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Benedict of Palermo, Saint  

Leyla Keough

Benedetto, or as he became known, Saint Benedict the Moor, was born in San Fratello, on the Italian island of Sicily, to Christopher and Diane Manasseri. His parents had been transported as slaves from Africa to Sicily, where they converted to Christianity. Benedetto worked on a farm until he gained his freedom as a teen.

Benedetto continued to work as a laborer. Sharing his wages with the poor and healing the sick, he became known as “the black saint.” He joined a group of hermits who chose Benedetto as their leader. In 1562 he became a lay brother. Stories began to circulate about his saintliness and miraculous deeds; he is said to have resurrected a young boy. Church accounts report that people of all classes in Sicily sought his prayers and his counsel. In 1578 though he was neither a priest nor literate he was chosen to lead a ...


Crowdy, William Saunders  

Douglas Morgan

founder of the Church of God and Saints of Christ (CGSC), was born on a slave plantation in Maryland. Crowdy escaped in 1863 and joined the Union army, in which he was assigned to the Quartermaster Corps as a cook for the officers. After the war he purchased a small farm in Guthrie, Oklahoma. Crowdy put his skills as a cook to use with the Santa Fe railroad, which frequently took him to Kansas City, Missouri. There he met a young widow, Lovey Yates Higgins, at a church fair and married her around 1880. At some point in the mid-to-late 1880s, the couple moved to a farm in Oklahoma with their three children, Mattie Leah (who died soon afterwards), Isaac, and August. Crowdy served as a deacon in the Baptist church but does not seem to have been regarded as unusually pious or knowledgeable on religious ...


Lee, William Mack  

Steven J. Niven

body servant and minister, was born a slave at Stafford House, on the Potomac River in Westmoreland County, Virginia. The names of Lee's parents are not known, but shortly after the death of his mother he was taken to the Arlington Heights, Virginia, home of Robert E. Lee, later to command the Confederate army of northern Virginia during the Civil War. William Mack Lee married in 1855, but his brief autobiography does not mention the name of his wife, who died in 1910, nor the names of his eight daughters, the youngest of whom was born in 1875. The couple also had twenty-one grandchildren and, as of 1918, eight great-grandchildren.

Lee does not state precisely when he began serving Marse Robert whom he describes as one of the greatest men in the world but his autobiography notes erroneously that Robert E Lee freed all ...


Lewis, Channing  

Steven J. Niven

cook and laborer, was born in Lawrenceville, Virginia, probably in 1862 or 1863. The names of his parents have not been recorded, and it is not known whether or not they were enslaved at the time of their son's birth. Indeed, but for the discovery of a package of letters written to Channing Lewis by Alice Hanley, a white Irish American woman, his life would have been largely lost to history. The letters, enclosed in a black lace stocking, fell from the attic of a house undergoing renovation in Northampton, Massachusetts, in spring 1992. When workmen opened up a hole in the ceiling, the stocking fell. Its contents provide a unique perspective on the southern black migrant experience and on the everyday life of black and white working-class people in New England at the turn of the twentieth century.

The letters also reveal a far from ...


Marchbanks, Lucretia  

Betti Carol VanEpps-Taylor

adventurer, entrepreneur, and cook, was born a slave near Algood, Tennessee, probably the granddaughter of her white master, Martin Marchbanks, and the oldest of eleven children of a slave woman. Trained as a housekeeper and kitchen worker she lived on her white uncle's plantation, until while still quite young she traveled with a Marchbanks daughter to California during the gold rush, gaining first hand impressions of the West and its opportunities. After emancipation she and several siblings sought their fortunes in Colorado. Lured by the discovery of gold in the Black Hills she arrived in Deadwood on 1 June 1876 Unlike most others however she never intended to mine gold having come to believe that there was more profit in offering services to the miners using skills she already possessed She began her career in the kitchens of the Grand Central Hotel where she soon ...


Thompson, Jacob  

Steven J. Niven

cook and survivor of the 1864 Fort Pillow Massacre in Tennessee, was born a slave near Brown Mills, Virginia (later Pentress, West Virginia). Practically all that is known about him can be found in his testimony before a joint committee of the U.S. Congress about the Fort Pillow Massacre. He testified that he had been a slave of a man named Colonel Hardgrove in Virginia and had run away from him early in the Civil War then he returned to his master for a short period then ran away again Thompson s indecision was not at all unusual among young male slaves during the Civil War Union advances into Confederate territory emboldened many slaves to make their escape just as Confederate counterattacks gave pause to would be escapees Whatever his hesitation Thompson twice risked being captured by slave patrollers or taken by Confederate troops while making his way to ...


Till, Hannah  

Charles Rosenberg

who accompanied the Continental Army during the revolutionary war as a cook, was enslaved at birth, owned by four different men over half a century, and by the end of the war was a free woman, settling in Philadelphia and living to the age of 104.

One of the few contemporary written accounts is that of John Fanning Watson, who writes that his sister saw Till alive at the age of 104. Later published accounts say she died at 102. Her date of birth is not recorded, estimated only by subtracting the length of her life from the year she died.

Watson wrote that Till had told him her childhood name was Hannah Long Point—a name her father acquired for successful deer hunting at a place called Long Point. She was born in Kent County, Delaware, assigned by law as the property of John Brinkley Esq He sold ...


Williams, Cathay  

De Anne Blanton

cook, laundress, and Buffalo Soldier, was born into slavery in Independence, Missouri. Nothing is known of her parents, except that her father was reported to be a free black man. At some point in her early childhood, she went with her master's family to a farm near Jefferson City, where she toiled as a house servant until the start of the Civil War.

Probably in the summer of 1861, when she was nearly seventeen years old, Williams fled the plantation and joined the large group of escaped and newly freed slaves seeking the protection of Union troops occupying Jefferson City. Within months she was pressed into service as a laundress and cook for a Union regiment, possibly the Eighth Indiana Infantry. She maintained that position for nearly two years, accompanying the troops on campaigns in Missouri and Arkansas. In the summer of 1863 Williams found ...



Terry L. Meyers

held a position of responsibility at the college; in fulfilling it, he earned local trust and standing. His place and date of birth are unknown, but handwritten notes added to a letter about him printed in The Virginia Gazette (Pinkney, 30 Nov. 1775) state, “Winkfield is a Negro, Son of old Liverpool, the Ferryman.” Several ferries operated not far from Williamsburg, suggesting that Winkfield was born nearby.

The earliest mentions of Winkfield, in the William & Mary Bursar’s Books, record that he helped to resolve personnel and staffing problems. One entry records that Winkfield received a payment, 6 September 1763, of £6: “By do [ditto; i.e., ‘Wm. Cole’] pd. cook ^ in part for wages pd. Winkfield.” A further entry the same month, 23 September 1763, records a second payment: “By Mr. Nicolson, the house keeper by order of the Presidt, paid to Winkie 10 pounds.”

The wages ...