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Article

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

Jacob Andrew Freedman

soldier, minister, and social activist, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the youngest of the six children of Levi Allensworth and Phyllis (maiden name unknown), slaves of the Starbird family. The Starbirds were respected members of the community and were partners in Wilson, Starbird, and Smith, a wholesale drug company based in Louisville. Levi died when Allen was an infant. Phyllis's other five children either had been sold down the Mississippi River or had escaped to Canada. Phyllis hoped that Allen could “even if partly educated, win his freedom” (Alexander, 9). Believing that God would play a role in his redemption as well, Phyllis named Allen after Richard Allen, the founder and first bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. In Allen Allensworth's early years he was given to Thomas Starbird, Mrs. Starbird's son, as a companion.

When Thomas was sent to school Allensworth s ...

Article

Robert Ross

South African businessman, also known as Harry the Strandloper, was born a member of the Khoesan group known as the Goringhaikona, who lived mainly in the vicinity of Table Bay, where modern Cape Town is situated. The group was known to the Europeans as “strandlopers” (beachcombers) because they acquired the majority of their subsistence by harvesting the resources of the sea, including shellfish, sea fish, and marine mammals, including seals, for which on occasion they visited Robben Island in the bay. No doubt they also collected plants as appropriate. They had few, if any, cattle or sheep.

At the time of Autshumao s birth European ships were beginning to use Table Bay with increasing frequency in order to take on fresh water and firewood and to leave messages for each other This provided an evident opportunity for those Africans living in the neighborhood Autshumao quickly came to take advantage of ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

pioneer settler in Los Angeles County, California, in the 1850s, blacksmith, teamster, firewood salesman, and landowner, was born in Kentucky around 1827. Although it is commonly assumed that he had been enslaved there, he arrived in California a free man prior to the Civil War, and nothing has been established about his previous life.

He was married on 6 November 1859 to a woman named Amanda, born in Texas, by Jesse Hamilton, the earliest pastor of First African Methodist Episcopal church, Los Angeles. Their first two children, Dora and Julia, were born in 1857 and 1859. In 1860 the household included a laborer named Juan Jose, recorded by the census as being of Indian ancestry. Another man of African descent, Oscar Smith from Mississippi lived next door and no race was specified for the other neighbors who had either English or Hispanic names ...

Primary Source

Lucy Terry Prince was probably born in 1730 in Africa. Brought to the colonies while still very young, she was purchased at the age of five by Ebenezer Wells of Deerfield, Vermont, who had her baptized in 1735 and taught her to read and write. At fourteen she became a member of Wells's church. On 25 August 1746, when she was sixteen, Indians raided the town of Deerfield, in an area known as “The Bars.” The young enslaved woman wrote a poem commemorating the event, and it is clear from the tone that Lucy Terry's affection for her neighbors was not marred by a sense of racial inferiority or even self-consciousness. The poem itself was treasured in Deerfield and handed down from generation to generation. It was published in 1855 in History of Western Massachusetts by Josiah Gilbert Holland This is the only extant poem by Terry but there ...

Article

Robert H. Gudmestad

Black migration within colonial America was a result of the demand for labor and the dynamics of white migration in the region. As the American economy grew and settlers pushed into new territory, black migration increased and became a regular feature of life.

Article

Graham Russell Hodges and Thomas Adams Upchurch

[This entry contains two subentries dealing with black nationalism from the seventeenth century slave trade through the late nineteenth century The first article discusses the first formations of African national identities and the influence of various revolutions on black nationalism while the second focuses on the most significant figures ...

Article

Kathleen Thompson

Black women have been the cultural, social, and economic support of black towns in America for centuries. There were Senegalese enclaves in Louisiana in the 1700s. In the late eighteenth century, Star Hill, Delaware, was created by free blacks on land they acquired from the Quaker community in Camden. Brooklyn, Illinois, was founded by free blacks and fugitive slaves in 1820. As early as 1830, Frank McWhorter, or “Free Frank,” had founded the town of New Philadelphia, Illinois. Sandy Ground, New York, was created by black oyster fishermen fleeing the restrictions on free blacks in Maryland.

In 1825Elijah Roberts and his wife Kessiah led a group of free African Americans, many of whom were part Cherokee, from North Carolina to Hamilton County, Indiana, to start a settlement. Many of the settlers were members of the Roberts family, which had been free since 1734 ...

Article

Betti Carol VanEpps-Taylor

farmer, patriarch, and founder of the Sully County Colored Colony, Dakota Territory (South Dakota became a state in 1889), was born in slavery, probably in Tennessee, and was freed at Emancipation. He married Mary Elizabeth Bagby Blair, reported to be half Cherokee. With their six adult children they founded South Dakota's only successful black agricultural colony. Five years out of slavery the family was farming near Morris, Illinois, about fifty miles southwest of Chicago. With substantial personal property, they held their land “free and clear.” An oral tradition among South Dakota African Americans suggests that Blair's successful bloodline of fast horses, his unseemly prosperity, and his interest in expanding his lands aroused jealousy among his white neighbors in Illinois, prompting him to consider relocating to Dakota Territory.

Sully County, just east of present‐day Pierre, South Dakota, opened for settlement in April 1883 The following year Norval Blair ...

Article

Paul Finkelman

Spanish soldiers, priests, and settlers brought slaves and free blacks into California in the eighteenth century, and it is estimated that by the 1780s half of the non-Indian residents of Los Angeles were black, and most of these were slaves. A Spanish census in 1790 found that 18 percent of the colony was of African origin. Mexico abolished slavery following independence, and by the time of the Mexican War (1846–1848) the black population was a tiny percent of the total population. In 1845 William Leidsdorff, whose father was Danish and whose mother was a West Indian slave, was briefly in the American diplomatic corps, representing the interests of the United States government in California.

The gold rush led to a huge growth in the population and some southerners seeking to make their fortune brought their slaves with them The status of slavery in California illustrated the tension between ...

Article

Betti Carol VanEpps-Taylor

the first non-Indian woman to view the Black Hills. Conflicting information exists about her early years, but all sources agree that she was born in Kentucky, in 1813 or perhaps 1824. The 1813 date appeared in one of her obituaries. In later years she told of traveling up the Missouri River on the first steamboat in 1831, perhaps as a servant, cook, or lady's maid. Employment on the riverboats plying the Missouri River trade from St. Louis north during the mid-1800s provided opportunities for many black Americans to experience a measure of freedom, save some money, and have an adventure. Often they settled in one of the many northern river ports. Sarah Campbell made the most of that opportunity She worked many years on the river before purchasing property in the river town of Bismarck in present day North Dakota a territory when Campbell settled there North ...

Article

Canada  

Gloria Grant Roberson

The passing of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 created an atmosphere of anxiety and urgency for abolitionists, who encouraged many slave men, women, and children to leave the South and travel north. Roused with news of the Underground Railroad—a network of antislavery advocates who would provide guidance, food, and shelter along the way—slaves gathered together in secret to plan escape. Comforted by news of blacks living free in Canadian settlements with housing, employment, and dignity, those who were resolute prodded the undecided. Runaways were instructed to travel under the cover of darkness—over mountains, through forests, across waterways—always heading north, where liberal sentiments promised to shield them from the slaveholders' encroachment on their right to be free. But was Canada really the utopia that abolitionists promised and enslaved men and women imagined?

The efforts of people who labored on the Underground Railroad to deliver fugitive slaves to Canadian shores truly ...

Article

Paul Finkelman and Sam Hitchmough

[This entry contains three subentries dealing with civil rights from 1619 to 1895 The first article provides a discussion of the topic during the colonial period through the American Revolution the second article discusses the topic up to the beginning of the Civil War in 1861 and the third ...

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

Peter Hudson

The history of black people in Canada can be dated from the early seventeenth-century expeditions of French explorer Pierre du Gua sieur de Monts Traveling with du Gua was an African man Mathieu da Costa who worked as an interpreter between the French and the indigenous Mic Mac people ...

Article

legendary founder of the Chadian kingdom of Baguirmi, was apparently born in the early sixteenth century. Given the wealth of legends about his life and the lack of documentary evidence, it may be that stories involving Dala Birni Bisse may refer to events linked to several early mbang kings of Baguirmi Many oral traditions collected about Dala Birni Bisse claim that his grandfather ʿAbd al Tukruru was the great grandson of ʿAli son in law of the prophet Muhammad Supposedly ʿAbd al Tukruru s father Muhammad Baguirmi was a black child of two Arabian parents who was nearly killed by his angry relatives ʿAbd al Tukruru advised his twelve sons and twelve of their friends to leave Yemen and establish a kingdom somewhere to the west They brought with them bellows made of stone from the holy city of Medina three drums three trumpets and three lances carried by ...

Article

Detroit  

Stephanie J. Wilhelm

From its establishment as a territory through its statehood and involvement with the Underground Railroad, Michigan had an intimate relationship with the institution of slavery. The city of Detroit, specifically, was the cornerstone of antislavery activity in Michigan. Known as the gateway or door to freedom, Detroit served as a safe haven for many runaway slaves before they secured their freedom across the Detroit River into Canada. Detroit's significance as a geographical location on the Underground Railroad was further reinforced when Frederick Douglass, John Brown, and many other leading abolitionists met in the city in March 1859 to discuss possible ways of subverting the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. This meeting, along with the coordinated efforts of others who worked tirelessly on the Underground Railroad, underscores the integral role the people of Detroit played in securing the freedom of thousands of slaves.

Long before European explorers arrived ...

Article

Eric J. Morgan

Portuguese ex-plorer, was born around 1451. Details of his early life are unknown, though some scholars believe Dias may have been related to João Dias and Diniz Dias, other prominent Portuguese explorers of the fifteenth century. Bartolomeu Dias was the first European to sail around the southern coast of Africa, which he accomplished in 1488. Born into a prominent noble family, by his mid-thirties Dias was a member of the Portuguese royal court, in charge of the crown’s warehouse of goods, and an accomplished sailor. Dias had accompanied the nobleman Diogo de Azambuja on his expedition to the Gold Coast in 1481, where São Jorge da Mina, a Portuguese fort on the Gulf of Guinea, was constructed. On 10 October 1486 King John II of Portugal appointed Dias as the head of an expedition to sail around Africa to find a trade route to India The ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

African-born slave who became one of the first Spanish explorers of North America, was probably born somewhere in Morocco in the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century. No sources are available for his early life. His travel companion Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca reported that Esteban was born in the Portuguese-controlled town of Azemmour, Morocco, around 1513. He may have been bought there and brought from elsewhere in Morocco or had come from somewhere else in the north of West Africa. He may also have chosen to sell himself into slavery to improve his life, given Azemmour’s numerous economic and environmental problems. He converted to Christianity after his enslavement. In 1520 he was sold to Andrés Dorantes de Carranza, a Spanish aristocrat. When Dorantes decided to make his fortune in North America in 1527, Esteban joined him.

This expedition led by Pánfilo Narváez of five caravels left Spain ...

Article

Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable's biography combines conjecture and lore with a few established facts. He was probably born in St. Marc, Saint Domingue (present-day Haiti) around 1750 to a French mariner and an African-born slave. He may have been educated in Paris and employed as a sailor during his young adult life. Du Sable entered North America through either Louisiana or French Canada, and first appeared in historical documents in 1779, when a British officer in the Great Lakes region reported that the local trader “Baptist Point de Sable” was “much in the interest of the French.”

The British detained Du Sable for suspected “intercourse with the enemy,” but he soon impressed his captors as a well-educated and highly capable frontiersman. British governor Patrick Sinclair sent Du Sable to the Saint Clair River region to manage trade and serve as a liaison between Native Americans and ...