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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 ...

Article

David L. Weeks

military leader, enslaved and later repatriated to Africa, was born in Timbuktu, the son of Ibrahima Sori (d. c.1788), a West African Fulbe king (also called Fulah, Fulani, Peuls), and one of his four wives. ʿAbd al-Rahman's grandfather, a Moor (a North African Muslim), had been king of Timbuktu.

As the son of an almami (Muslim theocratic ruler), ʿAbd al-Rahman was surrounded by wealth and power. He was raised in Futa Jallon, the lush highlands of modern Guinea, in the city of Timbo. After learning to read, write, and recite the Qur’an, Ibrahima went to Jenne and Timbuktu to study with Islamic clerics. At age seventeen, he joined his father's army. His military prowess soon resulted in significant leadership positions. In 1786 Ibrahima married and had a son (al-Husayn).

Fulbe tribesmen traded with Europeans along the African coast 150 miles 240 kilometers away Taking wares ...

Article

A. K. Bennison

Moroccan ruler, was one of the sons of Muhammad al-Shaykh of the Saʿdi or Saadian dynasty, which ruled a region roughly coterminous with modern Morocco from 1525 until c. 1610. He was born Abu Marwan Abd al-Malik to a woman called Sahaba al-Rahmaniyya who accompanied her son on his later travels through the Mediterranean. The Saʿdi dynasty came to power at an important historical juncture. During the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, Portugal had constructed numerous trading enclaves (feitorias along Morocco s Atlantic seaboard and imposed its control on much of the Gharb plain In the last decades of the fifteenth century Spain had finally conquered Muslim Granada and established a series of footholds on the Mediterranean coast of Africa At the same time both countries had established vast overseas empires At the other end of the Mediterranean the Ottomans acted as a Muslim counterbalance conquering the ...

Article

José Antonio Fernández Molina

was born in Sonsonate, currently located in El Salvador. Nothing is known of his early years, but his later actions and writings show that, despite his ethnic category of mulato, he acquired a cultural capital in writing, law, history, the Bible, and the symbolic figures common in Baroque Spanish literature. Abendaño was recognized as mulato letrado, a highly literate mulatto, at a time when literacy was rare among the African-descended population of Spanish America.

Although he had married Lucia Badillo, also from Sonsonate, by 1765 he already lived in Costa Rica He showed his knowledge of basic law regarding maritime trade in a trial related to a ship s contract This expertise probably came from earlier practice because Acajutla the main port on the Central American Pacific coast was an annex to his birthplace As a literate mulatto he became secretary for Juan José de la Madriz ...

Article

Agaja  

Jeremy Rich

king of Dahomey, was born sometime in the later decades of the seventeenth century. According to oral traditions collected in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Agaja succeeded his brother Akaba to the throne in large part because of his support from influential royal women. Na Geze, a royal princess married to the ruler of the city-state of Ouidah located directly south of Dahomey, supported Agaja’s claims to power. Likewise, his eldest sister and Akaba’s twin Na Hangbe also intervened on the behalf of Akaba’s son Agbo Sassa. According to European slave traders’ accounts and oral narratives, Agaja battled Agbo Sassa for the throne around 1718. Apparently, Hangbe denounced Agaja as a usurper, to no avail; and her son was forced to flee to the north.

Once Agaja had seized the throne he launched a series of reforms within the kingdom and led numerous campaigns against Dahomey s neighbors One ...

Article

Haggai Erlich

North African political and military leader, was probably born in 1506 in the area between Harar and the Ogaden. Ahmad ibn Ibrahim married the daughter of Imam Mahfuz, the governor of Zeyla, who collaborated with Islamic scholars from Arabia against his master, the Sultan of Adal. Ahmad bin Ibrahim was similarly inspired by the renewed Islamic spirit and when he gained control of Harar in 1525, he refrained from adopting a political title and used only the religious designation of imam. His followers and his chronicler later called him Sahib al-fath (the lord of the conquest) or al-Ghazi (the holy warrior), for it was his conquest of Ethiopia, between 1529 and 1543, that made him so significant. In Ethiopian history, he is known as Ahmad Gragn, the left-handed.

The first half of the sixteenth century was marked by the weakening of the Solomonian dynasty s rule in Ethiopia ...

Article

Charlton W. Yingling

military and political figure on the island of Hispaniola in the early nineteenth century, identified himself as being from northern French Saint-Domingue. Despite his importance, little is known about his life, especially his early years. Because of his surname, scholars have conjectured that he was originally Muslim. He was likely enslaved in the northern part of the French colony of Saint-Domingue on the western part of the island until the outbreak of the 1791 slave insurrection that began the Haitian Revolution, after which he rebelled and joined other black troops fighting for Spain against the French Republic. Further complicating the issue are court documents in which he identified himself as ‘Paul’ and claimed he was from Saint Domingue not brought there in captivity from West Africa Regardless of his origins it is known that he accelerated through the ranks becoming a captain under Georges Biassou a leading black general ...

Article

Richard S. Newman

churchwomen and reformers, were, respectively, the second and first wives of Richard Allen, a bishop and founder of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Although little is known of Flora Allen, she had probably met Richard Allen while attending Methodist class meetings and services at St. George's Methodist Church in Philadelphia. Known as a pious and respectable woman, Flora Allen helped her husband purchase a home at 150 Spruce Street in 1791 (as well as other properties, including those used by Allen's new church) and inaugurate the Bethel AME church in July 1794. White as well as black preachers celebrated her dedication to charity and hospitality. She died in Philadelphia after a long illness but is remembered as an early advocate of the independent black church. Sarah Allen was born Sarah Bass a slave in Isle of Wight County Virginia She probably remained in bondage until ...

Article

Ben Vinson

(late seventeenth century–1740s), resident of Mexico City appointed a colonel in the Spanish colonial militia in 1719. This was one of the highest military ranks bestowed upon anyone of African descent in the Americas during the colonial period. Indeed, there were just four free colored military colonels in Mexican colonial history. Details of Almaraz’s early life are unknown. He was not of mixed race but was considered a negro or moreno, referring to what colonial inhabitants believed were “pure” black physical traits. His ascension to the rank of colonel marked the first time that this had been done in Mexico, and it came upon the heels of a protracted lobbying effort that Almaraz himself had spearheaded. Prior to 1719 the Spanish government had scorned the idea of instituting this rank in the colonies But Almaraz cleverly took advantage of his knowledge of developments among black soldiers in ...

Article

Amina  

LaRay Denzer

sarauniya (queen) of Zazzau (present-day Zaria, Nigeria), was the legendary warrior and state builder who established the kingdom of Zazzau as a major Hausa state in the sixteenth century. Also known as Aminatu, she may have been born about 1533, but this is uncertain. She was the eldest daughter of Bakwa Turunku, the twenty-second sarki (ruler) of Zazzau (now Zaria). There are conflicting accounts about the gender of this ruler. Historian Abubakr Saʾad believes that she was a woman and argues that she very likely was the sarauniya of Kufena, the predecessor kingdom to Zazzau. Among the estates under her authority was Turunku. When an interregnum occurred, she was either appointed ruler or seized control of Kufena and in 1537 moved her capital to Zazzau which she named after her second daughter to secure land for expansion and better water supplies Her reign was mostly peaceful except for ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

sailor, was one of eight African American seamen to earn the Medal of Honor during the Civil War. Likely in his early twenties when he enlisted as a landsman (for which he was tasked with the simplest sail-handling and duties like manning the yardarm) in the Union navy from Pennsylvania, Anderson was probably born a free black and, because he was rated a landsman, had little or no prior seafaring experience.

Though few details of Aaron Anderson's military service are known, and virtually nothing of his private life, his exemplary service nonetheless serves to highlight the importance of the African American contribution to the Union navy in what was, up to that time, the nation's bloodiest war. Along with such men as Joachim Pease, Robert Smalls, and John Lawson, Aaron Anderson was one of approximately eighteen thousand African Americans eleven of them women to serve ...

Article

Zachary Margolis

was born a slave in Connecticut, according to his military records. Andrew's birth year is unclear; his military records state that he was born in 1750, but his death records indicate a birth year of 1743. Nothing is known about his parents or early years.

Andrew was enslaved in Wethersfield, Connecticut until 20 May 1777. He was then released by John Wright and Luke Fortune, on the condition that he serve in the Continental Army; he served during the Revolutionary War, in the Connecticut Line as a corporal in the company of Francis Bernard (1740–1828) in the 18th Connecticut Regiment, fighting in and around New York City.

After three years of service Andrew was discharged from the army in 1780. On 1 June 1780 he received a total of £11 0 1 ¾ for his service On note number 652 issued to Andrew ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

Union army officer and politician, was born in New Orleans, the son of a West Indian midwife and a free black soldier who had served in the Corps d'Afrique with General Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812. His parents' names are not recorded. Family lore had it that Caesar's maternal grandfather, an African chief, had been enslaved and taken to America and that his paternal grandmother, Rose Antoine, had earned enough money from her work as a midwife to purchase her freedom. Rose Antoine also left each of her seven sons twenty thousand dollars in her will.

As a free black child in New Orleans Antoine attended private schools the public schools of the city were closed to blacks and became fluent in both English and French Upon leaving school as a teenager in the early 1850s he then apprenticed and worked as a barber one of ...

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 ...

Article

David W. Bishop

James Armistead had been the slave of William Armistead of New Kent County, Virginia, before being granted permission by his master in March 1781 to serve with General Lafayette, a French statesman who was fighting on the side of the colonists. By July 7, 1781, Armistead was able to infiltrate the headquarters of British general Charles Cornwallis, ostensibly as a servant hired to spy on the Americans but in reality a patriot who spied on the British. Although his birth and early childhood remain in obscurity, he is remembered for his written intelligence reports relating to the Yorktown campaign that ended the Revolutionary War. In the spring of 1781 Cornwallis had moved his British forces from the Carolinas into Virginia quartering near Portsmouth and practically controlled Virginia Lafayette quartered near Richmond at New Kent County Court House and Williamsburg with American forces half the size of ...

Article

Jack Borden Watson

scout and pioneer of the West, was one of the free blacks in Texas who experienced some degree of freedom under four different governing entities—Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, and the United States. Free blacks never constituted a large population in Texas in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. For example, a census in 1860 put the number of free blacks at four hundred, but later estimates by historians suggest that their numbers approached eight hundred. Despite their small numbers free blacks made a significant contribution to the early history of Texas. Hendrick Arnold played a pivotal role in the Texas Revolution (1835–1836) and beyond.

The date of Hendrick Arnold's birth is not known. He emigrated from Mississippi with his parents, Daniel and Rachel Arnold, in the winter of 1826 His father was likely white while his mother was black nothing else is known about ...

Article

Alan K. Lamm

Civil War army chaplain and Baptist minister, was born in North Branford, near New Haven, Connecticut, to Ruel and Jereusha Asher. His paternal grandfather had been captured in the Guinea region of Africa at the age of four and was brought to America as a slave. Young Jeremiah grew up hearing fascinating tales of his grandfather's life, which included military service during the American Revolutionary War. Those stories would later inspire Asher in his own life.

Asher's father was a shoemaker who married a Native American woman from Hartford, Connecticut. Jeremiah grew up as a member of the only African American family in North Branford and was permitted to attend school along with white children. At the age of twelve he left school to help out his family financially, and over the next several years he worked as a farmhand, servant, and coachman. In 1833 he married Abigail Stewart ...

Article

Alonford James Robinson

Information on the birth and early childhood of Crispus Attucks is inconclusive, but historians believe that he was part African and part Native American, and that he was once the slave of William Brown of Framingham, Massachusetts. In November 1750, Attucks escaped. For the next twenty years, he worked on whaling ships docked in ports throughout New England.

His fame is attributable largely to a single fateful day in Boston, March 5, 1770, when anticolonial patriot Samuel Adams urged dockworkers and seamen in Boston to protest the presence of British troops guarding the customs commissioners Attucks was among an estimated fifty men who gathered that night to confront the British and is alleged to have rallied his comrades by declaring Don t be afraid as he led the ranks When British soldiers fired on the protesters Attucks was the first of five men killed in what ...

Article

Harry M. Ward

probably a sailor, was the first to be killed in the Boston Massacre of 5 March 1770. Generally regarded to have been of mixed ancestry (African, Indian, and white), Attucks seems to have hailed from a Natick Indian settlement, Mashpee (incorporated as a district in 1763, near Framingham, Massachusetts). While Attucks's life and background before the tragic event are uncertain, two reasonable conjectures stand out. First, he was a descendant of those Natick Indians converted to Christianity in the seventeenth century. One tribesman, John Attuck, was hanged on 22 June 1676 for allegedly conspiring with the Indian insurrection of that year. Second, it appears that Attucks may have once been a slave. The Boston Gazette of 2 October 1750 printed this notice Ran away from his Master William Brown of Framingham on the 30th of September last a mulatto Fellow about twenty seven years of age ...

Article

Scott A. Miltenberger

The death of Crispus Attucks is shrouded in myth. John Adams, the future second president of the United States and the defense attorney for the British troops charged with Attucks's murder, accused him of being a rabble-rouser and the instigator of the confrontation that resulted in the now famously known “Boston Massacre” of 1770. John Hancock, a Boston merchant and, like Adams, a member of the Sons of Liberty, celebrated Attucks as a defiant patriot. Attucks's true role remains unclear—much like his life prior to 1770.

Attucks was most probably born a slave in Framingham, Massachusetts, in 1723. He was likely of mixed African and Native American parentage (attuck is the Natick Indian word for “deer”). In 1750, at about age twenty-seven, Attucks ran away from his master, most likely a William Brown For the next twenty years he worked as ...