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Charles Rosenberg

landowner, businessman, and state legislator, was born enslaved in Dallas County Alabama, to parents named Sarah and Pete, who had been born in South Carolina. David, like his parents, was the property of a family named Abner. There is some dispute as to his birth date—some giving 1826 and others 1838—but the most reliable date appears to be December 1820, as suggested by a letter from his youngest daughter. It is not known when David took the Abner surname for himself, a common but by no means universal practice for formerly enslaved persons. He was sent to Texas in 1843, driving a covered wagon for the newly married daughter (Thelma) of the man who held title to him.

Her father considered his new son in law unreliable and entrusted David to get his daughter safely to her new home and manage ...

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Barbara A. White

prosperous businessman, whaling captain, and community leader, whose court case against Nantucket led to the integration of the public schools, was a member of one of the largest and most influential black families on the island. His father was Seneca Boston, a manumitted slave, who was a self‐employed weaver. His mother was a Wampanoag Indian named Thankful Micah. They had four sons and one daughter. Absalom Boston, the third‐born, went to sea, as did many of Nantucket's young men, signing onto the whale ship Thomas in 1809 when he was twenty‐four. Little is known about his early education. Anna Gardner, in her memoir Harvest Gleanings, mentions him visiting her family and hints that it may have been her mother, Hannah Macy Gardner, who taught the young man to read.

Shortly before he went to sea, Boston married his first wife, Mary Spywood about whom little is ...

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 ...

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Donald R. Wright

Atlantic trader and early African colonizationist, was born on Cuttyhunk Island off southern Massachusetts, one of ten children of Kofi (later Cuffe) Slocum, a freed slave originally from West Africa's Gold Coast, and Ruth Moses Slocum, a Wampanoag Native American, both farmers. Kofi Slocum's Quaker master freed him in the mid-1740s and, although he was excluded by race from membership in the Society of Friends, Kofi and Ruth Slocum lived by Quaker principles—hard work, frugality, and honesty. This diligence paid off in the 1766 purchase of a 116-acre farm in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, on Buzzard's Bay. At his death in 1772 Kofi bequeathed the farm to his sons Paul and John.

Taking his father s African name Cuffe and respecting his dual Native American and African American identity the self educated Cuffe sought his fortune at sea Whaling was open to men of any race so Paul worked on Atlantic ...

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Kathryn L. Beard

soldier, sailor, and shipbuilder during the War of Independence, was born free in the British colony of St. Kitts of mixed race parentage. Little is known about his early life. Prior to adulthood he became literate, fluent in French and English, and he trained as a skilled craftsman in building dwellings and ships. As a free person of color in one of the older sugar colonies, he would have benefited from an increasing emigration of whites and, by 1745, a plantation system characterized by a high level of absenteeism by white landowners. These factors contributed to the growth of a small colored elite, financed largely by credit given by white relatives but still facing legal and de facto discrimination. For example, until 1830 the laws of St Kitts prohibited free people of color from attending the colony s few public schools although they paid taxes to ...

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Charles W. Jr. Carey

war hero and businessman, was born probably in the vicinity of Portsmouth, Virginia, the son of free black parents, whose names are unknown. On the eve of the American Revolution fewer than two thousand free blacks lived in Virginia. The colony's statutes forbade the manumission of slaves except those who exposed an incipient slave uprising. Consequently, William, who was known as “Billy,” was probably descended from Africans who arrived in Virginia before 1640, when blacks were treated like indentured servants rather than slaves.

Nothing is known about Flora's life prior to 1775, when he joined Colonel William Woodford's Second Virginia Regiment as a private He furnished his own musket suggesting that he had already earned the esteem of his white neighbors because the colony s statutes also barred free blacks from bearing arms and from serving in the militia He fought against British and Loyalist forces ...

Article

Donovan S. Weight

entrepreneur, pioneer, and town founder, was born near the Pacolet River in Union County, South Carolina, the son of an enslaved woman named Juda. His paternity is a bit murky, but most evidence points to his owner George McWhorter. Little information exists about the West African–born Juda other than that she had been a slave to the McWhorters since 1775. Oral family tradition holds that although George McWhorter sent Juda to the woods with orders to kill the baby at birth, Juda protected Frank, preserved him, and brought him home alive the next morning. The boy who would become Free Frank spent his-formative years learning how to farm in the backwoods country of South Carolina. At eighteen Frank moved with his owner to a temporary homestead in-Lincoln County, Kentucky. In 1798 George McWhorter bought some farmland in newly formed Pulaski County Kentucky In ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

was the first African American and perhaps the first of any color to become a millionaire in Texas. His life reflects substantial changes in the social and legal implications of skin color from the late eighteenth century to the mid-nineteeth century, distinct from, but closely related to, changes in the institution of slavery.

His father was a “free colored” man named William Goyens Sr. (or Goin), born in 1762, who enlisted in a company of the Tenth North Carolina Regiment May 1781–May 1782 for the Revolutionary War. After discharge from the militia, Goyens Sr. married an unknown woman referred to as “white,” who was the mother of the younger William Goyens. Goyens Sr. then remarried a colored woman named Elizabeth in 1793. Goyens Sr. received an invalid pension for North Carolina militia service in 1835, at the age of seventy-two (Research of Cindy Goins Hoelscher ...

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 ...

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Donovan S. Weight

slave owner, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to a freed slave and a white man (their names are unknown). Hinard never experienced slavery herself, and her life as a slave-owning black female was far removed from the common experience of most blacks in North America. This anomaly can be explained in part by the political and social turbulence of early New Orleans. By the time Hinard was forty-two, she had lived under French, Spanish, and American rule. In 1791 at the age of fourteen, Hinard was placéed (committed) to the white Spaniard Don Nicolás Vidal, the auditor de guerra the Spanish colonial governor In this lofty position Vidal provided military and legal counsel for both Louisiana and West Florida Both the Spanish and the French legislated against racial intermarriage as a way of maintaining pure white blood but this legislation did not stop white men from ...

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Charles Rosenberg

an enslaved barber in Yorktown, Virginia, who later was able to run his own business in Richmond, was born in Africa, captured and enslaved, transported across the Atlantic, sold in Virginia, and given the name of Caesar. He was first registered as a slave for tax purposes in York County on 17 August 1743 by Benjamin Catton, at which time his age was estimated as ten. He last owner of record was the widowed Susan or Susanna Riddell. He may or may not have been owned by others in between.

He learned and practiced skills as a barber for thirty years, before Riddell petitioned the Virginia legislature in 1779 to emancipate him submitting that he has set so good an Example to all in his circumstance and conducted himself with so much Industry Sobriety and Honesty as to engage the approbation of all who know him She may have ...

Article

Nicole S. Ribianszky

free woman of color, property owner, and businesswoman in Natchez, Mississippi, was born into slavery. Little is known of her parents or early life. She was emancipated in 1814 at age thirty by her white owner, William Johnson, who was the likely father of her two young children, Adelia and William. He stated in the emancipation document executed in Concordia Parish, Louisiana, that in consideration of five dollars he had liberated Amy, who would be “able to work and gain a Sufficient Livilihood and maintenance” (Davis and Hogan, Barber, 15).

Amy was listed as a free Negro head of household in the Natchez, Mississippi, censuses of 1816, 1818, and 1820. Her children were also freed by William Johnson beginning with Adelia at age thirteen in 1818. Her son, William Johnson (1809–1851), was emancipated two years after this, in 1820 ...

Article

Lolita K. Buckner Inniss

vendor, was born in Easton, Maryland, as the slave of Philip Wallis of Maryland. The names of Johnson's parents are unknown. Johnson is said to have run away in his early twenties, after having been sent on an errand for his master. Johnson first took a boat from Maryland and later a train. In 1839 he reached Princeton, New Jersey, where he was employed as a laborer and janitor in Nassau Hall in the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). He had been known as James Collins in Maryland but called himself James Johnson once he reached Princeton.

In 1843 Johnson was recognized as an escaped slave and was seized and put on trial in Princeton as a fugitive slave The son of Johnson s owner Severn Teackle Wallis traveled from Maryland to claim Johnson The younger Wallis was later a well known lawyer politician provost of the ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Reginald H. Pitts

inventor, entrepreneur, and historian, was born in what is now Gardiner, Maine, the son of Matthias Lewis, a farm laborer of Mohegan Indian ancestry. Nothing is now known of Lewis's mother. Sometime after 28 July 1800 Lewis's father married Lucy Stockbridge of Pittston, Maine, the daughter of African slaves. It is not known whether this marriage legalized a longstanding relationship or was Matthias's actual second marriage.

Although little is known of Lewis's early life, it appears that he first went to sea in ships that worked the Atlantic rim and the coastal trade down to the Caribbean. It is known that Lewis wanted to become a missionary to Africa; after his death, his neighbors remembered, “it was said … that the Congregational Church in Hallowell [where Lewis moved around 1820 had in consequence of the intelligence he had manifested in youth obtained for him an ...

Article

Whittington B. Johnson

pastor and businessman, was probably born in Goose Creek, South Carolina. His mother was a slave, and his father was the English overseer on the plantation where the family lived; their names are unknown. Shortly after Marshall's birth, his father died while on a trip to England, thus ending abruptly the Englishman's plans to free his family. Marshall, his mother, and an older sibling (whose sex is not revealed in extant records) were subsequently sold to John Houstoun of Savannah, a prominent public official.

Houstoun was the second of five masters that Marshall had during his half century of servitude. Marshall became devoted to Houstoun, whose life he once saved, and Houstoun apparently grew fond of Marshall, for whose manumission Houstoun provided in his will. Nevertheless, when Houstoun, who had twice served as governor of Georgia and later as mayor of Savannah, died in 1796 the executors of ...

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Loren Schweninger

craftsman, minister, and businessman, was born a slave in Virginia. The names of his father, a Baptist preacher, and his mother are unknown. A skilled carpenter and cooper, Meachum was allowed to save some of his earnings, and eventually he bought his freedom. Moving to Louisville, Kentucky, he married a slave, Mary, and then purchased her out of bondage; they had an unknown number of children. About 1815 he moved with his wife to St. Louis, reportedly with only three dollars in his pocket. There Meachum used his carpentry skills to find a job as a cooper. He established his own cooper's shop a few years later and began buying St. Louis real estate.

During the 1830s in order to help fellow African Americans become free Meachum started buying slaves training them in barrel making and letting them earn money to pay him back for their ...

Article

Edward E. Andrews

slave, renowned pastry maker, and entrepreneur, also referred to as “Charity,” was born on the Gold Coast of Africa to a minor royal family. In the middle of the eighteenth century she was taken captive, sold into slavery, and transported to Newport, Rhode Island, where she became a domestic slave in the home of William Channing, a prominent attorney.

Like many of that port town s female slaves Quamino would have been responsible for a variety of activities that maintained the household One job in which she excelled early was baking a skill which would hold her in good stead in later years The historical record does not indicate what kind of personal relationship Quamino had with her master but it is significant that she converted to Christianity while working and living with the Channing family Her exact motives for doing so are not certain she ...

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Vajid Pathan

tailor, entrepreneur, and civil rights pioneer, was born in Barbados, West Indies. His past prior to 1820 is unknown. The first record of him in Hartford, Connecticut, appears in 1829 when the first city directory was published, stating that he was married to Roxana Cuffee and had four children. An earlier announcement in the 26 September 1828Freedom's Journal noted that Saunders had married Roxana Cuffee of Sag Harbor, New York, in Hartford on the fifteenth of that month in a ceremony presided over by the Reverend Mr. Gardiner. Between 1829 and 1836 the couple had four children: Thomas P., Prince H., Amos, and Elizabeth.

In 1820 William Saunders founded the Cheap Store on 10 Talcott Street Hartford Connecticut He was known to be the finest tailor and his clothiers had the reputation of being the least expensive in the city He often placed advertisements seeking ...