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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 ...


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 ...


Clifton H. Johnson

clergyman and abolitionist, was born in Colchester, Connecticut, the son of Jehiel C. Beman, a clergyman. Nothing is known of his mother. He grew up and received a basic education in Middletown, Connecticut, where his father was pastor of the African church. A Wesleyan University student, L. P. Dole, volunteered to tutor Beman after the university refused his application for admission because he was an African American. Dole and Beman suffered ridicule and harassment from other students, and an anonymous threat of bodily harm from “Twelve of Us” caused Beman to give up the effort after six months. He went to Hartford, where he taught school for four years, and around 1836 he briefly attended the Oneida Institute in New York.

Beman was ordained as a Congregational minister in 1839. At about this time he married a woman whose name is not known. In 1841 ...


Mary Anne Boelcskevy

singer and actor, was born Ada Scott in Kansas City, Kansas, the daughter of H. W. and Anna Morris Scott. (Some scholars list her as being born on 1 May 1889 in Junction City, Kansas.) Nothing is known about her education, except that she began piano lessons at an early age. She also started singing in the local church choir, developing the voice that the historian Bruce Kellner calls “full, rich, and mellow” (Kellner, 55). Indeed, musical ability ran in Brown's family: Her cousin was renowned ragtime pianist and composer James Sylvester Scott.

Brown's professional life began in 1910, when she became a performer at Bob Mott's Pekin Theater in Chicago. Barely out of her teens, Brown also performed in clubs in Paris, France, and Berlin, Germany. In the early 1920s Brown joined Bennie Moten s band which was considered the Midwest s preeminent band During ...


Charlton W. Yingling

abolitionist and black rights activist, was born to a woman of African descent, probably named Eugenie, who was from French Saint‐Domingue (later Haiti). He was allegedly the unrecognized son of Aaron Burr, U.S. Senator from New York and the third vice president of the United States, and he was likely not the only child of this relationship. John P. Burr was also known as Jean‐Pierre Burr, which was probably his birth name. His mother was, by all accounts, a governess for the Burr family who was hired to care for their children during their stay in Saint‐Domingue. The majority of sources indicate that Burr–s mother was Caribbean‐born and of African descent, though one later source says she was originally from Calcutta. John P. Burr may have been born in New Jersey, and he was described as being very fair‐skinned.

By 1818 Burr had made his home in Philadelphia ...


David Dabydeen

Social reformer and active fighter for the abolition of slavery. Thomas Fowell Buxton was born at Castle Hedingham, Essex, to an Anglican family. Despite this, his mother was a member of the religious Society of Friends, and Buxton soon became acquainted with Quakerism. Through the Society of Friends he became closely connected to the Gurney family, who were Quakers, and later married one of the Gurney daughters, Hannah. The Quakers were renowned for their social reformation campaigns, and Buxton became heavily involved in many of these movements, most notably with one of the Gurney daughters, Elizabeth Fry, to whom he provided financial support for her prison reform work. In 1818 he was elected member of Parliament for Weymouth and worked, within the House of Commons, for the abolition of the slave trade. He helped William Wilberforce with the founding of the Society for the Mitigation and Gradual ...


Joshunda Sanders

former slave and landowner in central Texas at a time when few southern blacks owned land, was born a slave in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1826. The literate son of a slave mother and an Irish slaveholder father, Collins was freed in Alabama and traveled to Manor, Texas, in the mid-1800s as a skilled carpenter.

At the time he left Alabama, Collins was likely one of an estimated 500,000 free blacks in the United States in the decade before the Civil War. Free blacks were never a large population in Texas; in the 1860 census they numbered fewer than 400, but may have been twice that many. Free blacks, nevertheless, made a significant contribution to the early history of Texas. When Collins arrived in Manor, Texas, in 1863, however, he was re-enslaved.

He may have married his wife, Sarah Elizabeth Harrington at a Methodist church in the Austin ...


Patricia A. Mulvey

The lay brotherhoods of the Roman Catholic Church are voluntary organizations of the faithful to exercise some work of piety or charity. They have historically been devoted to social benevolence and mutual aid. European brotherhoods of the medieval to early modern period were affiliated with parish churches, monasteries, or convents; they were devoted to a patron saint and performed various charitable activities not performed by the state authorities, such as burying the dead, building churches, and caring for sick and imprisoned members and for their widows and orphans. Confraternities in Latin America, a development from this institution, comprised different social classes, occupations, ethnic groups, and races. These organizations have existed in many societies, but they have been most important in the Iberian Peninsula and in Iberian settlements.

When the first African slaves began arriving in large numbers in the Iberian Peninsula in the fifteenth century confraternities were created to aid ...


Erin D. Somerville

Englishpoet, philanthropist, and early voice of the abolition movement. Day was born in London and educated at Oxford, where he became influenced by the philosophy of Jean‐Jacques Rousseau. In 1773 he came across a newspaper account of the death of a slave who had committed suicide to save himself from a return to plantation labour. The story inspired Day and his friend John Bicknell to produce The Dying Negro (1773).

This long poem is written as a slave's suicide note to his future wife and can be read as a response to the previous year's Mansfield decision, which declared that no slave could be legally forced to return to labour against his or her wishes. The Dying Negro oscillates between a first hand account of slavery and comment on the slavery system The poem was a popular early vehicle for the abolition movement and ...


Sheryl A. Kujawa

Ferguson, Katy (1779?–11 July 1854), child welfare worker and school founder was born a slave on board a schooner en route from Virginia to New York City Her formal name was Catherine Williams but she was known as Katy Separated from her mother at the age of eight after the woman was sold by their master a Presbyterian elder Katy never saw her mother again Although she never learned to read or write Katy was allowed to attend church services and before she was sold her mother taught her the Scriptures from memory Katy was deeply religious and a strong adherent of the Presbyterian faith At the age of ten she promised her master that she would dedicate her life to God s service if given her freedom This request was denied but Katy eventually obtained her freedom she was purchased for $200 by an abolitionist sympathizer ...


Julie Winch

businessman and social reformer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Thomas Forten, a freeborn sailmaker, and Margaret (maiden name unknown). James's parents enrolled him in the African School of abolitionist Anthony Benezet. When James was seven, his father died. Margaret Forten struggled to keep her son in school, but he was eventually forced to leave at age nine and work full time to help support the family. His family remained in Philadelphia throughout the American Revolution, and Forten later recalled being in the crowd outside the Pennsylvania State House when the Declaration of Independence was read to the people for the first time.

In 1781, while serving on a privateer, Forten was captured by the British and spent seven months on the infamous prison ship Jersey in New York harbor.

After a voyage to England in 1784 as a merchant seaman Forten returned ...


With the emergence of free African American communities in the urban United States during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, blacks formed fraternal organizations and mutual aid societies to meet a number of pressing needs. One scholar estimates that as of 1840, more than two hundred organizations were spread across the nation's largest cities, with a membership conservatively estimated at ten thousand. Like many whites during the early years of the Republic, blacks sought ways to integrate themselves into a rapidly changing world. Black organizers in urban American, however, faced a unique set of challenges. They tried to meet the physical and social challenges to a community striving to realize the fruits of emancipation while responding to a largely hostile white population's antagonism to interracial citizenship, let alone fellowship and mutual assistance.

The leadership of African American organizations often overlapped with and sometimes preceded black religious institutions Associations ...


W. Caleb McDaniel

clergyman and abolitionist, was born Leonard Andrew Grimes in Leesburg, Loudon County, Virginia, the son of free black parents, Andrew Grimes and Mary (Polly or Molly) Goings (or Goines). After being orphaned at a young age, Grimes moved to Washington, D.C. On 27 May 1833 he married Octavia Janet Colson (or Colston), and by 1845 the couple had two daughters and one son. During the 1830s Grimes worked at various jobs and may have been hired by a local slaveholder, but he eventually went into business driving hacks in Washington. In 1840 he was convicted of using his hack to help an enslaved family escape from Loudon County to Canada and was sentenced to two years in prison.

About two or three years after his release, Grimes moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts. A fourth child was born there in 1846 but died five years later The elder Grimes ...


Bernadette Pruitt

the self-reliant bondsman of the legendary Sam Houston, was born to a slave mother and reared on the Temple Lea Plantation in Marion, Perry County, Alabama, three years after the territory gained statehood. Joshua stood out at an early age. Although a field hand, the boy began learning blacksmithing and other skills. With the aid of the Lea family Joshua also began reading. The remarkable youngster garnered a reputation early on as a precocious and assiduous child. Barely eighteen, he carried this reputation with him when moved to Texas.

In 1834 Joshua's owner, Temple Lea, died and willed the twelve-year-old Joshua to his teenage daughter Margaret Moffette Lea, who six years later at the age of twenty-one married and became the third wife of the forty-six-year-old Sam Houston Houston the former general who led the Anglo American victory against General Antonio López de Santa Anna s six ...


Jean Fagan Yellin

autobiographer and reformer, was born into slavery in Edenton, North Carolina, the daughter of Elijah, a skilled slave carpenter, and Delilah, a house slave. In her slave narrative Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Written by Herself (1861), published under the pseudonym Linda Brent, Jacobs explained that although it was illegal, she learned to read and to spell at six, when after her mother's death she was taken in by her mistress. When Jacobs reached puberty this mistress died, and she was willed to the woman's niece and sent into that child's home, where her new mistress's father subjected her to unrelenting sexual harassment. To save herself from concubinage, at sixteen she began a sexual liaison with a young white neighbor. (Called Mr. Sands in Incidents, he was Samuel Tredwell Sawyer later a member of Congress This union produced a ...


Scott A. Miltenberger

Jones was born a slave in Sussex, Delaware. At the age of sixteen he was sold to a store owner in Philadelphia; four years later he began attending the night school for blacks run by the Quaker and antislavery advocate Anthony Benezet. In 1770 he married a slave woman and fourteen years later, with the aid of her father, managed to purchase their freedom.

In Philadelphia, Jones gravitated to Saint George's Methodist Church, where together with Richard Allen he served as a lay minister for black congregants. In 1787 the two founded the Free African Society, a nondenominational black mutual aid society. Jones and Allen also developed the idea of a separate Methodist church for black Philadelphians. While Allen ultimately broke with the society over religious questions, Jones retained his affiliation. In 1793 Jones and Allen responded to Dr. Benjamin Rush s call to mobilize the black ...


Nazneen Ahmed

Philanthropist instrumental in the founding of the Anti‐Slavery Society. The eldest of twelve children of a Scottish minister, at 14 Macaulay was placed in a merchant's office in Glasgow. In 1784 he was sent Jamaica, where he eventually became the manager of a plantation. His experiences during the eight years he spent in the West Indies caused him to dislike and eventually oppose the system of slavery. In 1796 he was appointed Governor of the Sierra Leone colony for freed slaves, which had been established by Granville Sharp and Henry Thornton in 1791. He resigned from the post in 1799, returning to England to attempt to end the institution of slavery and with 40 African children who were to be educated in Clapham.

Macaulay married Selina Mills in 1799 and was father to nine children including the distinguished historian Thomas Babington Macaulay He was a prominent ...


were former slaves, housing rights advocates, humanitarians, and leaders of a pioneering family of black Iowans. Nancy was born in Newman, Georgia, to Jake and Angeline Candler, later spelled Chandler. According to family lore passed on from Angeline Candler to her daughter, the family had been slaves of the family of Asa Candler, the Coca-Cola magnate. Nancy passed this and other stories on to her children. One of five siblings, Archie was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, to George Martin, a minister, and Julia Martin. Little is known about the Martins' lives in the period immediately following emancipation. Both embraced Christianity, but neither was afforded the opportunity to attend school. Nancy taught herself to count and to read and write. Archie, however, was only able to write his name, and he apprenticed in plastering as a young man in North Carolina.

By 1887 ...


Jeri Chase Ferris

slave, nurse, landowner, and philanthropist, was born a slave in Hancock County, Georgia, of unknown parents. Though her slave name was Bridget, she was almost always called Biddy, and not until she achieved her freedom in Los Angeles, California, in 1865 did she take the surname Mason. It is not definitively known why she chose “Mason,” although Amasa Mason Lyman was the company captain on Biddy Mason's journey from Mississippi to Salt Lake City, and later to San Bernardino. Biddy was an infant when she was given or sold to the John Smithson family of Mississippi, to whom she belonged until she was eighteen. Smithson then gave her, along with two other slaves, as a wedding present to his cousin Rebecca when she married Robert M. Smith Biddy Mason s new duties included nursing care of the frail Rebecca Smith and the making ...


Leslie M. Harris

In 1787 the New York Manumission Society founded the first New York African Free School for the purpose of educating enslaved and free black children. This school descended from the Anglican Church's colonial-era charity schools for African Americans. These schools became the society's most enduring legacy to New York City's black community. In establishing the schools, the manumission society hoped to educate the black community as it emerged into freedom and to demonstrate blacks' ability to survive as free men and women in American society.

The first African Free School opened on 1 November 1787, with a dozen free black boys and girls taught by Cornelius Davis, a white schoolteacher who had relocated from Philadelphia. Within a year, sixty students had enrolled, and two years later enslaved children enrolled with the permission of their masters. In 1793 the manumission society opened a separate school for girls led ...