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Article

Abraham  

Kenny A. Franks

also known as “Prophet,” was a runaway slave who became a prominent leader among the Seminole. Nothing is known about his parents or childhood. Fleeing his master, Abraham escaped south into Florida, and was eventually adopted into the Seminole tribe, with whom he enjoyed considerable status. In 1826 he accompanied a tribal delegation to Washington, D.C., and became an influential counselor to Micanopy, a leading Seminole leader. The Seminole, or Florida Indians, once were a part both of the Muskogee (Creek) nation that had been driven out of Georgia by the early English colonists, and also of the Oconee and Yamasee tribes that had been driven out of the Carolinas following the Yamasee uprising of 1715. They had first settled among the Lower Creeks in the Florida Panhandle and created a haven for runaway slaves. Indeed, Semino'le is the Creek word for “runaway.”

In 1818Andrew Jackson led ...

Article

Diane Mutti Burke

fugitive slave, was born near Richmond, Virginia, on a plantation owned by the Delaney family. Despite his memories of being well treated, his father, Aleck, was sold to pay his master's debts and taken south. Rev. Delaney justified Aleck's sale by claiming that the literate slave had shared ideas about freedom with other slaves in the neighborhood. When Rev. Delaney died in 1831, Alexander's mother, Chloe, was left to Mrs. Delaney, and eighteen-year-old Alexander was left to the master's son, Thomas. Chloe Alexander died six months after Thomas Delaney took her son with him to Missouri.

Delaney settled in western St Charles County Missouri where Alexander married a local slave woman named Louisa He later sold Alexander to Louisa s master Jim Hollman when he moved from the state and the couple spent the next twenty years living with their growing family on the Hollman farm Alexander was ...

Article

Anton  

Jean Mutaba Rahier

In 1553 Anton and twenty-two other slaves embarked from Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, as part of merchandise bound for the Peruvian port of Callao. The ship wrecked off the coast of Esmeraldas, and the twenty-three slaves killed their Spanish captors and escaped into the forest.

At that time various small indigenous groups inhabited central Esmeraldas: the Niguas, Yumbos, Campaces, Lachas, and Malabas. The first contact of the maroons was with the Niguas and the Yumbos. As the groups clashed, the maroons enjoyed an advantage in combat, owing to the surprise provoked by their arrival and the firearms they had liberated from the shipwreck. Anton was nicknamed “the big sorcerer,” and his witchcraft skills were also a decisive factor in instilling fear into the Niguas and gaining their respect.

Through Anton's leadership the maroons increasingly dominated the indigenous communities. Sebastian Alonso de Illescas gradually established himself as Anton s ...

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

Paul Finkelman and Richard Newman

escaped slave, was born on a plantation in Louisa County, Virginia, to unknown parents. As a youth, Brown lived with his parents, four sisters, and three brothers until the family was separated and his master hired him out at age fifteen to work in a tobacco factory in Richmond, Virginia. Brown's autobiography illuminates the vicissitudes of slave life but does not recount any further major events in his own life other than his marriage around 1836 to Nancy, the slave of a bank clerk, with whom he had three children. In August 1848 Nancy's owner sold her and her three children (Brown's children) to a slave trader who took them South. Brown begged his own master to purchase them, but he refused. Brown later wrote in his autobiography: “I went to my Christian master but he shoved me away According to his autobiography Brown actually saw his wife and ...

Article

Paul Finkelman

Henry “Box” Brown was born a slave in Louisa County, Virginia, probably around 1815. By 1830 he was living in Richmond, where his master hired him out to work in a tobacco factory. Around 1836, when he would have been about twenty-one, Brown married a slave named Nancy, who was owned by a bank clerk. The owner promised not to sell Nancy but soon did so anyway. She was later resold to a Mr. Cottrell, who persuaded Brown to give him fifty dollars of the purchase price. Cottrell also promised never to sell Nancy, but in 1848 he sold her, and her children with Henry, to slave traders, who removed them from the state. Brown pleaded with his own master to buy Nancy and the children. As Brown wrote in his autobiography, “I went to my Christian master but he shoved me away from him as ...

Article

Diane Mutti Burke

author of a slave narrative, was born to slave parents in Prince Edward County, Virginia. The Lemuel Bruce family, including Pettis and Rebecca (Bruce) Perkinson, owned Henry Bruce and his mother and siblings. Bruce's many siblings included his younger brother, Blanche Kelso Bruce, the senator from Mississippi from 1875 to 1881.

Bruce spent most of his early childhood years on plantations and farms in Virginia, Missouri, and—briefly—Mississippi. Pettis Perkinson brought Bruce, his mother, and siblings back to Chariton County, Missouri, where he permanently settled in 1850 From the age of nine Bruce was frequently hired out to other employers in the community and worked at a variety of occupations including brick making tobacco manufacturing and general farm labor Bruce had a self described desire to learn and was taught to read by his young owner and playmate William Perkinson The older Bruce children taught their younger siblings ...

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

As with other maroon settlements (communities of runaway slaves) in the Americas, few records exist that explore the history and culture of the Peruvian settlement called Huachipa (1712–1713). Even scarcer is the information on the settlement's most notable leader, Francisco Congo. Also called Chavelilla, Congo had escaped from servitude in Pisco, near the capital city of Lima, and arrived in Huachipa in early 1713, shortly after its establishment. He was welcomed into the community by its leader, Martín Terranovo.

Named mayor and captain of the community Congo handled both administrative and military duties A struggle for leadership began among members of different African tribal groups in the community which eventually became a fight between Martín and Francisco Congo During the fight Congo was severely injured and left for dead He mysteriously recovered and killed Martín His amazing recovery led to a belief that his triumph was ...

Article

Cudjoe  

Alonford James Robinson

The life and death of the Jamaican maroon (fugitive slave), Cudjoe, has become a symbol of black resistance in Jamaica. Cudjoe's story as the eighteenth century leader of the Clarendon maroons has also been a contested part of Jamaican history. Early European descriptions painted a caricatured portrait of him, while black recollections portrayed him as a fearless soldier.

Cudjoe was among more than 500 African-born slaves in the Jamaican parish of St. Clarendon who escaped after a violent insurrection in 1690. Cudjoe emerged as leader of a loose confederation of runaway slaves who lived in the Clarendon hills. The Clarendon maroons, led by Cudjoe, organized themselves into small gangs that secretly wandered into white towns to steal food and weapons.

Even though the Clarendon maroons were disunited they became skilled soldiers and expert marksmen Under Cudjoe s leadership they defended their freedom in a series of small skirmishes ...

Article

Dâaga  

John Saillant

Dâaga (c. 1800/05?–1838), also known as Donald Stewart, Longa Longa, and, possibly, King’s Man, was an African-born soldier of the British First West India Regiment. Dâaga was probably born in modern-day Benin and reared among the Popo. He became a captive in the Portuguese transatlantic slave trade probably around 1830, although he himself had worked as a raider or trader in the Portuguese–African trade in slaves that took place in modern-day Togo, Benin, and Nigeria. Information available on Dâaga derives from local Trinidadian and British military responses to a mutiny of soldiers, apparently all African-born, that he led in June 1837. There are no records of any family members other than a brief mention of a Popo “king” who adopted Dâaga as a boy. He became a Trinidadian folk hero in the century and a half after his death.

The mutiny led to an investigation of its ...

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

Son of a minor cacique (chief) of the Bahoruco (steep mountains in southeastern Hispaniola) and an orphan since the massacre of the Indian chiefs of Xaragua by Nicolas Ovando, Enriquillo had been raised by Dominican monks, who taught him to speak, read, and write Spanish.

As happened with most Indians at the time, Enriquillo was given as a slave to a brutal Spaniard, Valenzuela, who abused him and tried to rape Enriquillo's young wife. Enriquillo escaped with his family, taking with him some Indian slaves, determined, like himself, to live free or die in the attempt.

Valenzuela pursued the fugitives with a troop of twelve armed Spanish soldiers and attacked Enriquillo s encampment Two Spaniards were killed others were wounded and Valenzuela was captured by Enriquillo s men On setting his old master free the rebel cacique sent him away with those words Thank God I am a Christian ...

Article

Laura Murphy

was born to an enslaved mother on Maplewood Plantation in Boone County, Kentucky. Her mother, Priscilla, worked in the plantation house and helped to raise the children of John P. Gaines, her owner and later a U.S. congressman and governor of the Oregon territory. While Priscilla is listed as “black” in the 1850 census, Margaret Garner is listed as “mulatto” suggesting that John Gaines was perhaps Margaret's father. When Gaines left to govern Oregon, he abruptly sold his plantation and all of the slaves on it to his brother, Archibald James, who thus became Margaret's owner.

On 27 January 1856 Garner and sixteen other slaves escaped from the various Kentucky plantations on which they worked They stole two horses to which they hitched a sled to carry them to the Ohio River Leaving Covington Kentucky together they crossed the frozen Ohio River after which they split up ...

Article

Gordon  

Frank H. Goodyear

escaped slave and Union soldier, was likely born on the plantation of John Lyon near Washington, Louisiana, an important steamboat port before the Civil War. Lyon was a cotton planter whose property was located on the Atchafalya River. The names of Gordon's parents and details about his youth are not known.

Gordon received a severe whipping for undisclosed reasons from the plantation's overseer in the fall of 1862. This beating left him with horrible welts on much of the surface of his back, and for the next two months Gordon recuperated in bed. Although Lyon discharged the overseer who carried out this vicious attack, Gordon decided to escape.

In March 1863 Gordon fled his home heading east toward the Mississippi River and Union lines Upon learning of his flight his master recruited several neighbors and together they chased after him with a pack of bloodhounds Gordon had anticipated ...

Article

Lorenz Graham

Shields Green was born a slave in South Carolina and spent most of his life there. As a young man he escaped and fled to the North with the help of the Underground Railroad. In Rochester, New York, Green found shelter in the home of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who has given a detailed description of Green and especially of Green's relationship to radical abolitionist John Brown. Green first met Brown at Douglass's home. Douglass wrote that Green, or “Emperor,” as he was sometimes called, was “a man of few words, and his speech was singularly broken; but his courage and self-respect made him quite a dignified character. John Brown saw at once what ‘stuff’ Green ‘was made of,’ and confided to him his plans and purposes.” Green believed in Brown and trusted him. He promised to go with Brown whenever Brown might call him.

Two months before ...

Article

Zoe Trodd

fugitive slave, was hanged for his participation in John Brown's raid at Harpers Ferry. Nothing is known about his family or early life except that he was from Charleston, South Carolina, and was nicknamed “Emperor.” Green escaped from slavery, leaving behind a son, and reached Canada, but then returned to the United States and sought out Frederick Douglass. In 1859 Green met Brown at Douglass's Rochester, New York, home. According to Douglass, Brown saw “at once what ‘stuff’ Green ‘was made of’ and confided to him his plans and purposes” (Life and Times, 757). Green felt a kindred chemistry too. He was ready to follow Brown and accepted a position in Brown's provisional government for a nation without slavery.

On 19 August 1859 with his raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry looming large on the horizon Brown summoned Douglass to a meeting that ...

Article

Lois Kerschen

one of the two black men captured and executed following the raid on the federal arsenal in Harpers Ferry, Virginia. A fugitive slave of pure African descent from Charleston, South Carolina, Shields Green was also known as Emperor. Green was in his early twenties and illiterate when he was introduced to John Brown at the home of Frederick Douglass in Rochester, New York. Douglass described Green as a man of few words, perhaps because his “speech was singularly broken.” Nonetheless, Brown admired Green's character and later asked Douglass to bring Green with him to a secret meeting on 19 August 1859 in Chambersburg Pennsylvania The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the proposed raid on Harpers Ferry Douglass knew the raid was a doomed mission and refused to participate Green on the other hand had become an avid follower of Brown over the three weeks during which they ...

Article

Laura Murphy

writer and laborer, was born a slave in Oxford Neck, Maryland, to an enslaved mother named Matilda Jackson. Green lamented throughout his life that he was born too early, because his mother was freed by the terms of her owner's will three months after his birth. Because he was born to a slave mother, he was a slave by law regardless of how little time remained in her tenure as a slave. Green still had hopes of being free in his lifetime because Molly Goldsbury, his owner, bequeathed to him a gradual emancipation by which Green could be freed when he turned twenty-five years old. However, she was not alive to ensure the proper execution of her will, and when he was sold after her death, there were no explicit provisions regarding his emancipation.

In his early years then Green was sold from owner to owner working ...

Article

Jemmy  

Steven J. Niven

leader of the 1739 Stono slave rebellion, was born in central Africa, most likely in the Kingdom of Kongo, now part of Angola, and brought as a slave to the British colony of South Carolina in the 1730s. A majority of the African slaves sold by the British Royal African Company to South Carolina in the early eighteenth century originated in Kongo, an independent kingdom that had converted to Christianity more than two hundred years earlier. If typical of Kongolese slaves brought to South Carolina, Jemmy would have worshipped a combination of Roman Catholicism and older African faiths and may well have had knowledge of Portuguese, or some Creolized variant of that language, which was the lingua franca of the slave trade and of the Kongo elite Jemmy s ability as a military leader and the fighting skills of his fellow rebels had probably been acquired through service in ...