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Article

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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From 1841 to 1847 Frederick Douglass 1818 1895 who had escaped bondage in 1838 lectured on the evils of slavery as part of his work with William Lloyd Garrison s American Anti Slavery Society Douglass eventually differed with Garrison s revolutionary and arguably condescending tactics preferring instead a practical approach that preserved the core values of the republic The speech excerpted below delivered in October 1841 in Lynn Massachusetts contains the seeds of that conflict within the abolitionist movement Douglass states bluntly his concerns that Northerners are out of touch with the slaves experiences and that while their work to end slavery is admirable racism remains a problem even among the most determined abolitionists As an example he points out the irony of the Southern laws that prohibited teaching a slave to read While many Northerners believed that blacks were not smart enough to gain anything from education he states ...

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 ...

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Charles Henry Langston (1817–1892) was the first African American enrolled at the Oberlin Collegiate Institute, a hotbed of abolitionist activity in the state of Ohio. Langston used his experience at the school to become a prominent member of the movement, helping to organize the 1848 Colored National Convention in Cleveland, working to promote the antislavery newspaper the North Star, and serving as the principal of a school for African Americans in Columbus. Perhaps his most famous act, however, was the role he played in helping the fugitive slave John Price escape to Canada after he had been arrested by slave catchers, an incident that became known as the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue. Langston was one of two rescuers who were charged with violating the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. But thanks to his eloquent speech delivered in Cleveland on 12 May 1859, the judge reduced the sentence to twenty days.

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A former slave and soldier identified as Dr Harris delivered the following speech before the Congregational and Presbyterian Anti Slavery Society in Francestown New Hampshire Though little is known about his personal life Harris was apparently one of nearly ninety blacks recruited to fight with the First Rhode Island Regiment during the Revolutionary War Harris appears to mention here the Battle of Rhode Island in which his segregated unit withstood several British advances as well as volleys from warships of the Royal Navy He also mentions the Dorr War 1841 1842 an insurrection that the state s black soldiers helped to quell several months earlier Understandably Harris connects the service of black veterans with the greater cause of emancipation If his speech seems optimistic for one delivered in 1842 it may be because Rhode Island was far ahead of most states regarding civil rights Slavery was formally abolished around this ...

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Though he devoted his adult life to the abolitionist cause—harboring fugitive slaves, participating in political conventions, calling for boycotts on slave-produced goods—Henry Highland Garnet (1815–1882) gained notoriety for an 1843 speech reproduced below. At the National Negro Convention held in Buffalo, New York, the clergyman issued a “Call to Rebellion,” directly rebuking the more measured and pragmatic approach favored by Frederick Douglass (1818–1895). Douglass was quick to criticize the tone of the speech, and the convention narrowly defeated Garnet’s resolution, but the overall message gained traction within the abolitionist movement, influencing more militant leaders such as John Brown (1800–1859).

Article

L. Diane Barnes

Founded in December 1816, the American Colonization Society (ACS) was the first national organization to take on the problem of slavery in the United States. The ACS proposed an expatriation scheme to rid the nation of slavery and of free African Americans. The prominent founders Charles Fenton Mercer, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and others secured federal funding and in 1822 founded the colony of Liberia on Africa's west coast as the destination for America's blacks.

Even before the founding of the ACS, the colonization of African Americans was an issue that divided both whites and blacks. Some African Americans supported colonization, arguing that free blacks would never be fully included in the white-dominated society of the United States. Others argued just as forcibly that blacks were entitled to full rights as American citizens and should remain to fight on behalf of their race.

The ACS drew ...

Article

Diane L. Barnes

The American Missionary Association formed in 1846 in Albany, New York, as an alliance of Christian abolitionists who chose not to associate with the existing missionary agencies operated by various Protestant denominations. The spark for the formation of the association dates to the plight of the Amistad captives in 1839. This group of Africans enslaved in violation of international law successfully revolted against their captors aboard a Spanish slave ship—but ended up on trial in the United States when the ship drifted into a harbor on Long Island, New York. The well-publicized trial led many northern abolitionists to push mainstream missionary organizations, including the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, to assist the Amistad voyagers in their return to Africa but the organizations refused The frustrations of these Christian abolitionists led to the formation of three groups the Union Missionary Society the Western Evangelical Mission Society and ...

Article

Susan Bragg

tailor, store owner, and newspaper editor, was born in Pennsylvania, to parents whose names and occupations are now unknown. Little is known about Anderson's early life except that he was a member of the Masonic Fraternity, ultimately gaining appointment as Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge for the State of Pennsylvania. Anderson migrated west in the waning days of the California gold rush and in 1854 set up a tailor shop and clothing store in San Francisco. There he plunged into the city's small but energetic black community, a community linked by both the mining economy and by shared protest against injustices in the new state of California.

Anderson soon became a regular contributor to political discussions at the recently organized Atheneum Institute, a reading room and cultural center for black Californians. In January 1855 he and other prominent African Americans joined together to call ...

Article

Alonford James Robinson

In 1807 the British Parliament voted to end British participation in the international slave trade. In 1834 it ended slavery entirely, promising freedom to more than a million slaves in the Caribbean. In an effort to soften the effects of emancipation on white slaveholders, the British Parliament decided to implement a program known as apprenticeship. Under this program all slaves under six years of age, and those born after August 1, 1834, were freed. But praedials (fieldworkers) were required to work for their current owners for a period of six years, and nonpraedials for a period of four years. After this period all slaves would be emancipated.

The apprenticeship program was so overloaded with rules and restrictions that special magistrates had to be appointed to monitor the system Slaves worked forty hours per week in exchange for food clothing and shelter They were permitted to spend their remaining time ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

a teacher who opened the public schools of Philadelphia to children of color, and was the city's first school principal of African descent, was born Cordelia A. Jennings in New York City, the oldest child of a Scottish father, whose first name has not been published, but is recalled by descendants as William, and Mary McFarland Jennings, a school teacher born in Virginia.

In 1850, at the age of seven, Jennings was living in Philadelphia with her mother, sister Caroline, brother William, and brother Mifflin, and an older person named Annie Meda in a racially mixed neighborhood populated by shoemakers turners and carvers of known African descent as well as cooks and blacksmiths listed as white in the federal census Since Mifflin the youngest child was two years old the family had evidently lost their husband and father only recently Mifflin was also the only child ...

Article

John Gilmore

Also known as Sara or Saartjie, and as Bartman (1788?–1815/16), a member of the Khoisan people of southern Africa, exhibited as a ‘freak’ in 19th‐century Britain. Her original name is unknown, but when she was employed by a Dutch farmer called Peter Cezar, she was given the Afrikaans name of Saartjie [Little Sarah] Baartman, and this was later Anglicized in various forms. In 1810 she was brought to Britain by Peter Cezar's brother Hendric [or Henrick], a Boer farmer at the Cape, and Alexander Dunlop, a British army surgeon. Dunlop soon sold his interest in the enterprise to Cezar, who made money by exhibiting Baartman in London and elsewhere in Britain under the name of ‘the Hottentot Venus’. ‘Hottentot’ was a traditional derogatory term for Khoisan people, while ‘Venus’ appears intended to refer to the idea of ‘the Sable Venus or more generally ...

Article

M. Cookie E. Newsom

dentist, was born a slave in the Panthersville District of Dekalb County, Georgia. His mother (name unknown) was a slave, and his father, J. D. Badger was a white dentist and also his master Roderick had several brothers including Robert and Ralph all of whom had the same white father but different mothers In many ways his life story can be seen as an example of the complex relationships between the races in the antebellum and postbellum South where the black and white societies were supposed to be separate but where mixed race children were common growing ever more numerous in the decade leading up to the Civil War As the son of his owner Badger enjoyed the privileges associated with that status including his eventual freedom and prosperity However his status as a mulatto and as a professional man did not protect him from many of the ...

Article

Delano Greenidge-Copprue

Although it was by and large a slave city, Baltimore boasted a large free black population, which included Frederick Douglass's wife, Anna Murray, who worked for a postman on the same street where Douglass lived with the Auld family. In the first half of the nineteenth century the free black population of Baltimore increased 3,000 percent, as African Americans were moving to many urban locations for better opportunities and more freedom.

Indeed, while Baltimore served as a bastion of freedom for many African Americans in the antebellum period, it was a city surrounded by slavery. To the south of Baltimore, in Prince George's County, where tobacco was a chief crop, the population in 1790 consisted of 11,176 slaves, or 52 percent of the county's population; the proportion changed little before 1850 Meanwhile north and west of Baltimore the numbers of both free and enslaved African Americans steadily ...

Article

Sharon E. Wood

former slave, entrepreneur, steamboat worker, nurse, and church founder, was born in Bourbon County, Kentucky, in 1801 or 1804. Although her father was a white man and also her master, his name is unknown. Her mother, Lydia, was his slave. While she was still a child, Baltimore's father sold her to a trader who carried her to the St. Louis area. Over the next few years, she passed among several masters, including the New Orleans judge Joachim Bermudez, working as a house servant for French, Spanish, and Anglo-American households in Louisiana and eastern Missouri.

In New Orleans Baltimore joined the Methodist Church Her piety so impressed one preacher that he purchased her then allowed her to hire her own time and buy her freedom Baltimore worked as a chambermaid on steamboats and as a lying in nurse According to tradition it took her seven years to earn the ...

Article

Mohammah Baquaqua was born in 1824 in Zoogoo, (probably a small village in present-day Angola) in central Africa, to a fairly prosperous family. He was raised in an Islamic household and was sent by his father to the local mosque to study the Qur'an (Koran), the sacred text central to Islamic worship. Unsatisfied with school, he left to learn the trade of making needles and knives with his uncle in another village. Baquaqua was captured and enslaved after a struggle for the succession of the local throne. His brother managed to find someone who was able to purchase Baquaqua's freedom. Baquaqua returned to his hometown and became a bodyguard to the local king, where he noted the corruption of the royal armed forces that looted the citizens of the city.

A group of individuals apparently envious of his close association with the king engineered Baquaqua s capture and ...

Article

Adam W. Green

was the second of three children born to two freed slaves, Eben Tobias, a farmer, and Susan Gregory, a mixed-race Pequot Indian, in Derby, Connecticut. An education proponent and political activist, Bassett became America's first black diplomat when he served as Resident Minister in Haiti for eight years, helping pave the way for those seeking opportunities in international diplomacy and public service.

Along with his mixed race birth and royal lineage that his family claimed from Africa Bassett whose surname came from a generous white family close to his grandfather s former owners also had elected office in his blood His grandfather Tobiah who won his freedom after fighting in the American Revolution had been elected a Black Governor as had Bassett s father Eben The largely nominal honorific was bestowed upon respected men in various locales via Election Days sometimes by a voice vote these Black Governors ...

Article

Bertis English

political activist and journalist, was a slave who belonged to an influential antebellum lawyer from South Alabama. Little else is known about his life prior to the Civil War; however, it is known that during the early years of the Civil War, Berry was sent to toil in a hazardous saltworks that the Confederacy operated in Clarke County. Berry survived three years of intense labor there, and he emerged from the ordeal more experienced, as well as more militant, than many of the other African Americans he knew. After moving to the Gulf Coast city of Mobile, Berry became a member of the vanguard of black leaders who would help the state's black masses achieve legal and psychological freedom in the aftermath of the Civil War.

The Union victory and the federal effort to alter the legal status of black people deepened white Alabamians resistance to change State lawmakers were ...

Article

Erin L. Thompson

Major movements of the black population within the United States began with the importations of the slave trade and continued with the movements of runaway slaves. After they were emancipated, many blacks moved to the North and West to find economic opportunities; some, disappointed, returned to the South. Blacks have also migrated to the United States from other countries, notably those in Africa and the Caribbean.

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 ...