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Benjamin R. Justesen

farmer, shoemaker, and longtime state legislator, was born in Warren County, North Carolina, the third son of free, mixed-race parents Hawkins Carter and Elizabeth Wiggins, who were married in 1845. Few details are known of his early life or education, only that his father, a prosperous farmer, could afford to hire a young white teacher, W. J. Fulford, to tutor his eight children in 1861, the last year before the Civil War.

During the Civil War, the teenage Carter served as an officer's attendant for a Warrenton acquaintance, Captain Stephen W. Jones of the Forty-sixth North Carolina Regiment's Company C, raised at Warrenton in early 1862 Jones s company saw action at Antietam and other battles and Jones was wounded at Spotsylvania Court House where Carter presumably helped care for him The eldest son of the Warren County sheriff and a former deputy sheriff himself ...

Article

David E. Paterson

harness maker, state legislator, community organizer, and barber, was born on James Spier's farm, the Hurricane Place, three and a half miles from Thomaston, Upson County, Georgia, the fourth child of Guilford Speer and Viney, two of Spier's slaves. Guilford and Viney separated soon after William was born, and Guilford moved to Thomaston to operate a harness and shoe shop. William probably spent his earliest years with his mother, his three elder brothers, and several younger half siblings on the Hurricane Place, but by the late 1850s William had undoubtedly moved to the village and was learning his father's trade of harness making. In 1863 a devastating fire destroyed three-quarters of downtown Thomaston, and thereafter William probably worked in a shop organized by his father in Barnesville, Pike County, sixteen miles away.

Sometime during the Civil War, William married Lourinda presumably a slave but ...

Article

Theresa Vara-Dannen

former slave and shoemaker, was born in Concord, Massachusetts, to unknown parents. Concord church records record his birth as “Jack, Negro” and the earliest records indicate he was owned by Benjamin Barron, a farmer and shoemaker, who taught Jack the shoemaking trade; when Barron died on 13 July 1754, Jack was included as part of his estate and was valued at £120, along with “one Negro maid Vilot, being of no value.” Barron's widow, Elizabeth, agreed to allow Jack to purchase his freedom with his earnings from his shoemaking. By 1761 he had saved enough to pay the £120 and buy four acres of land from Barron s estate and more property from a neighbor He would eventually own about eight and a half acres near Merriam s Corner in Concord Since the record of his birth indicates a single name Jack as was common in the ...

Article

Sandy Dwayne Martin

shoemaker, newspaper publisher, clergyperson, denominational leader and organizer, business leader, and political activist, was born the eighth of ten children to James and Cora Cornelia Morris near Spring Place in Murray County, Georgia, as a slave. On 24 November 1884 Morris married Fannie E. Austin of Alabama; they had five children. His father, James, came to Alabama from North Carolina in 1850. The father, relatively educated for the time, practiced a trade in town and visited the farm twice weekly, during which time he taught his family reading and writing in preparation for their eventual freedom. Elias augmented this home training by attending schools between 1864 and 1875 in Dalton, Georgia; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Stevenson, Alabama; and Nashville, Tennessee (the school that eventually became Roger Williams University). Converted in 1874 he was also licensed to preach by a Baptist church the same year ...

Article

Storm Butler

a laborer, shoemaker, and member of the Union Army, was born in 1807 in Granby, Connecticut. He was the son of a newly freed black slave, Earl Percy, who served under Ozias Pettibone, a colonel in the Revolutionary War. Colonel Pettibone was one of the richest men in Granby and one of only a few slave owners. A 1790 census showed that Pettibone had five slaves, three of whom were children. One of these slaves was a thirty-six-year-old woman. This original census does not list an adult male or father among Pettibone's slaves; a later census lists the children as “mulatto,” but does not provide the name of the father. One of the children, Earl Pettibone, was born in 1784 the year in which the legislature passed an act ending lifetime slavery for children born to slave women after 1 March of that ...

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John Howard Smith

shoemaker, soldier, and officer in the First New Orleans Battalion of Free Men of Color, was the first African American recognized by the U.S. government as an officer of field grade status. He was also known as “Vass Populus,” and little is known about his life apart from the fact that he worked as a shoemaker before embarking on a military career.

New Orleans in the eighteenth century was already a vibrantly multiracial and multicultural city, with fully a quarter of its black population being free, variously composed of Africans, African Americans, and mixed-race Creoles. The French created a small black militia, consisting of free and enslaved volunteers, to augment the army in repelling Indian attacks in the early 1730s, and which performed admirably against the British and their native allies during King George's War (1739–1747 Those who had been slaves were eventually granted their freedom ...

Article

Laura Murphy

writer and preacher, was born in Northern Neck, Northumberland County, Virginia, to Rachel and Charles, on the property of Thomas Langdon, on which they were enslaved. Over the course of her life, Smith s mother gave birth to eleven children and labored as a cotton spinner His father managed the Lancaster County plantation his owner had acquired through inheritance When Smith was a young boy he was injured while carrying lumber and remained crippled for his entire life because his owner did not think Smith s life was worth enough to call a doctor As a result of his disability Smith worked in the house with the women knitting and carding Later in his life he was apprenticed to a shoemaker which proved to be the source of his livelihood in all the places he settled For a brief time Smith was hired out to a ...

Article

David E. Paterson

shoe- and harness-maker, businessman, and community leader, was born in Georgia to parents whose names and occupations are unknown. Called simply “Guilford,” he was enslaved to Benajah Birdsong in Jasper County, Georgia. Birdsong died in 1824, and his widow inherited Guilford before she married James Spier, an Upson County merchant-farmer, in 1827. Guilford came to live and work in Thomaston, the legal and commercial center of Upson County.

Guilford married his first wife, Ellen, after she arrived in Thomaston from Columbia County about 1830. Their child, Susan, was born about 1831. Ellen and Susan were both slaves of George Cary, a onetime Georgia congressman, and, after his death, of his son John J. Cary. The younger Cary's chronic financial distress was a long-standing threat to Guilford and Ellen's family.

Spier moved Guilford to his farm Hurricane Place about ...