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Roy E. Finkenbine

was an abolitionist and community activist. Nothing is known of the circumstances of his birth, early life, or education, although his surname may indicate West Indian origins.

Barbadoes emerged as an important figure in the small but influential African American community in Boston's West End by the mid-1820s. From 1821 to 1840 he operated a barbershop in Boston. He was a prominent member of the African Baptist Church and of African Lodge #459, the preeminent black fraternal organization in the nation. An amateur musician applauded for both his vocal and his instrumental talents, he performed regularly before local audiences. But he was best known as an “indefatigable political organizer.”

In 1826 Barbadoes joined with the controversial essayist David Walker and several others to organize the Massachusetts General Colored Association MGCA which over the next few years led local protests corresponded with race leaders throughout the North supported the emerging ...

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W. Caleb McDaniel

shoemaker, clergyman, and abolitionist, was born in Chatham, Connecticut, to Sarah Gerry and Cesar Beman, a manumitted slave and Revolutionary War veteran who may have chosen his surname to indicate his freedom to “be a man.” By 1809 Jehiel had moved to Colchester, Connecticut, and married Fanny Condol, with whom he fathered seven children, including the noted abolitionist Amos G. Beman. Jehiel worked in Colchester as a shoemaker and Methodist exhorter until 1830, when he moved to Middletown, Connecticut, to pastor the city's Cross Street African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) Church. On 11 August of that same year Jehiel's first wife died, and he married Nancy Scott on 17 October. In 1832 he left Cross Street after being appointed an itinerant missionary by the annual AMEZ conference, but he remained in Middletown as a preacher, shoemaker, and reformer until 1838 at ...

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Charles Rosenberg

barber and Underground Railroad station operator, was born to free parents in Virginia, where he lived until moving to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1828. Although records in Ohio do not identify his parents, it is likely that he came from the large extended family of Browns in and around Charles City County, Virginia, descended from William Brown, born around 1670, who all had the status of “free colored.” Abraham Brown, born in 1769, was a founder of Elam Baptist Church of Charles City County. There were several men in the family named John, and newborns were often named for relatives.

“John Brown the barber,” as he was commonly known in Cleveland, may have been related to John Brown, born in 1768, head of a Chesterfield County family of eight “free colored” people in 1810, or John Brown, born in 1764 and his ...

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Charlton W. Yingling

abolitionist and black rights activist, was born to a woman of African descent, probably named Eugenie, who was from French Saint‐Domingue (later Haiti). He was allegedly the unrecognized son of Aaron Burr, U.S. Senator from New York and the third vice president of the United States, and he was likely not the only child of this relationship. John P. Burr was also known as Jean‐Pierre Burr, which was probably his birth name. His mother was, by all accounts, a governess for the Burr family who was hired to care for their children during their stay in Saint‐Domingue. The majority of sources indicate that Burr–s mother was Caribbean‐born and of African descent, though one later source says she was originally from Calcutta. John P. Burr may have been born in New Jersey, and he was described as being very fair‐skinned.

By 1818 Burr had made his home in Philadelphia ...

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Charles Rosenberg

baker, community leader, cautious abolitionist, and patriarch of a talented African American family well known into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, was born in Burlington, New Jersey. His narrative records that he belonged to “the Estate of Samuel Bustill of the City of Burlington, but he Dying when I was Young I was Sold to John Allen of the Same City” (Bustill, p. 22). The name of Bustill's mother is recorded only as Parthenia; Samuel Bustill, an English‐born lawyer who died in 1742, was his father as well as his owner.

Many sources, including Lloyd Louis Brown's detailed history of the Bustill family in The Young Paul Robeson: On My Journey Now (1997), leave out the Allen family, and assert that Samuel Bustill's widow, Grace, arranged for Cyrus Bustill to be apprenticed to Thomas Pryor Jr. However Bustill s own account ...

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Eric Gardner

activist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Cyrus Bustill and Elizabeth Morey. Her mother was of mixed race, part English and part Native American (Delaware). Her father, already fifty years old at the time of her birth, was a baker who had purchased his own freedom and had built a thriving business that included supplying American troops in the Revolution, winning him the endorsement of George Washington. A Quaker in practice (though not a formal member), he was also active in both aiding his fellow free blacks in Philadelphia—he was an early member of the Free African Society—and fighting against slavery. When Bustill retired in 1803 to set up a school for black children in his home, Grace took over his shop at 56 Arch Street and opened a millinery business. Three years later she married Robert Douglass a free African American from Saint Kitts who ...

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Donald Yacovone

minister, author, and abolitionist, was born in North Bridgewater (later Brockton), Massachusetts, to James, a successful businessman, and Sarah Dunbar Easton. Easton'sTreatise on the Intellectual Character, and Civil and Political Condition of the Colored People of the U. States (1837) was the nation's first systematic study of racism and stands with David Walker's Appeal (1829) as among the most important writings by African Americans during the early nineteenth century. The seven children of the Easton family blended African, American Indian, and white ancestry. Thus, the concept of “race,” as whites began to redefine it in the early nineteenth century, possessed little meaning to the Eastons. Indeed, one of Hosea Easton's brothers married into North Bridgewater's most distinguished white family.

James Easton had been a much respected businessman in the greater Boston area and a Revolutionary War veteran and viewed ...

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Brycchan Carey

slave, writer, and abolitionist, was, according to his autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, born in the village of Essaka in Eboe, an unknown location in the Ibo-speaking region of modern Nigeria. Equiano recorded that he was the son of a chief and was also destined for that position. However, at about the age of ten, he was abducted and sold to European slave traders. In his narrative, Equiano recalls the Middle Passage in which “the shrieks of the women, and the groans of the dying, rendered the whole a scene of horror almost inconceivable” (58). Despite falling ill, Equiano survived the voyage and was taken first to Barbados and then to Virginia, where in 1754 he was bought by Michael Pascal a captain in the Royal Navy Pascal s first act was to rename the ...

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Donald Yacovone

abolitionist and Episcopal minister, was born near Shoemakertown, New Jersey. Nothing else is known about his family background. Eloquent, forceful, and determined, Gardner earned the respect and admiration of his colleagues and congregants. The great black nationalist Martin R. Delany considered him a man of “might and talent” who compelled whites to “recognize and respect” African Americans (Christian Recorder, 29 Apr. 1880). Theodore Dwight Weld, a celebrated antislavery lecturer, considered Gardner one of the country's leading black orators, and in 1837 Gardner became the first African American to address an annual meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society.

He began his ministerial career in 1809 as an itinerant Methodist preacher visiting churches throughout the Chesapeake region The experience led him to condemn the institution of slavery and the colonization movement which aimed at the expatriation of free blacks to Africa His criticism of Methodist slaveholders especially ...

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crystal am nelson

community leader and musician, was born Occramer Marycoo in West Africa. Although his country of origin is unknown, a 1757 ship manifest shows that he was brought to America at the age of fourteen. He was on one of that year's seven slaving voyages that brought a total of 831 African slaves to Rhode Island. Gardner was one of the 106,544 slaves brought to Newport, Rhode Island, between 1709 and 1807. Caleb Gardner, a white merchant and member of the principal slave-trading team Briggs & Gardner, bought the teenage Marycoo and baptized him into the Congregational faith as Newport Gardner.

The forced exposure to Christianity aided Gardner s rise to a leadership position in the New World He quickly learned English from daily Bible studies with his master who freed Gardner after overhearing him pray for emancipation Upon gaining his freedom Gardner combined his new religious fervor with ...

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Chernoh M. Sesay

abolitionist and founder of the first black Freemasonic lodge, probably received his manumission from William Hall, a Boston leather-dresser, and his wife Susannah in 1770. No extant material confirms Hall as the Barbados son of a white father and a mother of mixed racial heritage, as most of his published biographies state, or as an emigrant to Boston any time before 1760, or as a preacher in a Cambridge church. The slave released by William Hall, only described as Prince, probably went on to become Prince Hall, a Boston leather worker, who, having organized the first black Freemasonic lodge, garnered respect from Boston luminaries and deference from his northern black peers and organized one of the country's oldest African American institutions.

Marriage records show that one or several Prince Halls had several wives. Hall, while a servant to William Hall, married Sarah Richie also ...

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Kathryn Grover

abolitionist and entrepreneur, was born in circumstances that are unclear. One undocumented account states that he was born in Virginia; another, simply that he was born into slavery; a third, that he purchased his freedom. It is known that Johnson was in New Bedford on 24 October 1819, the day he married Mary (called Polly) Mingo Durfee Page, who was descended at least in part from the Fall River tribe of Wampanoag Indians.

In 1820 Polly Johnson was working in the home of Charles Waln Morgan, who in June 1819 had come from Philadelphia to New Bedford to marry Sarah Rodman and begin his career as a whaling industry merchant. Nathan Johnson's mother, Emily Brown, who lived with her son in 1850 and was buried with him in New Bedford, claimed to have been born in Philadelphia; so too did his brother Benjamin A ...

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Steve Strimer

Methodist minister, abolitionist lecturer, and self-emancipated slave, was born to slave parents, Grace and Tony Kirkwood, at the Hawes plantation in Hanover county near Wilmington, North Carolina. About 1815 he was sold to a storekeeper from whom he took his surname. After his escape to Massachusetts, Jones became a tireless speaker on the antislavery circuit in New England. The principal source of information for his early life is his widely circulated slave narrative, The Experience of Thomas H. Jones, Who Was a Slave for Forty-Three Years. First published in 1850, his book went through at least nine printings.

Thomas succeeded in learning to read despite the disapproval of Mr. Jones, the storekeeper. Thomas was converted to Christianity around 1824. He attended services at a neighboring plantation against the objections of his irreligious owner. Upon Mr. Jones's death in 1829 Thomas began to ...

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Richard J. Boles

minister, teacher, missionary, and abolitionist, was born free in New York City during the spring of 1793. His parents and the circumstances of his childhood are unknown. Around 1800 Levington relocated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he spent most of his adolescence and worked in the bookstore of Sheldon Potter. There he became a friend and protégé of Sheldon's brother, Alonzo Potter, who eventually became the Episcopal bishop of Pennsylvania and who helped secure Levington's entry into the Protestant Episcopal ministry. In 1819 Levington moved to Albany, New York, under Potter's mentorship. Potter became a professor at Union College and he unofficially instructed Levington part-time there until he returned to Philadelphia in 1822 In Albany Levington was employed as a teacher in a school for African American children and he attended St Peter s Church It was likely through his teaching position that ...

Article

Kenneth L. Kusmer

abolitionist and political leader, was born in Dumfries, Prince William County, Virginia, the son of a slave father (name unknown) and a free black mother, Dalcus Malvin. By virtue of his mother's status, Malvin was born free. As a boy, he was apprenticed as a servant to a clerk of his father's master; he later learned carpentry from his father. An elderly slave taught John how to read, using the Bible as his primary text. Malvin became a Baptist preacher and later, after moving to Cincinnati, was licensed as a minister, although he never held a permanent position in a church.

Malvin moved to Cincinnati in 1827, and two years later he married Harriet Dorsey During his four years in Cincinnati Malvin was active in the antislavery movement and personally helped several escaped slaves find their way north on the Underground Railroad He agitated against Ohio ...

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Charles Rosenberg

who called himself “Agent and Superintendent of the Underground Railroad,” and had also worked as a steamboat steward, was born in Hoosick, Rensselaer County, New York, legally defined at birth as the property of Dr. Johnathan Eights, a doctor who established a practice in Albany in 1810.

New York's 1799 law for the gradual abolition of slavery provided that Myers should be emancipated at the age of twenty-eight, but he was freed earlier, when he was eighteen. He then worked as a grocer before getting a job as steward on the Armenia, one of the faster steamboats on the Hudson River, making the trip from New York City to Albany entirely in daylight.

Myers married in the late 1830s—there is no published record of Harriet Myers's maiden name. Their children, at least those who survived infancy and were still alive in 1860, were Stephen Jr ...

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John Saillant

abolitionist and minister, was born in New Hampshire, probably in Exeter, Rockingham County, to unidentified parents. His brother, Thomas Paul, became a minister and community leader in Boston, Massachusetts. The Free Will Baptist Church educated both black and white youths, and Paul may have been a student with his brother at its academy in Hollis, New Hampshire. In 1820 he became pastor of the First African Baptist Church in Albany, New York. Influenced by evangelicals and reformers, northern New York was a hotbed of abolitionist activity on the part of both blacks and whites. New York had extirpated slavery gradually, first, in 1799, legislating that all blacks born to slave mothers on or after 4 July 1799 would be indentured servants and then, in 1817, declaring that all slaves born before 4 July 1799 would be freed on 4 July 1827.

In an 1827 ...

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Harvey Amani Whitfield

slave, minister, and community leader, was born in Virginia in the early 1790s. Almost nothing is known about his childhood or young adulthood except that he had been a slave preacher. Preston's life changed during the War of 1812 when his mother and approximately four thousand black American refugees escaped to the safety of British ships that had conducted raids along the American eastern seaboard. About half of these former slaves migrated, via the British Royal Navy, to Nova Scotia. Admiral Alexander Cochrane had offered freedom to African Americans in an effort to disrupt the economy and terrorize local whites Preston did not escape with his family but he purchased his freedom after the conclusion of the war Preston left the United States and traveled to British North America in search of his relatives Eventually he found his mother in Nova Scotia at Preston a small ...

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Martha L. Wharton

abolitionist, writer, lecturer, women's rights activist, and social critic, was born Nancy Gardner in Newburyport, Massachusetts, the daughter of an African American and Indian mother and an African American father, Thomas Gardner, who was born in Nantucket, Massachusetts, and died within three months of Nancy's birth. What is known about her is drawn primarily from her 1850 memoir, A Narrative of the Life and Travels of Mrs. Nancy Prince. While Prince does not name her mother in her narrative, she provides descriptions of both parents that highlight their African descent, and she recounts her grandfather's violent removal to America, along with his memories of a proud life in Africa. She briefly notes the capture of her Indian grandmother by local English colonials. Her narrative speaks clearly to issues of race, gender, slavery, and morality in the United States and the Caribbean.

Prince s childhood ...

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Jane H. Pease and William H. Pease

antislavery reformer, was born in Virginia, the son of Robert Steward and Susan (maiden name unknown), slaves. About 1800 a well-to-do planter, William Helm, purchased the family. Escaping business reverses and debts, Helm moved to Sodus Bay on New York's Lake Ontario frontier and shortly thereafter, in 1803, to Bath, New York, taking young Austin with him. Hired out for wages, Steward entered the employ of a Mr. Tower in Lyons, New York, where he worked until 1812. Escaping, he went to Canandaigua, where he worked for local farmers and attended an academy in Farmington. While thus employed, Steward learned of New York's 1785 law banning the sale of slaves brought into the state subsequent to that date. Drawing upon the state's 1799 gradual emancipation statute as well as an 1800 court decision, Fisher v. Fisher which ruled that hiring out a slave constituted an ...