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Article

Alamayahu, Dajazmach  

David Killingray

Son of Téwodros II, Emperor of Ethiopia. Alamayahu was orphaned when his father committed suicide during the British assault on Magdala in the war of 1868. He was brought to Britain in the care of Captain Tristram Speedy as a ward of the government. At Osborne, in the Isle of Wight, Alamayahu was introduced to Queen Victoria, who from then on took a distant interest in the young boy's welfare. While on the Isle of Wight, Alamayahu caused something of a sensation among the islanders, and he was photographed by Julia Margaret Cameron her pictures show a listless and sad looking boy Speed took the young Ethiopian prince with him to India but at the age of 10 and against his wishes and the advice of Queen Victoria he was sent to boarding school in Britain At the age of 17 Alamayahu entered the Royal Military ...

Article

Alí, Pablo  

Like many slaves from Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti) during the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804), Pablo Alí crossed the border to serve in the Spanish colonial army of Santo Domingo (present-day Dominican Republic) as a means of obtaining his freedom. In 1795Spain ceded Santo Domingo to France. Alí subsequently participated in the War of Reconquest, in which French troops were defeated and Santo Domingo was reunited with Spain (1809). In 1811 the Spanish throne named him first colonel and granted him a gold medal in recognition of his service to the Crown.

In 1820 Alí served as colonel of the Batallón de Morenos (Black Batallion) in Santo Domingo. After learning that his application for Spanish citizenship had been denied, in 1821 Alí pledged his loyalty to the insurrectionists, led by José de Núñez Cáceres and served as their chief military commander That same year ...

Article

Asantewa, Yaa  

David P. Johnson

An indomitable aristocrat who led her people's last stand against incorporation into the British Empire in 1900, Yaa Asantewa is a much-loved figure in Asante history. In 1896 the British occupied the Asante capital, Kumasi, and sent King Prempeh I and several chiefs and elders to exile in the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean. Among them was Yaa Asantewa's grandson, Kwasi Afrane II, chief of Edweso, one of the states in the Asante Union. As queen mother of Edweso, Yaa Asantewa used her position to organize Asante leaders behind an attack on the British.

In April 1900 the British governor Sir Frederick Hodgson outraged the Asante by demanding the Golden Stool, the sacred symbol of Asante nationhood. Hodgson also announced that the exiled king would be assessed interest payments on his war indemnity and never be allowed to return. The Asante leaders, led by Yaa ...

Article

Asantewa, Yaa  

Lynda R. Day

Ejisuhemaa (female ruler) who led a formidable but ultimately unsuccessful armed resistance to British colonial rule of the Asante Kingdom (in present-day Ghana) from April 1900 until March 1901, was born at Besease, a small town south of Ejisu about 12 miles from Kumasi, capital of the Asante kindom. She and her brother Kwesi were the only children of Nana Atta Poo (mother) and Nana Kweku Ampoma (father). Through her mother in this matrilineal society, Yaa and her brother were members of the Asona royal clan of Ejisu. Based on the estimate that she was at least sixty years old at the time of the Asante-British War of 1900, she is believed to have been born about 1830, during the reign of Osei Yaw Akoto (1822–1833 She married Owusu Kwabena a son of the Asantehene Osei Bonsu and together they had one child a daughter ...

Article

Boakye, Kwasi  

Adam Jones

traveler and writer from what is now southern Ghana, was born c. 1827 in or near the Asante capital of Kumasi. In contemporary documents, his name often appears as Aquassie Boachi. His father Kwaku Dua (c.1797–1867) was Asantehene (King of Asante) from 1834 to 1867. According to the “History of Ashanti,” prepared in the mid-twentieth century under the chairmanship of Asantehene Prempeh II (1892–1970), Kwasi Boakye belonged to the village of Atomfuo, 8 miles (13 km) east of Kumasi. This suggests that on his mother’s side he came from the lineage of royal blacksmiths, which may explain why, in 1837 in accordance with his father s wishes he and a close relative of the same age Kwame Poku were chosen to accompany a Dutch embassy under Major General Jan Verveer on its return to Elmina on the coast They were subsequently brought to ...

Article

Cameron, James Herbert  

Rose Pelone Sisson

survivor of a lynching attempt, civil rights activist, and founder of America's Black Holocaust Museum, was born in La Crosse, Wisconsin, to James Herbert Cameron, a barber, and Vera Cameron who was employed as a laundress, cook, and housekeeper. At the age of fifteen months, James was the first African American baby ever admitted as a patient to the St. Francis Hospital in La Crosse, where he underwent an emergency operation on the abdominal cavity. By the time James started school, his parents had moved to Birmingham, Alabama, and his parents separated.

When Cameron was sixteen he was living with his mother, two sisters, and grandmother in Marion, Indiana. His stepfather Hezikiah Burden hunted and fished long distances from home so was away from his family most of the time The family lived in a segregated section of Marion Indiana which counted about four thousand blacks among its ...

Article

Crawford, Anthony P.  

Caroline DeVoe

businessman, landowner, farmer, and lynching victim, was born into slavery in Abbeville, South Carolina, the youngest son of Thomas and Louisa, slaves on the plantation of Ben Crawford in Abbeville, South Carolina. After Emancipation and Ben Crawford's death, his widow Rebecca may have bequeathed land to her former slave, Thomas, Anthony's father. Thomas continued to acquire land, and in 1873 he purchased 181 acres of fertile land from Samuel McGowan, a former Confederate general and South Carolina Supreme Court Justice. Thomas Crawford's “homeplace” was located in an alluvial valley, approximately seven miles west of the town of Abbeville. The rich land was flanked on the east by Little River and on the west by Penny Creek.

While Crawford's brothers worked the family farm Anthony was sent to school walking seven miles to and from school each day Seventeen year old Anthony was ...

Article

Dahmer, Vernon Ferdinand  

Mark Newman

civil rights activist, was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, the eighth of twelve children of a white father, George Dahmer, and a mother of mixed racial heritage, Ellen Kelly. Vernon Dahmer's complex heritage derived from both sides of the family. Born the illegitimate son of a German immigrant and a white American mother, George Dahmer had been raised with eight younger black siblings, the result of his mother's later marriage to a former slave. Ellen Kelly was the daughter of a white planter father, who gave Ellen and George Dahmer part of his land near Hattiesburg, Kelly Settlement. The Dahmer children looked white and three of Vernon's five brothers migrated to the North, where they married white women and passed as white. Some members of the family on both sides of the color divide were ignorant of the existence of relatives on the other. In adulthood, Vernon Dahmer ...

Article

Douglass, Charles Remond  

Mark G. Emerson

Born in Lynn, Massachusetts, Charles Remond Douglass was the third and youngest son of Frederick and Anna Murray Douglass. Named for his father's friend and fellow black antislavery speaker Charles Lenox Remond, Charles attended the public schools in Rochester, New York, where the family moved in late 1847. As a boy, he delivered copies of his father's newspaper, North Star.

As a young man, Charles became the first black from New York to enlist for military service in the Civil War, volunteering for the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. Unlike his brother Lewis, who also served in the Fifty-fourth and became a sergeant major in that regiment, Charles was unable to deploy with his fellow troops owing to illness. As late as November 1863 Charles remained at the training camp in Readville Massachusetts He ultimately joined another black regiment the Fifth Massachusetts Cavalry rising to ...

Article

Douglass, Helen Pitts  

Leigh Fought

Helen Pitts was born in Honeoye, New York, the daughter of the white abolitionists Gideon and Jane Wills Pitts. Her father began working with the renowned abolitionist and escaped slave Frederick Douglass in 1846. Thus, from an early age Helen knew of Douglass and his work. Her parents, wealthy enough to pursue their progressive ideals, ensured that she and her sisters, Eva and Jane, received a better education than most girls of the era. Although few institutions of higher learning accepted women students, Eva attended Cornell and Helen and Jane both attended Mount Holyoke College. Helen graduated in 1859.

Reconstruction offered Helen the opportunity to combine her education with her activism. She moved to Norfolk, Virginia, to teach in a school for freed slaves in 1863 The swampy climate there took its toll on her health and the violent hostility faced by the African American ...

Article

Douglass, Lewis Henry  

Mark G. Emerson

and a son of Frederick Douglass. Born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Lewis Henry Douglass was the second child and eldest son of Frederick and Anna Murray Douglass. When Lewis was eight the family moved to Rochester, New York, where the boy was educated in public schools. After finishing his education, Lewis helped his father with his newspaper North Star, learning the printer's trade. Considered the ablest of Douglass's children, Lewis was the person Frederick Douglass asked to secure his papers from John Brown after the Harpers Ferry raid to prevent federal marshals from discovering them.

During the Civil War, Lewis enlisted in the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, attaining the rank of sergeant major and taking part in the attack on Fort Wagner, South Carolina, in July 1863 After the war Lewis and his brother Frederick Jr went to Denver Colorado where Lewis worked as a ...

Article

Evers-Williams, Myrlie  

Kimberly Springer

civil rights activist, was born Myrlie Beasley in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and was raised, following her parents divorce, by her grandmother Annie McCain Beasley and her aunt, Myrlie Beasley Polk. Both women were schoolteachers who encouraged young Myrlie in her educational pursuits through activities such as singing, public speaking, and piano lessons. Myrlie hoped to major in music in college, but neither of Mississippi's state schools for blacks, Alcorn A&M College or Jackson State, had such a major. In 1950 Myrlie enrolled at Alcorn, intending to study education and music. Only two hours after arriving on campus, however, she met Medgar Evers, an upperclassman and army veteran seven years her senior. He soon proposed, and they were married on 24 December 1951 Following Medgar s graduation and Myrlie s sophomore year the couple moved to Mound Bayou Mississippi where Medgar took a position as an insurance salesman with ...

Article

Fillmore, Charles W.  

Stephen L. Harris

soldier, politician, civil servant, and a guiding force in the establishment of the 369th U.S. Infantry Regiment, was born in Springfield, Ohio. Educated in that state, he also studied law in Ohio.

Early in his career Fillmore allied himself with Asa Bushnell, who succeeded William McKinley as governor of Ohio. Following a lynching in Urbana in 1897 Bushnell then running for reelection as governor failed to send state troops to protect a black man accused of rape Bushnell s failure to save the defenseless man outraged African Americans who believed the governor allowed the lynching fearing a backlash by white voters if he intervened At the time of the lynching Fillmore worked for Bushnell in the office of the secretary of state He was also a major in the Ninth Ohio Battalion of the Ohio National Guard then one of four black military units in ...

Article

Gilliard, James E. M.  

Eric Gardner

activist and educator, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. Nothing is known of his parentage or youth. He was probably the James Gilliard listed in the 1860 Federal Census of Stockton, California; if this is the case, he was a barber, his wife was named Charlotte (c. 1835– ?), and had a step-daughter, Mary E. Jones (c. 1848– ?). In the late 1860s Gilliard worked as a teacher and sometime-minister in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and spent time in both Los Angeles and San Francisco. He wrote several short pieces for the San Francisco Elevator—sometimes under his full name and sometimes using simply “J. E. M.”—and was noted by the editor Philip Bell as one of the weekly's best contributors (along with Thomas Detter and Jennie Carter). Gilliard was even occasionally noted as the paper's “associate editor.”

Gilliard lectured throughout California in 1870 ...

Article

Hill, Barney  

Nigel Watson

a post office worker who gained notoriety by claiming to have been abducted by extraterrestrial aliens, was born in Newport News, Virginia, the fourth and youngest son of a shipyard worker. Family lore had it that Hill's maternal great-great grandfather was a white plantation owner. Hill's maternal great-grandmother's fair skin allowed her to live inside her father's home, where she was brought up by her aunts, even though technically she was still a slave. When she was married, her father gave her 250 acres of land, and it was on this land near Newport News that Barney Hill grew up along with his parents and an aunt and uncle, who then owned the farm.

Hill was unhappy when his family moved from Virginia to Philadelphia Pennsylvania where he attended high school for two years and spent a freshman year at Temple University He found life in Philadelphia tough and a ...

Article

Keckley, Elizabeth  

Leyla Keough

Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley was born in Dinwiddie Court House, Virginia, to Agnes, a slave of the Burgwell family, and George Pleasant, who was owned by a man named Hobbs. When Elizabeth was in her teens, the Burgwells sold her to a slaveowner in North Carolina by whom she was raped and had one child, George. Shortly thereafter, a Burgwell daughter, Anne Burgwell Garland, bought Elizabeth and her son. They were taken to St. Louis, where Elizabeth married James Keckley. She later found he had deceived her by claiming to be a free man, and the couple separated.

To support her owner's household, Keckley worked as a seamstress. She acquired many loyal customers, one of whom loaned Keckley $1,200 to buy her freedom in 1855. In 1860, Keckley relocated to Baltimore, Maryland, and then to Washington D C where she opened a successful ...

Article

Keckley, Elizabeth  

Anne Bradford Warner

Elizabeth Keckley became a center of public controversy with the 1868 publication of Behind the Scenes, or Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House.

Born a slave in Dinwiddie Court House, Virginia, Keckley became such an accomplished seamstress that she was able to purchase her own freedom and her son's. After manumission she moved from St. Louis to establish herself in Washington, D. C., in 1860, becoming modiste first to the wife of Mississippi Senator Jefferson Davis and finally to Mary Todd Lincoln during Abraham Lincoln's first term. Two-thirds of Behind the Scenes concerns Keckley's life with the Lincolns and the difficult period following the president's assassination, especially Mary Lincoln's desperate attempt to raise money through what became known as the “Old Clothes Scandal.” A misplaced trust in her editor, James Redpath and the sensationalist marketing of Carleton and Company culminated ...

Article

Keckley, Elizabeth  

Rosemary Reed

Elizabeth Keckley used her needlework skills to purchase her freedom and went on to have such a flourishing business that she became dressmaker to Mary Todd Lincoln. Fortunately for posterity, she also wrote a book about her life, her sewing work, and her experience as someone closely connected to the Lincoln White House. Behind the Scenes; or, Thirty Years as a Slave, and Four Years in the White House (1868) has been a source of historically significant information ever since.

Elizabeth was born Elizabeth Hobbs, the only child of a slave couple, Agnes and George Pleasant Hobbs, in Dinwiddie, Virginia Her mother was a housemaid and excellent seamstress owned by the Burwells a prominent family of central Virginia Her father lived on a neighboring farm and was allowed to visit his family twice a year until he was sold away from them As a ...

Article

Keckley, Elizabeth Hobbs  

Gertrude Woodruff Marlowe

Keckley, Elizabeth Hobbs (1820?–26 May 1907), White House dressmaker during the Lincoln administration and author, was born in Dinwiddie Court House, Virginia, the daughter of George Pleasant and Agnes Hobbs, slaves. Her birth date is variously given from 1818 to 1824 based on different documents that report her age. The identity of her father is also uncertain; in later life Keckley reportedly claimed that her father was her master, Colonel A. Burwell. George Pleasant, who was owned by a different master, was allowed to visit only twice a year and was eventually taken west.

Elizabeth s life as a slave included harsh arbitrary beatings to subdue her stubborn pride frequent moves to work for often poor family members and being persecuted for four years by Alexander Kirkland a white man by whom she had a son Her life improved when she was loaned to a Burwell daughter ...

Article

Keckly, Elizabeth Hobbs  

Jennifer Fleischner

slave, dressmaker, abolitionist, and White House memoirist, was born Elizabeth Hobbs in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, the daughter of Armistead Burwell, a white slaveholder, and his slave Agnes Hobbs. Agnes was the family nurse and seamstress. Her husband, George Pleasant Hobbs, the slave of another man, treated “Lizzy” as his own daughter, and it was not until some years later, after George had been forced to move west with his master, that Agnes told Lizzy the identity of her biological father. While her mother taught her sewing, the skill that would make her name and fortune, it was George Hobbs who first instilled in Lizzy a profound respect for learning. Ironically, it was Armistead Burwell, who repeatedly told Lizzy she would never be “worth her salt,” who probably sparked her ambition to succeed and prove him wrong.

As a young girl Hobbs lived in ...