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Article

Adams, John Quincy  

Wilbert H. Ahern

newspaper editor and publisher, civil rights leader, and Republican Party activist, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Henry Adams, a prominent minister and educator, and Margaret Corbin. Both of his parents were free persons of color. Following private schooling in Wisconsin and Ohio, Adams graduated from Oberlin College. After a brief teaching stint in Louisville, in 1870 he followed his uncle, Joseph C. Corbin, to work in Arkansas during Reconstruction. By 1874 Adams had risen from schoolteacher to assistant superintendent of public instruction. His lifelong activism in the Republican Party began in Arkansas; there he twice served as secretary to Republican state conventions, was elected as justice of the peace on the party ticket, and held the offices of engrossing clerk of the state senate and deputy commissioner of public works. The defeat of the Arkansas Republican Party in 1874 and the ...

Article

Adams, John Quincy  

Wilbert H. Ahern

John Quincy Adams was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Henry Adams, a prominent minister and educator, and Margaret Corbin. Both his parents were free persons of color. Following private schooling in Wisconsin and Ohio, Adams graduated from Oberlin College. After a brief teaching stint in Louisville, in 1870 he followed his uncle, Joseph C. Corbin, to work in Arkansas in the Reconstruction. By 1874 he had risen from schoolteacher to assistant superintendent of public instruction. His lifelong activism in the Republican Party began in Arkansas; there he twice served as secretary to Republican state conventions, was elected as justice of the peace on the party ticket, and held the offices of engrossing clerk of the state senate and deputy commissioner of public works. The defeat of the Arkansas Republican Party in 1874 and the racial repression that followed led Adams to return ...

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Bibb, Henry  

Mason I. Lowance

Henry Bibb is best known through his Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb, An American Slave, which was first published by Bibb himself in 1849. While Frederick Douglass gained credibility through his assertion of authorship and by way of the introductions composed for his narrative by William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips, Bibb enjoyed no such reception and was forced to subvene the publication of his own story. The narrative is rich in detail, including an account of Bibb's use of “conjuring” to avoid punishment for running away, and the use of “charms” to court his slave wife. Bibb also gives eloquent testimony to the conditions and the culture of slavery in Kentucky and the South. John Blassingame describes it as “one of the most reliable of the slave autobiographies,” and it firmly established Bibb, together with Douglass and Josiah Henson as one ...

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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 ...

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Bibb, Henry Walton  

The son of a Kentucky plantation slave and a state senator, Henry Walton Bibb was born a slave in Kentucky. His repeated attempts to escape bondage were successful in 1842 when he fled to Detroit, Michigan. By then his first wife, whom he married in 1833 and with whom he had a daughter, had been sold again. Bibb turned his energies to abolitionism.

In 1850 Bibb published his autobiography, Narrative of the Life and Adventures of an American Slave. That same year Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Laws, which forced him and his second wife to flee to Canada. A leader of the African American community there, Bibb founded the first black newspaper in Canada, Voice of the Fugitive, in 1851.

See also Abolitionism in the United States; Slave Narratives.

Article

Bibb, Henry Walton  

Gregory S. Jackson

author, editor, and antislavery lecturer, was born into slavery on the plantation of David White of Shelby County, Kentucky, the son of James Bibb, a slaveholding planter and state senator, and Mildred Jackson. White began hiring Bibb out as a laborer on several neighboring plantations before he had reached the age of ten. The constant change in living situations throughout his childhood, combined with the inhumane treatment he often received at the hands of strangers, set a pattern for life that he would later refer to in his autobiography as “my manner of living on the road.” Bibb was sold more than six times between 1832 and 1840 and was forced to relocate to at least seven states throughout the South later as a free man his campaign for abolition took him throughout eastern Canada and the northern United States But such early instability also made the ...

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Butler, Selena Sloan  

Michelle M. Strazer

community leader and child-welfare activist, was born in Thomasville, Georgia, the daughter of Winnie Williams, a woman of African and American Indian descent, and William Sloan, a white man who reportedly supported Selena and her older sister but lived apart from the family. Even after her mother died, presumably when Selena was fairly young, Selena kept quiet about her father's identity. Communication between them was minimal. At age ten, having been schooled by missionaries in Thomas County, she was admitted on scholarship to the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary (now Spelman College) in Atlanta and received her high school diploma in 1888 as a member of the school's second graduating class. After graduation she taught English and elocution in the public schools in Atlanta until around 1891, when she took a position at the State Normal School in Tallahassee, Florida (now Florida Agricultural and Mechanical State University).

In ...

Article

Cayton, Horace Roscoe, Sr.  

Ed Diaz

newspaper publisher and editor, and political activist, was born a slave in the Port Gibson area of Mississippi. An intelligent person, he managed to get an extensive formal education, an uncommon feat for a former slave during the post-Civil War period. He furthered his education when he attended Alcorn University, whose president was former U.S. Senator Hiram Revels (the first U.S. senator of African descent). Among the subjects he studied was Latin, which, later as a newspaperman, he would periodically interject in his articles, especially when he was riled.

Cayton was outspoken throughout his life and had several serious scrapes because of it. Indeed, when Cayton left Mississippi after Reconstruction ended, he may have left in a dress disguised as a woman, according to Seattle resident Georgia Spencer, a distant relative. Cayton had been warned that some whites had intentions of lynching him. An older relative of Spencer, Jefferson Thomas ...

Article

Cayton, Susie Sumner Revels  

Ed Diaz

editor, writer, and community leader, was born Susie Sumner Revels in Natchez, Mississippi, the daughter of Senator Hiram Rhodes Revels of Mississippi, the first African American to serve in the U.S. Senate, and Phoebe Revels. The name Sumner was in honor of her father's friend Senator Charles Sumner, a Massachusetts radical Republican and vehement opponent of slavery. Susie's formal education started at the school later known as Alcorn University where her father was president. When the family moved to Holly Springs, Mississippi, she completed her education at Rust College, and then started teaching there at the young age of sixteen.

Revels probably started corresponding with Seattle newspaper publisher Horace Roscoe Cayton Sr. after he sent copies of the Seattle Republican to her father whom he had known as a student at Alcorn She then sent her own articles and short stories to Cayton which he agreed to publish ...

Article

Clark, Alexander G.  

Aldeen L. Davis

Alexander G. Clark was born in Washington County, Pennsylvania. His father, John Clark, had been freed by his Irish master; his mother, Rebecca (Darnes) Clark, was said to have been a full-blooded African. Alexander received a limited education in Washington County and in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he was sent in 1839 to live with an uncle. He learned barbering, worked as a bartender on the steamer George Washington, and in May 1842 went to Muscatine, Iowa, where he opened a barbershop. He later contracted with steamboats to supply them with wood. Investing his money wisely, he purchased real estate and became a wealthy man. He devoted most of the rest of his life to the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), Prince Hall Masonry, the Republican Party, civil rights movements, and the Chicago Conservator which he edited He graduated from the University of Iowa Law ...

Article

Clifford, John Robert  

Connie Park Rice

newspaper editor and civil rights lawyer, was born in Williamsport, Virginia (later West Virginia), the youngest of three sons born to Isaac Clifford, a farmer, and Mary Satilpa Kent, free blacks living in Hardy County. John Robert joined the Union army on 7 March 1865, rising to the rank of corporal in the 13th U.S. Heavy Artillery. After serving in Kentucky, Tennessee, and eastern Virginia under General Ulysses S. Grant, Clifford volunteered for service at Chicago, Illinois.

After the Civil War, Clifford remained in Chicago, staying from 1865 to 1868 with the Honorable John J. Healy, an acquaintance of his father, and graduating from Chicago High School. Clifford worked as a barber before going to live with an uncle in Zeno, Muskingum County, Ohio, where he attended a school taught by Miss Effie McKnight and received a diploma from a writing school conducted by a Professor ...

Article

Cromwell, Robert I.  

Michael J. Ristich

physician, editor, abolitionist, activist, and Reconstruction politician, was a native of Virginia who migrated to New Orleans, determined to fight the disenfranchisement of blacks. Nothing is known of Cromwell's upbringing and childhood except that he was born free. Educated in Wisconsin, Cromwell also spent time in the West Indies before settling in New Orleans in 1864. Cromwell was an outspoken proponent of black rights, known for employing controversial rhetoric, and was not averse to the idea of a race war between blacks and whites during Reconstruction.

In 1863, the militant Cromwell wrote to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, seeking to raise black troops in the North. Cromwell moved to New Orleans in January of 1864 and quickly entered the political circles of Louisiana participating in a number of pivotal events that helped shape the politics and civil rights of Reconstruction Louisiana Although never serving in ...

Article

Douglass, Frederick  

William L. Andrews

Frederick Douglass, author of the most influential African American text of his era, rose through the ranks of the antislavery movement in the 1840s and 1850s to become the most electrifying speaker and commanding writer produced by black America in the nineteenth century. From the outbreak of the Civil War until his death, Douglass was generally recognized as the premier African American leader and spokesman for his people. Douglass's writing was devoted primarily to the creation of a heroic image of himself that would inspire in African Americans the belief that color need not be a permanent bar to their achievement of the American dream, while reminding whites of their obligation as Americans to support free and equal access to that dream for Americans of all races.

The man who became internationally famous as Frederick Douglass was born on Maryland's Eastern Shore in February 1818, the son of Harriet ...

Article

Douglass, Frederick  

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

Douglass, Frederick  

David Dabydeen

African‐American leader of the abolitionist movement in the United States who toured and lectured in the British Isles. Douglass was born a slave in February 1818 on Holmes Hill Farm on Maryland's eastern shore in the United States. All his life, Douglass was renowned for his oratory skills. He travelled to Great Britain in 1845 because the widespread publicity of his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, meant that his former owner in America would be able to track him down and reclaim his ‘property’. His friends thus encouraged him to go on tour in Britain. He set sail on the Cambria for Liverpool on 16 August 1845 and arrived in Ireland where he lectured to crowds who were spellbound by his rhetoric Douglass was known to have verbal stamina and could speak for up to three hours at a time His ...

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Douglass, Frederick  

David W. Blight

Frederick Douglass lived for twenty years as a slave and nearly nine years as a fugitive slave. From the 1840s to his death in 1895 he attained international fame as an abolitionist, editor, orator, statesman, and the author of three autobiographies that became classics of the slave narrative tradition. Douglass lived to see the Emancipation of the slaves during the Civil War and made a major contribution to interpreting the meaning of those epochal events. He labored for the establishment of black civil rights and witnessed their betrayal during Reconstruction and the Gilded Age. He advocated women's rights long before they were achieved.

It took nearly a century after his death for Douglass s work to receive widespread attention in school curriculums and in the scholarly fields of literature and history With the flowering of African American history and culture in the 1960s and a greatly increased attention to slavery ...

Article

Douglass, Frederick  

Roy E. Finkenbine

abolitionist, civil rights activist, and reform journalist, was born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey near Easton, Maryland, the son of Harriet Bailey, a slave, and an unidentified white man. Although a slave, he spent the first six years of his life in the cabin of his maternal grandparents, with only a few stolen nighttime visits by his mother. His real introduction to bondage came in 1824, when he was brought to the nearby wheat plantation of Colonel Edward Lloyd. Two years later he was sent to Baltimore to labor in the household of Hugh and Sophia Auld, where he remained for the next seven years. In spite of laws against slave literacy, Frederick secretly taught himself to read and write He began studying discarded newspapers and learned of the growing national debate over slavery And he attended local free black churches and found ...

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Douglass, Frederick  

Mark Richardson

Any writer attempting an overview of Frederick Douglass's life and work confronts an embarrassment of riches: Douglass himself undertook the task not once but three times—in The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself (1845), My Bondage and My Freedom (1855), and The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, Written by Himself (1881), a volume itself reprinted with additional material in 1892 Each book is rewarding in its own right each sums up a distinct phase in Douglass s long and astonishingly productive career and together they give us an indispensable record of the nineteenth century of the abolition movement the meteoric rise of the Republican Party the Civil War Reconstruction and beginning in the mid 1870s the bitter forfeiture of the great emancipating enterprise that the better angels of our nature as Lincoln might have said ...

Article

Durham, John Stephens  

Thomas M. Leonard

diplomat, lawyer, and journalist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel Durham and Elizabeth Stephens. Two of his uncles, Clayton Durham and Jeremiah Durham, were noted clergymen who helped Bishop Richard Allen establish the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Durham, who could almost pass for white, studied in the Philadelphia public schools and graduated from the Institute for Colored Youth in 1876.

For five years after leaving high school Durham taught in Delaware and Pennsylvania. In 1881 he entered Towne Scientific School, a branch of the University of Pennsylvania, from which he earned a bachelor's degree in 1886 and a civil engineering degree in 1888. He held several positions during his college career, including reporter for the Philadelphia Times. He excelled as a newspaperman, and his unique abilities eventually led him to the assistant editorship of the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin ...

Article

Eagleson, William Lewis  

Dickson D. Bruce

editor and political activist, was born a slave in St. Louis, Missouri. The names of his parents and details about his early life are unknown. He married Elizabeth McKinney in 1865 in St. Louis; they had nine children. As a young man he learned both printing and barbering, trades that he practiced intermittently throughout his life. In the 1870s he settled in Fort Scott, Kansas, and started a newspaper, the Colored Citizen. In 1878 he moved the paper to Topeka, Kansas, where there was a burgeoning African American community, and began his public career.

Teaming up with a prominent African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister, Thomas W. Henderson, Eagleson used the Colored Citizen to become a visible figure in Kansas political life The newspaper itself was oriented chiefly toward increasing the influence of blacks in Republican Party politics Even before moving to Topeka Eagleson had initiated an ...