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George C. Wright

journalist and lawyer, was born on the island of Saint Kitts in the West Indies. Details about his early life, including the names of his parents and the nature of his education, are unknown. In the fall of 1869 he arrived in New York, where he worked as soliciting agent for the New York Star and then as city editor for the Progressive American. Benjamin apparently became a U.S. citizen in the early 1870s, and in 1876 he gave speeches in support of Rutherford B. Hayes the Republican candidate for president He was rewarded with a position as a letter carrier in New York City but quit after nine months and moved to Kentucky where he taught school While there Benjamin also took up the study of law He continued his studies after being named principal of a school in Decatur Alabama and he was admitted to ...

Article

Agnes Kane Callum

slave, farmer, teacher, Reconstruction-era state legislator and lawyer, was born in South Carolina's famed Edgefield District. He was literate and the favored slave of Major Thomas Carwile the commissioner in equity of Edgefield Cain was probably raised much like other slave children on Edgefield plantations they would be cared for by an elderly lady while their mothers worked in the fields until the children were about six or seven years old when they were sent to work in the fields many serving as water carriers or weed pullers In some instances they were sent to work by the side of an adult Generally the children were called quarter workers since they produced about one fourth as much labor as an adult It is not known exactly how Cain learned to read and write but it is likely that he was taught by his owner as he was known as ...

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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 ...

Article

H.R. Costello

Early Liverpudliansolicitor. He was born in Kingston, Jamaica, the son of a wealthy white member of the plantocracy and his mixed‐race mother, Hannah Woodcock. On his father's death, William and his sisters were brought back to Liverpool by their uncle, John Daggers, a prominent and respected gentleman. William's family connections and his social class apparently helped to ease his entry into Liverpudlian society because he appears to have been accepted into the highest social circles.

William Daggers was a contemporary of Joshua Lace, founder of the Liverpool Law Society, set up in 1824. Daggers followed Lace into the legal profession, and in 1819 gained his certificate as a solicitor Though he seldom appeared in court he was widely sought after and consulted for his brilliant knowledge of equity and conveyancing He acquired a reputation with the Council for his work on issues affecting the ...

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Kenneth L. Kusmer

lawyer and politician, was born in New Bern, North Carolina, the son of John R. Green, a tailor, and Temperance (maiden name unknown), free African Americans of mixed ancestry. He learned the rudiments of reading and writing at a private school for free blacks. His father died while John was a child, and in June 1857 his mother moved the family to Cleveland, Ohio.

After working as an apprentice to a harness maker in Oberlin, Ohio, Green returned to Cleveland and attended school briefly before being forced to withdraw because of the family's financial problems. He worked temporarily as a tailor, a waiter, and at other jobs. He continued to study on his own, however, and at his own expense in 1866 published Miscellaneous Subjects by a Self-Educated Colored Youth Later that year after returning from a lecture tour to promote his book he entered Central High ...

Article

Leslie H. Fishel

attorney, was born in Canada, probably in St. Catharines, Ontario. His parentage is uncertain, but it appears that he was born into the family of Thomas and Mary Green, two African Americans who had migrated to Canada. His father was a laborer; neither parent was literate.

Green's early schooling is undocumented. He may have attended St. Catharines Collegiate Institute, but no records substantiate that. In 1884 he moved to the United States, probably to Chicago; no records support his claim that he became a naturalized citizen. Three years later he settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Employed as a waiter in the prestigious Plankinton House, he was at home in the upper circles of Milwaukee's black society. While he was at Plankinton House it is likely that Green benefited from the schooling that the African American head of dining services, John J. Miles arranged for members of his all ...

Article

Nancy T. Robinson

professor, lawyer, activist, and entrepreneur, was born in Eufaula, Alabama, the son of Jennie Dunn and Henry Clay Hart, an Alabama slaveholder who had been born in Rhode Island. From 1867 to 1874 Hart attended Eufaula's American Missionary Association School, where he became involved in the black voting rights movement. Hart was a youth activist who spoke publicly in opposition of local government. This behavior drew attention to him and caused great concern for his safety. Fearful and impoverished, Hart left Alabama and gradually traveled to Washington, D.C., entirely on foot.

In 1876 Hart enrolled at Howard University. He graduated in 1880 with a Preparatory Department certificate and continued his studies, graduating with a BA degree in 1885, an LLB in 1887, an MA in 1889, and an LLM in 1891 During his time as a law student Hart worked for ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Patricia Carter Sluby

attorney, businessman, civic leader, and a confidant of U.S. presidents and of Booker T. Washington, was born Giles in Goochland County, Virginia, one of four children of the slaves Hulda and James Jackson. Little information is known about Giles's father; however, his mother was born into slavery in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, and later became the property of Charles G. Dickerson, a Goochland County gentleman farmer. During the Civil War young Giles was the body servant to Dickerson, his master and a colonel in Fitz Lee's Cavalry, and he also attended the horses and uniforms of General Robert E. Lee. He followed his master into battle, which led to his being captured near the end of the war. Jackson recounted his story in an issue of the New York World in 1915 Seized by Union troops in Caroline County and again at City ...

Article

David Dabydeen

Biographer of Ignatius Sancho, the African writer whose letters were published in England in 1782. Jekyll was the only son of Edward Jekyll, a captain in the Royal Navy. Details concerning his place of birth are uncertain. He studied at Christ Church, Oxford, left for France upon completion of his studies in 1774, and was called to the Bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1788.

Jekyll may have met Sancho during this period, but there is no confirmation of this. In fact, information regarding their relationship is scarce and is left to much speculation. However, one piece of evidence affirms that Jekyll and Sancho did indeed meet and had some form of connection that extended beyond the purely professional. A letter written around 1803 by Sancho's son William to Jekyll, suggests that Jekyll was generous to the Sancho family:

To Joseph Jekyll Esq M P From ...

Article

Elizabeth Zoe Vicary

educator, lawyer, and politician, was born near Raleigh, North Carolina, the son of Columbus Johnson and Eliza A. Smith, slaves. He was taught to read and write by Nancy Walton, a free African American, and later attended the Washington School, an establishment founded by philanthropic northerners in Raleigh. There he was introduced to the Congregational Church and became a lifelong member. Johnson completed his education at Atlanta University in Georgia, graduating in 1883. To pay his way through college, he worked as a barber and taught in the summers. After graduation he worked as a teacher and principal, first in Atlanta at the Mitchell Street Public School from 1883 to 1885 and then in Raleigh at the Washington School from 1885 to 1891. While teaching in Raleigh, he studied at Shaw University, obtaining a law degree in 1891 He joined the faculty ...

Article

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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Benjamin R. Justesen

lawyer, public official, legislator, and law school dean, was the youngest son of five children born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to Matthew N. Leary, a successful saddler and a staunch abolitionist and philanthropist, and Julia A. Memorell (Menriel). Matthew Leary helped local slaves buy their freedom and often educated them, despite legal prohibitions on the practice. According to the 1850 federal census, he personally owned three slaves, though these were held for benevolent reasons.

John Leary's birth year is not certain; the 1850 census records his age as ten, although later reports indicate that he was born as late as 1849 His ethnic heritage was a blend of European Native American and African American lineage His mother a native of France migrated as a child to North Carolina from the Bahamas with her French mother His father whose family name had been shortened from ...

Article

Antje Daub

Florida Republican political leader, lawyer, and African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister, was born free in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Although the names of his parents are unknown, Lee was orphaned while an infant and was raised by Quakers. He attended Cheyney University, then known as the Institute for Colored Youth, the first black high school in the United States. After graduating in 1869, Lee moved to Washington, D.C., to begin a clerkship under the controversial “governor” of the District, Alexander Robey “Boss” Shepherd. Intermittently, Lee attended Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C., a historically black institution established in 1867. Lee attended Howard at a time when African American leaders were clamoring for black lawyers who could help in the struggle to secure the rights of African Americans. He graduated with an LLB degree in 1872.

Lee then relocated to Jacksonville Florida and was ...

Article

Patrick G. Williams

politician and lawyer, was born a slave on a plantation in Abbeville District, South Carolina. Of mixed race, he was probably the son of his owner, Samuel McGowan, and a slave woman, whose name is unknown. When McGowan entered Confederate service during the Civil War, Lee attended him in the camps and on the battlefield. Lee was wounded twice, at Second Manassas in 1862 and later near Hanover Junction, Virginia. After emancipation, he farmed in Abbeville District and then in Edgefield County, South Carolina, having settled in Hamburg. By 1870 Lee had accumulated at least $500 in real estate and $400 in personal property. Sometime before February 1872 he married a woman identified in legal documents as R. A. Lee; her maiden name is unknown.

Though not formally educated as a youth Lee had learned to read and evidently developed talents as a debater and orator fairly ...

Article

Rodney P. Carlisle

U.S. congressman, historian, and attorney, was born on Tacony plantation near Vidalia, Louisiana, the son of Patrick Lynch, the manager of the plantation, and Catherine White, a slave. Patrick Lynch, an Irish immigrant, purchased his wife and two children, but in order to free them, existing state law required they leave Louisiana. Before Patrick Lynch died, he transferred the titles to his wife and children to a friend, William Deal, who promised to treat them as free persons. However, when Patrick Lynch died, Deal sold the family to a planter, Alfred W. Davis, in Natchez, Mississippi. When Davis learned of the conditions of the transfer to Deal, he agreed to allow Catherine Lynch to hire her own time while he honeymooned with his new wife in Europe Under this arrangement Catherine Lynch lived in Natchez worked for various employers and paid $3 50 ...

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Benjamin R. Justesen

lawyer and public official, was born in Burke County, Georgia, a son of Thomas Lyons and Edy Plummer, who may have been a slave. His birth year, later reported in official biographies as either 1858 or 1860, was most likely several years earlier, in 1854. After the Civil War, he moved to Augusta, where he was educated in the common schools of Richmond County. He graduated from high school at Augusta Institute, which was later moved to Atlanta as Atlanta Baptist Seminary, later becoming Morehouse College.

Lyons began his career as a schoolteacher, working during his student years as a summer teacher in both Georgia and South Carolina and later working full-time in Richmond County, Georgia. His 1874 application for a Freedman's Bank savings account lists his age as twenty; also listed are his parents' names and those of his siblings, including an older sister, Alice ...

Article

Benjamin R. Justesen

lawyer, federal official, state legislator, and congressional aspirant, was the first of two sons born to a slave mother, Eliza Mabson, and her wealthy white owner, George W. Mabson, in Wilmington, North Carolina. He was educated at an early age in Massachusetts, where he resided until after the end of the Civil War. How George W. Mabson's father arranged to send his oldest son to Massachusetts in the early 1850s is not known, but presumably he either freed the light-skinned youth or smuggled him out of the state. From the age of eight, George reportedly lived with family friends in the Boston area, where he later worked as a waiter after the outbreak of the Civil War. On 15 February 1864 claiming to be eighteen years old George enlisted in the Union army joining the Fifth Massachusetts Colored Cavalry Regiment s Company G the ...

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Donna Grear Parker

lawyer and black activist, was born in Aberdeen, Mississippi, the son of Abraham McGhee and Sarah Walker, slaves. Although Frederick's father, a blacksmith, was not allowed a formal education, he learned to read and write, later becoming a Baptist preacher. Abraham McGhee also made certain that his children were literate, teaching each of them how to read and write. Such skills served young Frederick well when his parents died in 1873. Having moved with his family to Knoxville, Tennessee, soon after his parents were freed, Frederick McGhee remained there, studying at Knoxville College under the tutelage of Presbyterian missionaries. Without completing his undergraduate studies, he soon ventured to Chicago, working as a waiter for a time and then studying law with Edward H. Morris, a prominent local lawyer.

By 1885 McGhee was admitted to the Illinois bar, and in 1886 he married Mattie B. Crane ...

Article

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 ...