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Ferrill, London  

Laura Murphy

minister, was born in Hanover, Virginia, to an enslaved woman, and was named after his mother's owner, a British man named Richard Ferrill. Upon Richard Ferrill's death his sister inherited both London and his mother, and when London was eight or nine she separated him from his mother by selling him to a Colonel Samuel Overton for six hundred dollars. Overton eventually freed Ferrill, though the details of his emancipation are not entirely clear.

Ferrill dated his religious conversion to a near death experience in his childhood when he nearly drowned Believing that he would have gone to hell had he died Ferrill made a covenant with God in the belief that it would change his fate His baptism at age twenty was an important moment in his life and he soon felt called to preach At a time when religious revivals in the South were often integrated ...

Article

Gloucester, John  

Donald Scott

founder of African American Presbyterianism and abolitionist, born a slave in Kentucky, was a “body servant” called “Jack” and purchased as a young man by the Tennessee Presbyterian minister Gideon Blackburn. Gloucester's parentage is unclear because of his early enslavement; although in 1806, while a member of the New Providence Presbyterian Church of Maryville, Tennessee, he was bought by Blackburn from an undisclosed owner. His intelligence and comprehension of theological principles motivated Blackburn, an evangelical preacher and abolitionist, to unsuccessfully seek Tennessee legislative help to free Gloucester. Blackburn had been born an orphan and moved into the Presbyterian ministry in the early 1790s before establishing missions to “educate” the Cherokee in Tennessee. He visited Philadelphia with Gloucester and freed him under the guidance of the Reverend Archibald Alexander pastor of the Third Presbyterian Church By that time in Tennessee Gloucester had converted many whites and blacks to ...

Article

Jacobs, Phebe Ann  

Alice Knox Eaton

religious figure, was born a slave in Morris County, New Jersey. Nothing is known of her family, but as a child she became the property of the Wheelock family of Hanover, New Hampshire. She served as a personal attendant to Maria Malleville, the stepdaughter of President Wheelock of Dartmouth College. When Malleville married William Allen in 1812, Jacobs continued as her servant, eventually moving with the Allens to Brunswick, Maine, when Allen became the president of Bowdoin College. After Mrs. Allen's death in 1828, Jacobs lived on her own and supported herself as a laundress for the students of Bowdoin College until her death.

According to the Narrative of Phebe Ann Jacobs, written by Mrs. T. C. Upham after Jacobs s death Jacobs became a devout Christian while living with the Wheelock family Upham the wife of the theologian and Bowdoin professor Thomas C ...

Article

Liele, George  

Milton C. Sernett

pioneering Baptist clergyman and émigré to Jamaica, said of his slave origins, “I was born in Virginia, my father's name was Liele, and my mother's name Nancy; I cannot ascertain much of them, as I went to several parts of America when young, and at length resided in New Georgia” (Baptist Annual Register, ed. John Rippon [1793], 332). Liele's master Henry Sharp took him to Burke County, Georgia, as a young man. Liele wrote that he “had a natural fear of God” from his youth. He attended a local Baptist church, was baptized by Matthew Moore, a deacon in the Buckhead Creek Baptist Church about 1772 and was given the opportunity to travel preaching to both whites and blacks Liele preached as a probationer for about three years at Bruton Land Georgia and at Yamacraw about a half mile from Savannah The favorable ...

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Montjoy, Zilpah  

Laura M. Chmielewski

convert to Methodism and religious contemplative, was born probably in New York City, of unknown but most likely enslaved parents. All the details of Zilpah Montjoy's life are derived from Abigail Mott's 1826Narratives of Colored Americans, a collection of biographical sketches of prominent and, in Mott's view, exemplary black Christians that includes Richard Allen, Benjamin Banneker, Paul Cuffe, Gustavus Vassa (Olaudah Equiano), and Phillis Wheatley as well as more obscure figures such as Billy and Jenny Poor Pompey and Old Dinah The circumstances surrounding Zilpah Montjoy s birth and parentage are unknown According to her biographer Montjoy spent her early life in domestic slavery in New York City serving masters who invested nothing in her spiritual development beyond calling her by a name that had biblical origins Montjoy was reportedly bound so tightly to her work that throughout her youth she ...

Article

Philip of Mahdiyya  

Allen J. Fromherz

North African born official of the Sicilian court was from Mahdiyya an important port on the eastern coast of Tunisia and was a eunuch and slave and high functionary in the Sicilian court of the Norman king Roger II 1095 1154 Past scholarship speculated that Philip was Greek but recent research has proven North African origins to be most probable Philip spent much of his youth in North Africa He was captured castrated and enslaved early in his life the first decades of the twelfth century Philip is said to have nominally converted from Islam to Christianity after entering the court of the Normans According to some sources sources that may have been biased against him this conversion was never sincere Philip was alleged to have secretly made payments to Islamic charities in North Africa and to have sent ablutions to the Tomb of Muhammad in Medina He also visited ...

Article

Pritchard, “Gullah” Jack  

Nathaniel Millett

conjurer and slave rebel, was born in East Africa during the final quarter of the eighteenth century. He was a native of the country of “M'Choolay Morcema” (possibly modern Mozambique), from which he was captured, taken to Zanzibar, and sold to Zephaniah Kingsley in 1805. At the time of his enslavement, he possessed a bag of conjuring implements and had been a “priest” in his homeland. Jack may have initially gone to Kingsley's plantation in East Florida but was purchased by the wealthy Charleston shipbuilder, Paul Pritchard, in April 1806 and worked on the docks as a joiner and caulker.

Jack s position as an urban and skilled slave allowed him a number of relative luxuries in a city and society that were dominated by slavery Jack who was single lived by himself off of his master s property and received permission to hire out his time ...

Article

Quamino, John  

Edward E. Andrews

also referred to as “Quaum” or John Quamine, slave, African missionary in-training, possibly the first African to attend college in the American colonies, and Revolutionary privateer, was born near Annamoboe, on the Gold Coast of Africa. He came from a wealthy family, and in the mid- to late 1750s he was sent by his father to receive a Western education. However, the captain who agreed to take him reneged on this agreement and sold him into slavery.

By the mid-1760s Quamino had become a slave to Captain Benjamin Church of Newport, Rhode Island. The historical record does not detail exactly what Quamino did under Church's ownership, but he converted to Christianity after his arrival in Newport. Quamino attended the First Congregational Church, which was taken over by Jonathan Edwards's avid protégé, Samuel Hopkins, in 1769. In that same year Quamino married Duchess Quamino then a ...

Article

Stockton, Betsey  

Barbara Bennett Peterson

educator and missionary, was born in slavery of unrecorded parentage. As a child Betsey was given by her owner, Robert Stockton, as a wedding gift to his daughter when she married the Reverend Ashbel Green, the president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). Most of Betsey Stockton's early life was passed as a slave domestic in the Green home at Princeton, except for four years that she spent with Green's nephew Nathaniel Todd when she was an adolescent. At Todd's she underwent a period of training intended to instill more piety in her demeanor, which had not been developed in the affectionate, indulgent Green household. Stockton returned to the Green home in 1816 and was baptized in the Presbyterian church at Princeton in 1817 or 1818 having given evidence through speech and deportment of her conversion to Christian ways At the time of ...

Article

Tanner, Alethia  

Carla J. Jones

grocer and community leader, was born Alethia Browning in the late eighteenth century in Maryland to parents whose names are unknown. No information is available about her early life. Referred to alternatively as Aletha, Lithe, Lethee, or, most commonly, Lethe, Browning grew up enslaved in southern Maryland and first appears in the historical record at the time of her manumission by Joseph Daugherty in Washington, D.C. In July 1810 Daugherty had paid Rachel Pratt of Prince George's County, Maryland, $275 for Browning, manumitting her four days later “for value received and other good causes” (Provine, 154). Subsequent histories refer to the $275 payment to Pratt as a deposit toward the sum of $1,400 that the white-woman demanded in return for Browning's freedom. Browning made the payments herself with money earned through independent work in Washington, D.C.

Rachel Pratt the mother of the Maryland governor and U S ...

Article

Williams, Peter, Sr.  

Kyle T. Bulthuis

tobacconist, sexton of John Street Methodist Church, and founding trustee of the African or Zion Chapel (later named “Mother Zion,” the first African Methodist Episcopal Zion, or AMEZ, church in the United States), was born on Beekman Street in New York City, the son of the African slaves George and Diana. At the time of his birth as many as one in five New York City residents were slaves, a percentage greater than any other British colonial area north of the Chesapeake. Two events in Peter Williams's early adulthood dramatically shaped his future. At some undetermined time, his owners sold him to James Aymar in New York City From Aymar Williams learned the tobacconist trade providing him skills that would one day make him one of the wealthiest blacks in the city Also as a young man Williams attended Methodist meetings and he converted to Methodism ...