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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 ...

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Henry Bibb (1815–1854) survived a life of slavery more harrowing than most. Born in Kentucky and sold multiple times to increasingly cruel and negligent masters, Bibb willed himself to endure for the sake of his wife Malinda and their family. Bibb managed to escape, but was recaptured when he returned for Malinda and their child. He then spent time in a labor prison before being sold to another master. After making a final escape, Bibb spent years trying to retrieve Malinda, only to discover in 1845 that she had been sold as a concubine to a new slaveholder. From that dismal point, Bibb’s career as an abolitionist began in earnest. He published his story, Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb, An American Slave, in 1849, and founded an abolitionist newspaper Voice of the Fugitive in 1851.

Due to his difficult experiences it is not surprising that ...

Article

Jeannine DeLombard

fugitive slave, soldier, and slave narrative author, was born on a tobacco plantation in Calvert County, Maryland, the son of slave parents whose names are unknown. When Charles was four years old, his mother and siblings were sold to slave traders to settle their late master's debts; he never saw them again. Charles was sold to John Cox, a local slave owner, and continued to live near his father and grandfather. After the sale of Charles's mother, his father sank into a deep depression, eventually escaping from slavery on the eve of his purchase by a slave trader. Charles grew close to his octogenarian grandfather, a former African warrior who had arrived in Maryland about 1730.

Cox died when Charles Ball was twelve and the young slave worked for his late master s father until he was twenty years old During this time Ball married a slave ...

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

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

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

Sara Kakazu

autobiographer and religious leader, was born Lucy Ann Berry in St. Louis, Missouri, to Polly Crocket Berry, who was born free in Illinois, but was kidnapped and enslaved as a child. She and her husband, whose name is not known, were enslaved by Major Taylor Berry of St. Louis and had two children, Lucy and Nancy. Delaney's early childhood was relatively happy; she was not aware of her position as a slave nor was she expected to perform any labor for her owners. Lucy Delaney's peaceful childhood was interrupted when Major Berry who had paradoxically been both a master and a friend to her father was killed in a duel After Berry s death his widow remarried and Delaney s father was sold south contrary to the Major s will This traumatic separation only increased Polly Berry s determination to escape with her daughters to freedom she ...

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

Vincent Carretta

The most important and one of the most widely published authors of African descent in the English‐speaking world of the 18th century. Equiano helped to found the genre of the slave narrative when he published The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African: Written by Himself in London in March 1789. The Interesting Narrative is a spiritual autobiography, captivity narrative, travel book, adventure tale, slavery narrative, economic treatise, apologia, and argument against the transatlantic slave trade and slavery. From its first appearance the Interesting Narrative has also been recognized as the classic description of an African society before contact with Europeans, as well as of the forced transatlantic transportation of enslaved Africans known since the 18th century as the Middle Passage.

By his own account, Equiano was born in 1745 in Eboe in the kingdom of Benin in what is now south ...

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

David N. Gellman

In 1760 Jupiter Hammon became the first published African American poet. Over the next three decades Hammon's small assortment of published prose and poetry made him a literary pioneer. The native of Long Island, New York, explored themes and styles that would define African American literature from the American Revolution to the Civil War. His reputation has long been obscured by that of his more famous contemporary, Phillis Wheatley. Nonetheless, Hammon's work addresses crucial themes concerning religion, slavery, and African American literary self-expression.

Hammon spent his entire life as a slave He was the property of the Lloyds a wealthy merchant family that maintained an estate on the northern coast of Long Island Slaves were among the cargo the Lloyds carried between the West Indies and the Atlantic coast One scholar suggests that Hammon was the son of two Lloyd family slaves Rose whom the Lloyds had acquired from ...

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 ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

poet, essayist, teacher, and activist, was born in Harlem, New York, the daughter of Jamaican-born parents Mildred Maud Fisher, a nurse, and Granville Ivanhoe Jordan, a postal clerk. Mildred, who was half East Indian, was a quiet and religious woman who had given up a career as an artist to marry; she struggled with depression and eventually committed suicide in 1966. Jordan's father, who was half Chinese and a follower of the black nationalist Marcus Garvey made no apologies for his dissatisfaction with his only child s gender He had wanted a boy and treated Jordan as such Referring to her as he and the boy Granville subjected his young daughter to rigorous mental and physical training regimens that included camping fishing and boxing instruction aggressive mathematical and literary testing and often brutal physical beatings Jordan describes her father s abuse in ...

Article

Wylene J. Rholetter

James Russell Lowell was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, into a family that traced its ancestry to the first Lowell to arrive in Massachusetts in the mid-seventeenth century. The son of Dr. Charles Lowell, who served as the pastor of West Church in Boston for fifty-six years, and Harriet Spence, who gave her son a love of poetry and tales, Lowell would prove to be the most versatile of the Fireside Poets, the group of Massachusetts poets so-named because the popularity of their poems made them standard hearth-side reading in homes across the country. (In addition to Lowell, the group included William Cullen Bryant, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and John Greenleaf Whittier.)

After receiving his bachelor's degree from Harvard, Lowell briefly considered the ministry and business before entering Harvard's Dane Law School, where he received his degree in 1840 More significant to his ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

writer and critic, was born in Nokomis, Alabama, the son of Sudie Graham, a Tuskegee Institute student, and John Young, a businessman. Soon after his birth Mattie Murray, a housewife, and her husband, Hugh, a laborer and timber worker, adopted him. Murray, who later enjoyed a close relationship with Graham and Young, joked of his adoption by less-wealthy parents, “It's just like the prince left among the paupers” (Gates, 30). He learned about the folkways of segregation in Magazine Point, a community on the outskirts of Mobile, Alabama, where his family had moved during World War I. “We didn't dislike white people,” he recalled. “We saw too many bony-butt poor white crackers. We were going to feel inferior to them?” (Maguire, 139). Murray's rejection of any notion of black inferiority was further strengthened by exposure to Mobile's baseball legend Satchel Paige and ...

Article

Allan D. Austin

Islamic slave and autobiographer, was African born and also known as Omar, Uncle Moro, and Moreau. The son of moderately wealthy parents in Futa Toro (northeastern Senegal), whom he honored in several of his American writings, he may have been related, at some remove, to some of the other Fulbe or Fulani caught up in the Atlantic slave trade, such as Job Ben Solomon, Ibrahima Abd al-Rahman, Bilali, Salih Bilali, and Charno (a literate Fula enslaved in South Carolina). All were steadfast adherents to Islam. According to Said's own statements, he was educated for some twenty years by Fulani instructors, became a teacher himself, and while in Futa Toro closely followed the tenets of his religion. He never mentioned having a wife or children.

Said did write that an unidentified African army he belonged to was defeated by an infidel non Muslim enemy ...

Article

Mark Andrew Huddle

fugitive slave, memoirist, and sailor, was born into slavery on the Wagar plantation in southern Maryland, the son of two field slaves whose names remain unknown. Although there is little information about Thompson's life beyond his memoirs, his descriptions of his experiences in slavery as well as his adventures as a black seaman are important contributions to our knowledge of both those worlds.

John Thompson's recollections of his early years are vague at best. His realization that he was a slave came at age six, when he witnessed the sale of his oldest sister. Even at that early age, as Thompson recounted in his memoirs, he was engaged in backbreaking work in the corn, wheat, and tobacco fields of the Wagar plantations. Like many slave-narrative authors, including Harriet Jacobs, Henry Bibb, Solomon Northup, William Parker, Solomon Bayley, James Mars, and William ...

Article

Maria Lauret

writer, activist, and educator, was born in Eatonton, Georgia, the youngest daughter of Willie Lee and Minnie Lou Grant Walker, who were sharecroppers. As the youngest of eight children growing up in the South, Walker experienced her share of familial and racial tension but also a good deal of closeness between, particularly, the female members of her family, whose talents and achievements she celebrates in her novels, poems, and essays. When she was eight years old, her brother shot her in the eye with a BB gun while they were playing cowboys and Indians, causing an injury that, despite later corrective surgery, scarred her for life. The incident led Walker into the first of several recurrent episodes of self-reflection and isolation, which, although desperately difficult, often resulted in the reassertion of her artistic voice.

A gifted child Walker graduated from her high school as its valedictorian in ...

Article

David Dabydeen

African‐Americanabolitionist who lectured in England. Ward was born a slave but managed to escape with his parents to New York State, where he was educated and later taught in black schools. He became an agent of the American Anti‐Slavery Society and the Anti‐Slavery Society of Canada. It was through the latter that he travelled to England on a fundraising mission in 1853. He remained in England for two years, lecturing around the country and finally publishing the story of his life, Autobiography of a Fugitive Negro, in 1855. British anti‐slavery gatherings often featured celebrated American abolitionist figures, such as Ward.

On 16 May 1853 Ward gave a speech alongside the American novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe at Exeter Hall London as part of the annual meeting of the British and Foreign Anti Slavery Society Thousands were packed into the hall and Ward was well received He ...