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Connie Park Rice

newspaper editor and civil rights lawyer, was born in Williamsport, Virginia (later West Virginia), the youngest of three sons born to Isaac Clifford, a farmer, and Mary Satilpa Kent, free blacks living in Hardy County. John Robert joined the Union army on 3 March 1865, rising to the rank of corporal in the 13th U.S. Heavy Artillery. After serving in Kentucky, Tennessee, and eastern Virginia under General Ulysses S. Grant, Clifford volunteered for service at Chicago, Illinois.

After the Civil War, Clifford remained in Chicago, staying from 1865 to 1868 with the Honorable John J. Healy, an acquaintance of his father, and graduating from Chicago High School. Clifford worked as a barber before going to live with an uncle in Zeno, Muskingum County, Ohio, where he attended a school taught by Miss Effie McKnight and received a diploma from a writing school conducted by a Professor ...

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Thomas M. Leonard

diplomat, lawyer, and journalist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel Durham and Elizabeth Stephens. Two of his uncles, Clayton Durham and Jeremiah Durham, were noted clergymen who helped Bishop Richard Allen establish the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Durham, who could almost pass for white, studied in the Philadelphia public schools and graduated from the Institute for Colored Youth in 1876.

For five years after leaving high school Durham taught in Delaware and Pennsylvania. In 1881 he entered Towne Scientific School, a branch of the University of Pennsylvania, from which he earned a bachelor's degree in 1886 and a civil engineering degree in 1888. He held several positions during his college career, including reporter for the Philadelphia Times. He excelled as a newspaperman, and his unique abilities eventually led him to the assistant editorship of the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin ...

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Leila Kamali

British barrister who came to prominence in the Somerset case. Hargrave was born in London, and entered Lincoln's Inn as a student in 1760. Having written to the abolitionist Granville Sharp offering his services, Hargrave was the most prominent of the five lawyers who appeared on behalf of James Somerset, a slave who was brought from Boston, Massachusetts, then a British colony, to England in 1769. Somerset escaped, but was recaptured and imprisoned on a ship bound for Jamaica, also a British colony. At Sharp's intervention, hearings began in February 1772.

In this Hargrave s first appearance in court he argued that while colonial law might permit slavery those laws did not apply in England and further that English law did not allow for any person to enslave himself by contract Somerset was freed and Hargrave s argument was decisive in Lord Mansfield s ruling ...

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Barbara Bair

Baltimore attorney, civic leader, political activist, and champion of legal challenges to racial segregation laws, was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, the son of Susan Cobb Hawkins and Robert Hawkins, a minister. Hawkins graduated in 1885 from the Centenary Biblical Institute (later Morgan College). In March of the same year he married his first wife, Ada McMechen (1867–?) of Virginia, in a Baltimore service led by the Reverend Benjamin Brown, a church activist and pastor of the Sharp Street Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church, of which Hawkins was a lifelong member. William and Ada Hawkins had two daughters, Aldina Hawkins (Haynes) (1885–1940) and Roberta Hawkins (West) (1891–?).

Hawkins worked as an educator while studying law at the University of Maryland but he was forced to leave the college when white students petitioned to exclude blacks He graduated from the Howard ...

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Jari Christopher Honora

statesman, minister, educator, businessman, and attorney, was born on the plantation of Dr. Francois Marie Prevost near Donaldsonville, Ascension Parish, Louisiana. He is purported to have been born to Rosemond Landry, a white laborer on the Prevost plantation and Marcelite, his slave mistress. He was born with the name Caliste. According to Landry's unpublished autobiography, he resided with a free couple of color and was educated at a school conducted for free children. Despite his owner's wish that he be freed, when Dr. Prevost's estate was settled on 16 May 1854 Caliste was auctioned off to Marius St Colombe Bringier a wealthy sugar planter in Ascension Parish He was sold for $1 665 Landry continued his education on Houmas the Bringier plantation and was trusted enough to live in the mansion He served various roles on Houmas Plantation eventually earning the position of superintendent ...

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Steven J. Niven

lawyer and fraternal leader, was born Willis Elbert Mollison to Robert Mollison and Martha Gibson slaves in Mayersville the county seat of Issaquena County in the Mississippi Delta According to the federal census taken when Mollison was in his first year he was born in the second wealthiest county in the entire United States Practically all of that wealth was divided among the county s 587 white citizens whose total wealth averaged more than eighteen thousand dollars per white freeman The primary source of their wealth was Issaquena County s 7 244 slaves including young Willis whom they owned and whom they had purchased primarily to pick cotton on what one contemporary observer called the best land which our globe is able to produce One estimate suggests that as much as 75 percent of the slave children born on Delta plantations at that time died before reaching infancy ...

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Paul Finkelman

probably the second black attorney to be admitted to practice law in the United States, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, to York Morris, a waiter, and Nancy Thomas. His grandfather, Cumons Morris, was brought to the United States from Africa while York Morris gained his freedom in 1781 and moved to Salem, working as a waiter. There he married Nancy Thomas, who gave birth to Robert and ten other children. Morris attended a private school in Salem and then became a waiter like his father. At age thirteen he moved to Boston under the patronage of the abolitionist attorney Ellis Gray Loring. Initially he was a servant in the Loring home; then he became a clerk in Loring's office, mostly copying documents. In 1844 be began reading law in Loring's office, and in 1847 shortly after his twenty first birthday he passed the Massachusetts bar ...

Article

W. Rolston

Daniel O'Connell was born in County Kerry, Ireland. His family, once rich, had been impoverished through British policies in Ireland, in particular the Penal Laws, which excluded the Catholic Irish from a range of opportunities, including inheriting land and holding public office. By the time of O'Connell's birth, those laws had partly fallen into disuse, but they meant that O'Connell, as a Catholic, could not be educated in Ireland. An uncle paid for his education in France, which was cut short by the French Revolution. O'Connell then studied law in England and in 1798 was called to the bar in Dublin.

In 1798 the United Irishmen staged a revolution in Ireland This organization was inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution with which O Connell in general agreed However having witnessed the events in France he was staunchly opposed to the use of violence for political ends ...

Article

Michelle Brattain

editor, Republican Party leader, and civil rights activist, was born near Jonesboro, Georgia, the son of a slave mother and a white planter father whose names are unknown. He received limited formal education as a child but attended Atlanta University as an adult and finally gained entrance to the Georgia bar as a self-taught lawyer in 1894. Little is known of his childhood, though Pledger himself related his early interest in politics to a contemporary journalist. According to a 1902 biographical account by Cyrus Field Adams, brother of John Quincy Adams (1848–1922), one of Pledger's “most pleasant recollections of his youth” was informing his mother in 1856 that presidential candidate John C. Frémont was “for the Negro” (Adams, 147).

After the Civil War Pledger moved to Atlanta and worked in city hotels and on the railroad In the early 1870s he moved to ...

Article

Eric Gardner

activist, lawyer, doctor, and dentist, was born to free parents in Salem County, New Jersey. The majority of secondary sources list his middle name as “Swett” or “Sweat,” although his biographer J. Harlan Buzby asserts that it was “Stewart.” His father, also named John Rock, lived for more than three decades in Elsinboro, Salem County, New Jersey, and married Maria Willet on 8 June 1820. The elder John Rock was a laborer, and though the family was poor, John and Maria Rock did their best to see that young Rock was educated.

By 1844 Rock was teaching at an all-black school in Salem, a position he held until 1848. While teaching he read extensively and began studying medicine with two white doctors in the area, Quinton Gibbon and Jacob Sharpe He attempted to gain admission to medical colleges in the area but ...

Article

Jennifer Larson

judge, politician, and activist, was born in Richmond, Virginia. He was the oldest son of George W. Ruffin, a barber, and Nancy Lewis, both free African Americans. Because the Ruffins valued education highly, they hired a tutor to teach their eight children English literature, as well as Latin and the classics, despite the financial strain of this instruction's cost. The Ruffins owned a small amount of property in Richmond, but they decided to abandon it and move to Boston in 1853 after the Virginia legislature prohibited African Americans from learning to read In Boston George W worked as a barber as he had in Richmond while Nancy made a profitable living selling fish and fruit that her relatives shipped to her from Richmond The eight Ruffin children entered the segregated Boston public school system At the Chapman Hall school nineteen year old George excelled ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

politician, lawyer, and fraternal leader, was born in Edgefield County, South Carolina, the son of Charlotte Simkins, a slave, and her owner Arthur Augustus Simkins, a newspaper publisher and scion of the local planter aristocracy. In the early 1850s Paris's father was prominent in organizing the Democratic Party in South Carolina, assisted by Preston Brooks, Edgefield's U.S. congressman, who in 1856 famously beat the Massachusetts Republican Charles Sumner with a cane on the Senate floor. Sumner had apparently insulted Brooks's kinsman. It is unclear how Arthur Simkins viewed his son Paris, though he most likely opposed the actions of another of his slaves, a coachman, who hid with the boy in the woods to secretly and illegally teach him to read and write. Paris's education was briefly interrupted at the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 when he was sent with ...

Article

Linda M. Carter

lawyer, diplomat, educator, and editor, was born John Henry Smyth in Richmond, Virginia, the son of Sully Smyth, a slave, and Ann Eliza Goode Smyth, a free African American. Smyth was also born free because at the time of his birth, slave codes decreed that a child's status followed that of the mother. Ann Smyth then paid Sully Smyth's owner $1,800 to gain her husband's freedom, but Virginia law prohibited her from freeing him, and she willed her husband to Smyth.

Another African American woman in Richmond taught him Smyth how to read, and he was able to take advantage of better educational opportunities beyond Virginia's borders. In Philadelphia African American youth attended private schools as early as 1770 and public schools as early as 1822 When he was seven years old Smyth s parents sent him to Philadelphia where he attended a ...

Article

David Dabydeen

Christian abolitionist who worked closely with William Wilberforce. Stephen was born in Poole, Dorset, and educated in Winchester. He became a barrister and had a law practice in the West Indies. As a consequence of viewing the horrors of slavery and the extreme ill‐treatment of slaves on the islands, he started a correspondence with the abolitionist William Wilberforce and provided him with information on the practice of slavery in the West Indies. Under Wilberforce's influence, he joined the Clapham Sect, constituted of Christians working with Wilberforce, and eventually became its leader. He wrote a number of books that attacked the slave trade and several significant pamphlets such as War in Disguise or the Frauds of the Neutral Flags and The Slavery of the British West India Colonies Delineated Stephen also offered a few proposals for the ending of the slave trade Among them was the registration of slaves ...

Article

Laura M. Calkins

lawyer and judge, was born in Bridgetown, Barbados, the son of John and Margaret Straker, of whom little is known. His father John Straker died when David was less than a year old, and his mother cared for him until he reached age seven, when she enrolled him in a private school. He entered the Central Public School in Bridgetown at age thirteen. Although he was also serving an apprenticeship as a tailor, Straker was deeply attracted to intellectual studies. With the support of Robert P. Elliott, principal of the Central Public School, Straker abandoned tailoring for full-time classical studies, including instruction in Latin and French under the tutelage of a linguist, the Reverend Joseph N. Durant. He also studied history and philosophy under R. R. Rawle principal of Codrington College an Anglican grammar school in Bridgetown which is now part of the University of ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

leather worker, lawyer, and politician, was born Edward Garrison Walker in Boston to David Walker, a radical abolitionist and writer, and Eliza Butler, whose occupation is unknown. Although sometimes referred to as Edward G. Walker and E. G. Walker, he most commonly appears in the historical record as Edwin G. Walker. There is some dispute as to his date of birth, which one obituary gives as 26 September 1835, five years after David's death. Most sources suggest, however, that Edwin was, indeed, the son of the author of Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World (1829), probably born several months after David's death in Boston in August 1830. His middle name may have been given in honor of the white abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, who founded the abolitionist newspaper the Liberator in Boston in January 1831 ...

Article

Jolie A. Jackson-Willett

civil rights attorney and political activist, was born in Atlanta, Georgia. Little is known of his parents, except that his father was a black physician. Wilson graduated from Atlanta University and then attended Boston University Law School, where he received a degree of Juris Doctor in 1883. He became one of the social and political black elite of Boston, who enjoyed economic privilege but who were also dedicated to improving the quality of life for all African Americans. An interesting note is that Butler Wilson was among the first Negro golfers in post–Civil War America. He played with Dr. George Grant, the inventor of the first patented golf tee (and one of the country's first Negro dentists), and with other civil rights activists and socially prominent blacks such as Archibald Grimké (later president of the Washington, D.C., branch of the NAACP) and the noted restaurateur Howard Lee ...