Beatrice) led a religious movement to restore the empire to its former glory during a period of instability and fragmentation within the Kongo kingdom. Beatrice began her movement, later called Antonianism, in 1704, when she claimed to have had a near-death vision of Saint Anthony. She said the popular Portuguese saint appeared to her as an African, after which she died and came back to life as the saint. Soon afterward she began preaching a religious message that combined an anti-Catholic Christianity with Kongo culture, through which she hoped to reunite the Kongo kingdom.

Within months Beatrice established a church in the Kongo capital of São Salvador Although based on Christian theology Beatrice preached that the founders ...

Article

Belinda  

Jeremy Rich

author of the first known slave narrative by an African woman in the United States, and successful petitioner for reparations for her enslavement, was born around 1713. Some historians have argued that she was brought to the US from Ghana, because her petition noted that she had lived on the “Ria da Valta River,” which they viewed as a reference to the Volta River. However, she recalled praying in a sacred grove “to the great Orisa who made all things” as a child. Orisa deities are associated with spiritual traditions among Yoruba-speaking communities in southwestern Nigeria and parts of Benin.

Regardless of the exact location of her original home in her narrative she recalled her childhood as a happy one This peaceful world of groves gave way to the hardships of the Middle Passage European raiders came into her village when she was about twelve years of age whose ...

Article

Belinda  

Roy E. Finkenbine

who gained notoriety by petitioning for a portion of her former master's estate. Some scholars have labeled this the first African American call for reparations for slavery. Born in a village near the Volta River in the region of West Africa known as the Gold Coast (modern-day Ghana), Belinda spent her first years living a bucolic existence. That peace was broken at age eleven, when she was captured, sold into slavery, and transported to North America via the Middle Passage. For more than fifty years, she labored in bondage for her master, Isaac Royall, first in Antigua and then, after 1732, in Medford, Massachusetts. Royall, the largest slaveholder in the state, became an outspoken Loyalist and fled the colonies for Britain at the beginning of the American Revolution. After that, Belinda lived in an unofficial state of freedom until the Massachusetts courts ruled slavery unconstitutional in 1783 ...

Article

George C. Wright

journalist and lawyer, was born on the island of Saint Kitts in the West Indies. Details about his early life, including the names of his parents and the nature of his education, are unknown. In the fall of 1869 he arrived in New York, where he worked as soliciting agent for the New York Star and then as city editor for the Progressive American. Benjamin apparently became a U.S. citizen in the early 1870s, and in 1876 he gave speeches in support of Rutherford B. Hayes the Republican candidate for president He was rewarded with a position as a letter carrier in New York City but quit after nine months and moved to Kentucky where he taught school While there Benjamin also took up the study of law He continued his studies after being named principal of a school in Decatur Alabama and he was admitted to ...

Article

In the colonial and early national periods most slave jurisdictions developed elaborate systems of law for the regulation of blacks. These were generally known as slave codes, although they usually applied to free blacks as well. After independence a new genre of law, known as “black codes,” developed in a number of free states. These laws were designed to limit the growth of the state's free black population and to control the black population in those states. Ohio, which became a state in 1803, was the first to develop these laws. Indiana (1816) and Illinois (1819) adopted similar statutes.

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

Michael J. Ristich

journalist, musician, and politician, was born James Henri Burch in New Haven, Connecticut, to Charles Burch, a wealthy black minister, and his wife. Burch was the sole black student at Oswego Academy in New York, where he was trained in journalism and music. He lived in Buffalo, New York, before the Civil War, where he became involved in the antislavery movement and taught music. Burch became an active member in the Garnet League, which championed the rights of former slaves. Upon moving to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Burch quickly worked his way in the political circles of Louisiana, serving in the Louisiana House of Representatives and the Louisiana Senate.

At age thirty two with his father s encouragement Burch left the North for Louisiana to aid and educate free blacks during Reconstruction Soon thereafter Burch began directing the local school for blacks and began his rise through the Louisiana state ...