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Pamela Lee Gray

wood carver, sculptor, and folk artist, was born Jesse James Aaron in Lake City, Florida, to descendants of slaves and Seminole Indians. Aaron attended school for less than one year before he was sent to work as a contract laborer for local farms. Trained as a baker when he was twenty-one years old, he found he enjoyed the creativity it required. He opened several bakeries, worked as a cook at Gainesville's Hotel Thomas from 1933 to 1937, and then cooked for a variety of fraternities and hospitals in Florida. Aaron also worked as a cook aboard the Seaboard Air Line Railroad during this time.

Aaron married Leeanna Jenkins, and when the family settled in northwest Gainesville in the 1930s they opened a nursery. From this point until 1968 when Aaron became a folk artist at the age of eighty one it is difficult to determine what is ...

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Steven J. Niven

slave, wagon driver, steamboat laborer, and sawmill worker, was born in Petersburg, Virginia, the son of Aaron and Louisa. Aarons had two siblings, but neither their names nor the surnames of his parents have been recorded. Considering that Charlie's father's first name was Aaron, Charlie probably adopted his father's first name as his own surname upon emancipation. The historian Eugene D. Genovese has argued that after the Civil War many former slaves rejected the surnames assigned to them when they were in bondage and adopted new ones often choosing surnames entitles the slaves called them that connected them to their fathers or to other relatives Some celebrated their newfound liberty by creating new surnames such as Freedman or Justice Genovese notes that in the first decade of emancipation freedmen and freedwomen changed their surnames frequently so that as one freedwoman put it if the white folks get together ...

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John G. Turner

Latter-day Saint elder and Utah pioneer, was born in northern Maryland to Andrew Abel and Delila Williams. Abel left the area as a young man. Little is known of his early life; it is unclear whether he was born enslaved or free. One later census identified Abel as a “quadroon,” but others listed him as “Black” or “Mulatto.”

In 1832, Abel was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and soon gathered with the Mormons in Kirtland, Ohio. In 1836, he was ordained to the church's Melchizedek or higher priesthood, making him one of a very small number of African American men to “hold the priesthood” during the church's early years. An expectation for all righteous adult male members of the church, priesthood meant the possibility of leadership positions and the authority to perform ordinances. In December 1836 Abel had become a ...

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Charles Rosenberg

landowner, businessman, and state legislator, was born enslaved in Dallas County Alabama, to parents named Sarah and Pete, who had been born in South Carolina. David, like his parents, was the property of a family named Abner. There is some dispute as to his birth date—some giving 1826 and others 1838—but the most reliable date appears to be December 1820, as suggested by a letter from his youngest daughter. It is not known when David took the Abner surname for himself, a common but by no means universal practice for formerly enslaved persons. He was sent to Texas in 1843, driving a covered wagon for the newly married daughter (Thelma) of the man who held title to him.

Her father considered his new son in law unreliable and entrusted David to get his daughter safely to her new home and manage ...

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Brenda E. Stevenson

O, ye daughters of Africa, awake! awake! arise! No longer sleep nor slumber, but distinguish yourselves. Show forth to the world that ye are endowed with noble and exalted faculties.

(Maria Stewart, 1831)

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Richard S. Newman, Paul Finkelman and Carl E. Prince

[This entry contains three subentries dealing with abolitionism from the late seventeenth century through the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in1865. The first article discusses the definition of abolitionism as differentiated from antislavery activism and its forms including Garrisonian and non Garrisonian abolition The second article describes ...

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During the three decades that preceded the Civil War, abolitionism was a major factor in electoral politics. Most historians use the term abolitionism to refer to antislavery activism between the early 1830s, when William Lloyd Garrison began publishing The Liberator, and the American Civil War (1861–1865). The term also refers to the antislavery crusade that mobilized many African Americans and a small minority of whites, who saw their goal realized during the Civil War. Historians also commonly distinguish abolitionism, a morally grounded and uncompromising social reform movement, from political antislavery—represented, for example, by the Free Soil or Republican parties—which advocated more limited political solutions, such as keeping slavery out of the western territories of the United States, and was more amenable to compromise.

Abolitionists played a key role in setting the terms of the debate over slavery and in making it a compelling moral issue Yet abolitionists ...

Primary Source

As though the continuing carnage of the Civil War wasn t enough President Abraham Lincoln had to contend with members of his own Republican Party those interested in advancing the cause of their own legislative authority and a highly punitive plan for national Reconstruction By 1864 the debate over the projected remaking of the broken Union was already well underway Some among the radicals in Lincoln s party feared the sometimes moderate chief executive would advance lenient policies allowing the traitor states to come too quickly back into the federal fold One result was the Wade Davis bill proffered by Senator Benjamin Wade of Ohio and Representative Henry Wade of Maryland Besides requiring at least 50 percent of a state s inhabitants to swear their ironclad fealty to the federal union the Wade Davis bill also provided for the punishment of high ranking government officials and for the explicit illegalization ...

Article

Mark Clague and John H. Zimmerman

flutist, composer, bandmaster, music educator, journalist, and hotelier, was born in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Danish West Indies (later U.S. Virgin Islands) and is remembered as the U.S. Navy's first African American bandmaster. Adams was the son of Jacob Henry Adams, a carpenter, and Petrina Evangeline Dinzey, a tailor; both his parents were members of the black artisan class centered around St. Thomas's port. This culture celebrated music and literature and instilled the young Adams with values of hard work and self-education. Although professional musicians were unknown in the Virgin Islands in his youth, Adams dreamt of a musical career inspired by his deeply held belief that music was not just entertainment, but vital to community health.

Adams attended elementary school and apprenticed as a carpenter and then a shoemaker choosing his trade based on the musical abilities of his master ...

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Karen Backstein

dancer and arts administrator, was born in New York City, the daughter of Julius J. Adams, a journalist who rose to managing editor of the New York Amsterdam News, and Olive A. Adams, an accomplished pianist. Her parents cultivated in her a deep appreciation of the arts, as well as a legacy of social activism that stayed with Adams throughout her life—both during her career as a dancer and after her retirement from the stage, when she helped found community-based arts centers for children in Harlem. The dance writer Muriel Topaz described the Adamses' home as a “center of social and political activity,” and noted that the Global News Syndicate, an organization of black newspapers, was founded in their small apartment (Topaz, 30).

When she was eight years old Adams entered New York s progressive Ethical Culture School an institution dedicated to the moral as well ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

militia leader, was born in Georgia to parents whose names have not been recorded. Some sources list his name as Doc Adams. He was probably born a slave, as were the vast majority of African Americans in Augusta's cotton-rich hinterlands in the late 1830s; the 1840 U.S. census lists fewer than two hundred free blacks in Richmond County. As a carpenter Adams, like other slave artisans, may have been able to hire out his time, and he may have saved enough money to purchase his freedom. In any case Adams joined the Union army during the Civil War, and he acquired enough money to purchase five hundred acres of land—worth three thousand dollars—near Nashville, Georgia, where he lived for a time after hostilities ended in 1865. By 1872 he had returned to Augusta where he earned good wages working as a boss carpenter Adams was also involved ...

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Kenneth Wayne Howell

cowboy and rancher, may have been born into slavery and escaped from bondage before the Civil War, though information about his life prior to his arrival in southwest Texas in the 1870s is limited. Based on stories he later told to his co-workers it seems likely that Adams spent his early adult life working as a cowboy in the brush country region of Texas, probably south and west of San Antonio. Given the circumstance of his birth and the times in which George came of age, he never received a formal education. As recent historical scholarship has made clear, black cowboys on the Texas plains enjoyed greater freedoms than did African Americans living in more settled regions of the state. However, their freedoms were always tainted by the persistent racism that prevailed during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. George Adams's life was a vivid example of ...

Article

Michael Bieze

artist, was born in Colquitt County, Georgia, son of John Henry Adams, a former slave and preacher in the Methodist Church, and Mittie Rouse. Many questions surround Adams's early life. While he reported in an Atlanta Constitution article (23 June 1902) that he came from a humble background, his father served parishes throughout Georgia. According to the History of the American Negro and His Institutions (1917), Adams Sr. was a man of accomplishment, leading black Georgians in a colony in Liberia for two years and receiving two honorary doctorates, from Bethany College and Morris Brown University. Educated in Atlanta schools, Adams claimed in the Atlanta Constitution article to have traveled to Philadelphia in the late 1890s to take art classes at the Drexel Institute of Art, Science, and Industry (later Drexel University). Drexel, established in 1891 opened its doors to a diverse student ...

Primary Source

In the long tradition of American social activism the influence of the sisters Grimké looms large Natives of South Carolina Sarah Grimké and the younger Angelina Grimké Weld were among their country s earliest proponents of equal rights for all Americans as well as for that most cherished of liberal institutions the universal adult franchise They were also fierce abolitionists a position that frequently earned them the derision of male observers not a few of whom were their fellows in the fight against the institution of slavery who reckoned such political posturing unfit for women of good breeding The sisters also dared to shine a light on the rape of female slaves and had the temerity to suggest a sisterhood among women of all colors again to the outraged brays of Southern slaveholders and Northern abolitionists alike Too early for their time the convictions and beliefs of the sisters Grimké ...

Primary Source

Following the Civil War, Mississippi was the first state to enact a so-called Black Code, a set of laws designed to control the behavior, movement, and opportunities of the newly freed slaves. In effect, the laws codified the vigilante system of justice used to control minor offenses such as vagrancy, shifting it to the courts and the state bureaucracy. Blacks had to carry identification proving that they were employed and remained subject to humiliating and violent corporal punishments. The system was designed to make it nearly impossible for freed slaves to leave the homes of their former masters. Even when Congress attempted to repeal the Black Codes with the Civil Rights Act of 1866, southern states continued to implement statutes that gave local law enforcement agencies increased discretion with little oversight.

South Carolina s version of the Black Codes was even more extensive and within a generation helped to wipe ...

Article

Scott Alves Barton

Evidence of African, African American influence in food and foodways begins in the seventeenth century in the New York colony’s Dutch and British “Meal Market” that operated from 1655 to 1762 on Wall Street and the East River where enslaved Africans were also sold. Men, women, and children worked as market vendors of prepared foods like hot corn, fresh produce, oysters, fish, livestock, and as dairymen and -women selling cheeses, butter, and milk in local markets. In addition, the African Burial Ground’s archaeology of colonial privies identifies products such as Brazil nuts, coconut, and watermelon that were not native to New York or Europe. Colonizers may have imported some these goods, but the enslaved would have known how to process or raise them (Cheek and Roberts, 2009; Berlin 1996; Burrows and Wallace 1999 At the same time West African women cooking in elite white colonial and ...

Article

Since Methodism first emerged in colonial America, it has consistently attracted African American adherents. According to religious scholar Alfred J. Raboteau, “the direct appeal, dramatic preaching, and plain doctrine of the Methodists, their conscious identification with the ‘simpler sort,’ and especially their antislavery beliefs” drew blacks to the church. Indeed, African Americans had been members of New York City's John Street Methodist Church since its founding in 1768. By 1793 black membership increased to 40 percent of John Street's congregation.

Still, African Americans within the John Street Church—and within American Methodism in general—were treated as second-class citizens. They were denied ordination, forced to sit in segregated pews, and limited in their access to the Methodist itinerant clergy and the Communion table. Frustrated by such treatment, two black John Street members, Peter Williams, and William Miller, founded the African Chapel in 1796 The chapel was later ...

Article

John Marinelli

teacher and abolitionist, said in a letter of protest to the Hartford Courant that he was born to enslaved parents, but their names are unknown. Slavery was not formally abolished in New York State until 1827, and the census of 1820 recorded 518 slaves in New York City. One source suggests that Africanus was born in New York City in 1822; it is possible that he may have been connected to the brothers Edward Cephas Africanus and Selas H. Africanus, who taught at a black school in Long Island in the 1840s. Africanus is now remembered only through his few published writings and journalistic documentation of his actions; the earliest records of his activity in Connecticut date from 1849 when he attended a Colored Men s Convention and a suffrage meeting His most notable publication was the broadside he created to warn Hartford African Americans about ...

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Article

Octavia Victoria Rogers Albert is best known for her volume of collected slave narratives, The House of Bondage, or Charlotte Brooks and Other Slaves (1890). The collection assembles the brief narratives (as told to Albert) of seven former slaves whose earnest testimonies, Albert believed, exposed the brutality of slaveholding in general and the hypocrisy of Christian slaveholding in particular. But more importantly, the narratives demonstrated, according to Albert, the narrators’ spiritual courage and strong Christian faith.

Albert was born a slave on 12 December 1824 in Oglethorpe Georgia but neither slavery nor its far reaching effects stifled her achievements After the Civil War she attended Atlanta University and became a teacher interviewer and researcher Asserting that the complete story of slavery had not been told she invited former slaves into her home taught some to read and write sang hymns and read scriptures to others and encouraged ...