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Article

Aaron Myers

In the first half of the nineteenth century, thousands of African slaves were involuntarily brought from the Calabar region of southwestern Nigeria to Cuba in order to labor on the sugar plantations. In Cuba, these enslaved people reconstructed aspects of their language (Igbo) and religious rituals in Abakuás, all-male organizations with closely guarded religious, musical, and dance traditions. The prototype for Cuba's Abakuás can be found in Calabar's leopard societies, groups of highly respected, accomplished men who adopted the leopard as a symbol of masculinity. Today as in the past, Abakuás are found predominantly in the city of Havana and the province of Matanzas and are united by a common African mythology and ritual system.

Abakuás preserve African traditions through performative ceremonies a complex system of signs and narratives in the Igbo language Customarily led by four leaders and eight subordinate officers members of the Abakuás seek to protect ...

Article

Kelly Boyer Sagert

Frederick Douglass first encountered the Auld family as a young child; he was transferred to their household when his first owner, Aaron Anthony, fell ill. Thomas Auld was married to Anthony's daughter, and Douglass would become Auld's legal property following Anthony's death. After escaping from slavery, Douglass raged against the Auld family in some of his published writings, using them as the model of cruel slave owners, but he reconciled with Thomas Auld more than a decade after the Civil War ended.

Information about the personalities and dispositions of Auld family members is discerned almost entirely from Douglass's writings; little independent confirmation of his descriptions exists. Records suggest that the Auld family immigrated to America before the Revolutionary War, when Hugh Auld Sr. fought with Maryland's Talbot County Militia. His son, Hugh Auld Jr., served in the War of 1812 as a lieutenant colonel with the Twenty sixth ...

Article

Leigh Fought

Ruth Cox Adams, a fugitive slave from Maryland, adopted the name Harriet Bailey and lived with Frederick Douglass and his family from 1844 to 1847. Ruth Cox was born in Easton, Maryland, sometime between 1818 and 1822. Her father was an unknown free black man who disappeared after he went to Baltimore in search of better wages during Ruth's childhood. Her mother, Ebby Cox, was a slave in the Easton household of John Leeds Kerr, a lawyer who represented Maryland first in the House of Representatives (1825–1829 and 1831–1833) and then in the Senate (1841–1843).

When Kerr died in February 1844 he left instructions for all his property to be sold, including the slaves, and for the proceeds to be used to pay his debts. This turn of events probably prompted Ruth to flee north. By August 1844 she was ...

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

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

Jeffrey O. Ogbar and Jeffrey O. G.

Black nationalism is the belief system that endorses the creation of a black nation state It also supports the establishment of black controlled institutions to meet the political social educational economic and spiritual needs of black people independent of nonblacks Celebration of African ancestry and territorial separatism are essential components of black nationalism Though not fully developed into a cogent system of beliefs the impulse of black nationalism finds its earliest expression in the resistance of enslaved Africans to the Atlantic slave trade from the sixteenth century Various groups of Africans who felt no particular organic connection as black people were forced into a new racialized identity in a brutal and dehumanizing process of enslavement The transportation and forced amalgamation of hundreds of different African nationalities resulted in Creolized communities in the Americas enslaved Africans revolted and established new societies which functioned autonomously on the outskirts of colonial towns and ...

Article

Robert Stepto

professor of English, poet, and essayist, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Sterling Nelson Brown, a minister and divinity school professor, and Adelaide Allen. After graduating as valedictorian from Dunbar High School in 1918, Brown matriculated at Williams College, where he studied French and English literature and won the Graves Prize for an essay on Molière and Shakespeare. He graduated from Williams in 1922 with Phi Beta Kappa honors and a Clark fellowship for graduate studies in English at Harvard University. Once at Harvard, Brown studied with Bliss Perry and, most notably, with George Lyman Kittredge the distinguished scholar of Shakespeare and the ballad Kittredge s example as a scholar of both formal and vernacular forms of literature doubtlessly encouraged Brown to contemplate a similar professorial career though for Brown the focus would be less on the British Isles than on the United States and on ...

Article

Cacos  

Georges Michel

After the downfall of Haitian President Jean-Pierre Boyer in 1843, the peasants in the southern part of the island revolted. These revolutionaries were named piquets, because they carried wooden poles, called picks, as weapons. In the 1860s, peasants in northern Haiti followed the example of the piquets, becoming known as Cacos. The Cacos movement was based in the northern part of the republic in an area comprising the towns of Vallieres, Capotilles, and Mont-Organise. Some say that the term Cacos comes from the name of a small bird of prey; others trace it to the name of a species of Haitian red ants that have a bad sting.

The Cacos movement appeared for the first time during the civil war of 1868. The rebellious peasants later fought against President Sylvain Salnave in 1870 The Cacos proved themselves formidable fighters and instrumental to Salnave s ...

Article

George Reid Andrews

The son of former slaves, João Cândido was born in the cattle-ranching country of southern Brazil. In 1895, at the age of fifteen, he joined the Brazilian navy, which at that time had a very clear racial hierarchy. While the officer corps was exclusively white, an estimated 80–90 percent of the enlisted seamen were Afro-Brazilian, many of them forcibly recruited against their will. Slavery had been abolished in Brazil only a few years earlier, in 1888, and many officers continued to treat crews as though they were in fact slaves. Conditions of service were extremely harsh; and even though whipping had been outlawed in the navy in 1890, it was still widely used as a means of discipline.

Brazil joined the naval arms race of the 1890s and early 1900s expanding its fleet to become the largest naval power in Latin America Cândido himself was sent ...

Article

Kimberly Springer

educator, writer, and activist, was born Anna Julia Haywood in Raleigh, North Carolina, to Hannah Stanley, a slave. There is no consensus regarding her father, although he was most likely her mother's owner, Dr. Fabius J. Haywood, or his brother, George Washington Haywood. Anna exhibited a love of books and a gift for learning early in her childhood. Hannah was hired out as a nursemaid to a successful local lawyer, whose family most likely assisted her daughter in learning to read and write. Most important, however, was Anna's mother herself, who although illiterate, encouraged her daughter's education.

In 1867 Anna was one of the first students admitted to St Augustine s Normal School and Collegiate Institute a recently founded Episcopal school for newly freed slaves At age nine she found herself tutoring students older than herself and decided to earn her teaching credentials At St Augustine s ...

Article

Cecily Jones

Enslaved husband and wife abolitionists whose self‐liberation from slavery in Georgia to freedom in England represents one of the most daring escapes from American enslavement. In 1848 light‐skinned Ellen conceived a plan to escape by cutting her hair, donning male clothing, and ‘passing’ as a southern white male slaveholder travelling to the North for medical treatment, while her darker‐skinned husband William posed as a faithful slave valet. After a dangerous journey through the South, the couple reached Boston, where their story of escape made them causes célèbres in abolitionists circles. With the fugitive slave William Wells Brown, the Crafts gave a series of anti‐slavery lectures throughout New England. Their freedom was threatened, however, by the passing of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, which provided for the return of fugitive slaves to their masters in the South, and also mandated the assistance of northerners in the fugitives' capture. In November ...

Article

Kevin D. Roberts

The demographics of African Americans in early America were influenced significantly by the transatlantic and domestic slave trades, the westward and southwestward expansion of slavery, and steadily improving rates of natural increase. From 1619, when the first Africans arrived in colonial America, to 1830, when the black enslaved population numbered 2 million, a significant social and cultural shift from African-dominated communities to native-born communities occurred.

In 1619 the demographic phenomenon that became black America began in Virginia when “twenty-odd Negroes” arrived on a Dutch sloop. Accorded the status of indentured servants, these Africans planted the roots that would later flower into thousands of black descendants. The first person of African descent to be born in the American colonies, a child named William, was born in 1624. By 1649 a census conducted in the colony enumerated three hundred people of African descent almost all of whom were ...

Article

Leigh Fought

The enigmatic first wife of Frederick Douglass, Anna Murray Douglass, has been misunderstood and misrepresented by historians as well as by her husband's associates since he first rose to fame in 1842. Her early life, including her birth and parentage, remain sparsely documented. Most historians agree that she was the daughter of Bambarra and Mary Murray, emancipated slaves from Denton in Caroline County, Maryland. As a young adult she lived in Baltimore, Maryland, working as a housekeeper and laundress in white homes. Despite refusing to demonstrate reading or writing skills throughout her life, she clearly had some interest in self-improvement in her youth because she first met Frederick Douglass, then known as Frederick Bailey, through mutual friends at the East Baltimore Mental Improvement Society, an organization of free blacks who promoted literacy.

The two had met by the late summer of 1838 when Anna sold many of ...

Article

James Sellman

Frederick Douglass was more than a great African American leader. He was, in the words of his biographer William S. McFeely, “one of the giants of nineteenth-century America.” He was a man driven by his anger at injustice, McFeely observed, a man who “never ran away from anything”—except the bondage of slavery. Even in that, he took flight not simply to escape but to engage. After gaining his freedom, the former slave turned in his tracks and confronted the institution head-on.

Douglass played a prominent role in nineteenth-century reform movements, not only through his abolitionism but also in his support for women's rights and black suffrage. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he stayed true to his principles, remaining steadfast in his commitment to integration and civil rights. Douglass was militant but never a separatist. He rejected the nationalist rhetoric and latter-day conservatism of black abolitionist Martin Robison Delany ...

Article

David W. Blight

Frederick Douglass lived for twenty years as a slave and nearly nine years as a fugitive slave. From the 1840s to his death in 1895 he attained international fame as an abolitionist, editor, orator, statesman, and the author of three autobiographies that became classics of the slave narrative tradition. Douglass lived to see the Emancipation of the slaves during the Civil War and made a major contribution to interpreting the meaning of those epochal events. He labored for the establishment of black civil rights and witnessed their betrayal during Reconstruction and the Gilded Age. He advocated women's rights long before they were achieved.

It took nearly a century after his death for Douglass s work to receive widespread attention in school curriculums and in the scholarly fields of literature and history With the flowering of African American history and culture in the 1960s and a greatly increased attention to slavery ...

Article

Michael L. Krenn

Through the early nineteenth century the ability of African Americans to effectively participate in U.S. foreign policy was extremely limited. These limitations are easily understood, as only a small portion of the African American population was free in the years following the American Revolution, and, regardless, freedom did not translate into political rights. Without the abilities to vote or to run for and hold public office, free African Americans were unable to play a significant role in the political arena. Nevertheless, African Americans sought to have a voice in the young nation's diplomacy. Though they had little impact at the time, their efforts helped to establish the broad parameters of the African American role in American diplomacy for years to come.

The limited avenues for official participation by African Americans in U S foreign policy resulted in fairly organized private efforts at influencing the nation s diplomacy Even before the ...

Article

Sam Hitchmough

Between 1789 and 1832 there were more than twenty revolts on the island that transformed itself from French Saint Domingue, the richest colony in the world, to Haiti, the first independent black state in the Western Hemisphere, established with finality through a successful slave uprising in 1804. A fragile independence in what Frederick Douglass called the “Black Republic” again witnessed recurring upheavals, and between 1843 and 1915 the country had twenty-two heads of state, fourteen of whom were deposed by revolution.

The most significant revolt was the uprising that resulted in Haitian independence, initially led by Toussaint Louverture. Inspired by the French Revolution of 1789, all three of the main groups on the island—slaves, free blacks, and white colonists—pressed for greater autonomy. At first the colony was allowed internal selfgovernment under metropolitan supervision, but the position of blacks remained ambiguous. Vincent Ogé led a brief rebellion ...

Article

Charles P. Toombs

and prototype for the title character in Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852). Josiah Henson was born a slave in Charles County, Maryland, on 15 June 1789. The details of his life are recorded in The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself (1849). As a very young child Henson states that he was largely unaware that his life was in any way remarkable. It was not until the death of his master, Dr. McPherson and the sale of his mother and siblings that the real horrors and anxieties of slave life impressed him After his family is sold he recalls earlier times when his mother was sexually assaulted and his father was mutilated In spite of the cruel treatment his mother received at the hands of so called Christians she taught him ...

Article

Peter Hudson

Josiah Henson was originally thought to be the model for Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. He was born into slavery in Charles County, Maryland, but showed such loyalty and devotion that his owner, Isaac Riley, granted him exceptional privileges and responsibilities, and allowed him to work as a Methodist Episcopal preacher. Through his meager salary as a preacher, Henson was able to save almost $300, which he hoped would buy his freedom. Riley agreed with Henson on a price of $450, but knowing that Henson was illiterate, Riley changed the contract to $1,000 and then made plans to sell him. Henson learned of these betrayals and fearing forced separation from his family decided to escape to Canada, settling in Dresden, Canada West (Ontario).

Henson became a British patriot while in Canada and led a volunteer brigade against William Lyon Mackenzie and the Americans ...

Article

Cecily Jones

The first female African‐American author of a fugitive slave narrative, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861). Born in North Carolina to an enslaved mother, who died when Jacobs was aged 6, she then lived with her grandmother and her mistress, from whom she learnt to read and write. Following her mistress's death, Jacobs was sent to Dr James Norcom, who subjected her to prolonged physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. To avoid Norcom's unwanted sexual attentions, Jacobs began a relationship with a white attorney, with whom she had two children.

Hoping that by running away she might persuade Norcom to sell her children to their father, in 1835 Jacobs concealed herself above a storeroom in her grandmother's house, before escaping to the North in 1842. She joined a circle of abolitionists who worked for the North Star, Frederick Douglass's newspaper. In 1853 ...