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Article

Michael Bieze

artist, was born in Colquitt County, Georgia, son of John Henry Adams, a former slave and preacher in the Methodist Church, and Mittie Rouse. Many questions surround Adams's early life. While he reported in an Atlanta Constitution article (23 June 1902) that he came from a humble background, his father served parishes throughout Georgia. According to the History of the American Negro and His Institutions (1917), Adams Sr. was a man of accomplishment, leading black Georgians in a colony in Liberia for two years and receiving two honorary doctorates, from Bethany College and Morris Brown University. Educated in Atlanta schools, Adams claimed in the Atlanta Constitution article to have traveled to Philadelphia in the late 1890s to take art classes at the Drexel Institute of Art, Science, and Industry (later Drexel University). Drexel, established in 1891 opened its doors to a diverse student ...

Article

Diane Mutti Burke

fugitive slave, was born near Richmond, Virginia, on a plantation owned by the Delaney family. Despite his memories of being well treated, his father, Aleck, was sold to pay his master's debts and taken south. Rev. Delaney justified Aleck's sale by claiming that the literate slave had shared ideas about freedom with other slaves in the neighborhood. When Rev. Delaney died in 1831, Alexander's mother, Chloe, was left to Mrs. Delaney, and eighteen-year-old Alexander was left to the master's son, Thomas. Chloe Alexander died six months after Thomas Delaney took her son with him to Missouri.

Delaney settled in western St Charles County Missouri where Alexander married a local slave woman named Louisa He later sold Alexander to Louisa s master Jim Hollman when he moved from the state and the couple spent the next twenty years living with their growing family on the Hollman farm Alexander was ...

Article

Edmund Abaka

William Anton Amo (1703–1756), philosopher and educator, was an academic par excellence and a courtier in Germany at a time when there were very few, if any, Africans studying, let alone lecturing, in Europe. He was most likely the first black professor to teach in Germany. Amo’s achievements are all the more significant considering that they occurred about three centuries ago.

Amo was born in 1703 in a small village called Awukenu, near Axim, in the southwestern Gold Coast (now Ghana). The circumstances of Amo’s arrival in the Netherlands are not clear. One version indicates that in 1707 Amo s parents entrusted him to a Brunswick subject working for the Dutch West Indian Company on the Gold Coast By this time the Dutch had superseded the Portuguese and taken over the Portuguese fortified positions on the Gold Coast São Jorge da Mina Elmina São Sebastiao Shama and ...

Article

Charles L. Hughes

singer and member of the Supremes, was born in Rosetta, Mississippi, the eighth child of Jessie and Lurlee Ballard. In 1953 the Ballards, following the Great Migration path taken by millions of African Americans, moved to Detroit, Michigan, where Jessie Ballard worked in an automobile factory until his death in 1959. The family lived in the Brewster-Douglass Projects, and Ballard's powerful singing voice distinguished her both in school and around the neighborhood. Two of her neighbors, Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams, who were members of the local singing group the Primes, told their manager, Milton Jenkins, about Ballard, and Jenkins was impressed enough to book Ballard—still in her teens—as a solo act at the Primes' performances.

This early connection between Ballard and the Primes is vitally important both to Ballard s career and to the history of American popular music for two reasons First the Primes would ...

Article

Christopher Campbell

London‐born poet, printer, visionary, and ‘prophet against empire’. Over the course of his lifetime Blake confronted the horrors of slavery through his literary and pictorial art. He was able both to counter pro‐slavery propaganda and to complicate typical abolitionist verse and sentiment with a profound and unique exploration of the effects of enslavement and the varied processes of empire.

Blake's poem ‘The Little Black Boy’ from Songs of Innocence (1789 examines the mind forg d manacles of racial constructions in the minds of individuals both in the poem itself in the form of the black child and his white counterpart and also in the minds of those involved in the political dispute over abolition Seeming to explain a desire for racial acceptance and spiritual purity through assimilation into white British society and seeming also to be endorsing conventional assumptions of white racial superiority the poem ...

Article

Susan B. Iwanisziw

commercial painter, artist, and activist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the only known child of Jeremiah Bowser from Maryland and Rachel Bustill, daughter of the prosperous black abolitionist and educator Cyrus Bustill. The intermarriage among the region's free black Quaker families headed by Cyrus Bustill, Robert Douglass Sr., Jeremiah Bowser, and David Mapps created a dynamic force that benefited all African Americans and particularly spurred David s personal growth and accomplishments Jeremiah a member of the Benezet Philosophical Society served as a steward on the Liverpool lines and later it seems he was the proprietor of an oyster house near the intersection of 4th and Cherry Streets where David Bowser first hung up his sign as a commercial painter Later the Bowser family moved to the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia into a house at 481 North 4th Street where Bowser remained for the ...

Article

Susan B. Iwanisziw

activist, listed in some records and Philadelphia city directories by the names of Burgoe, Berge, or Burgu, was evidently a free African American by the time his name appears in public records, when he was already over fifty years of age. No information about his precise date or place of birth, status at birth, parentage, marriage or children, or date of death has come to light. The 1790 census records show that he shared a house at 19 Cresson Alley, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with three other free African Americans, possibly his family. Over a decade later he is listed in the St. Thomas African Episcopal Church Birth and Baptismal Register as an adult of sixty-five years, who was baptized on 23 January 1803. No other persons named Burgaw appear in the records spanning the years 1796–1837 which suggests that his immediate family had already dispersed by this time or ...

Article

Lydia Milagros González García

was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on 23 December 1751 to Tomás de Rivafrecha y Campeche, a painter, decorator, and gilder, and María Jordán y Marqués, a free white woman. Tomás was a black man and former slave who had purchased his freedom from his slaveowner, Cathedral Canon Don Juan de Rivafrecha. It has been assumed that José dispensed with the name Rivafrecha to be rid of the name of his father’s master and to accentuate his birth as a freeman. In historical documents, Campeche, a mulatto, was referred to as a pardo, a designation based on skin color and birth used in the Spanish casta system José s paternal ancestors black slaves have been traced back three generations but little is known of his mother s family except that she probably came from a family of artists and craftspeople from Tenerife in the Canary Islands located ...

Article

Carlos Dalmau

Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Campeche was the son of a free black father and a Spanish-born mother. Campeche started drawing at an early age, influenced by his father, who was an artisan. He later had contact with the Spanish painter Luis Paret, who was exiled for three years (1775–1778) in Puerto Rico. Paret, a more experienced and formally trained painter, greatly influenced the style of the gifted Campeche.

Campeche is best known for his paintings of religious images and political figures. Among his works we find some of the first artistic representations of blacks in colonial slave society: the Exvoto de la Sagrada Familia (around 1800, Institute of Puerto Rican Culture Collection) and the street scene in Gobernador Ustariz (1789–1792, Institute of Puerto Rican Culture Collection). Another example is the artist's lost Self-Portrait that survives in two copies done by Ramón ...

Article

Matthew Francis Rarey

was likely born into slavery in the captaincy of Bahia, in the Portuguese colony of Brazil. Little is known of his background or family life. By the second half of the eighteenth-century Chagas had emerged as one of the most important sculptors of the Bahian baroque style and one of two influential baroque religious sculptors of African descent, along with Antônio Francisco Lisboa, “O Aleijadinho” (1730 or 1738–1814), a prolific sculptor active in the captaincy of Minas Gerais. In twentieth-century scholarship, Chagas is frequently known by the nickname “O Cabra” (The Goat), a Portuguese colonial term for a person born to one black and one mulata/o parent. However, this appellation for Chagas does not predate its use by art historian Manuel Querino (1911), casting doubt on its historicity in Chagas’s own life.

By about 1750 Chagas had gained his freedom and found work as ...

Article

Maria Elisa Velazquez

was born in 1646 in what is now Mexico City. His father, also named Juan Correa, was a prestigious barber-surgeon of the Holy Inquisition, a native of Mexico City, and the son of a Spaniard and a woman from Cádiz, who was probably mulatta or morisca (a term used for Spanish Muslims who converted to Christianity, presumably by coercion), although to date no documents exist to confirm this. The mother of the younger Juan Correa was Pascuala de Santoyo, a morena libre (free black) who had two extramarital children by an illegitimate union at the time that she married the doctor. Juan the elder and Pascuala had two sons, José, a master gilder, and Juan Correa.

Generally Correa treated religious themes in his art and in many cases his works were copies of European pieces as was the custom at that time Recognized and appreciated by colonial elites in the ...

Article

Phoebe Wolfskill

painter, illustrator, and graphic artist, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the second oldest of nine children of Herbert and Irene Crichlow, immigrants from Barbados. Using his bricklaying and plastering skills, Crichlow's father made beautiful, patterned ceiling decorations that Ernest recalled as his earliest artistic inspiration. In the 1920s Crichlow won his first artistic commission: a neighborhood preacher paid him and a close friend to paint a black Jesus on a window shade. Not only did this assignment encourage Crichlow to pursue a career in art, it also marked the beginning of his work with black subjects.

Realizing Crichlow's artistic potential, his art teachers at Haaren High School in Brooklyn raised money for a scholarship for him to attend the School of Commercial Illustrating and Advertising Art in Manhattan. In a 1968 interview Crichlow recalled that he left school during the height of the Depression but whether this ...

Article

Matthew Francis Rarey

was born into slavery in Rio de Janeiro, in the Portuguese colony of Brazil. At the time of Cunha’s birth, his mother, an enslaved woman of African descent, was working for the family of the Januário da Cunha Barbosa, a conêgo (canon priest). Manuel was given the priest’s surname. Cunha showed a talent for painting from an early age and, despite his enslaved status, began to study with João de Sousa (fl. eighteenth century), an established religious painter in colonial Rio. While Cunha was his student, Sousa likely also taught Leandro Joaquim (c. 1738–c. 1798), a mulatto painter also active in Rio. Sousa’s mastery of Brazilian baroque painting and many commissions for the city’s churches and religious orders helped to influence Cunha’s style and likely helped to expand Cunha’s professional connections.

In 1757 likely under Sousa s tutelage Cunha completed his most famous work a half length portrait of ...

Article

Elizabeth Kuebler-Wolf

typesetter, potter, and poet, was born and lived his entire life in and around Edgefield, South Carolina, an important center for pottery production in the nineteenth century. Dave's parents were slaves belonging to Samuel Landrum, a Scottish immigrant who had moved his family and slaves to Edgefield, South Carolina, in 1773. The outlines of Dave's life story can be traced through the business activities and legal papers of his various owners, oral history from Edgefield, and Dave's own pottery upon which he inscribed sayings, verses, and dates.

After moving to Edgefield the Landrum family became involved in the making of pottery and other entrepreneurial enterprises. Amos and Abner Landrum, sons of Samuel, became partners with a third man, Harvey Drake, in a pottery concern. Dave first appears in the legal record in a 13 June 1818 mortgage agreement between Harvey Drake and Eldrid Simkins both ...

Article

Linda M. Carter

missionary and founding father of the state of Liberia, was born in Hicksford, Greensville County, Virginia, the elder son of John Day Sr., an affluent furniture maker, farmer, and landowner, and Mourning Stewart Day. The Days were free African Americans, and Day's father, as early as the 1789 election, was accorded voting status.

In an era when formal education for African Americans was rare, Day reaped the benefits of being the offspring of two prominent families. His father arranged for him to board in Edward Whitehorne's home, and Day, along with the Whitehorne children, attended Jonathan Bailey's school. While residing with the family, Day received some level of religious instruction from Whitehorne. In 1807 Day's father, who had been residing in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, purchased a plantation in Sussex County, Virginia, near the Whitehorne residence, and Day then attended William Northcross's school.

At the age of nineteen ...

Article

Pablo Miguel Sierra Silva

was the renowned architect and leader of the Rosary confraternity (Catholic brotherhood, often organized along caste or ethnic lines) of Valladolid (modern-day Morelia, Mexico). Durán, alias Diego Joaquín Martínez Loera Durán, was born to an Afro-indigenous family that had already achieved some notoriety as his maternal grandfather Lucas Durán had worked as an architect on the Valladolid cathedral along with Francisco Antonio Roa. Diego Durán’s maternal uncle Juan Nepomuceno Durán continued the family’s specialization in architecture, working as a builder and, by 1734, as a “master of architecture.”

Durán s mother was María Nicolasa Durán an indigenous citizen of Valladolid and Esteban Martínez de Loera a free mulatto from Pénjamo At the time Valladolid was the most important urban center of the vast territory formerly controlled by the P urhépecha indigenous group of western Mexico The city s residents maintained a number of sugarcane plantations that employed numerous workers ...

Article

was born in Havana, Cuba, on 15 September 1734. Escalera may have been among the many freemen of African descent in Havana toward the end of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries who had come to dominate the trades in the city, such as blacksmithing, carpentry, painting, and sculpture. Some documents found in the archives of the Havana Cathedral hold Escalera to be an español (a man of Spanish descent) born to parents who were Cuban and Spanish whites. Aside from these few and inconclusive details regarding his racial identity, we know very little about his personal life.

Escalera is the first prolific Cuban colonial painter whom we know by name. He made his career amid commercial growth in the eighteenth-century Atlantic world and within the Spanish Empire, boosted by the reformist agendas of Charles III that followed the Seven Years’ War in 1763 Bureaucratic and military reforms ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

, a survivor of the slave trade, was born somewhere in Africa around 1710. Practically no sources exist on the first six decades of his life. Fortune only emerged in a legal document prepared by his former master Ichabod Richardson in Woburn, Massachusetts, on 30 December 1763. Massachusetts then was a British colony in North America. Richardson declared he “agreed to and with my Negroe man, Amos, that at the end of four years next insuing this date the said Amos shall be Discharged, Freed, and Set at Liberty from my service power & Command for ever.” However, Richardson never signed this statement. When he died in 1768 he made no reference in his will to Fortune s freedom Fortune had worked as a tanner with Richardson and probably used his own skills to make enough money to pay off Richardson s heirs At roughly sixty years of ...

Article

Margit Liander

Amos Fortune was born in Africa; at fifteen he was captured and taken into slavery. Eventually sold to Ichabod Richardson of Woburn, Massachusetts, Fortune learned the tanning trade from his master. After working for him for forty years, Fortune was able to purchase his own freedom at the age of sixty. He went into business for himself, paid his church and town taxes in Woburn, and at the age of sixty-eight purchased Lydia Somerset, a slave, and married her. Somerset soon died and Fortune bought and married Violate Baldwin and moved to Jaffrey, New Hampshire with her and her daughter, Celyndia, whom he adopted.

Fortune became a successful tanner, bought land, and built a house. He aided local blacks by training apprentice tanners and by taking the indigent into his home. On January 28, 1796 Fortune participated in a meeting of local citizens who voted to establish ...

Article

Jeffry D. Schantz

tanner and bookbinder, was born in Africa and brought to the colonies as a slave while very young. Nothing is known of Fortune's parentage, birth, or early years. It is thought that he arrived in America around 1725, but little is known of his life in the colonies prior to the mid-1700s. Ichabod Richardson of Woburn, Massachusetts, purchased Fortune around 1740, kept him as a slave apprentice, and taught him the art of tanning. In December 1763 Richardson drafted a “freedom paper” granting Fortune's freedom but died without signing it. Fortune remained a slave of the Richardson family until 1770, when a valid article of manumission signed by Ichabod's sister-in-law, Hannah, secured his freedom.

Remaining in Woburn for several years, Fortune purchased a small homestead from Isaac Johnson in 1774 and continued to run the Richardsons tannery During his Woburn years Fortune married twice ...