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Article

Steven J. Niven

slave, wagon driver, steamboat laborer, and sawmill worker, was born in Petersburg, Virginia, the son of Aaron and Louisa. Aarons had two siblings, but neither their names nor the surnames of his parents have been recorded. Considering that Charlie's father's first name was Aaron, Charlie probably adopted his father's first name as his own surname upon emancipation. The historian Eugene D. Genovese has argued that after the Civil War many former slaves rejected the surnames assigned to them when they were in bondage and adopted new ones often choosing surnames entitles the slaves called them that connected them to their fathers or to other relatives Some celebrated their newfound liberty by creating new surnames such as Freedman or Justice Genovese notes that in the first decade of emancipation freedmen and freedwomen changed their surnames frequently so that as one freedwoman put it if the white folks get together ...

Article

Kenneth Wayne Howell

cowboy and rancher, may have been born into slavery and escaped from bondage before the Civil War, though information about his life prior to his arrival in southwest Texas in the 1870s is limited. Based on stories he later told to his co-workers it seems likely that Adams spent his early adult life working as a cowboy in the brush country region of Texas, probably south and west of San Antonio. Given the circumstance of his birth and the times in which George came of age, he never received a formal education. As recent historical scholarship has made clear, black cowboys on the Texas plains enjoyed greater freedoms than did African Americans living in more settled regions of the state. However, their freedoms were always tainted by the persistent racism that prevailed during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. George Adams's life was a vivid example of ...

Article

Graham Russell Hodges and Brian P. Luskey

While most African American workers in the colonial and early national periods were agricultural or maritime laborers free and enslaved artisans were a small but significant portion of black populations in the Americas In locations as diverse as Portuguese Brazil French Louisiana Dutch New York and English Virginia and South Carolina slaves translated skills that they had learned in Africa and in the New World into finished products for their owners African American artisans became more numerous as eighteenth century plantations in the English colonies grew in size enabling planters to diversify their workforce Physical size and strength as well as evidence of interest and ability marked slaves as candidates to learn a trade Like others bound out to craftsmen slaves served apprenticeships to white artisans though later in the eighteenth century many of them learned their skills from fellow slaves Unlike white apprentices or journeymen however most black artisans ...

Article

Rebekah Presson Mosby

The colonial period in America was not noted for its fine arts there was little in the way of sculpture and most of the paintings that were made were stiff portraits in the manner of European mostly British art The puritanical spirit that dominated America at the time was not one that nurtured the arts in general Very little if any experimentation went on in any of the arts as most art was regarded as frivolous and a distraction from what was held to be the serious and important business of religion and work Within this context there is evidence that fine art in the form of portraits was made by Africans in colonial America However most of the known artifacts from both slave and free blacks are the work of artisans Some of this work is of exceptionally high quality and it includes just about every imaginable practical and ...

Article

The triangular shipping route of the slave trade largely formed the banking industry in England. British goods such as textiles, arms, and iron were exchanged for slaves in Africa, which were then transported to the West Indies and traded for sugar, tobacco, cotton, spices, and rum. The triangular trade was a system of immense earnings, as every ship sailed with a profitable cargo. The wealth generated by the triangular trade brought increased affluence to the planters who cultivated the West Indian produce, the merchant capitalists who sold the slaves, and the industrial capitalists who produced the British goods, which in turn demanded new banking facilities and functions.

Primary of these new requirements was insurance Shipowners and slave merchants themselves insured early voyages travelling the triangular trade route However the increasing amount of bills drawn against West Indian merchants and accumulated wealth soon required large scale insurance schemes most often drawn ...

Article

Tiffany M. Gill

Black is beautiful This familiar cry of the Black Power movement was revolutionary in its celebration of the culture style politics and physical attributes of peoples of African descent Symbols of the black is beautiful aesthetic most notably the Afro not only conjured up ideas about black beauty but also highlighted its contentious relationship with black politics and identity This tension between beauty standards and black politics and identity however did not first emerge in the late twentieth century with the Afro or the Black Power movement In fact blacks particularly black women have been struggling to navigate the paradoxical political nature of black identity and beauty since their enslavement in the Americas Despite this strained relationship black women have actively sought to define beauty in their lives and in the process created and sustained one of the most resilient and successful black controlled enterprises in America the black beauty ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

mountain man, fur trapper and trader, scout, translator, and explorer, was born James Pierson Beckwith in Frederick County, Virginia, the son of Sir Jennings Beckwith, a white Revolutionary War veteran and the descendant of minor Irish aristocrats who became prominent Virginians. Little is known about Jim's mother, a mixed-race slave working in the Beckwith household. Although he was born into slavery, Jim was manumitted by his father in the 1820s. In the early 1800s, Beckwith moved his family, which reputedly included fourteen children, to Missouri, eventually settling in St. Louis. Some commentators suggest that Beckwith, an adventurous outdoorsman, was seeking an environment less hostile to his racially mixed family.

As a young teenager, after four years of schooling, Jim Beckwourth as his name came to be spelled was apprenticed to a blacksmith Unhappy as a tradesman he fled to the newly discovered lead mines in Illinois s Fever ...

Article

Amalia K. Amaki

photographer and businessman, was born in New Orleans, where he remained professionally based throughout his sixty-plus-year career.

The leading African American photographer in New Orleans in the first half of the twentieth century, Bedou saw his reputation grow to national proportions as a result of his images of the life and travel of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (later Tuskegee University) President Booker T. Washington from the early 1900s through 1915. He photographed Washington at public-speaking engagements addressing crowds in Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, California, and numerous other locations during his final tour, which ended in 1915. He recorded Washington in transit by coach, train, and automobile in addition to his famous portraits of the education leader posed upon his horse.

As official photographer for the Institute, Bedou covered any number of events for the school. He recorded the 24 October 1905 ...

Article

John N. Ingham

businessman, banker, and real estate investor, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Robert Binga Jr., a barber, and Adelphia Powers, a builder and real estate owner. Nearly all sources cite William W. Binga as Jesse Binga's father, but all are based on a December 1927 article by Inez V. Cantley in Crisis, which may not be reliable. A family member, Anthony J. Binga Sr., after conducting research in the census records from the Courts of Records of the Dominion of Canada, claimed that Jesse Binga's father was Robert Binga Jr.Who's Who in Colored America (1928–1929) also names Robert Binga as Jesse Binga's father.

The Binga family owned and managed real estate properties and according to a number of sources it was Adelphia Binga who possessed most of the family s business acumen As a youngster Jesse helped his mother collect rents on ...

Article

Jonathan Morley and Cassandra Adjei

City with historic links to the slave trade. The first guns to be exported to Africa in 1698 were manufactured in Birmingham, renowned for its metalworking; this triggered a growth in the city's industries, and by 1766, 100,000 guns a year were shipped, as well as other tools of the slave trade: manacles, chains, branding irons, thumbscrews, pincers, muzzles, and instruments for prising open the mouths of recalcitrant slaves to make them eat. Cheaply made flintlock muskets, the guns were often dangerous to their users, and contributed to the militarization of the continent: it has been estimated that 20 million went to Africa by 1907.

The city's Lunar Society (a group of freethinkers and radicals) included members who were vehement abolitionists. Thomas Day, from Lichfield, was co‐author with Joseph Bicknell of the poem The Dying Negro (1773 a famous tract that spoke of a ...

Article

Jacob Andrew Freedman

farmer and entrepreneur, was born near Canton, Mississippi, the only child of Wesley Rutledge and Anne Maben. Rutledge was the nephew of William H. Goodlow, the owner of the estate where Anne Maben was a house slave. Wesley worked as the manager of the house for his aunt and uncle. At birth Bond was given the surname Winfield, and at the age of eighteen months he was sent with his mother to Collierville, Tennessee, where they lived until he was five years old. Subsequently, they were sent to work on the Bond farm in Cross County, Arkansas. In Arkansas Anne Maben met and married William Bond, who gave Scott Bond his surname.

The family remained on the Bond farm until the conclusion of the Civil War when only months after gaining her freedom Anne Maben died leaving Bond in the care of his stepfather Bond his stepfather ...

Article

Boston  

Paul Finkelman

Boston, sometimes called the “Cradle of Liberty,” was the birthplace of the American Revolution. Before the Civil War the city was home to the most radical and vocal opponents of slavery, a (usually safe) haven for fugitive slaves, and the largest city in which blacks had full political and legal equality. For blacks nineteenthcentury Boston was a place of promise and hope, but it was not always a place where promises could be fulfilled or hopes realized. Even in Boston there was racism and segregation.

The first black known in Boston arrived in 1638. Most, but certainly not all, slaves in the Massachusetts colony were urban, living in Boston, Cambridge, and Newberryport. In 1750 slaves constituted 20 percent of the Cambridge population Slave owners tended to be merchants and artisans who used slaves as laborers and skilled workmen The maritime industry was also the destination of many Boston ...

Article

Geraldine Rhoades Beckford

physician, businessman, and writer, was born in Madison County, Kentucky, the youngest of fifteen children of Eliza and Edwin, who were slaves. Burton and his mother remained on the plantation after Emancipation as paid laborers, and he continued working at the “old homestead” after her death in 1869 until he was sixteen, at which time he left following an altercation with the owner.

In 1880 Burton was “converted to God” and subsequently experienced an insatiable desire for learning. Despite discouraging comments from those who thought that twenty was too old to start school, Burton was not dissuaded and determined that nothing was going to prevent him from getting an education except sickness or death. Burton worked for one more year as a farmhand in Richmond, Kentucky. One January morning in 1881 he put a few items in a carpetbag and nine dollars and seventy five cents in his ...

Article

Genevieve Slomski

pioneer of abstract painting, was born Edward Clark in the Storyville section of New Orleans, Louisiana. Little is known about his family, but they moved north during the Depression, and he was raised in Chicago.

Following service in the U.S. Air Force, Clark attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago under the G.I. Bill from 1947 to 1951. At the Art Institute, he met abstract painter Joan Mitchell, with whom he developed a lifelong friendship, and the impressionist painter Louis Ritman, who was an encouraging instructor. During this period, Clark's work was traditional and figurative. But Clark's frustration with the Institute's academic restraints, such as the directive to avoid oils during this period, led-him to create an experimental self-portrait that took two years to complete. The classic head-and-shoulders depiction was set against a Renaissance landscape consisting of subtle layers of stippled watercolors.

In 1952 Clark ...

Article

Class  

Melissa N. Stein

While class has been a driving force in American history it has been particularly central to the story of both racism and African American life Throughout its history America developed a racialized class system by which African Americans were often shut out of venues of political and economic power regardless of individual circumstances Race and class have been virtually inseparable in America from its inception Furthermore as the black middle and upper classes grew following Emancipation so too did tensions among African Americans across class lines Thus the story of class for African Americans is one of blacks as a racialized class and one of class divisions among blacks Undeniably there have been instances in American history when blacks and whites have come together to protest shared economic exploitation and African Americans of different classes have fought side by side against institutional or structural racism However these fleeting moments of ...

Article

Class  

Graham Russell Hodges

The discussion of class among African Americans in the centuries before the industrial revolution encountered significant conceptual difficulties Did class as the philosopher Karl Marx described it exist among a people who were almost entirely enslaved African Americans were industrial laborers in parts of the early United States but the vast majority were agricultural workers whose skills and statuses seem superficially to have been interchangeable At the same time the great transformation occurring in white society from feudalism to capitalism entailed the commodification of money land and labor African Americans lives were inextricably entwined in each of these changes Undoubtedly exploitation helped create the capital value of landowner and merchant African Americans also made themselves African American slaves can be viewed as the first true proletarians in America A leading scholar of early African American business argues cogently that race not class was the key variable for African Americans Examination ...

Article

John N. Ingham

businessman and politician, was born a free person of color in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Bernard Cohen and Amelia Bingaman, a free woman of color. Although Cohen's father was Jewish, he was raised as and remained throughout his life a Roman Catholic. His parents died when he was in the fourth grade, whereupon he had to quit school, though he later attended Straight University in New Orleans for several years. As a boy Cohen became a cigar maker and later worked in a saloon. His entrée into the world of politics came during the period of Reconstruction, when he worked as a page in the state legislature, then meeting in New Orleans. There, Cohen became acquainted with several influential black Republicans, among them Oscar J. Dunn, C. C. Antoine, and P. B. S. Pinchback Pinchback founder of and dominant figure in the city ...

Article

Loren Schweninger

businessman, was born a slave in Cabarrus County, North Carolina, the son of Rufus C. Barringer, a white lawyer and politician, and Roxanna Coleman. Little is known about his parents, but as a youngster he learned the shoemaker's trade and also barbering. After the Civil War he briefly attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., hawking jewelry to pay for his board and room. He also worked as an itinerant salesman in North Carolina. Coleman saved his earnings and in 1869 he purchased a 130-acre farm in Cabarrus County, paying $600 for the well-timbered land. In 1870 he was listed in the census as the proprietor of a small grocery store in the town of Concord North Carolina with a total estate of $800 in real and personal property During the same period he also began purchasing low priced rental houses in and around Concord paying between $125 ...

Article

D. Clayton Brown

Cotton, the world's chief natural fiber for textile manufacturing and the principal ingredient in a variety of other products including foods and building materials, has figured prominently in American history. It played an important role in the growth of slavery in the American South and was the major export earner for the United States until around 1920. Since cotton requires semi-tropical growing conditions, it was grown exclusively in the southern states until the early twentieth century, when it expanded westward into Arizona and California, and New Mexico.

The settlers of Jamestown brought cottonseed to the New World but they were unable to produce the fiber in significant quantities The lack of a technology able to separate the seed from the lint retarded the production of cotton Planters along the southeastern tidewater belt grew small amounts of long staple sea island cotton a variety with a longer fiber but not ...

Article

Marieta Joyner

Gallaudet University handyman, was born to parents about whom nothing is known, perhaps in the vicinity of Washington, D.C. In 1870, when he was about nine years old, he wandered from the National Association for the Relief of Destitute Colored Women and Children in Washington and was found on a cold winter night on the streets by Senator Aaron Cragin of New Hampshire. Cragin soon realized that the boy was deaf and took him to Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb (later Gallaudet University). Compassion for blacks was not new for Senator Cragin; fifteen years earlier, in a 4 August 1856 speech he argued passionately in support of Charles Sumner of Massachusetts the Senate s leading opponent of slavery who had been beaten almost to death with a cane by Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina Cragin also knew that there was only one ...