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ʿAbduh, Muhammad  

Geoffrey Roper

Egyptian Muslim theologian, modernist, and reformer, was born in the Gharbiya Province of Lower Egypt, the son of ʿAbduh ibn Hasan Khayr Allah, a peasant farmer, and his wife, who was descended from the Bani ʿAdl clan. He grew up in the village of Mahallat Nasr and received a traditional education, learning the Qurʾan by heart. In 1862 he was sent to the madrasa (Islamic college) in Tanta. There, he perfected his Qurʾan recitation and started to learn Arabic grammar, by the then normal method of memorizing texts and commentaries without explanation from his teachers.

Reacting against this, according to his own account, he ran away from the college and returned to his village, intending to become a peasant rather than a scholar. In this condition he married in 1865 at the age of sixteen But after various vicissitudes he resorted to his great uncle Shaykh Darwish Khadr who ...

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Andrew, John Albion  

Michael C. Miller

The son of Jonathan Andrew, a farmer and storeowner, and Nancy Green Pierce, a schoolteacher, John Andrew was born in Windham, Massachusetts (in the part of the state that became Maine in 1820). He attended Bowdoin College and graduated in 1837. He moved to Boston, where he entered the law and became active in politics. An idealistic lawyer, devoting much of his early career to pro bono work for prisoners and blacks, he made a name for himself fighting fugitive slave laws. He considered the abolitionist John Brown a hero and arranged for his defense counsel after Brown was caught at Harpers Ferry in 1859. In politics he was active with the “Young Whigs,” an antislavery splinter group that became the Free-Soil Party. He served a term in the Massachusetts legislature (1857).

During the 1860 elections Andrew was the head of the Massachusetts delegation ...

Article

Anthony, Susan B.  

Vickey Kalambakal

Susan Brownell Anthony was born in Adams, Massachusetts, to an unusual family. Her father was a Quaker; at the religious meetings she attended as a child, women were allowed to speak and were on an equal footing with men. The family was prosperous, and her parents encouraged freethinking and activism in their children. Anthony became an abolitionist and participant in the Underground Railroad. She is best remembered as one of the leaders and organizers of the women's suffrage movement.

Anthony's family moved from Massachusetts to Rochester, New York, in 1845. Over the next few years, the abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass also a resident of Rochester became a frequent visitor and speaker at Sunday meetings at the Anthony farm where abolition was discussed Like many reform minded people of the day Anthony also joined the local temperance society After being denied the chance to speak at ...

Article

Barrett, Janie Porter  

Cynthia Neverdon-Morton

educator, school founder, and social welfare advocate, was born in Athens, Georgia, the daughter of Julia Porter. Various biographical accounts indicate that Barrett's parents were former slaves, while others speculate that her father was white. Little is known about either parent. During her early childhood, Barrett resided in the home of the Skinners, a white family whom her mother served as housekeeper. After her mother's marriage to a railway worker, Barrett remained with the Skinners, who encouraged her to further her education.

Though the Skinners suggested that she move north, Barrett, at her mother's urging, attended Hampton Institute in Virginia, graduating in 1884. While at Hampton she became convinced that it was her duty as an educated black woman to work assiduously for the betterment of all African Americans. That belief led her to teach in Dawson, Georgia, and at Lucy Craft Laney s Haines Normal ...

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Bibb, Henry W.  

Heidi L. Scott Giusto

Henry Walter Bibb was born a slave on the plantation of David White in Shelby County, Kentucky. His father, James Bibb, was a slaveholding planter and state senator; his mother, Mildred Jackson, was a slave. By 1825 Bibb began what he referred to as his “maroonage,” or scheming of short-term escape. Excessively cruel treatment by several different masters engendered this habit. Bibb's life lacked stability; the slave's owner began hiring him out at a young age, and between 1832 and 1840 he would be sold more than six times and would relocate to at least seven southern states.

In 1833 Bibb met and fell in love with Malinda, a slave who lived four miles away in Oldham County, Kentucky. After determining that they had similar values regarding religion and possible flight, the two pledged honor to one another and considered themselves married in December 1834 Approximately one year later ...

Article

Brown, Henry “Box”  

Paul Finkelman

Henry “Box” Brown was born a slave in Louisa County, Virginia, probably around 1815. By 1830 he was living in Richmond, where his master hired him out to work in a tobacco factory. Around 1836, when he would have been about twenty-one, Brown married a slave named Nancy, who was owned by a bank clerk. The owner promised not to sell Nancy but soon did so anyway. She was later resold to a Mr. Cottrell, who persuaded Brown to give him fifty dollars of the purchase price. Cottrell also promised never to sell Nancy, but in 1848 he sold her, and her children with Henry, to slave traders, who removed them from the state. Brown pleaded with his own master to buy Nancy and the children. As Brown wrote in his autobiography, “I went to my Christian master but he shoved me away from him as ...

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Brown, Henry “Box”  

Paul Finkelman and Richard Newman

escaped slave, was born on a plantation in Louisa County, Virginia, to unknown parents. As a youth, Brown lived with his parents, four sisters, and three brothers until the family was separated and his master hired him out at age fifteen to work in a tobacco factory in Richmond, Virginia. Brown's autobiography illuminates the vicissitudes of slave life but does not recount any further major events in his own life other than his marriage around 1836 to Nancy, the slave of a bank clerk, with whom he had three children. In August 1848 Nancy's owner sold her and her three children (Brown's children) to a slave trader who took them South. Brown begged his own master to purchase them, but he refused. Brown later wrote in his autobiography: “I went to my Christian master but he shoved me away According to his autobiography Brown actually saw his wife and ...

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Brown, John  

Kate Tuttle

A hero to many, a madman to others, John Brown was one of the most controversial figures in pre–Civil War America. Like all abolitionists, his goal was the end of Slavery in the United States. But unlike other antislavery activists, Brown was neither an idealistic pacifist nor a man willing to work through political and legal channels. Brown worked peacefully guiding fugitive slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad, yet he was also involved in the killing of proslavery militants in the Kansas territories. He later led the Harpers Ferry raid, which he believed would inspire a massive slave revolt, and subsequently turned his trial for treason into a national pulpit to denounce slavery.

Born in Charles Town, Virginia now West Virginia Brown was deeply influenced by his father a devout Congregationalist who opposed slavery Like many of his generation Brown completed only a few years of ...

Article

Brown, John  

Peggy A. Russo

John Brown was born in Torrington, Connecticut, the third of six children of Ruth Mills and Owen Brown, a tanner. The family moved to Hudson, Ohio, in 1805, and soon after his mother's death in 1808, John, who was an indifferent scholar, went to work in his father's tannery. Although he never joined any official abolitionist societies, Brown was opposed to slavery from a very early age, having been taught by his deeply religious father that slavery was a sin against God. Brown witnessed the real meaning of his father's lessons when he traveled alone to Michigan during the War of 1812 to deliver some of his father's cattle to the U.S. Army. During a visit to a farm, Brown saw the farmer beat a slave who was about Brown's age. Deeply affected by the incident, Brown declared himself an enemy of slavery.

In 1820 Brown ...

Article

Brown, William Wells  

Alice Knox Eaton

slave narrator, novelist, playwright, historian, and abolitionist leader, was born in Lexington, Kentucky, the son of a slave mother, Elizabeth, and George Higgins, the white half-brother of Brown's first master, Dr. John Young. As a slave, William was spared the hard labor of his master's plantation, unlike his mother and half-siblings, because of his close blood relation to the slave-holding family, but as a house servant he was constantly abused by Mrs. Young. When the family removed to a farm outside St. Louis, Missouri, William was hired out in various capacities, including physician's assistant, servant in a public house, and waiter on a steamship. William's “best master” in slavery was Elijah P. Lovejoy, publisher of the St. Louis Times, where he was hired out in the printing office in 1830 Lovejoy was an antislavery editor who would be murdered seven years later for refusing ...

Article

Cebreco, Agustin  

Bonnie A. Lucero

was born on 25 May 1855 in the town of El Cobre in the Oriente region of Cuba to Librada Sánchez and Francisco Cebreco. He emerged as a prominent figure in the struggle for Cuban independence. Before reaching fifteen years of age, he joined Cuban forces during the Ten Years’ War (1868–1878), alongside at least two of his brothers, Juan Pablo (Pedro) and Juan Bautista. He served under prominent insurgent chiefs, including José Maceo, Antonio Maceo, and Calixto García Iñíguez, ascending to the rank of commandant by 1876. In 1878, like many of his black compatriots, he signed on to the Protest of Baraguá, a demonstration of discontent with the Pact of Zanjón, in which insurgents agreed to lay down weapons without achieving independence or the abolition of slavery.

Cebreco then a lieutenant colonel along with other prominent black officers in the East including the Maceo ...

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Chase, Salmon Portland  

Sean Patrick Adams

Salmon Portland Chase was born in New Hampshire. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1826 and eventually set up a successful law practice in Cincinnati, Ohio. After defending the freedom of several escaped slaves in Ohio, Chase became more involved in the growing antislavery movement of the 1830s and 1840s. He first affiliated himself with the Liberty Party and attempted to shape it into more than a single-issue antislavery organization. Throughout his political career, Chase was able to hold a curious balance between political idealism and aggressive self-promotion. His performance in the 1848 convention that resulted in the formation of the Free Soil Party was a case in point Chase gained national prominence in his role as chair of the convention and proved to be an effective coalition builder Although he was not satisfied with the narrow goals of the Free Soil movement he was willing to ...

Article

Child, Lydia Maria  

Stephanie A. Tingley

Lydia Maria Child's name was a household word in America for nearly fifty years, beginning in 1824 with the publication of her best-selling and controversial novel about interracial marriage, Hobomok: A Tale of Early Times. Child's pioneering work in many realms combined her passions for literary excellence and for social justice. In the literary arena she worked as a novelist, short-story writer, essayist, women's-advice book writer, children's writer, and magazine editor. As an activist and reformer she became a prominent advocate for both Native American and women's rights. Her path and passions crossed with those of Frederick Douglass through her work as an antislavery activist and as the editor of Harriet Jacobs's slave narrative Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1860), the work for which she is probably best known today.

Child's writing about abolition began in 1833, when she published An Appeal ...

Article

Cinqué  

Dennis Wepman

slave mutineer, was born Sengbe (also spelled Singbe and Sengbeh) Pieh in the village of Mani, in the Mende territory of Sierra Leone, Africa, the son of a rice farmer. His mother died when he was young, and at about the age of twenty-five he lived with his father, his wife, and his three children. One day while working alone in his rice field, he was seized by four members of the Vai tribe, often employed by Europeans to capture slaves for the market. He was taken to Lomboko, an island at the mouth of the Gallinas River on the coast of Sierra Leone, where he was purchased by Pedro Blanco, a Spanish slave trader, for sale in Cuba. He remained in Lomboko for three months in chains before Blanco filled the ship that was to transport him to Havana.

Slavery was still legal in Cuba but the trans ...

Article

Clay, Cassius M.  

John Craig Hammond

“I do not set up for being perfect: far from it!” wrote the Kentucky antislavery agitator Cassius Marcellus Clay to the abolitionist John Fee in 1855. “I wish I were,” he continued, but “a good balance sheet of good against evil is all I aspire to!” Judged by his own standards as well as by those of black and white antislavery advocates, Cassius Clay succeeded in fulfilling his ambition, through his battles against the evil of slavery. A former slaveholder and one of the few antislavery leaders to remain in the South after 1830, Clay became something of a hero to northern abolitionists, who appreciated his willingness to challenge slaveholders on their own turf.

Cassius Clay was born in Kentucky s Bluegrass region to the planter Green Clay and his wife Sally in Clermont Clay lived to the age of ninety three and spent much of his life ...

Article

Colenso, John William  

Michael R. Mahoney

first Anglican bishop of Natal, theologian, and political activist, was born in Saint Austell, Cornwall, on 24 January 1814, the eldest of four children of a mineral agent to the Duchy of Cornwall. He began attending Saint John’s College, Cambridge University, in 1832, and in 1836 he graduated as a second wrangler in the mathematical tripos and a second Smith’s prizeman. A year later he was elected a fellow at Saint John’s. In 1839 he took up holy orders in the Church of England but worked as a mathematics tutor at Harrow, where he gained some notoriety as an author of mathematics texts. During this period Colenso also became increasingly active in the Church of England and in 1846 became rector of Forncett Saint Mary Church in Norfolk County. That same year he married Sarah Frances Bunyon, with whom he had five children.

In 1853 at the ...

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Cooper, Anna J.  

Abha Sood Patel

educator and humanitarian. Cooper was born Anna Julia Haywood in Raleigh, North Carolina, to Hannah Stanley Haywood and purportedly her master, George Washington Haywood. Cooper was a noted scholar at a young age. In 1868 she received a scholarship to attend Saint Augustine's Normal School and Collegiate Institute, founded to provide education to former slaves and their families. Cooper spent fourteen years at the institute, both as a pupil and as a teacher. She excelled at the humanities, as well as at math and science, and she fought for her right to take “men's” courses, such as Greek. On 21 June 1877 she married the Reverend George A. C. Cooper, her teacher in the Greek theological class. Her marriage barred her from teaching at Saint Augustine's. Her husband died two years later, and she never married again.

In 1880 Cooper won a scholarship to Oberlin College ...

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Cooper, Anna Julia  

Charles Lemert

Anna Julia Cooper is best known for her book A Voice from the South by a Black Woman of the South (1892), a classic in the tradition known today as the woman of color standpoint in social theory. No one before, except perhaps Sojourner Truth, had so clearly defined what Cooper called “the colored woman’s office” in the moral politics of late-nineteenth-century America.

Anna Julia Cooper was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, the daughter of Hannah Stanley, a slave. Her white biological father, George Washington Haywood, was her mother’s owner. Of her biological father, Cooper once wrote: “I owe him not a sou and she [her mother] was always too shamefaced ever to mention him.” The child grew to carry herself with the mother’s sense of dignity and propriety.

Anna Julia s life began just before the outbreak of the American Civil War and ...

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Cooper, Anna Julia Haywood  

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

Coppin, Fanny Jackson  

Linda M. Perkins

When Fanny Jackson became principal of Philadelphia’s Institute for Colored Youth in 1869, she held the highest educational appointment of any black woman in the nation at the time. While most of her attention, both before and after her marriage in 1881, was given to the institute, she was also active in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the National Association of Colored Women, and, in later life, as a missionary to Africa.

Fanny Jackson Coppin was born a slave in Washington, DC, in 1837. Her freedom was bought during her early childhood by a devoted aunt, Sarah Orr. Jackson moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts, and, by the early 1850s, to Newport, Rhode Island, to live with relatives. While in Newport, Jackson worked as a domestic in the home of George Henry Calvert, great-grandson of Lord Baltimore settler of Maryland Calvert s wife Mary was ...