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Mary Krane Derr

slave and later servant, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to Perry Blake, a free African American, and his wife Charlotte, a slave in the household of a prominent merchant, Jesse Levering. The couple had several other children. In 1897 Jesse's daughter Sarah R. Levering published a booklet about Margaret Jane Blake's life through the Press of Innes & Son in Philadelphia. As of 2011 other sources concerning Blake s life were unknown Thus we should read this account with care recognizing that it provides only one perspective on Blake s life and that it comes from a member of the family who once owned her It nonetheless offers several insights on the life of an urban African American woman in slavery and freedom Levering designated the proceeds from the booklet s sale to a Presbyterian affiliated manual labor school for the benefit of the ...


Yasmine Ali

a literate domestic servant, grew up in Philadelphia and in New York City with her family. While her parents' names remain unknown, in one of her 1859 letters, she revealed that her father owned a restaurant. Brown severed ties with her family after her father's death in October 1862. In her letters to Rebecca Primus, her beloved friend, she discussed how her mother had remarried a man whom Addie described as often present in her nightmares.

Brown is known today primarily because of her relationship to Rebecca Primus of Hartford, Connecticut. Primus was the only African American among the five teachers selected by the Freedman's Society in 1865 to head to the south and start schools for freed blacks. She relocated to Royal, Maryland, and founded a school there, working until 1869 She was an inspirational figure and a close friend to Addie Brown and seems ...


Kimberly A. Sisson

poet, clubwoman, and political activist, was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, the daughter of Mary Evans and Joshua T. Williams, whose occupation is now unknown. In 1870 the family moved to Columbus, Ohio, where Mary Evans opened a successful wig-making business that operated for over twenty years. Carrie Williams attended the first integrated school in Columbus; whether she pursued higher education is unknown, however it is known that during the 1880s she taught in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

In 1886, at the age of twenty-four, she married William H. Clifford, a two-term Republican state representative from Cleveland. They would have two sons. As part of the black middle class in Cleveland, Clifford and her husband socialized with other important black figures such as Charles W. Chesnutt and George A. Meyers. Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois made frequent appearances in Cleveland joining the Cliffords ...


Connie Park Rice

educator and club woman, was born Coralie Franklin in Lexington, Virginia, a daughter of Albert Franklin and Mary E. (maiden name unknown). During or immediately after the Civil War the family moved to Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, where Coralie attended the Normal Department at Storer College, graduating in 1872. She continued her education at Storer and graduated from the Academic Department in 1880. A gifted elocutionist she was described by John Wesley Cromwell, on a visit to Harper's Ferry in 1877, as “an elocutionist of grace, skill and power” (Journal of Negro History, July 1923). Franklin went on to attend Emerson College in Boston, the Shoemaker School of Oratory in Philadelphia, and the Martha's Vineyard Summer Institute of Oratory in Massachusetts. Franklin then returned to West Virginia and her alma mater, where she taught elocution at Storer College from 1882 to 1893 ...


Rayford W. Logan

Born in Warwick, Rhode Island, Elleanor Eldridge believed that her paternal grandfather had been born in Zaire (the ancient name of the current Democratic Republic of the Congo) and had been brought to America on a slave ship. One of his sons, Robin Eldridge, was Elleanor Eldridge's father. Robin and his two brothers had fought in the American Revolution (1775–1783) and been promised 80 hectares (198 acres) of land apiece in the Mohawk River Valley in New York. Since they received pay in the almost worthless Continental currency (notes issued by the Continental Congress to finance the war), they had been unable to take possession of the land. It is not clear how Robin Eldridge was able to purchase a lot and a house in Warwick, where he settled with his wife, Hannah Prophet, whom he had married before entering military service.

Elleanor was ...


Adele N. Nichols

enslaved African American, mother, yarn spinner, weaver, and housekeeper, was born on the Mount Airy plantation in Virginia to Bill Grimshaw, a carpenter, and to Esther Jackson, a textile worker and cotton spinner, who were married in the early 1820s. Grimshaw's grandparents were Henry and Winney Jackson, domestic workers. Grimshaw's parents named her after her grandmother. By the time Grimshaw was born, their family was owned by William Henry Tayloe. Grimshaw had five siblings: Elizabeth (b. 1824), Anna (b. 1827), Juliet (b. 1929), Charlotte (b. 1834), James (b. 1831), and Henry (b. 1837). Charlotte died when she was young, but the remainder of her siblings survived into adulthood. At the time, most African American slaves were listed in records by their first name or a nickname. It was not until 1862 that Grimshaw was documented by her ...


Barbara McCaskill

former slave, abolitionist, and memoirist, was born in Columbia, South Carolina, to an enslaved, biracial seamstress and cook, Elizabeth Ramsey. Her mother's white master, John Randolph, was Louisa's father. From infancy through age thirteen, Picquet, along with her mother and her younger brother John, were owned by a former cotton planter from Monticello, Georgia, named Cook. To pay for losses at the gaming tables, Cook fled to Mobile, Alabama, where he “hired out” or leased Picquet, a child herself, to “nurse” or look after the children of slaveholders. When Picquet was almost fourteen, in order to settle Cook's remaining debts, a sheriff from Georgia sold her to a Mr. Williams, a middle-aged New Orleans “gentleman” (Picquet, 16). Her other family members were auctioned to A. C. Horton of Warton Texas Picquet was forced to become Williams s mistress and she bore him four ...


Karla Sclater

Christian missionary and temperance advocate, was born Emma Smith, enslaved in Springfield, Missouri. She lived with her mother, Jennie Boyd, and both her sister and her father, John Smith, lived on a neighboring plantation. There were also four older siblings living on yet another plantation near Springfield. One month after her birth in 1859, Emma was put up for auction alongside her mother and sister. Her father threatened his owners that if they did not purchase his wife and daughters he would run away. The strategy proved successful and Smith was able to have his wife and two daughters live with him.

Emma Smith was only two years old when the Civil War erupted. In 1864 as the Union army secured remaining portions of Missouri from rebel control the white slaveholding Smith brothers John Smith kept the name of his owners fled south to Arkansas ...


K. Wise Whitehead

writer, feminist, and educator, was born Frances Anne Rollin in Charleston, South Carolina. She was the oldest of five daughters born to William Rollin, a businessman whose family migrated from Saint Domingue (now Haiti) in 1792, and Margarette, a woman whose family was also from the Caribbean. Frances and her sisters—Charlotte (Lottie) Rollin (b. 1849); Katherine E. Rollin (b. 1851); Louisa Rollin (b. 1858); and Florence Rollin (b. 1861)—grew up in a small middle-class free black community in Charleston, where their father was well known as a successful property owner, slave owner, lumber trader, and member of the prominent French-Creole De Caradeuc family. The Rollins were members of the Brown Fellowship Society, an elite organization for freed people of color that was founded in 1790 and they lived within a community of about 120 educated and politically active free ...


Greer C. Bosworth

prohibitionist, voting rights activist, civil rights activist, writer, and poet, was born Naomi Bowman in Michigan City, Indiana, as one of three children of Elijah and Guilly Ann Bowman. The Bowmans were free blacks and natives of Ohio. Naomi was raised in Indiana with her parents and siblings. The segregated public schools in Michigan City would not admit black children, so her parents hired a private teacher. At a very early age, Naomi developed a talent for writing poetry. At the age of twelve, she was admitted to a previously all-white public school. There is some indication that when the white parents in the Michigan City community recognized her talents for writing poetry they agreed to admit her to the public school. Unfortunately, after her mother's death in 1860 Naomi s father decided that further education would not be necessary for his daughters ...


John C. Shields

writer of poetry and epistolary prose, was probably born along the Gambia River in 1753. Her mother and father were almost certainly of the Fulani peoples of West Africa and were members of the aristocracy. Wheatley indicates in her poems that she was well acquainted with animistic ancestor worship, solar worship, and Islam. Her emphasis on the importance of these three faiths recurs throughout her 18 extant elegies. This multiple religious consciousness the young girl of seven or eight brought with her to Boston, where she was, on 11 July 1761, sold on the block “for a trifle” and named by John and Susanna Wheatley “Phillis” after the slave ship The Phillis which brought her In that grotesque and insensitive act of naming Wheatley would thereafter be forced to recall the horrific Middle Passage With her already multiple religious consciousness Wheatley soon blended New England congregationalism and ...