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David H. Anthony

Islamic scholar, Jamaican slave, and author, was born in Timbuktu, Mali. When he was two years old his family moved to Jenné in the western Sudan, another major center of Islamic learning and a renowned Sahelian trade city. Heir to a long tradition of Islamic saints and scholars claiming descent from the Prophet Muhammad, he was part of one of several dynasties designated as Sherifian or Shurfaa. Abu Bakr was trained and certified in Jenné by several ulama, the highly intellectual stratum of Islamic teachers. He was in the process of becoming a cleric when he was captured. As was true for many Islamized Africans caught in the vortex of the Atlantic slave trade, Abu Bakr's itinerant life had pre slave African and post slave black Atlantic dimensions His path shares the trajectory of many coreligionists from Muslim areas of the continent as well ...

Article

Broteer  

Matthew L. Harris

slave, entrepreneur, and autobiographer, was born in Guinea, Africa, to Saungm Furro, a West African prince with three wives. Broteer was the eldest son of the first wife. When he was six years old an “army supplied by whites” captured him and marched him to the coast (Smith, 544). During the capture Broteer had seen his father tortured and killed, a haunting memory that stayed with him for the rest of his life. After being imprisoned for two years Broteer was one of 260 Africans sold into slavery to a Rhode Island slaver named Robertson Mumford, who purchased Broteer for four gallons of rum and a piece of calico cloth. It was Mumford who gave Broteer his American name, Venture, a result, as Broteer recalled in his memoir, of his master “having purchased me with his own private venture” (Smith, 545).

With new slaves in tow Mumford s first ...

Article

Gloria Grant Roberson

a devout Methodist, was born near New Brunswick, New Jersey, one of five children of slave parents. Buccau's life would have been lost forever if not for Memoir of Quamino Buccau, a Pious Methodist, (1851) published by William J. Allinson, an abolitionist member of a prestigious Burlington, New Jersey, Quaker family and a member of the Burlington County Antislavery Society. The two men, both Burlington residents from different races and backgrounds, shared a profound commitment to the doctrine of Christian love and charity. In an era of racial discord, the force of their mutual esteem is clearly evidenced throughout the pages of Allinson's tract about the humble, old black man whom he characterized as “lowly in heart” (Allinson, 8).

Buccau was someone with keen insight never complaining about his predicament For instance he knew that his name was of African origin that to retain it was ...

Article

Julia Sun-Joo Lee

slave and antislavery reformer, was born in Camden County, North Carolina, the youngest of his mother's children. The names of his parents are unknown. As he recounts in his Narrative of the Life of Moses Grandy, at least eight of his siblings were sold to other slave owners by their master, Billy Grandy. Moses Grandy remembered the day in his childhood when a younger brother was taken away to be sold and his panicked and grief-stricken mother tried to resist. According to his narrative, she was beaten unconscious, then tied to a peach tree and beaten again.

Grandy often played with his master's son, James who was the same age as he When Grandy was about eight years old Billy Grandy died and Grandy was given to James Until James came of age Grandy was hired out by auction at the beginning of each year He had ...

Article

Yuval Taylor

slave and writer, was born in King George County, Virginia. His father was Benjamin Grymes, a wealthy Virginia planter; his mother was a slave of a neighbor, Dr. Steward who was therefore William Grimes s first owner Grimes under three different names served ten masters as a house servant plantation worker stable boy and coachman in Virginia Maryland and Georgia He was severely mistreated more than once coming close to death from too much whipping Grimes made a number of unsuccessful escape attempts on one occasion he tried to break his own leg and on another pretended to starve himself Cunning and combative he several times induced his masters to sell him in order to improve his situation with mixed results he also entered into several bloody fights with other slaves A superstitious man he was frequently haunted by ghosts and was troubled by a woman ...

Article

Kara M. McClurken

minister and abolitionist, was born William Waugh Grimes in Alexandria, Virginia, the eldest of five children of Thomas Grimes and Elizabeth Ann Waugh. Little is known about Grimes's early life other than that he started earning a living at the age of nine, after his father died. In 1841 Grimes traveled to Washington, D.C., to see the inauguration of William Henry Harrison, and he was employed during the early part of the decade by several members of Congress, including Millard Fillmore, then a Whig congressman from New York. In 1847 Grimes married Mary Ann Brown. Following the death of President Zachary Taylor on 9 July 1850, Grimes worked in the White House for the Fillmore family; he remained there until 1855, when he left to work full time as a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church.

Grimes joined Union Bethel African ...

Article

Richard J. Bell

Methodist preacher and seaman, was born in the port town of Old Calabar, in Nigeria, West Africa, to Margaret and Hambleton Robert Jea. At age two Jea and his family were captured in Old Calabar and transported to America on a slave ship. With his parents and several siblings he was immediately sold to the family of Oliver and Angelika Tiehuen, members of the Dutch Reformed Church who owned land outside New York City. This knowledge comes from Jea's narrative, The Life, History, and Sufferings of John Jea, the African Preacher, written and published in 1815; it is the only source of information about most of Jea's life and travels.

The newly enslaved family was set to work as field hands and quickly felt the hardship of poor conditions and physical abuse Jea found little comfort in the message of obedience and humility preached to ...

Article

Sterling Lecater Bland

slave narrative author, was born in Canaan, Connecticut, the child of slaves. James's father, Jupiter Mars, was born in New York State. He had a succession of owners, including General Henry Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, with whom Jupiter served in the Revolutionary War. He was subsequently owned in Salisbury, Connecticut, and later by the Reverend Mr. Thompson, a minister in North Canaan, Connecticut. Mars's mother, whose name remains unknown, was born in Virginia and was owned there by the woman who became Thompson's wife. His mother, who had one child while living in Virginia, was relocated to Connecticut when Mrs. Thompson moved to Canaan to join her husband. The Reverend Thompson married Mars's parents, and they had James and four other children, three of whom died in infancy.

Of Mrs Thompson James Mars told his father that if she only had him South where she could have ...

Article

Paul Walker

outlaw, was born the slave of Samuel Mifflin of Philadelphia, father of the governor of Pennsylvania. He traveled to England when he was seventeen and devoted his life to crime, traveling in Britain and Europe, robbing individuals and coaches at gunpoint. On his return to America in 1790 he was executed for rape at New Haven.

Mountain's biography contains some of the usual elements of slave narratives, but the majority of his story consists of descriptions of the people he robbed, the places the robberies took place, and the value of the loot. The narrative was recorded in 1790 by David Daggett the justice before whom Mountain was tried The frontispiece states that Daggett Has Directed That The Money Arising from the Sales Thereof Be Given to the Girl Whose Life Is rendered Wretched by the Malefactor This raises question of whether Mountain was coerced into making a ...

Article

Pomp  

Timothy J. McMillan

enslaved man and farmer, was probably born in West Africa. He worked as a farmhand and slave in Massachusetts. A transcript of Pomp's dying confession, which survives as a one-page broadside, is the only source of information about his life, but one that provides rare insight into the life of an African American in New England in the days of the early republic.

How exactly Pomp came to America, and specifically Boston, is unclear, but he arrived as a baby along with both his parents. His father died soon after his arrival in Boston and Pomp was put into the service of a Mr. Abbot of Andover whether in slavery or indenture is not known Pomp remained with Mr Abbot until the age of sixteen at which time he was passed on to his master s son also referred to as Mr Abbot It was at this point ...

Article

Alice Knox Eaton

the first woman to publish a slave narrative, was born in Brackish-Pond, Bermuda, the daughter of slave parents. The name of her mother, a household slave, is unknown. The surname of her father, a sawyer, was Prince; his first name is unknown. Mary Prince grew up in her mother's care among five younger brothers and sisters. She later described her first mistress as extremely kind and her early years as carefree. When she was twelve her owners were either unable or unwilling to support her, and she was hired out to a nearby family as a nursemaid. She was treated kindly and permitted to maintain contact with her family and her owners; still, even as a girl Mary sensed the injustice of her circumstances and chafed against them.

Within a year her mistress died and she and her two sisters were sold at auction to different owners Prince s ...

Article

Margot Minardi

Boston freedwoman, was born in Africa. Spear is known to scholars primarily through the Memoir of Mrs. Chloe Spear, written by “A Lady of Boston” in 1832. According to the Memoir, Spear was kidnapped from the African coast when she was about twelve years old. Her captors carried her to a slave ship headed for Philadelphia, where Captain John Bradford purchased her and took her to his home in Boston.

Bradford was a merchant and, during the American Revolution, the Continental agent for Massachusetts. The Memoir depicts him as a harsh master and Chloe as an obedient slave. For the deeply religious author of the Memoir Bradford s most reprehensible fault was his failure to bring up his slaves in the Christian faith Bradford also claimed that it made negroes saucy to know how to read Lady of Boston 26 When he discovered that Chloe ...

Article

Julia Sun-Joo Lee

slave, sailor, and hermit, was born in Princeton, New Jersey. His parents' names are unknown. His mother was a slave, and he was told that his father was a white Englishman. He had one sister, who was three years older than he. When Voorhis was four years old, he was given to his master's daughter upon her marriage to John Voorhis, a German-born plantation owner. He moved to Georgetown in the District of Columbia and never saw his mother or sister again.

At the age of fourteen or fifteen, Voorhis was apprenticed to a shoemaker. Demonstrating little proficiency in his trade, he returned to his master's plantation, where he worked as a gardener until he was nineteen. At this time, he met Alley Pennington an orphaned slave from Cecil County Maryland who promised to marry him provided he secure his freedom Voorhis convinced James Bevens ...

Article

Jacob Andrew Freedman

slave, mother, and subject of an early slave narrative, was born to parents who were slaves on a plantation in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Her exact birth date and the names of her parents remain unknown. As a field hand first and later a handmaiden to her mistress, Williams's mother could not spend much time with her daughter. This meant that Williams, like many other slave children, was mostly left to her own devices as a child.

When Williams was ten years old she had her first encounter with tragedy when her closest playmate was struck with an illness and died suddenly Saddened deeply by her friend s death she spoke to her master who rented Williams and one hundred other slaves from his sister Williams asked him about the afterlife and her friend s fate having been exposed to organized religion for the first time at her friend ...