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Article

Charles Rosenberg

a Civil War soldier and veterans leader and Reconstruction-era legislator, was born and lived all of his life in Louisiana. Felix Antoine was born into the distinct community of gens de couleur libre, free persons of color, which existed in the New Orleans area and some other parts of Louisiana since French colonial times. His father was a veteran of the War of 1812, who fought under General Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans, and his mother was a native of the West Indies. His paternal grandmother was reputed to have been the daughter of an African prince, who purchased her freedom from slavery; she saved $150,000 as a free woman (Shreveport Journal obituary of C.C. Antoine, 14 Sept. 1921). Antoine was the younger brother of Louisiana Lt. Governor Caesar C. Antoine who moved from New Orleans to Shreveport prior to ...

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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 ...

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Michelle Kuhl

businessman, anti-lynching advocate, and pioneering member of Seattle, Washington's black middle class, was born in Kentucky, but exactly when or where has not been established. Some indications of Burdett's background, however, emerge from the 1850 census of Bullitt, Kentucky. One “Sam'l Burdett” is listed as a four-year-old black child living in the household of a white Burdette family headed by a fifty-year-old man named Pyton Burdett, who had a wife and seven children. A black woman named Louisa Burdett is also included in the household along with three black children, among them, “Sam'l.” The status of Louisa and her three children as either slaves or free persons is not indicated. Whatever her background in 1850, it is clear that ten years later Louisa had prospered. In 1860 the Bullitt Kentucky census listed Louisa Burdett 36 with three children including a fourteen year old Samuel living in their ...

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Connie Park Rice

newspaper editor and civil rights lawyer, was born in Williamsport, Virginia (later West Virginia), the youngest of three sons born to Isaac Clifford, a farmer, and Mary Satilpa Kent, free blacks living in Hardy County. John Robert joined the Union army on 3 March 1865, rising to the rank of corporal in the 13th U.S. Heavy Artillery. After serving in Kentucky, Tennessee, and eastern Virginia under General Ulysses S. Grant, Clifford volunteered for service at Chicago, Illinois.

After the Civil War, Clifford remained in Chicago, staying from 1865 to 1868 with the Honorable John J. Healy, an acquaintance of his father, and graduating from Chicago High School. Clifford worked as a barber before going to live with an uncle in Zeno, Muskingum County, Ohio, where he attended a school taught by Miss Effie McKnight and received a diploma from a writing school conducted by a Professor ...

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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

Donald Yacovone

Civil War soldier, reformer, and businessman, was the second of five children of the abolitionist leader and orator Frederick Douglass (1818–1895) and Anna Murray Douglass (1813–1882). Lewis, born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where his father settled shortly after his flight from slavery, proved the most successful of the Douglass children and the one his father most relied upon in later years. After the family moved to Rochester, New York, the eight-year-old Lewis and his siblings became beneficiaries of his father's successful efforts to desegregate the city's public schools—a tradition that Lewis maintained as an adult when he lived in the District of Columbia. As soon as he was old enough, he helped his father with the publication of his antislavery newspapers and after his father fled Federal authorities in the wake of John Brown's 1859 raid at Harpers Ferry the nineteen ...

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Angela Bates

buffalo soldier, pioneer settler, and entrepreneur, was born in Lafayette County, Mississippi, to a Native American mother and an African American father. At the age of fourteen he boarded a riverboat on the Mississippi River and became a cabin boy. During the Civil War, Garland served as a Union volunteer. After the war, in 1867, he joined the Tenth U.S. Cavalry and was assigned to Company F at Leavenworth, Kansas. Leavenworth became the first headquarters for the Tenth U.S. Cavalry. In 1866 the U S Congress designated the Ninth and Tenth Cavalries and the Twenty fourth and Twenty fifth Infantries These regiments were composed solely of African Americans except for their white officers the soldiers of these regiments were the first to officially serve in the military after the Civil War After training Company F was assigned to forts in western Kansas responsible for a ...

Article

Paul Devlin

professional musician and soldier in the French and Indian War and War of Independence, was the freeborn progenitor of a large Groton, Massachusetts, family. The family later spent time in Dracut and Pepperell, where they owned land. His father, Primus Lew, was a skilled artisan (a cooper, or barrel maker) and it is unclear if he was ever a slave and later freed, or was himself freeborn. The historian Benjamin Quarles claimed that Barzillai Lew was also a cooper, and it has been claimed that Primus was also a musician. His mother was named Margret; nothing else about her is known. Father and son both served in the French and Indian War, with Barzillai (also known as “Zeal”) serving for thirty-eight weeks in 1760 under the command of Thomas Farrington. In 1768 he married Dinah Bowman whose freedom he bought for $400 They later had at ...

Article

Amber Moulton-Wiseman

activist, was born into slavery in Virginia. The names of his parents are unknown. During the Civil War he escaped slavery and in 1864 aided the Eighth Illinois Cavalry Regiment in defense of Washington, D.C. In 1875 Morton migrated to California where he was active in Republican Party politics and rose to become one of the best-known African American activists in the west. In 1888 he married a Canadian, Clara, who had immigrated to the United States.

In 1890, when T. Thomas Fortune founded the National Afro-American League—an organization for civil rights and uplift and early predecessor to groups like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People—Morton was quick to recognize the league's potential. By 1891 he had organized a San Francisco branch of the Afro American League which attracted 150 prominent black Californians to its inaugural congress Morton acted as president of the ...

Article

Chandra M. Miller

Reconstruction politician and U.S. congressman, was born in Opelousas, Louisiana, the son of free blacks Richard Nash and Masie Cecile. He received little public school education and as a young man worked as a bricklayer in New Orleans.

In 1863 nineteen-year-old Nash joined the Tenth Regiment of the Corps d'Afrique, later renamed the Eighty-second U.S. Colored Infantry. He joined the army as a private but was soon promoted to the rank of sergeant major. Nash's regiment fought at the Battle of Port Hudson, Louisiana, and was involved in the last infantry battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Fort Blakely, Alabama, in April 1865 While storming Fort Blakely Nash received wounds that cost him most of his right leg and earned him an honorable discharge Apparently about ten days before his discharge he received promotion to first lieutenant but the promotion was not approved His ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

Seminole Negro Scout and Medal of Honor Recipient, was a native of Florida. While nothing specific is known about Payne's life prior to his military service, his ancestors were formerly enslaved before running away and seeking refuge with the friendly Seminole Tribe in Florida. Indeed, the Seminoles treated the large number of black runaways that sought freedom so well that many became assimilated within the tribe, adopting its language and culture. When Payne left Florida for the southwest is unknown; he may, as several biographers claim, have been among the last group of native peoples that traveled on the Trail of Tears after 1842 when the U.S. government forcibly expelled most of the remaining Seminole Tribe after the end of the long-running Seminole War to territory in what is now Oklahoma.

Payne began his military service on 12 November 1873 enlisting in the U S Army as an Indian ...

Article

Vickey Kalambakal

soldier, ranchero, and politician, was born at the Presidio of San Diego, one of the twelve children of María Eustaquia Gutierrez and José María Pico. His father, like many immigrant men, was a soldier at the Presidio or fort, and he died when Andrés was nine. After his death, the Presidio helped support his widow and children. Andrés Pico's maternal and paternal grandparents had arrived in California in 1776 with two hundred immigrants in an expedition led by Lieutenant Colonel Juan Bautista de la Anza. Like most families who journeyed from New Spain (Mexico), they were poor and of mixed race: African, Indian, and possibly Spanish. Census records classified Andrés Pico's grandmother and uncles as “mulatos.”

After working as a customs official and managing his brother's ranch, Pico chose a military career in the 1830s and rose through the ranks, becoming a captain in 1844 ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

Civil War soldier and Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Stark County, Ohio. His father was a native of Virginia, while his mother was from Pennsylvania. Federal Census records of 1870 classify Robert Pinn as a “Mulatto,” an indicator that one of his parents was probably white, or perhaps that he was fair in complexion. Little is known about Pinn's early life, but he was most likely raised in Massillon, Canton, or the surrounding area in Stark County. The early years of the Civil War found Pinn a resident of Massilon, Ohio, making a living as a farmer. At the age of twenty, on 15 September 1863, Pinn set aside his farming tools and traveled the eighty-odd miles westward to the town of Delaware to enlist in the 127th Ohio Regiment, the state's first regiment of black soldiers raised to fight in the Civil War.

Little prior ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

slave, soldier, and politician, was born and reared in Beaufort, South Carolina, to parents whose names are unknown. Little is known of Rivers's life other than that he was literate, was raised in the home of his master, and was working as a coachman both in Beaufort and in Edgefield, South Carolina, on the eve of the Civil War. Reputedly the finest coachman in Beaufort, he once drove the Confederate general P. G. T. Beauregard from that city to Charleston. Rivers was also a recognized leader of the slave community of Beaufort and was once chosen to present a petition to the governor of South Carolina requesting the redress of certain grievances. It is unknown whether he was successful. He was married to Rina Green, also a slave, who lived on a neighboring plantation.

In 1862 shortly after federal forces occupied Beaufort and other South ...

Article

Alice Eley Jones

carpenter, statesman, and inventor, was born free in Bertie County, North Carolina, the eldest son of John A. Robbins, a farmer and carpenter, and Mary Robbins. Robbins hailed from a family and community of mixed-race, free black, and Chowanoke background in the counties of Bertie, Gates, and Hertford in northeastern North Carolina. The Algonquian-speaking Chowanokes lived on the west bank of the Chowan River that bears their name in northeastern North Carolina. Governor Ralph Lane was impressed by their villages in a 1585 Roanoke Island expedition. Parker's grandfather John Robbins was one of the chief men of the Chowanokes in 1790.

War and disease greatly reduced the Chowanoke population, and by 1790 during a sale of Chowanoke land it was reported whether falsely or not is unknown that the Chowanoke men had all died and the remaining women had intermarried with several free ...

Article

Juanita Patience Moss

slave, Union soldier, and Andersonville prisoner, was born in Windsor, North Carolina, to unknown parents. His surname sometimes appears as Rolack. His physical description was that of a man five feet six inches tall with hazel eyes, brown hair, and a light complexion. Though historians have done much to illuminate the roles of black soldiers in black regiments, the U.S. Colored Troops (USCT), little has been done to document the experience and contributions of those who served with white regiments.

When Union regiments penetrated the Southern states to blockade Confederate access to the Atlantic coast for the exchange of cotton and tobacco for European guns and ammunition slaves began to abscond from nearby towns and plantations to seek out the Union troops whose presence promised freedom Not satisfied with being merely paid laborers behind Yankee lines some contrabands like Rolac chose to enlist in the Union army ...

Article

Barton A. Myers

abolitionist, activist, soldier, and journalist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennysylvania, to William and Mary Stephens, free African Americans who had fled Virginia's eastern shore in the wake of the Nat Turner rebellion. Little is known of Stephens's early education, but he likely attended a combination of segregated primary schools in Philadelphia and the Sunday school of the First African Baptist, a fervently abolitionist church that his parents attended. Prior to the war Stephens worked as a cabinetmaker, a skilled position that offered him elite status in the urban Philadelphia black community.

Stephens's antebellum exploits included a wide range of civic and political activities. In 1853 he helped found the Banneker Institute, an African American literary society and library, honoring Benjamin Banneker the African American scientist and inventor While working with the society he met influential white leaders including General Oliver Otis Howard later head ...

Article

Joel M. Sipress

soldier and political leader, was born in Charleston, South Carolina. Nothing is known of Ward's parents, and little of his early life, but he was raised a slave in Virginia, and became free during the Civil War. In January 1864 he enlisted in the First United States Colored Cavalry, a federal regiment organized in late 1863 in the Tidewater region of Virginia. A month after enlistment Ward was promoted to sergeant, a rank he held until his discharge in February 1866. Ward's service included duty in Virginia at Fortress Monroe, in Hampton, and in Richmond. During the war he received a bullet wound through the knee.

Following his discharge, he settled in Portsmouth, Virginia, where he worked as a carpenter. In October 1867 Ward reenlisted and served in the Thirty ninth United States Colored Infantry While stationed at Ship Island Mississippi he contracted a serious illness most likely ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

lawyer, politician, and judge, was born William James Whipper, probably in Glenville, Pennsylvania, one of the four children of Benjamin P. Whipper, who later became a minister in Chatham, Canada. There is some uncertainty about the name of William's mother, which in certain sources is given as Mary Ann (maiden name unknown), and in others is recorded as Sophia Patterson. Part of the confusion may have been caused by William J. Whipper himself, who often claimed that his father was the famed Underground Railroad conductor William Whipper who was in fact Benjamin s brother Not long after his family moved from Pennsylvania to Chatham Canada William appears to have returned to the United States By the late 1850s he was working as a law clerk in Detroit Michigan and later passed the bar exam in that state having earlier failed it in Ohio Around ...

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John Hope Franklin

soldier, clergyman, legislator, and historian, was born in Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania, the son of Thomas Williams, a free black laborer, and Ellen Rouse. His father became a boatman and, eventually, a minister and barber, and the younger Williams drifted with his family from town to town in western Pennsylvania until the beginning of the Civil War. With no formal education, he lied about his age, adopted the name of an uncle, and enlisted in the United States Colored Troops in 1864. He served in operations against Petersburg and Richmond, sustaining multiple wounds during several battles. After the war's end Williams was stationed in Texas, but crossed the border to fight with the Mexican republican forces that overthrew the emperor Maximilian. He returned to the U.S. Army in 1867 serving with the Tenth Cavalry an all black unit at Fort Arbuckle Indian Territory ...