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Article

Jeremy D. Popkin

an ambitious free man of color in the French colony of Saint-Domingue at the time of the Haitian Revolution, played a role in that group’s revolt against white rule in the 1790s, and was involved in all the major episodes of Haitian politics in the country’s first decades of independence. According to the memoirs published by his son Edmond Bonnet in France in 1864, Bonnet was born in Léogane, a few miles west of the present day capital, Port-au-Prince in 1775; other sources put his birth in 1772 or 1773. His paternal grandfather was a merchant from Nantes; his mother, who was responsible for his education, was a négresse libre. Employed as a clerk in a French merchant’s office, he followed the events of the French Revolution in the newspapers that reached the colony and was inspired by the ideals of liberty and equality.

Bonnet joined ...

Article

Jonathan Brennan

John Caesar was born in the mid-eighteenth century and joined the Seminole nation in Florida, one of the many groups of African-Seminole Indians who fought to maintain an autonomous and independent nation. There are few written records of the early life histories of the many escaped Africans and American Indians in the maroon communities across the Americas, and Caesar's life was no exception. By the time his exploits were recorded in U.S. military records, Caesar was well acculturated to Seminole life and politics, and thus he had likely been a long-time member of the Seminole nation. His work as an interpreter between Native Seminoles and the U.S. military, however, reveals his early upbringing among English-speaking Americans. He grew up in a time of intense conflict between the Seminoles and European colonists, and had become a seasoned war veteran by the time of the Second Seminole War (1835–1842 ...

Article

Jonathan Brennan

African Seminole Black Seminole leader warrior and interpreter was born in the mid eighteenth century and joined the Seminole nation in Florida one of the many groups of African Seminole Indians who fought to maintain an autonomous and independent nation There are few written records to reveal the early life histories of the many escaped Africans and American Indians in the maroon communities across the Americas and Caesar s life proves no exception By the time his exploits were recorded in U S military records Caesar was well acculturated to Seminole life and politics and thus he had probably been a longtime member of the Seminole nation His work as an interpreter between Native Seminoles and the U S military however reveals his early upbringing among English speaking Americans He grew up in a time of intense conflict between the Seminoles and European colonists and had become a seasoned war ...

Article

Adele N. Nichols

sailor, clerk, attendant, author, and mason, is believed to have been born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, even though there is no substantial proof of that location. Various sources cite the District of Columbia or Maryland as his possible birthplace; nevertheless, it seems more probable that he was born in Virginia due to his family background. Grimshaw's parents were Juliet Grimshaw, a slave, and Robert Tyler, a slave owner. Even though there are limited facts on his personal childhood and education, a historical essay, “Winney Grimshaw, A Virginia Slave, and Her Family” by Richard Dunn, provides a detailed history on the Grimshaw family's enslavement and life on the Mount Airy plantation in Virginia. Grimshaw's surname, which was unusual in nineteenth-century Virginia, may have come from Samuel Grimshaw, who immigrated to Virginia in 1795 from England or from Thomas Grimshaw who lived near Alexandria and later ...

Article

Kenneth Wiggins Porter

Luis Pacheco owes his fame principally to Republican Joshua R. Giddings's semifictional antislavery work The Exiles of Florida (1858). Pacheco was born on December 26, 1800, in Spanish Florida, at New Switzerland, a plantation on the Saint Johns River. He was the slave of Francis Philip Fatio. His parents were “pureblooded negroes,” and his father, Adam, was a “remarkably intelligent and ambitious negro,” a “carpenter, boat-builder, and driver.” Early on, Pacheco became acquainted with the neighboring Seminoles, among whom he had a sister. A brother had been captured as a child but had returned some twenty years later, and from him Pacheco “picked up a great deal of the language.” During his boyhood, his master's daughter, Susan Philippa Fatio taught him to read and write He was ambitious to learn and of quick perception and acquired a good deal of book learning But he ...

Article

Stephen R. Fox

James Monroe Trotter was born on February 7, 1842, in Grand Gulf, Mississippi, the son of a white man, Richard S. Trotter, and his slave Letitia. When Richard Trotter was married in 1854, Letitia, her son, and two younger daughters from the union were sent to live in the free city of Cincinnati. Here Trotter attended the Gilmore school for freed slaves and worked as a hotel bellboy and as cabin boy on a riverboat. Later he briefly attended academies in Hamilton and Athens, Ohio, but according to his son he was largely self-educated. When the Civil War came, he was a schoolteacher in Pike County, southwestern Ohio.

In 1863 Trotter was recruited by black lawyer and activist John Mercer Langston and traveled to Boston to join the Fifty fifth Massachusetts Regiment a black unit with mostly white officers Trotter rose through the ranks ...

Article

Mathias Hanses

educator and first black university classicist in the state of Virginia, was born in Richmond, Virginia, apparently to a single mother. In April 1865, when Williams was three years old, Richmond fell to Union troops under Ulysses S. Grant, mere days before the South's ultimate surrender at Appomattox. Retreating Confederates set fire to their capital, but the two-day blaze presented Richmond's black population with some unprecedented prospects. Williams was among the first generation of Southern blacks to gain legal access to public schools, and his mother put enough trust in his talent to enroll him early on. Upon his graduation from Richmond Normal School in 1877, Williams was awarded a gold medal for his superior scholarship and conduct, as well as a silver medal for excellence in orthography. These early successes prefigured the steep rise to prominence of a life cut short in its prime.

The end ...

Article

Stephen Gilroy Hall

Born in Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania, to Thomas and Ellen Rouse Williams on 16 October 1849, George Williams was the oldest son of five siblings. Given the lack of educational opportunities for African Americans in western Pennsylvania, Williams received little formal schooling. In 1863, at the age of fourteen, he enlisted in the Union army. After leaving the army in 1868, Williams applied for admission and was accepted at Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 1869. He dropped out, however, and entered Wayland Seminary, also in Washington. In 1870 Williams entered Newton Theological Institution outside of Boston. Upon graduation from Newton, Williams was ordained and then offered the pastorate of a prominent African American congregation in Boston, the Twelfth Street Baptist Church, in 1875.

While pastor at Twelfth Street Baptist Church, Williams wrote a monograph, History of the Twelfth Street Baptist Church He left ...

Article

John Hope Franklin

soldier, clergyman, legislator, and historian, was born in Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania, the son of Thomas Williams, a free black laborer, and Ellen Rouse. His father became a boatman and, eventually, a minister and barber, and the younger Williams drifted with his family from town to town in western Pennsylvania until the beginning of the Civil War. With no formal education, he lied about his age, adopted the name of an uncle, and enlisted in the United States Colored Troops in 1864. He served in operations against Petersburg and Richmond, sustaining multiple wounds during several battles. After the war's end Williams was stationed in Texas, but crossed the border to fight with the Mexican republican forces that overthrew the emperor Maximilian. He returned to the U.S. Army in 1867 serving with the Tenth Cavalry an all black unit at Fort Arbuckle Indian Territory ...

Article

Todd Steven Burroughs

historian, preacher, writer, newspaper editor, soldier, and human rights activist. Williams wrote two major works of history: A History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1880: Negroes as Slaves, as Soldiers, and as Citizens (1882, two volumes) and A History of the Negro Troops in the War of the Rebellion, 1861–1865 (1887). His open letter to King Leopold II of Belgium (r. 1865–1909), criticizing the country's brutal colonization of the Belgian Congo, was a seminal human rights document of the nineteenth century.

George Washington Williams was born in Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania. He ran away from home at the age of fourteen to fight for the Union during the Civil War. He was a soldier in Mexico before returning to the United States to serve in the U.S. Army's all-black Tenth Cavalry.

After receiving a medical ...

Article

Gloria Grant Roberson

George Washington Williams had a pioneering spirit throughout his life as a soldier clergyman, journalist, historian, lawyer, author, and state legislator. Often aided by influential social and political alliances, he made valuable contributions to the cultural enlightenment of black people. However, as an ambitious and abrupt young man, Williams's drive for success often antagonized those whose support he needed.

Williams was born in Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania, to Thomas and Ellen Rouse Williams. He had one older sister and three younger brothers, but little is known of his siblings—Margaret, John, Thomas, and Harry. In his thoroughly researched biography, John Hope Franklin noted that Williams was a “wicked and wild” child who spent time in a boy's shelter. Departure from home at age fourteen to join the military reveals young Williams's propensity for adventure. His positive adjustment to military life is evidenced in his reenlistment patterns from 1864 through 1868 ...