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Karen Backstein

dancer and arts administrator, was born in New York City, the daughter of Julius J. Adams, a journalist who rose to managing editor of the New York Amsterdam News, and Olive A. Adams, an accomplished pianist. Her parents cultivated in her a deep appreciation of the arts, as well as a legacy of social activism that stayed with Adams throughout her life—both during her career as a dancer and after her retirement from the stage, when she helped found community-based arts centers for children in Harlem. The dance writer Muriel Topaz described the Adamses' home as a “center of social and political activity,” and noted that the Global News Syndicate, an organization of black newspapers, was founded in their small apartment (Topaz, 30).

When she was eight years old Adams entered New York s progressive Ethical Culture School an institution dedicated to the moral as well ...

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Mark Johnson

a Baptist minister and educational reformer, was born in Franklin County, Georgia, to free parents, whose names are unknown. His early life is obscure. On 29 October 1820, at the age of eighteen, Adams converted to the Baptist faith, and in 1825, at the age of twenty-three, he was ordained a minister.

Adams began preaching in his home state of Georgia and also in South Carolina. In 1829 Adams moved to Louisville Kentucky to become a pastor of First Baptist Church where he ministered to the needs of the African American congregants In the beginning of his pastorship he was devoted to preaching and studying but he also taught individual students Because of his study and teaching Adams became known as a great biblical scholar and was proficient not only in English but in dead languages such as Latin as well Adams also attracted a large ...

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Wilbert H. Ahern

newspaper editor and publisher, civil rights leader, and Republican Party activist, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Henry Adams, a prominent minister and educator, and Margaret Corbin. Both of his parents were free persons of color. Following private schooling in Wisconsin and Ohio, Adams graduated from Oberlin College. After a brief teaching stint in Louisville, in 1870 he followed his uncle, Joseph C. Corbin, to work in Arkansas during Reconstruction. By 1874 Adams had risen from schoolteacher to assistant superintendent of public instruction. His lifelong activism in the Republican Party began in Arkansas; there he twice served as secretary to Republican state conventions, was elected as justice of the peace on the party ticket, and held the offices of engrossing clerk of the state senate and deputy commissioner of public works. The defeat of the Arkansas Republican Party in 1874 and the ...

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John Marinelli

teacher and abolitionist, said in a letter of protest to the Hartford Courant that he was born to enslaved parents, but their names are unknown. Slavery was not formally abolished in New York State until 1827, and the census of 1820 recorded 518 slaves in New York City. One source suggests that Africanus was born in New York City in 1822; it is possible that he may have been connected to the brothers Edward Cephas Africanus and Selas H. Africanus, who taught at a black school in Long Island in the 1840s. Africanus is now remembered only through his few published writings and journalistic documentation of his actions; the earliest records of his activity in Connecticut date from 1849 when he attended a Colored Men s Convention and a suffrage meeting His most notable publication was the broadside he created to warn Hartford African Americans about ...

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Yesenia Barragan

enslaved rebel in the province of Chocó in New Granada modern day Colombia was born in the late eighteenth century Agustina lived in the small town of Pueblo Viejo present day Tadó located south of Quibdó where she was the slave of Miguel Gómez Agustina was admired for her tremendous physical beauty and like all female slaves faced the danger of sexual assault by her master especially common among slaves who lived and worked in close quarters This was the case for Agustina who worked as a cook in addition to performing other household tasks Sometime in the late eighteenth century Agustina was raped and impregnated by Gómez Upon discovering her pregnancy Gómez demanded that Agustina abort the child immediately to avoid public scandal but she refused Abortion infanticide and refusal to abort were common forms of resistance employed by enslaved women to control their bodies and livelihoods Consequently Gómez ...

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Milton C. Sernett

abolitionist and educator, was born in Virginia, the son of a Welshman and a free mixed-race mother. After the death of both parents, a young Allen was adopted by a free African American family in Fortress Monroe, Virginia. Allen soon caught the eye of the Reverend William Hall, a New Yorker who conducted a black elementary school in Norfolk. Hall wrote Gerrit Smith, the well-known philanthropist and abolitionist from Madison County, New York, asking him to sponsor Allen's education. With Smith's support, Allen studied at the Oneida Institute, an interracial and abolitionist school in Whitesboro, New York, presided over by the abolitionist Beriah Green. In a letter written to Smith, Green mentioned Allen's good conduct, his accomplishments on the flute, and his service as clerk to Reuben Hough, the institute's superintendent and treasurer.

While attending the institute, Allen spent the summer of 1841 teaching in a school ...

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Geraldine Rhoades Beckford

physician, educator, and community worker, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was the eldest daughter of the abolitionist movement leaders William Still and Letitia George Still. In 1850William Still became the head of the Philadelphia Underground Railroad and Vigilance Committee. He would later chronicle his experiences in the best-selling 1872 account, The Underground Railroad.

After completing primary and secondary education at Mrs. Henry Gordon's Private School, the Friends Raspberry Alley School, and the Institute for Colored Youth, Anderson entered Oberlin College. Although she was the youngest member of the graduating class of 1868, Anderson presided over the annual Ladies' Literary Society, a singular honor that had never been awarded to a student of African ancestry.

After graduating from Oberlin, Anderson returned home to teach drawing and elocution, and on 28 December 1869 she married Edward A. Wiley a former slave and fellow ...

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Patrick Brode

fugitive slave and abolitionist, was originally named Jack Burton after his enslaver, a Missouri planter. His parents are unknown. Raised in his master's household, Anderson (the name he used in later life) eventually supervised other slaves and farmed his own small plot. In 1850 he married Maria Tomlin, a fellow slave from a nearby farm, and devoted himself to buying their freedom. In the meantime he had become accustomed to visiting Maria at her plantation and was growing impatient with the restrictions of slavery. His master tried to curb his wandering, but Anderson refused to submit to the lash. When this resulted in his sale to a planter on the far side of the Missouri River, Anderson resolved to run off.

On 3 September 1853 the third day of his escape he encountered a planter Seneca Digges and four of his slaves By Missouri law Digges had the ...

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C. James Trotman

Presbyterian pastor, educator, and social reformer, was born in Greencastle, Pennsylvania, the son of Timothy Anderson and Mary Croog One of fourteen children he was raised in the comforts of a rural middle class home less than thirty miles from historic Gettysburg On a typical day of his youth Matthew faced both the physical demands of farm life and the movement back and forth between two cultures One dominated by commerce and materialism was uncharacteristically open to the Andersons who owned lumber mills and real estate at a time when most black Americans were dehumanized and disenfranchised by chattel slavery The other was a culture defined by close family ties and Presbyterian piety At home Matthew heard Bible stories and dramatic tales of runaway slaves indeed religious piety and the pursuit of racial freedom were dominant themes in his life These early experiences inspired Matthew so ...

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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 ...

Article

of an islandwide slave revolt and anticolonial conspiracy, was probably born in Havana, Cuba. Little is known of his early life, but Aponte learned to read and was a gifted carpenter, a trade by which he earned a living. He was also a member of the free colored militia, a Spanish colonial institution created to supplement low numbers of white soldiers in the protection against piracy and coastal raids. Free colored militias provided men of African descent with an opportunity to develop a sense of solidarity along ethnoracial lines and gain social capital, perhaps even prestige. They therefore often came under suspicion from colonial and imperial officials. Aponte participated in a cabildo de nación (African ethnic association) called Shangó Teddún in Havana and was a devotee of the confraternity of the Virgin of Los Remedios. Many free and freed Afro-Cubans joined mutual aid organizations such as cabildos de nación ...

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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 ...

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Stephen D. Glazier

African American religious, educational, and political leader, was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel G. Arnett and Mary Louisa (maiden name unknown). Benjamin Arnett was a man of “mixed Irish, Indian, Scots, and African ancestry” (Wright, Eighty‐seven Years, 79). He was educated in a one‐room schoolhouse in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania. Arnett worked as a longshoreman along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and worked briefly as a hotel waiter. His career as a longshoreman and waiter ended abruptly in 1858 when a cancerous tumor necessitated the amputation of his left leg. He turned to teaching and was granted a certificate on 19 December 1863. At that time he was the only African American schoolteacher licensed in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. For ten months during the academic year 1884–1885, Arnett served as a school principal in Washington, D.C. He returned to Brownsville in 1885, teaching there until 1887 ...

Article

David M. Fahey

temperance reformer, federal customs official, and educator, was born William Middleton Artrell, of one quarter African and three quarters European ancestry, at Nassau in the Bahamas. There Artrell benefited from a basic education on the British model, acquired experience as a schoolteacher, and became a staunch Episcopalian.

During the American Civil War the Bahamas prospered as a result of services to blockade runners, who transported British cargo in the short but dangerous voyage between the Bahamas and the Confederate coast. When the war ended, however, economic depression forced many Bahamians to seek work in the United States. In 1870 Artrell migrated to Key West, at that time a major port in Florida. Unlike most African Americans in the South, he had never been a slave. In 1870 Key West opened the Douglass School for African American children Artrell became its first principal and as a result he was sometimes ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

pioneer settler in Los Angeles County, California, in the 1850s, blacksmith, teamster, firewood salesman, and landowner, was born in Kentucky around 1827. Although it is commonly assumed that he had been enslaved there, he arrived in California a free man prior to the Civil War, and nothing has been established about his previous life.

He was married on 6 November 1859 to a woman named Amanda, born in Texas, by Jesse Hamilton, the earliest pastor of First African Methodist Episcopal church, Los Angeles. Their first two children, Dora and Julia, were born in 1857 and 1859. In 1860 the household included a laborer named Juan Jose, recorded by the census as being of Indian ancestry. Another man of African descent, Oscar Smith from Mississippi lived next door and no race was specified for the other neighbors who had either English or Hispanic names ...

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 ...

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Florencia Guzmán

accomplished master cobbler and organizer of a guild of shoemakers of color in Buenos Aires (Argentina) during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In 1793, with the objective of obtaining official recognition for this guild, he traveled to Spain, where he had a meeting with the royal authorities. While there he managed to obtain the permission he had fought so hard for, but he was prevented from carrying out his plans for the guild because of other restrictions. As a result, he became bitter and left Buenos Aires.

Baquero was born in Buenos Aires in 1748 and began working as an apprentice cobbler at the age of 12 Though no details are known about his parents it is clear that Baquero followed the custom of leaving his home and living with the family of a master cobbler whose scarce resources he shared After four years of working intensely as ...

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Roy E. Finkenbine

Nothing is known of the circumstances of James G. Barbadoes' birth, early life, and education, although his surname may indicate West Indian origins. He emerged as an important figure in the small but influential African American community in Boston's West End by the mid-1820s; from 1821 to 1840 he operated a barbershop in Boston. He was a prominent member of the African Baptist church and of African Lodge #459, the preeminent black fraternal organization in the nation. An amateur musician applauded for both his vocal and instrumental talents, he performed regularly before local audiences. But he was best known as an “indefatigable political organizer.”

In 1826 Barbadoes joined with the controversial essayist David Walker and several others to organize the Massachusetts General Colored Association MGCA which over the next few years led local protests corresponded with race leaders throughout the North supported the emerging African American press and ...

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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 ...

Article

Maurice Jackson

Anthony Benezet was born to Huguenot parents in Saint-Quentin, Picardy, France. His father, Jean-Etienne Benezet, and his mother, Judith, had at least thirteen children, but more than half died at birth. The Protestant Huguenots had experienced a period of relative religious freedom lasting from the promulgation of the Edict of Nantes under Henry IV in 1598 until the revocation of the edict by Louis XIV in 1685, which led to renewed persecution by Catholics. JeanEtienne Benezet belonged to a Protestant group known as the Inspirés de la Vaunage, which descended from the Camisards, who had violently resisted religious persecution in the Cévennes Mountains of southern France. The Benezet family fled France for the Netherlands in 1715, then went to England, and finally settled in Philadelphia in 1731.

In 1735 Anthony Benezet was naturalized as a British subject, and on 13 May 1736 he married Joyce Marriott ...