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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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Glenn Allen Knoblock

Civil War soldier and Medal of Honor winner, was born in Mexico, Oswego County, New York. Unrecorded in the 1850 federal census, the names of Anderson's parents are confirmed to be unknown. However, likely candidates are Samuel and Mary Anderson, the only black or “mulatto” family recorded living in Oswego County in the 1840 (town of Granby) and 1850 (town of West Oswego) censuses. Samuel Anderson was a native of Bermuda, and his wife, Mary, was a New York native. Bruce Anderson does appear in the 1860 census, listed as a fourteen-year-old “mulatto” residing in Johnstown, New York, on the farm of Henry Adams and his daughter Margaret; he was likely a simple laborer. How he came to live with the Adams family is unknown, but Anderson would remain a resident in the area—except during the time of his Civil War service—for the remainder of his life.

While some ...

Article

Kevin Caprice

was born Robert Ball in Green County, Kentucky, the son of William Anderson, a slave who worked a nearby plantation. Robert’s mother’s name is unknown; she was a slave working on the same plantation as her son until she was sold to a Louisiana cane plantation when Robert was six. For the first twenty-one years of his life, Ball was a slave on a flax and hemp plantation. The son of a house servant, the favorite of his master and namesake, Colonel Robert Ball, and a house servant himself, Robert had certain privileges most slaves did not, such as larger and nicer living quarters, and less grueling labor. But throughout his adolescence, Robert never forgot his owners considered him no more than chattel.

While in bondage Robert Anderson was often faced with the cruelties of slavery He had only one article of clothing rarely had enough to eat and was ...

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 ...

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John Gilmore

Politician, born in Jamaica into a family of wealthy plantation owners. Sent to England in 1723, he was educated at Westminster School and Oxford. He later studied medicine at Leiden in Holland, but broke off his course there when the death of his father obliged him to return to Jamaica in 1735. When his elder brother died in 1737, he inherited most of the family properties and continued to add to them by inheritance and purchase over the next 30 years. At the time of his death he was sole owner of thirteen sugar plantations in Jamaica, together with other real estate and about 3,000 slaves.

In 1737William Beckford became a member of the Jamaican House of Assembly, but by 1744 he had left Jamaica for Britain where he settled in London as a West India merchant selling the produce of his own estates ...

Article

John Gilmore

Writer, art collector, and owner of plantations in Jamaica. He was the son of William Beckford, on whose death in 1770 he inherited an enormous fortune. This came under his control when he attained his majority in 1781 and for many years enabled him to travel extensively in Europe, to fund his enthusiasm for building Fonthill Abbey in Wiltshire as a Gothic extravaganza to house himself and the books, pictures, and works of art that he collected on a prodigious scale. In the 1790s his income was estimated at well over £100,000 a year, and in 1809 the poet Lord Byron hailed him as ‘England's wealthiest son’. From the 1820s the income from his Jamaican estates declined significantly, and he was forced to sell Fonthill and major parts of his collections. Beckford is remembered as the author of the novel Vathek an Orientalist fantasy published in ...

Article

Bilali  

Allan D. Austin

Muslim leader and plantation manager, was born in Africa, sold into slavery, and transported to the Bahamas and then to Sapelo Island, Georgia. His name is also given as Bilali Mahomet and Bul‐Ali. Almost nothing is known about Bilali's life in Africa, but his fellow Fula or Peul (originally Malian) friend, Salih Bilali, who was enslaved on the neighboring island of Saint Simons, said that Bilali came from the village of Timbo, in Futa Jallon (later Guinea). This was an important Muslim educational and political community and the homeland of another Fula, Ibrahima abd al‐Rahman, who was enslaved in Mississippi. Bilali's strict adherence to Muslim ways and the book he wrote in Arabic show that he paid attention to his teachers in Africa. In the Bahamas Bilali married at least one of his four known wives before being brought to Georgia around 1802 He had a ...

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

Jacob Andrew Freedman

farmer and entrepreneur, was born near Canton, Mississippi, the only child of Wesley Rutledge and Anne Maben. Rutledge was the nephew of William H. Goodlow, the owner of the estate where Anne Maben was a house slave. Wesley worked as the manager of the house for his aunt and uncle. At birth Bond was given the surname Winfield, and at the age of eighteen months he was sent with his mother to Collierville, Tennessee, where they lived until he was five years old. Subsequently, they were sent to work on the Bond farm in Cross County, Arkansas. In Arkansas Anne Maben met and married William Bond, who gave Scott Bond his surname.

The family remained on the Bond farm until the conclusion of the Civil War when only months after gaining her freedom Anne Maben died leaving Bond in the care of his stepfather Bond his stepfather ...

Article

Kari J. Winter

slave, sailor, soldier, and farmer, was born Boyrereau Brinch, the seventh of eight children (four boys and four girls) born to Whryn Brinch, the son of Yarrah Brinch, and of Whryn Douden Wrogan, the daughter of Grassee Youghgon. He lived in the city of Deauyah in the kingdom of Bow-woo, which was probably situated in the Niger River basin, in the area that would later become Mali. In 1758 when he was around the age of sixteen Boyrereau was abducted by slave traders transported to Barbados and sold to Captain Isaac Mills of New Haven Connecticut who trained him for British naval service Like thousands of other slaves and freed Africans in the Caribbean Brace as he would come to be called years later after his manumission This may have been an anglicized version of Brinch was forced to labor aboard ship during ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

was born in Charles City County, Virginia, the son of Abraham Brown, and his wife Sarah Brown. (The elder Abraham Brown called himself “Abraham Brown, Jr.” in a 1789 will, but Abraham Brown, Sr. was his uncle, not his father). The Browns were descended from William Brown, born around 1670, sometimes referenced in Virginia court records as “William Brown Negro.” Arthur Bunyan Caldwell, in History of the American Negro and his institutions, briefly refers to the family history being traceable back to England, but provides no details.

The Browns had been free for over a century, and many had owned enough property to be taxable, when Abraham Brown was born. Several had owned title to enslaved persons; Abraham owned three in 1810. His father at various times owned both slaves and indentured servants, including one John Bell, indentured in 1771 Abraham Brown Jr ...

Article

Nicole S. Ribianszky

free woman of color, property holder, and slave owner, was a resident of Natchez, Mississippi. Nothing is known about her early life. Her status at the time of her birth, free or enslaved, as well as her parentage, is undetermined. Butcher lived in Natchez for at least twenty years of her life and accrued property during that time due to a relationship with a white man, John Irby. She then came close to losing it when another white man, Robert Wood, attempted to wrest it from her by exploiting her vulnerability as a free woman of color.

In 1834John Irby wrote his last will and testament which clearly named Butcher as the administrator of his estate which consisted of the White House Tavern surrounding land buildings two horses and buggy household and kitchen furniture his bank deposits and two slaves Alexander and Creasy Two years later ...

Article

Christopher Campbell

Northamptonshirepoet and labourer whose support for the Anti‐Slavery Movement was consistent with his consideration for the plight of the disfranchised within society. He corresponded with the literary editor and publisher Thomas Pringle secretary of the Anti Slavery Society on the subject of the colonial trade in trafficking humans I have a feeling on the broad principle of common humanity that slavery is not only impiety but disgracful to a country professing religion and there is evidence to suggest that Clare considered contributing to poetic anthologies on the subject He later utilized the language of abolition to describe his own wretched state in the asylum which he termed a slave ship from Africa While Clare expresses little condemnation for the machinery of imperialism as a system in the Blakean sense his account of meeting a black beggar outside St Paul s Cathedral London and his resolve to return with ...

Article

Fiona J. L. Handley

slave, agriculturalist, and head of a dynasty, was probably born in Natchitoches, Louisiana, near what was then the border between Spanish Texas and French Louisiana, although it is possible that she was born in Africa and came to Louisiana as a young child. Her name definitely originated in Africa, but no convincing argument has been made that traces it to one particular location. She was baptized in 1742 as the slave of Louis Juchereau de St. Denis, the founder of Natchitoches which was the first permanent settlement in Louisiana. In 1756 she was inherited by the widow of St. Denis, and then became the property of the widow's son, Pierre Antoine de St. Denis Jr., in 1758, ending up the slave of the de Soto family. Between 1761 and 1766 she had three black children—Marie Thérèze Don Manuel, Françoise, and Jean Joseph In ...

Article

Trevor Hall

and his elder son, Diego Columbus (1479?–1526), governor of Hispaniola during the first recorded revolt by enslaved Africans in the Americas, both had significant connections to Africa. The elder Columbus, known as Cristoforo Colombo in Italian and Cristóbal Colón in Spanish, remains a mysterious historic figure, even though, in the twentieth century alone, more than 250 scholarly articles and books were written on his origins (Sale, The Conquest of Paradise). Over a dozen birthdates have been claimed for him as well as at least twenty-five nationalities (Catz, p.83). Most biographers agree, though, that he was born in the Italian port of Genoa, the eldest son of Domenico Colombo, a wool worker and merchant, and Susanna Fontanarossa.

The sources also agree that, from about 1477 to 1485 Columbus and his brother Bartolemeu were mariners in Portugal involved in trade with West Africa Very little has been written ...

Article

Kelly Boyer Sagert

Edward Covey, about twenty-eight years old in 1834, lived with his wife and infant son, Edward, on a rented farm of 150 acres located about seven miles from Saint Michaels, Maryland. The Covey home was small, unpainted, and hidden nearly a mile from the main road. Before setting up as a small farmer, Covey worked as an overseer, where he may have gained his reputation as a “Negro breaker.” In 1834 he rented the services of Frederick Douglass for an entire year. Douglass, nearly sixteen years old, initially submitted to the regular whippings but he eventually fought back and later recorded that this was when he finally felt like a man.

Douglass's owner, Thomas Auld, leased his slave's services to Covey; through this arrangement, Covey would receive low-cost farm labor and Auld could expect a more submissive slave in return. On 1 January 1834 Douglass traveled the ...

Article

Fiona J. L. Handley

freed slave and successful landowner, was either born in Natchitoches, Louisiana, in the very earliest days of the French colony, or he arrived there as an enslaved young adult. Because his name, Doclas (sometimes spelled Docla) is not French, it is presumed to have an African origin.

Doclas was baptized into the Catholic Church as an adult slave of the white French Derbanne family on 26 September 1737. Three days later, he married Judith, another slave owned by the family. Little is known of Doclas's years as a slave, although he probably served the Derbannes in many capacities. When the Spanish acquired Louisiana from France in 1763 the Derbannes s prominence in trade and local government disappeared with their connections to colonial authorities so they switched to agriculture Nicholas probably worked in the tobacco fields for which the area was famous The Derbannes eventually rewarded Doclas s ...

Article

Eric Gardner

The oldest child of Harriet Bailey, Downs was born enslaved to Aaron Anthony, the overseer for Colonel Edward Lloyd, a wealthy planter on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Like his younger brother Frederick Douglass, Downs probably saw his mother only intermittently, as Anthony regularly hired her out; Downs was reared by his grandmother Betsey Bailey and the extended kinship network of Bailey's relatives and children. Douglass's autobiographies relate only two stories of Downs's childhood, both of which speak directly to the complexity of a child's life as a slave. When Douglass was brought from his grandmother's cabin to live on Lloyd's plantation, Wye House, in late 1824, Downs tried to comfort the frightened six-year-old with gifts of peaches and pears. Days later, Downs—only eleven years old himself—was savagely beaten by Anthony.

When Anthony died in 1827 his slaves were divided among his heirs Douglass was sent to ...

Article

David O. Whitten

plantation and slaveowner, physician, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Thomas Durnford, an-English immigrant and merchant, and Rosaline Mercier, a free woman of color. Thomas Durnford was a cousin of Colonel Elias Durnford of the Royal Engineers, lieutenant governor of British West Florida. Andrew Durnford, reared by parents who were denied marriage by law, grew up in New Orleans's free colored community with the comforts afforded the family of a successful merchant and speculator. His schooling, like most of his early life, is a matter of conjecture. In his adult years he revealed a working knowledge of written and spoken English and French, the rudiments of elementary arithmetic, and medical procedures. He apparently passed freely between the white community with his father and the free colored community with his mother and her family. For example, John McDonogh a successful merchant and planter ...

Article

Michael P. Johnson

cotton-gin maker and planter, was born a slave in Fairfield District, South Carolina. His father was probably the planter Robert Ellison or his son William, and his mother was a slave woman whose name is unknown. Originally named April, the biracial child received exceptional treatment. His master apprenticed him to William McCreight, a white cotton-gin maker in Winnsboro. From 1802 to 1816 Ellison worked in McCreight's gin shop, learning the skills of gin making from a master craftsman. During his training, he learned reading, writing, arithmetic, and basic bookkeeping skills. He also became well versed in interracial social skills, as he met scores of planters who came to negotiate with McCreight for gins. These encounters provided him with a valuable network of strategic acquaintances and contacts. Ellison's owner, William Ellison, allowed him to work extra hours and eventually to purchase his freedom on 8 June 1816 ...