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Charles Rosenberg

landowner, businessman, and state legislator, was born enslaved in Dallas County Alabama, to parents named Sarah and Pete, who had been born in South Carolina. David, like his parents, was the property of a family named Abner. There is some dispute as to his birth date—some giving 1826 and others 1838—but the most reliable date appears to be December 1820, as suggested by a letter from his youngest daughter. It is not known when David took the Abner surname for himself, a common but by no means universal practice for formerly enslaved persons. He was sent to Texas in 1843, driving a covered wagon for the newly married daughter (Thelma) of the man who held title to him.

Her father considered his new son in law unreliable and entrusted David to get his daughter safely to her new home and manage ...

Article

Loren Schweninger

Meachum, John Berry (1790?–1854), craftsman, minister, and businessman, was born a slave in Virginia. The names of his father, a Baptist preacher, and his mother are unknown. A skilled carpenter and cooper, he was allowed to save some of his earnings, and eventually he bought his freedom. Moving to Louisville, Kentucky, he married a slave, Mary, and then purchased her out of bondage; they would have an unknown number of children. About 1815 he moved with his wife to St. Louis, reportedly with only $3 in his pocket. There Meachum used the carpentry skills he had learned under slavery to find a job as a cooper. He established his own cooper’s shop a few years later and began buying St. Louis real estate.

During the 1830s in order to help fellow African Americans become free Meachum started buying slaves training them in barrel making and letting them ...

Article

Benjamin R. Justesen

carpenter, public official, and legislator, was born on a cotton plantation near Tarboro in Edgecombe County, North Carolina, the son of slave parents whose names are not known. Little is known of his education before the Civil War, although he briefly attended the common schools of Tarboro after the war ended.

Wimberly was raised as a field hand, working for planter James S. Battle at the Walnut Creek plantation. After the war ended, Wimberly initially chose to remain as a wageworker on the Battle plantation, and he established a strong relationship with new overseer Kemp Plummer Battle, a future president of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Wimberly was given new responsibilities and was trusted enough to be allowed to drive delivery wagons of poultry and other produce to Raleigh, a two-day trip, alone.

A farmer and skilled carpenter he gradually became an active member ...