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Article

David Dabydeen

African preacher who travelled around England and Ireland sermonizing. Jea was born in Old Callabar, Africa, and at the age of 2½ was taken, along with his family, to North America, where they became the slaves of Oliver and Angelika Triebuen. They were ill‐treated and not properly clothed and fed. Working hours were long and intense, as Jea records in his narrative The Life, History, and Unparalleled Sufferings of John Jea, the African Preacher (1815).

The text captures his life as a slave his rebellion against Christian hypocrisy the finding of his faith his travels and the significance of his sermonizing Laden with quotations from the Bible it is itself a piece of Jea s preaching often questioning the virtues and beliefs of his readers Following his discovery of Christianity at the age of 15 when as he writes the Lord was pleased to remove gross darkness superstition ...

Article

John Saillant

Around 1816 he published two books, a Collection of Hymns and his Life, History, and Unparalleled Sufferings; from the latter is derived virtually all available information on his life. The autobiography, which was undoubtedly embellished in some of its particulars, recounts Jea's birth in Africa, his childhood in colonial New York, the abuses he suffered under slavery, his manumission, his family life, and the travels and religious exercises of his maturity.

Jea reported that after he became restive under slavery around the age of fifteen he was baptized in a Christian church a circumstance that he claimed to use to compel his master to liberate him He told of preaching in North America Europe and the East Indies as well as of marrying three women in succession one Native American one Maltese and one Irish His children all preceded him in death Like many early African American authors Jea ...

Article

John Garst

“steel-driving man” and legendary hero, may have been a historic person born a slave in Mississippi, Virginia, or some other Southern state. In ballad and legend he is simply “John Henry,” but “John Henry” is a common combination of given names, so Henry may not have been his surname.

Songs about John Henry were collected as early as 1905. In 1916 the former West Virginia governor W.-A. MacCorkle confused him with John Hardy, an African American gambler and murderer who was hanged in Welch, West Virginia, in 1894 and is the subject of his own ballad. By the mid-1920s the ballad “John Henry” was being recorded commercially by Riley Puckett (1924), Fiddlin' John Carson (1924), and other white “hillbilly” performers, and shortly thereafter recordings by such African American bluesmen as Henry Thomas (1927) and Mississippi John Hurt (1928 began ...

Article

Eileen Scully

sailor and sojourner, was born near Rochester, New York. Little is known of her lineage, but she is believed to have been the daughter of a John Sands, and a descendant of Virginia slaves. Her father, who may have been a fugitive slave, was in Rochester by 1841, and the family moved westward to Buffalo around 1848, where John Sands found work first as a laborer and then as a cook on a Lake Erie steamer. Among African Americans the family name “Sands” most often comes from the white Sands (variously spelled “Sandys”) family: Sir Edwin Sandys and George Sandys (also pronounced “Sandz”) were involved in the Jamestown settlement; others of that surname can be found in the northern colonies as well.

Sarah Sands grew up in the neighborhood of the Vine Street African Methodist Episcopal AME Church not far from what would much later be ...

Article

Graham Russell Hodges

Peter Wheeler was born enslaved to unknown parents on the farm of Job Mathis, a prominent farmer and shipbuilder in Egg Harbor, a coastal shipping town in New Jersey. During a childhood spent working on Mathis's farm, Wheeler learned to read and write at a Quaker school. Although Mathis's will provided for Wheeler's emancipation, on the slaveholder's death in 1804 (the year gradual emancipation was instituted in New Jersey), his heirs sold Wheeler to the farmer Gideon Morehouse.

As a slave born before 1804 Wheeler was termed a slave for life though his master s will nullified that legal condemnation Mathis s family refused to register the emancipation Thus Wheeler was forced to migrate with Morehouse to Genoa a town in Cayuga County in Upstate New York There Morehouse became a respected citizen and a trustee of the town s Presbyterian church From his master Wheeler learned ...