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Aaron  

Laura Murphy

a former Virginia slave who became an antislavery lecturer, used no last name. Almost nothing is known about him outside of the record contained in his episodic, forty-eight page memoir. He did not provide any information about his parents other than that “hard work and hard usage … killed them.” (Light and Truth 6 He recorded that he had lived in Maryland and Kentucky but that for most of his time as a slave he lived in Virginia owned by a master with seven other slaves three of whom were female Aaron s owner proved especially cruel preferring to personally punish his slaves rather than send them out for a whipping During the summer he forced his three female slaves to work all day and then spend the entire night cooling him and his family with fans while they slept Aaron was forbidden to go to church although ...

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Baquaqua, Mohammah  

Mohammah Baquaqua was born in 1824 in Zoogoo, (probably a small village in present-day Angola) in central Africa, to a fairly prosperous family. He was raised in an Islamic household and was sent by his father to the local mosque to study the Qur'an (Koran), the sacred text central to Islamic worship. Unsatisfied with school, he left to learn the trade of making needles and knives with his uncle in another village. Baquaqua was captured and enslaved after a struggle for the succession of the local throne. His brother managed to find someone who was able to purchase Baquaqua's freedom. Baquaqua returned to his hometown and became a bodyguard to the local king, where he noted the corruption of the royal armed forces that looted the citizens of the city.

A group of individuals apparently envious of his close association with the king engineered Baquaqua s capture and ...

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Baquaqua, Mohammah Gardo  

Jeremy Rich

writer and escaped slave, was born probably in 1824 in the town of Djougou located in what is now northern Benin Djougou was an important trading town with close commercial connections to the kingdom of Dahomey to the south and the sultanate of Nupe to the east Baquaqua s family which spoke Dendi as their first language was deeply involved in long distance trade His mother was originally from the Hausa speaking town of Katsina far to the east of Djougou while his father claimed Arab descent He probably spoke Hausa as well as the Arabic he learned in qurʾanic school Baquaqua traveled on caravans to the east and west of Djougou at the behest of his father However he did not want to follow his father s wish that he become a Muslim scholar so he stayed with one of his maternal uncles a well connected Hausa trader ...

Article

Brown, Henry “Box”  

Paul Finkelman

Henry “Box” Brown was born a slave in Louisa County, Virginia, probably around 1815. By 1830 he was living in Richmond, where his master hired him out to work in a tobacco factory. Around 1836, when he would have been about twenty-one, Brown married a slave named Nancy, who was owned by a bank clerk. The owner promised not to sell Nancy but soon did so anyway. She was later resold to a Mr. Cottrell, who persuaded Brown to give him fifty dollars of the purchase price. Cottrell also promised never to sell Nancy, but in 1848 he sold her, and her children with Henry, to slave traders, who removed them from the state. Brown pleaded with his own master to buy Nancy and the children. As Brown wrote in his autobiography, “I went to my Christian master but he shoved me away from him as ...

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Brown, Henry “Box”  

Paul Finkelman and Richard Newman

escaped slave, was born on a plantation in Louisa County, Virginia, to unknown parents. As a youth, Brown lived with his parents, four sisters, and three brothers until the family was separated and his master hired him out at age fifteen to work in a tobacco factory in Richmond, Virginia. Brown's autobiography illuminates the vicissitudes of slave life but does not recount any further major events in his own life other than his marriage around 1836 to Nancy, the slave of a bank clerk, with whom he had three children. In August 1848 Nancy's owner sold her and her three children (Brown's children) to a slave trader who took them South. Brown begged his own master to purchase them, but he refused. Brown later wrote in his autobiography: “I went to my Christian master but he shoved me away According to his autobiography Brown actually saw his wife and ...

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Brown, Henry ‘Box’  

Ana Raquel Fernandes

Prominent 19th‐century African‐American abolitionist who escaped to England. Brown was born into slavery on a plantation in Richmond, Virginia. After having been forcibly separated from his wife and children, Brown and a white friend, Samuel A. Smith, conceived an ingenious plan for his escape from slavery. In March 1848 Brown hid in a wooden crate supposedly containing dry goods, and had himself shipped via the Adams Express Company to William H. Johnson, an abolitionist sympathizer. Having arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a free state, Brown claimed his freedom and thereafter took the name ‘Box’ as his own. With the help of anti‐slavery friends, he became an abolitionist lecturer and author. In 1849Charles Stearns wrote and published ‘Box’ Brown's narrative of his daring escape. A year later, however, with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 fearing possible capture and return to slavery Brown fled instead ...

Article

Brown, Henry (“Box”)  

Alonford James Robinson

Born a slave in Richmond, Virginia, Henry Brown labored on a plantation before going to work in a tobacco factory in Richmond, under a master who was regarded as relatively benevolent. Although he later described his life in enslavement as tolerable, Brown decided to escape in 1848 when his wife, Nancy, and their three children were sold away from him. He devised an ingenious plan, which he maintained was divinely inspired.

In March 1849 Brown had a white friend, Samuel A. Smith, package him in a wooden box and ship him by Adams Express to antislavery headquarters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. During the twenty-seven-hour journey, Brown spent much of the time on his head, as he was transferred back and forth from wagons, trains, and steamboats. An astonished group of abolitionists “received” him once he arrived in Philadelphia.

Antislavery groups helped Brown relocate, first to Boston, Massachusetts ...

Article

Brown, John  

F. N. Boney

fugitive slave and slave narrative author, was born in Southampton County, Virginia, the son of slaves Joe and Nancy. For most of his life as a slave he was called Fed or Benford. When he was about ten years old he and his mother were moved to nearby Northampton County, North Carolina. Eighteen months later he was sold alone and sent to Georgia, never again to see any of his kinfolk.

Bought by the ambitious and quick-tempered Thomas Stevens, Fed grew to maturity on a farm in central Georgia near the state capital at Milledgeville. Stevens drove his slaves hard, often employing whippings and other brutal punishments. Gradually Stevens accumulated much land and more than twenty slaves, becoming a “planter” by federal census standards. In the 1820s Stevens expanded his family enterprises into DeKalb County near Cherokee territory in northwestern Georgia and when these Indians were driven west ...

Article

Brown, John  

F. N. Boney

Brown, John (1810?–1876), field hand and author, was born in Southampton County, Virginia, the son of slaves Joe and Nancy. For most of his life as a slave he was called Fed or Benford. At around age ten he and his mother were moved to nearby Northampton County, North Carolina; eighteen months later he was sold alone and sent to Georgia, never again to see any of his kinfolk.

Bought by ambitious quick tempered Thomas Stevens Fed grew to maturity on a farm in central Georgia near the state capital at Milledgeville Stevens drove his slaves hard often employing whippings and other brutal punishments Gradually he accumulated much land and more than twenty slaves becoming a planter by federal census standards In the 1820s Stevens expanded his family enterprises into DeKalb County near Cherokee territory in northwestern Georgia and when these Indians were driven west in the ...

Article

Bruce, Henry Clay  

Diane Mutti Burke

author of a slave narrative, was born to slave parents in Prince Edward County, Virginia. The Lemuel Bruce family, including Pettis and Rebecca (Bruce) Perkinson, owned Henry Bruce and his mother and siblings. Bruce's many siblings included his younger brother, Blanche Kelso Bruce, the senator from Mississippi from 1875 to 1881.

Bruce spent most of his early childhood years on plantations and farms in Virginia, Missouri, and—briefly—Mississippi. Pettis Perkinson brought Bruce, his mother, and siblings back to Chariton County, Missouri, where he permanently settled in 1850 From the age of nine Bruce was frequently hired out to other employers in the community and worked at a variety of occupations including brick making tobacco manufacturing and general farm labor Bruce had a self described desire to learn and was taught to read by his young owner and playmate William Perkinson The older Bruce children taught their younger siblings ...

Article

Crafts, Hannah  

Zoe Trodd

Article

Dukes, Laura Ella  

Fred J. Hay

was born in Memphis, Tennessee, to Alex Dukes, a musician. Her mother’s name is not known, but according to a 1940 census, a Laura Dukes, aged thirty-two, was living in a Memphis household headed by a Josie Dukes, which also included Laura’s son, John Henry Day, aged sixteen. Laura was raised in predominantly African American North Memphis. Dukes was small: she stood four feet seven inches tall and weighed only eighty-five pounds in adulthood. From childhood she was known as “Little Laura” and “Little Bit.”

Alex Dukes, Little Laura’s father was a drummer in W. C. Handy s band as well other groups The elder Dukes had Laura appearing on stage by the time she was five years old Dukes began her career as a singer and dancer working in traveling shows based out of Memphis While working in East St Louis she met Robert McCollum an outstanding and ...

Article

Durham, Tempie Herndon  

Steven J. Niven

slave narrator, was born Tempie Herndon in Chatham County, North Carolina. All that is known about her appears in a Federal Writers' Project interview that she gave in Durham, North Carolina, in 1937 when she claimed to be 103 years old. As in many WPA narratives, the interviewer transcribed Durham's speech in a dialect that exaggerates the rhythm and syntax of southern Black English. Although Durham does not name her own parents, she provides quite a lot of information about her owners, “my white fo'ks” (Rawick, 285), as she calls them, George and Betsy Herndon, who ran a large plantation in Chatham County. Their large slave workforce grew corn, cotton, and tobacco, and also raised cattle, sheep, and hogs.

Durham s work routine centered on a large weaving room on the Herndon plantation where female slaves made blankets and winter clothing They were sometimes accompanied by the mistress ...

Article

Garlic, Delia T.  

Steven J. Niven

former slave and narrator, was the youngest of thirteen children born to a slave woman in Powhatan, Virginia, probably in the late 1830s. All that is known about Garlic appears in a 1937 Federal Writers' Project (FWP) interview she gave in Fruithurst, Alabama, when she claimed to be one hundred years old. In that interview Garlic provides one of the most searing indictments of life under slavery in the nearly twenty-five hundred FWP interviews of former slaves. As in many Works Progress Administration narratives, Garlic's interviewer transcribed her speech in a dialect that somewhat exaggerates the rhythm and syntax of southern Black English.

Delia Garlic never knew eleven of her siblings or her father When Delia was an infant she her mother and her brother William were taken by slave speculators to Richmond Virginia where they were kept in a warehouse before being placed on an auction block Delia ...

Article

Garlick, Charles  

Laura Murphy

escaped slave and narrator, was born Abel Bogguess to enslaved parents near Shinnston in present-day West Virginia. Richard Bogguess, a white bachelor with a large plantation, claimed Abel Bogguess's family as his property. Abel's mother was in charge of the household, and his father worked on the farm. He was one of eleven children.

Richard Bogguess died in 1843 leaving a will that freed his slaves Justifiably suspicious that he would not be given his freedom despite the will Abel ran away with his mother and five siblings The family hid just a short distance from the farm on which they had lived and after a couple of days a relative found them informed them that the will would probably stand and suggested that Abel s mother and his siblings head back to the farm He advised Abel on the other hand to continue on the road to ...

Article

Gordon  

Frank H. Goodyear

escaped slave and Union soldier, was likely born on the plantation of John Lyon near Washington, Louisiana, an important steamboat port before the Civil War. Lyon was a cotton planter whose property was located on the Atchafalya River. The names of Gordon's parents and details about his youth are not known.

Gordon received a severe whipping for undisclosed reasons from the plantation's overseer in the fall of 1862. This beating left him with horrible welts on much of the surface of his back, and for the next two months Gordon recuperated in bed. Although Lyon discharged the overseer who carried out this vicious attack, Gordon decided to escape.

In March 1863 Gordon fled his home heading east toward the Mississippi River and Union lines Upon learning of his flight his master recruited several neighbors and together they chased after him with a pack of bloodhounds Gordon had anticipated ...

Article

Green, J. D.  

William L. Andrews

Jacob D. Green was born a slave in Queen Anne's County, Maryland, and during his boyhood served as a house servant on a large plantation owned by Judge Charles Earle. When he was twelve years old his mother was sold; he never saw her again. He began thinking of escape while a teenager but did not attempt it because religious teachings convinced him that running away from his master would be a sinful act. When his wife was sold away from him in 1839, however, Green made the first of three escape attempts, the last of which took him from Kentucky to Toronto, Canada, in 1848 and soon thereafter to England. Working as an antislavery lecturer, Green published his forty-three page Narrative of the Life of J. D. Green, a Runaway Slave in England in 1864. According to its title page, eight thousand copies of Green's Narrative were ...

Article

Green, Jacob D.  

Julia Sun-Joo Lee

slave and antislavery lecturer, was born in Queen Anne's County, Maryland. The names of his parents are unknown, but he is recorded as the property of Judge Charles Earle. In Narrative of the Life of J. D. Green, a Runaway Slave, from Kentucky (1864), Green recounts that as a child he was employed as an errand boy, a cowherd, and a houseboy. When he was about twelve years old, his mother was sold to a trader named Woodfork. Green never saw her again.

As a teenager Green began to attend a black church. He was taught to defer to white men and to accept abuse without retaliation. Green witnessed the brutal flogging of slaves and was himself flogged by his master for disobedience. At age seventeen Green fell in love with a young woman named Mary who was owned by Dr. Tillotson a neighboring slave ...

Article

Green, William  

Laura Murphy

writer and laborer, was born a slave in Oxford Neck, Maryland, to an enslaved mother named Matilda Jackson. Green lamented throughout his life that he was born too early, because his mother was freed by the terms of her owner's will three months after his birth. Because he was born to a slave mother, he was a slave by law regardless of how little time remained in her tenure as a slave. Green still had hopes of being free in his lifetime because Molly Goldsbury, his owner, bequeathed to him a gradual emancipation by which Green could be freed when he turned twenty-five years old. However, she was not alive to ensure the proper execution of her will, and when he was sold after her death, there were no explicit provisions regarding his emancipation.

In his early years then Green was sold from owner to owner working ...

Article

Jea, John  

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 ...