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The court case of Ableman v. Booth stemmed from the capture of a fugitive slave named Joshua Glover just outside of Racine, Wisconsin, on 10 March 1854. Federal marshals accompanying Glover's owner, a Missourian named Bennami Garland, broke into the shack Glover was occupying and forcibly detained him after a spirited resistance. Glover was taken overnight by wagon to the county jail in Milwaukee, thirty miles north. Garland and the federal marshals intended to take Glover before the U.S. district court judge the next morning to authorize his return to Missouri.

Sherman Booth, Milwaukee's most prominent abolitionist and the publisher of the Milwaukee Free Democrat was alerted to Glover s incarceration by early morning and spread the news quickly throughout the abolitionist community While lawyers obtained a writ of habeas corpus from a county court on Glover s behalf to protect him against illegal imprisonment Booth and ...

Article

Chandra M. Miller

dentist and politician, was born into slavery in North Carolina and was known as Samuel Nixon before his escape from bondage in 1855. Nothing is known about his parents. He was sold several times before being purchased by C. F. Martin, a dentist in Norfolk, Virginia. As Martin's slave, Nixon learned sufficient dentistry to serve as the doctor's assistant and to make dental house calls. He also developed bookkeeping skills and monitored the doctor's accounts.

In Norfolk, Nixon became involved with the Underground Railroad. Befriending the captains of many of the schooners sailing in and out of Norfolk, he often convinced them to hide fugitive slaves aboard ship and carry them north, usually to Philadelphia or to New Bedford, Massachusetts. After conducting many other slaves through the Underground Railroad, Nixon decided to become a passenger himself in March 1855 He and three other slaves disguised themselves and ...

Article

Graham Russell Hodges and Thomas Adams Upchurch

[This entry contains two subentries dealing with black nationalism from the seventeenth century slave trade through the late nineteenth century The first article discusses the first formations of African national identities and the influence of various revolutions on black nationalism while the second focuses on the most significant figures ...

Article

Jeffrey O. Ogbar and Jeffrey O. G.

Black nationalism is the belief system that endorses the creation of a black nation state It also supports the establishment of black controlled institutions to meet the political social educational economic and spiritual needs of black people independent of nonblacks Celebration of African ancestry and territorial separatism are essential components of black nationalism Though not fully developed into a cogent system of beliefs the impulse of black nationalism finds its earliest expression in the resistance of enslaved Africans to the Atlantic slave trade from the sixteenth century Various groups of Africans who felt no particular organic connection as black people were forced into a new racialized identity in a brutal and dehumanizing process of enslavement The transportation and forced amalgamation of hundreds of different African nationalities resulted in Creolized communities in the Americas enslaved Africans revolted and established new societies which functioned autonomously on the outskirts of colonial towns and ...

Article

Celia  

Steven J. Niven

a slave executed for killing her master, was probably born in central Missouri. The names of her parents are unknown. Practically all the information that is known about Celia is taken from court records and newspaper accounts of her trial for the murder in 1855 of Robert Newsom, a farmer and slave-owner in Calloway County, Missouri. Newsom had purchased Celia in neighboring Audrain County, Missouri, some five years earlier. Celia was the only female slave in the Newsom household; the five others included a young boy and four young adult males who herded the livestock and harvested the eight hundred acres of prime land that had helped elevate Robert Newsom to a position “solidly among the ranks of Callaway's residents who were comfortably well-off” (McLaurin, 8). Newsom's wife had died in 1849 and it may have been that he purchased Celia a cook to assist his thirty six ...

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Kimberly Springer

educator, writer, and activist, was born Anna Julia Haywood in Raleigh, North Carolina, to Hannah Stanley, a slave. There is no consensus regarding her father, although he was most likely her mother's owner, Dr. Fabius J. Haywood, or his brother, George Washington Haywood. Anna exhibited a love of books and a gift for learning early in her childhood. Hannah was hired out as a nursemaid to a successful local lawyer, whose family most likely assisted her daughter in learning to read and write. Most important, however, was Anna's mother herself, who although illiterate, encouraged her daughter's education.

In 1867 Anna was one of the first students admitted to St Augustine s Normal School and Collegiate Institute a recently founded Episcopal school for newly freed slaves At age nine she found herself tutoring students older than herself and decided to earn her teaching credentials At St Augustine s ...

Article

Richard Watts

Jean-Jacques Dessalines was born to Congolese parents on a plantation in Saint-Domingue (as Haiti was known prior to independence). He was given the name of the plantation owner, Duclos, before adopting the name of the freed black landowner, Dessalines, who purchased his services as a slave. Unlike his future comrade-in-arms, François Dominique Toussaint Louverture, Dessalines was treated harshly as a slave and joined the ranks of maroons (runaway slaves) at a young age. In 1792 he became a partisan of the slave uprising led by Boukman, a slave of Jamaican origin, and impressed his compatriots with his courage. Yet Dessalines committed acts of cruelty that frightened some in the rebellion. His capacity for violence would contribute in equal measure to his precipitous rise and fall.

Following the abolition of slavery in Saint-Domingue in 1793 Toussaint Louverture allied himself with the French Dessalines joined him eventually becoming Toussaint ...

Article

James Sellman

Frederick Douglass was more than a great African American leader. He was, in the words of his biographer William S. McFeely, “one of the giants of nineteenth-century America.” He was a man driven by his anger at injustice, McFeely observed, a man who “never ran away from anything”—except the bondage of slavery. Even in that, he took flight not simply to escape but to engage. After gaining his freedom, the former slave turned in his tracks and confronted the institution head-on.

Douglass played a prominent role in nineteenth-century reform movements, not only through his abolitionism but also in his support for women's rights and black suffrage. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he stayed true to his principles, remaining steadfast in his commitment to integration and civil rights. Douglass was militant but never a separatist. He rejected the nationalist rhetoric and latter-day conservatism of black abolitionist Martin Robison Delany ...

Article

Michael L. Krenn

Through the early nineteenth century the ability of African Americans to effectively participate in U.S. foreign policy was extremely limited. These limitations are easily understood, as only a small portion of the African American population was free in the years following the American Revolution, and, regardless, freedom did not translate into political rights. Without the abilities to vote or to run for and hold public office, free African Americans were unable to play a significant role in the political arena. Nevertheless, African Americans sought to have a voice in the young nation's diplomacy. Though they had little impact at the time, their efforts helped to establish the broad parameters of the African American role in American diplomacy for years to come.

The limited avenues for official participation by African Americans in U S foreign policy resulted in fairly organized private efforts at influencing the nation s diplomacy Even before the ...

Article

Richard S. Newman and Paul Finkelman

Fugitive, or self-emancipated, slaves ran away in every American colony and state from the beginning of bondage until the Civil War ended slavery forever. Indeed, while fugitive slaves of the colonial and early national periods remain less celebrated than such antebellum counterparts as Frederick Douglass, Henry “Box” Brown, and Harriet Jacobs they too had a significant impact on the institution of slavery From the advent of plantation slavery in British North America in the seventeenth century onward fugitive slaves were intimately connected to patterns of slave resistance and rebelliousness Colonial masters had turned to African labor because of the high incidence of escapism among both Native American laborers and indentured servants No sooner had colonial masters shifted to racial slavery than bondpeople began running away too Moreover because the line between black slavery and indentured servitude remained fluid during the first half of the seventeenth century fugitive slaves ...

Article

Laura Murphy

was born to an enslaved mother on Maplewood Plantation in Boone County, Kentucky. Her mother, Priscilla, worked in the plantation house and helped to raise the children of John P. Gaines, her owner and later a U.S. congressman and governor of the Oregon territory. While Priscilla is listed as “black” in the 1850 census, Margaret Garner is listed as “mulatto” suggesting that John Gaines was perhaps Margaret's father. When Gaines left to govern Oregon, he abruptly sold his plantation and all of the slaves on it to his brother, Archibald James, who thus became Margaret's owner.

On 27 January 1856 Garner and sixteen other slaves escaped from the various Kentucky plantations on which they worked They stole two horses to which they hitched a sled to carry them to the Ohio River Leaving Covington Kentucky together they crossed the frozen Ohio River after which they split up ...

Article

Rhondda Robinson Thomas

believed to be the last fugitive slave returned to the South under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, was born Sara Lucy Bagby. Details about her ancestry, place of birth, and early years are unknown. At the time of her arrest in Cleveland, Ohio, on 19 January 1861, U.S. marshals identified Bagby as a slave of William S. Goshorn, a merchant from Wheeling, Virginia (now West Virginia). In 1852 Goshorn's father, John Goshorn, had purchased Bagby in Richmond, Virginia, and transported her to Wheeling. There she worked for John Goshorn until he sold her to his son William.

Bagby toiled for the Goshorns about eight years before seeking freedom. Shortly after federal marshals arrested and jailed her in Cleveland, she described her escape from slavery during an interview with a reporter from the Cleveland Morning Leader Bagby identified herself as twenty four year old ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

poet, essayist, teacher, and activist, was born in Harlem, New York, the daughter of Jamaican-born parents Mildred Maud Fisher, a nurse, and Granville Ivanhoe Jordan, a postal clerk. Mildred, who was half East Indian, was a quiet and religious woman who had given up a career as an artist to marry; she struggled with depression and eventually committed suicide in 1966. Jordan's father, who was half Chinese and a follower of the black nationalist Marcus Garvey made no apologies for his dissatisfaction with his only child s gender He had wanted a boy and treated Jordan as such Referring to her as he and the boy Granville subjected his young daughter to rigorous mental and physical training regimens that included camping fishing and boxing instruction aggressive mathematical and literary testing and often brutal physical beatings Jordan describes her father s abuse in ...

Article

Richard S. Newman and Paul Finkelman

Kidnapping, or “man-stealing,” occurred when masters or slave dealers attempted to abduct free persons of color and send them into bondage. In some cases masters dispatched ruffians to recapture fugitive slaves but were not particular about the “recaptured” person's identity; in other cases masters kidnapped former slaves and sold them back into bondage. In any event, preventing the kidnapping of free black citizens and alleged fugitive slaves became a critical part of early abolitionist activism.

Although kidnapping may properly be said to have begun with the transatlantic slave trade it became a domestic problem receiving intense abolitionist scrutiny during the Revolutionary era and the early national period Slaves liberated both before and during the War of Independence found themselves recaptured by devious masters and slave traders In Virginia early abolitionist groups encountered dozens of cases involving kidnapped black men and women who wished to claim their freedom One striking incident ...

Article

Gary Ashwill

A self-educated former slave, François Dominique Toussaint-L'Ouverture joined the Haitian Revolution in 1791 and became its foremost general, defeating both French and British forces. In 1802, he was betrayed and captured, and he died imprisoned in France.

Toussaint figures importantly in the early-nineteenth-century writings of James McCune Smith, David Walker, and Henry Highland Garnet, among others, as a symbol and exemplar of resistance to slavery, and as an example of the potential of the black race. William Wells Brown, in his pamphlet St. Domingo: Its Revolution and Its Patriots (1854), compares Toussaint favorably to Napoleon and George Washington: “Toussaint liberated his countrymen; Washington enslaved a portion of his.” George Clinton Rowe's seventy-stanza poem, Toussaint L'Ouverture (1890), lauds Toussaint as the “deliverer of his race.” Later African American writers such as Carter G. Woodson and W. E. B. Du Bois argued ...

Article

Jesse J. Esparza and Carl E. Prince

[This entry contains two subentries dealing with African American uprisings against slavery and discrimination from 1619 to 1895 The first article provides a discussion of the causes responses and importance of race related riots from the colonial period to 1830 while the second article discusses the topic from the ...

Article

Rosetta E. Ross

Underground Railroad conductor, abolitionist, spy and scout, and social reformer, was born Araminta Ross in Dorchester County on Maryland's Eastern Shore, one of nine children, to slave parents Harriet Green and Ben Ross. She took her mother's name, Harriet, around 1844. This was also about the time she married John Tubman, a free black of about thirty-two years in age. The couple had no children.

The black community in which Harriet grew up comprised a mix of free and slave, skilled and unskilled people who married one another and formed interconnected, extended families. Freedmen and slaves worked together in the fields, swamps, forests, and canals. Harriet's father worked as a skilled slave, cutting and hauling timber for his master, Anthony Thompson, a lumber supplier for the area's shipbuilding industry. A favorite of Thompson's, Ross eventually won his freedom in 1840 by ...

Article

For information on:

Uprisings and rebellions in Latin America: See Berbice Slave Rebellion; Maroonage in the Americas; Muslim Uprisings in Bahia, Brazil; Rethinking Palmares: Slave Rebellions in Colonial Brazil: An Interpretation; Role of Slaves in Abolition and Emancipation in Latin America and the Caribbean; Slave Rebellions in Latin America and the Caribbean; Zumbi.

Specific rebellions and black rebel leaders in the Caribbean: See Bussa's Rebellion; Cacos; Conspiración de la Escalera; Cudjoe; Dessalines; Haitian Revolution; Maceo y Grajales; Makandal; Morant Bay Rebellion; Nanny; Péralte; Sharpe; Toussaint Louverture;

Uprisings and rebellions in the United States: See Amistad Mutiny; Christiana Revolt of 1852; Cinque; Creole Affair; Denmark Vesey Conspiracy; Gabriel Prosser Conspiracy; New York Slave Conspiracy of 1741; New York Slave Rebellion of 1712; Slave ...

Primary Source

The broadside reproduced below promising a 50 Dollars Reward for the return of a fugitive hints at the possibility of freedom that the city of Baltimore offered to escaped slaves In the first half of the nineteenth century the free black population of the city increased by 3 000 percent allowing for greater ease of movement for fugitives on their way to neighboring Pennsylvania and beyond An escapee such as Alexander could as the notice warns obtain a pass as a free man Indeed the forgery of legal documents became a key instrument in what would come to be known as the Underground Railroad Even the abolitionist Frederick Douglass was jailed briefly in Maryland for distributing counterfeit manumission papers Moreover the port of Baltimore offered a potentially easier route to the North As the broadside suggests Alexander was attempting to go to sea and will be trying to ship on ...