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The court case of Ableman v. Booth stemmed from the capture of a fugitive slave named Joshua Glover just outside of Racine, Wisconsin, on 10 March 1854. Federal marshals accompanying Glover's owner, a Missourian named Bennami Garland, broke into the shack Glover was occupying and forcibly detained him after a spirited resistance. Glover was taken overnight by wagon to the county jail in Milwaukee, thirty miles north. Garland and the federal marshals intended to take Glover before the U.S. district court judge the next morning to authorize his return to Missouri.

Sherman Booth, Milwaukee's most prominent abolitionist and the publisher of the Milwaukee Free Democrat was alerted to Glover s incarceration by early morning and spread the news quickly throughout the abolitionist community While lawyers obtained a writ of habeas corpus from a county court on Glover s behalf to protect him against illegal imprisonment Booth and ...

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

Amistad  

Elizabeth R. Purdy

On 28 June 1839 the schooner La Amistad sailed from Havana, Cuba, en route to Puerto Príncipe, carrying fifty-three Africans, including four children. These so-called slaves were in fact free Africans who had been stolen from their homes in West Africa and brought to Cuba. Two Spanish planters, José Ruiz and Pedro Montes, purchased them, gave them Spanish names, and falsely labeled them as native Cubans. After the schooner's cook jokingly told them that they were to be “killed, salted, and cooked,” the Africans decided to revolt. Three days after setting sail, the captives Joseph Cinqué and Grabeau led the Africans in using wood and knives to overpower the crew. During the battle three Africans as well as the schooner's captain and cook were killed.

After the revolt the Africans ordered theAmistad crew to return them to Africa However the Spaniards secretly turned the ship around each ...

Article

Alonford James Robinson

Although England and Spain had signed a treaty in 1817 prohibiting the transatlantic slave trade, a group of African Mende were captured in an area near Sierra Leone in April 1839 and forced onto a Portuguese slave ship bound for Havana, Cuba. To avoid prosecution for breaking international law, the captives were smuggled onto the island at night when the ship reached Cuba. While in Havana, fifty-three Africans (forty-nine adult males, three girls, and one boy) were sold to two Spaniards, José Ruiz and Pedro Montes, who intended to use them as slaves on Cuban plantations. On June 28 1839, the Africans were loaded aboard the Spanish schooner La Amistad as it set sail along the Cuban coast for Puerto Príncipe. On La Amistad's fourth day at sea, a few of the captives were allowed to come on deck for exercise. One of them, Joseph Cinque found a ...

Article

Lorenz Graham

Born in Pennsylvania of free parents, Anderson attended Oberlin College, in Ohio, and as a young man he worked as a printer. His education and skill made him valuable to white American abolitionist John Brown, whom he met in the spring of 1858 in Chatham, Ontario, in Canada. Anderson was the only member of the party who took part in the heaviest of the fighting at Harpers Ferry and escaped. He lived to give the only eyewitness account of the raid in his book A Voice from Harper's Ferry (1861).

In Chatham, Brown had set up an organization of white and black men who wanted to take direct action against slavery. Former slaves who had settled in Canada and free blacks met with Brown and his men, who had shared in an attack on proslavery extremists in Kansas in 1856 Anderson served as recording secretary at ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

abolitionist, was born in West Fallowfield Township in Chester County, Pennsylvania, the son of Vincent Anderson, a free black man. Both Osborne and his father are listed in the U.S. census as “mulatto.” Osborne's mother, according to family lore, was a white woman of Irish or Scottish descent. Osborne Anderson attended the public schools of Chester County and may have studied at Oberlin College in Ohio in the 1850s, although the university has no official record of him doing so.

The most significant development in Anderson's early life was the passage by the U.S. Congress in 1850 of the Fugitive Slave Act which made it a federal offense to harbor escaped slaves Many free blacks in the North as well as slaves who had escaped bondage and sought refuge in the free states immediately made plans to flee to Canada fearing that they would be captured by slave ...

Primary Source

The document below is excerpted from a letter addressed to Hugh Brown of Robeson County, North Carolina, dated 26 June 1821. The text appears at the bottom of a letter originally written by John Fort Jr. of Wayne County. Historian John Hope Franklin, in his book The Free Negro in North Carolina 1790–1860 posits that one of Fort s slaves wrote this message on a letter originally intended for Brown in order to ask Brown for religious instruction and inclusion in Christian worship services Adding to the confusion is the fact that the message begins with Master John still the subject matter suggests that Brown is the intended recipient This hidden message is evidence of the desire among many slaves to participate in the local religion and the resistance they faced from whites Though some churches at least attempted to provide separate services and classes for slaves and free ...

Article

Rob Garrison

José Antonio Aponte, a free black man, worked as a carpenter and a wood carver in Havana, Cuba, before taking the role of revolutionary leader. Like many other Afro-Cubans in the early 1800s, he was discontented with the continuation of slavery and Spanish dominance that kept blacks from freedom. Afro-Cubans had already supported an unsuccessful independence movement in 1810, and had their hopes raised when Spanish courts briefly considered ending slavery. Once this proposal was rejected, blacks knew that freedom could be achieved only through their own means. Aponte seized this opportunity and proceeded to gather both the free and enslaved blacks of Havana in 1811 to form the Central Revolutionary Junta. The group quickly expanded and established smaller units throughout Cuba. Aponte solicited the help of Haitian general Jean François, who promised support for the proposed revolt.

Aponte s intention was not only to end Afro ...

Primary Source

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

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

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 E. Lovejoy

abolitionist and slave-narrative author was born in the commercial center of Djougou West Africa inland from the Bight of Benin in what would later be the republic of Benin He was a younger son of a Muslim merchant from Borgu and his wife who was from Katsina the Hausa city in northern Nigeria then known as the Sokoto Caliphate his parents names are now unknown His home town Djougou was located on one of the most important caravan routes in West Africa in the nineteenth century connecting Asante the indigenous African state that controlled much of the territory that would become Ghana and the Sokoto Caliphate After a childhood in which he attended a Koranic school and learned a craft from his uncle who was also a merchant and a Muslim scholar Baquaqua followed his brother to Dagomba a province of Asante There he was captured in war in ...

Article

Chandra M. Miller

dentist and politician, was born into slavery in North Carolina and was known as Samuel Nixon before his escape from bondage in 1855. Nothing is known about his parents. He was sold several times before being purchased by C. F. Martin, a dentist in Norfolk, Virginia. As Martin's slave, Nixon learned sufficient dentistry to serve as the doctor's assistant and to make dental house calls. He also developed bookkeeping skills and monitored the doctor's accounts.

In Norfolk, Nixon became involved with the Underground Railroad. Befriending the captains of many of the schooners sailing in and out of Norfolk, he often convinced them to hide fugitive slaves aboard ship and carry them north, usually to Philadelphia or to New Bedford, Massachusetts. After conducting many other slaves through the Underground Railroad, Nixon decided to become a passenger himself in March 1855 He and three other slaves disguised themselves and ...

Article

Pellom McDaniels

professional football player, was one of six children born to Pink Bell, a textile millworker, and Janelee Cole, a domestic worker, in Shelby, North Carolina. As a boy, Bell worked alongside his father at the textile mill in Shelby, located in rural Cleveland County, moving bolts of fabric produced from the local commodity cotton. Cleveland County was known for producing more than eighty thousand bales of cotton per year during the 1940s. It was one of the largest cotton producing mill towns in North Carolina, as well as one of the richest. Bell enjoyed sports as a child, and he became a standout athlete at nearby Cleveland High School, where he received all-state honors as quarterback. Bell's excellent football skills and standout ability on the playing field made him one of the top athletes in the nation in 1958 and 1959 which made college football coaches like ...

Article

Kimberly Cheek

enslavedAfrican-American woman, was born free in Illinois around 1818. The exact date and place of her birth, and the names of her parents are not known. The memoir From Darkness Cometh Light; or Struggles for Freedom, which was published by her daughter Lucy Ann Delany in 1891, provides an account of her mother's life. Despite this extant narrative the chronological record of Berry's origins, movements, and transfer of ownership during her enslavement remains vague.

Her enslavement began in the 1820s, when Polly was abducted, taken to St. Louis, Missouri, and sold into slavery. Shortly afterward she resided in Wayne County, Kentucky. Eric Gardner in Unexpected Places asserts that the Beatty family of Wayne County Kentucky were Polly s first owners p 33 Eventually the Beattys sold her to a poor farmer named Joseph Crockett and she became known as Polly Crockett When she was fourteen ...

Article

Jane G. Landers

Haitian revolutionary, was born a slave in Cap Français (or Guarico, in Spanish), on the northern coast of Saint Domingue, in modern Haiti. Spanish documents give his parents' names as Carlos and Diana, and Biassou and his mother were the slaves of the Holy Fathers of Charity in Cap Français, where Biassou's mother worked in the Hospital of the Holy Fathers of Charity, probably as a laundress or cook. Biassou's father's owner and occupation are unknown.

In 1791 Biassou joined Boukman Dutty, a slave driver and coachman considered by the slaves to be a religious leader, and Jean‐François, also a slave from the Northern Plains of Saint Domingue, in leading the largest slave revolt in the Western Hemisphere on–the richest sugar colony of its day, French Saint Domingue. Boukman was killed in November of 1791 only three months into the revolt and Biassou and Jean François assumed command ...

Article

Billy  

William Seraile

The treason case of Billy is more significant for what it says about the ambivalence toward slavery of Thomas Jefferson and other Virginians than for the light it sheds on the life of Billy, or Will. Ironically, in 1710 another slave named Will had a brief flirtation with history. This earlier Will was freed for “his fidelity … in discovering a conspiracy of diverse negros … for levying war” in Virginia.

The Will, or Billy, of the treason case was the slave of Colonel John Tayloe, a resident of Richmond County, Virginia. Billy and others were arrested and convicted of seizing an armed vessel on 2 April 1781 in order to wage war against Virginia. He was condemned to death by the court of Oyer and Terminer in Prince William County on 8 May. Henry Lee and William Carr dissenting justices noted that he was not a citizen ...

Article

Kimberly Cheek

slave and pirate, was an African war chieftain who became a member of the brotherhood of pirates who sailed the Atlantic Ocean during the period known as the golden age of piracy, which spanned 1630 to 1730 Caesar operated during the height of the Atlantic slave trade Although his exploits have been exaggerated and obscured by legend he is a symbol of early black resistance to the tyranny of slavery that defined the existence of many blacks in the eighteenth century Atlantic world He was born in West Africa although the exact place of his birth and the names of his parents are unknown Caesar was very astute and evaded capture from many different slave traders occupying the West African coast during the eighteenth century Ultimately he was captured when a deceitful slave ship captain enticed him and twenty of his warriors aboard a slave ship by showing ...