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Article

Kelly Boyer Sagert

Aaron Anthony was the seventh and youngest child of James and Ester Anthony. Neither parent could read or write, and the family eked out a living farming a plot of marshy land on the two-hundred-acre Hackton plantation, owned by relatives. The land was east of Tuckahoe Creek in the town known as Tuckahoe Neck, in Talbot County, Maryland.

Anthony's father died in 1769, leaving Ester and her seven offspring—five of whom were still children—to fend for themselves. Unlike his parents, Anthony learned to read, write, and calculate simple sums. As a young man working on cargo boats on the Choptank River and in Chesapeake Bay, he earned enough money to invest in property. In 1795 he gained employment as a captain at a salary of two hundred dollars per year, hauling and transporting both goods and people for the wealthy colonel Edward Lloyd IV who owned hundreds ...

Article

Kelly Boyer Sagert

Frederick Douglass was given the name of Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey at birth. His mother, Harriet Bailey, was a slave; his father was an unidentified white man—possibly Aaron Anthony—who was sometimes referred to as his master. As a young child Douglass was raised by his grandmother, Betsey Bailey. Although Betsey was legally a slave, she earned her own money and was married to a free black man named Isaac.

Bailey roots ran deep on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, with slaves of that name appearing in plantation ledgers as far back as June 1746. At that time Douglass's great-grandmother Jenny (or Jeney) was only six months old; Jenny's mother was either Sue or Selah, and her father was named Baly (born around 1701 It seems likely that Baly either was a descendant of slaves who had inhabited Talbot County since the 1660s or was brought ...

Article

Brad S. Born

Benjamin Banneker was born 9 November 1731in Baltimore County, Maryland, the first child of free African American parents Mary Banneker and Robert, a former slave whose freedom she had purchased and who took her surname upon marriage. Growing up on their tobacco farm, Benjamin received little formal schooling, learning to read and write from his grandmother and attending for several seasons an interracial school where he first developed his lifelong interest in mathematics. Following his parents’ deaths and three sisters’ departures from home, Banneker remained on the farm, working the crops and cultivating his intellect in relative seclusion.

In 1771, he befriended George Ellicott a Quaker neighbor whose family had developed a large complex of mills on the adjoining property With astronomical texts and instruments borrowed from Ellicott he trained himself to calculate ephemerides tables establishing the positioning of the sun moon and stars for each day ...

Article

Leyla Keough

Born in Jamaica around 1745, Francis Barber was baptized, educated and brought to England by a West Indian slave owner, Colonel Bathurst, in 1752. Bathurst died shortly after their arrival, but not before freeing Barber. Bathurst's son found Barber work with the British author Samuel Johnson, who opposed the slave trade. At a time when black pages in their twenties were commonly deported because it was unfashionable to employ them after adolescence, it was particularly unusual that Johnson and Barber sustained a long and affectionate relationship.

Johnson, who had no children of his own, treated Barber as a son. From 1767 to 1772 he sent Barber to school where he proved himself bright and articulate Barber served Johnson for nearly thirty years acting as Johnson s manservant and receiving and answering Johnson s letters Barber left the Johnson household only twice once to work for a ...

Article

Roland Barksdale-Hall and Diane L. Barnes

The television adaptation of Alex Haley's Roots (1976), which traced the history of a black family beginning with its African progenitor, Kunta Kinte, aired to wide public acclaim in the 1970s. The family saga generated considerable attention, as evidenced by a rise in popular interest about the black family and genealogical organizations across the United States. The following decade Dorothy Spruill Redford organized a reunion of more than two thousand descendants of enslaved Africans—including herself—and their masters, then wrote Somerset Homecoming (1988). From the end of the twentieth century, Edward Ball's Slaves in the Family (1998) tells the story of the intertwined lives of slaves and their masters in antebellum South Carolina.

Firsthand slave narratives, while limited in number, are excellent primary sources. Narratives that give accounts of enslaved Africans' introduction to the Americas, such as the two-volume Interesting Narrative of the ...

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

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

Mary Krane Derr

slave and later servant, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to Perry Blake, a free African American, and his wife Charlotte, a slave in the household of a prominent merchant, Jesse Levering. The couple had several other children. In 1897 Jesse's daughter Sarah R. Levering published a booklet about Margaret Jane Blake's life through the Press of Innes & Son in Philadelphia. As of 2011 other sources concerning Blake s life were unknown Thus we should read this account with care recognizing that it provides only one perspective on Blake s life and that it comes from a member of the family who once owned her It nonetheless offers several insights on the life of an urban African American woman in slavery and freedom Levering designated the proceeds from the booklet s sale to a Presbyterian affiliated manual labor school for the benefit of the ...

Article

John French

former slave from Fayetteville, Arkansas, was born on 10 July 1850 in Hickman County, Tennessee. She was aged eighty-seven years in 1937, when she was interviewed as part of the New Deal Works Progress Administration's Slave Narrative project. She was interviewed by Mary D. Hudgins a grand niece of the woman for whom Blakeley had worked in Fayetteville Arkansas Thus as with other WPA narratives Blakeley s testimony should be interpreted within the context of the unequal relationships between blacks and whites under slavery and in the Jim Crow South According to her interviewer she had become quite assimilated into white society and spoke with no discernable dialect She also occupied a relatively high position within the inner social circle of the woman for whom she worked as a servant as the friends and acquaintances of her deceased employer Mrs Hudgins regularly came to visit Blakeley whom ...

Article

Verity J. Harding

community activist and founder of the Friends Association for Children, was born a slave in Richmond, Virginia, to Judith Goode and an unidentified white male. Born Lucy Goode, she learned to read while a slave by listening secretly to the lessons taught to her master's children.

Lucy Goode learnt one of slavery s harshest lessons early in life With few formal legal rights slaves lives were largely controlled by their masters as was the fate of their families A master could dictate the rules of any attempt at intimacy marriage or reproduction between slaves so the forming of durable love and relationships became one of the greatest challenges facing slaves Even if a family bond could be created under such circumstances mothers and fathers lived in fear of the not uncommon possibility that their children would be sold away from them This was another horror that Lucy had to ...

Article

Yasmine Ali

a literate domestic servant, grew up in Philadelphia and in New York City with her family. While her parents' names remain unknown, in one of her 1859 letters, she revealed that her father owned a restaurant. Brown severed ties with her family after her father's death in October 1862. In her letters to Rebecca Primus, her beloved friend, she discussed how her mother had remarried a man whom Addie described as often present in her nightmares.

Brown is known today primarily because of her relationship to Rebecca Primus of Hartford, Connecticut. Primus was the only African American among the five teachers selected by the Freedman's Society in 1865 to head to the south and start schools for freed blacks. She relocated to Royal, Maryland, and founded a school there, working until 1869 She was an inspirational figure and a close friend to Addie Brown and seems ...

Article

Adele N. Nichols

escaped slave, was named Dinah, but was better known as Di. She was born on a plantation near Petersburg, Virginia, to Priscilla, a house servant, and Henry Hope, a slave owner, planter, and a partner in a clothing warehouse. Hope—a pseudonym provided by Browne in her dictated narrative—was understood to be Browne's father. He also fathered another child with Priscilla who died before Dinah's birth. Although Browne did not know her date of birth, researchers place Browne's birth year around 1815. After the death of Browne's mother from consumption when Browne was only six months, she was raised by her grandparents. Little is known about Browne's childhood; she started working at her slave owner's house when she was ten. Browne was repeatedly beaten for the littlest offense. For example, when Browne did not retrieve Hope's boots in a satisfactory period, he kicked her on her right thigh.

When Browne ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

baker, community leader, cautious abolitionist, and patriarch of a talented African American family well known into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, was born in Burlington, New Jersey. His narrative records that he belonged to “the Estate of Samuel Bustill of the City of Burlington, but he Dying when I was Young I was Sold to John Allen of the Same City” (Bustill, p. 22). The name of Bustill's mother is recorded only as Parthenia; Samuel Bustill, an English‐born lawyer who died in 1742, was his father as well as his owner.

Many sources, including Lloyd Louis Brown's detailed history of the Bustill family in The Young Paul Robeson: On My Journey Now (1997), leave out the Allen family, and assert that Samuel Bustill's widow, Grace, arranged for Cyrus Bustill to be apprenticed to Thomas Pryor Jr. However Bustill s own account ...

Article

Alice Ross and Mark H. Zanger

The Caribbean influence on American food has been continual for hundreds of years, initially in coastal areas of similar climate, from Texas to the Carolinas. The early Spanish involvement in the Caribbean brought Caribbean foods to Europe and Africa, from whence they quickly returned to North America. Spanish gold shipments attracted other Europeans to the area and brought about the colonization of eastern North America. Cheap Caribbean sugar, coffee, cocoa, and spices have influenced the palates and tables of all Americans. The peoples of the Caribbean islands have developed multicultural cuisines that have been affecting American cooking at all levels since colonial times.

Influence of the Caribbean on contemporary American food may predate Columbus, because there is some possibility that Caribbean Indians reached Florida and introduced tropical tubers, or chilies. The chain of influence began in 1492 as the varieties of maize beans chilies squash peanuts and cassava collected ...

Article

Matthew Dennis

The inescapable culmination of life is mortality, and every community must deal with the death of its members, marking the event appropriately, disposing respectfully of mortal remains, offering condolence to the living, and returning life among survivors to normal. Few human communities have faced greater challenges in this regard than those African Americans enslaved in North America, as well as free blacks, during the colonial and early national periods. African American mortuary practices preserved, synthesized, and reworked African traditions and adapted New World customs imported to America by white European Christian colonists.

There is much about which we cannot be certain given the limited records and archaeological evidence available to us and considerable diversity characterized the people of African descent throughout North America during this era But it is clear that African American funerals and interments were creative hybrid practices expressions of African American culture that signaled the worth and ...

Article

Robert Olwell

The 1740 South Carolina slave code allowed slaves to attend the Charleston marketplace only if they carried tickets from their masters detailing precisely what they were to buy or sell and at what price However many of the enslaved parlayed this small de jure permit into a much larger de facto liberty by which they purchased goods coming to market and resold them for a profit In effect they acted as independent marketeers while still enslaved Customarily after paying their master an agreed upon wage such enslaved marketeers could keep any surplus they earned for themselves Such extra legal arrangements allowed individual slave owners to collect a steady income from their slaves labor and from the market even when they had no work for the slaves to do or produce of their own to sell But as enslaved marketeers came to dominate the marketplace slaveholders collectively expressed their resentment ...

Article

Richard Alperin

teacher, coroner, scrivener, selectman, and justice of the peace, was born in New Market (now Newmarket), New Hampshire, the only child of Hopestill, a Portsmouth, New Hampshire, housewright, and Catherine Cheswell. The name is sometimes spelled “Cheswill.” Wentworth's grandfather, Richard Cheswell, a black slave in Exeter, New Hampshire, purchased twenty acres of land from the Hilton Grant after he gained his freedom. The deed, dated 18 October 1716/17 (the discrepancy arises from the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar) is the earliest known deed in the state of New Hampshire showing land ownership by a black man. The land was located in what was to become the town of Newmarket. Richard's only child, Hopestill (1712–? became a housewright and worked mostly in Portsmouth He took part in building the John Paul Jones House as well as other important houses Hopestill was active in local affairs and ...

Article

Wilma King

A variable social construction, the concept of childhood barely existed in early America. In fact, this special period of growth and development experienced before accepting adult responsibilities was not an entrenched American institution until the twentieth century. The time at which this protected segment of the lifecycle ends is debatable. Some scholars and public officials have used twelve as the cutoff while others set it at age sixteen or eighteen. Still others claim childhood lasts until twenty-one years of age.

Age limits aside, other factors, including color, class, status, and the embracing shield of loved ones, are significant in determining if girls enjoy a protected period in their formative years. There are also concerns about their psychological well-being and freedom from emotional devastation, which may mature girls beyond their chronological years.

Article

Wilma King

The reconstruction of childhood as experienced by black girls and boys in early America is vastly instructive. Much can be told about the lives of children who were kidnapped in Africa, transported across the Atlantic Ocean, and sold in the Americas, and who survived to join labor forces, marry shipmates, form families, and create a lasting culture.

Article

Class  

Melissa N. Stein

While class has been a driving force in American history it has been particularly central to the story of both racism and African American life Throughout its history America developed a racialized class system by which African Americans were often shut out of venues of political and economic power regardless of individual circumstances Race and class have been virtually inseparable in America from its inception Furthermore as the black middle and upper classes grew following Emancipation so too did tensions among African Americans across class lines Thus the story of class for African Americans is one of blacks as a racialized class and one of class divisions among blacks Undeniably there have been instances in American history when blacks and whites have come together to protest shared economic exploitation and African Americans of different classes have fought side by side against institutional or structural racism However these fleeting moments of ...