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Clarence Maxwell

was born on the island of Antigua in 1788. He moved to Bermuda in 1807, settling in the island’s former capital of St. George’s. Whether he arrived in Bermuda as either bond or free, he was certainly free by 1821 when he made one of his earliest appearances in the local records. The St. George’s Vestry noted him among the parish’s “free persons of colour” in 1828.

Between 1807 and 1821 Athill established himself as a shipwright a skill he may have learned living in Antigua There was a market for such in his new home Bermuda had experienced since the late 1600s a maritime and commercial economic revolution dominated by the carrying trade and including ancillary industries such as shipbuilding and boatbuilding As one of the few Bermuda residents classified as Free Coloured the 41 year old Athill purchased a freehold in St George s ...

Article

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

Jane Poyner

Mixed‐race American sea captain who, as a champion of the abolition movement, journeyed to Britain in 1811 to meet sympathetic friends from the African Institution. Cuffee (also spelt Cuff, Cuffe, Cuffey) was born in Massachusetts to a manumitted slave, Cuffee Slocum, and a Native American, Ruth Moses. A committed Quaker, Cuffee was impassioned about the redemption of Africa: he aligned himself with the Colonization Society of America and the idea of a return to Africa of free African‐Americans. To this end, as a means of cutting off the slave trade at its source, Cuffee made two trips to Sierra Leone (see Sierra Leone settlers). To discuss his views on abolition and colonization with friends from the African Institution, Cuffee sailed to Britain, docking in Liverpool in 1811 Here and in London he met fellow abolitionists including the Duke of Gloucester who was president of the African ...

Article

David H. Anthony

adventurer, mariner, and African emigrationist, was born to Susan Cuffe and John Dean in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Harry Foster Dean followed the family profession when he decided to become a seafarer. By the age of thirteen he was on an around-the-world cruise captained by his Uncle Silas. A decade later he had made his way to Southampton, England, where he was mentored by a Captain Forbes. He later reported that he won his captain's license in that port, beginning a new phase in his life. According to Dean, his mother, Susan, was a granddaughter of the black Yankee Paul Cuffe As the progeny of the Cuffe family Dean considered himself a black aristocrat Since Cuffe was a merchant and back to Africa advocate Dean dreamed of reversing the effects and trajectories of the Middle Passage and removing himself to his ancestral continent of origin Much of what ...

Article

Andrew W. Kahrl

real estate developer, general contractor, philanthropist, and shipping and excursion steamboat owner, was born in Orange, Virginia.

Jefferson spent his youth in Washington, D.C. In 1881, at the age of fifteen, Jefferson enlisted in the Navy after falsifying his age. He traveled around the world working as a coal heaver. During his service, Jefferson secured connections with wealthy, influential whites, including Canadian shipping magnate Sir Hugh Allen, from whom Jefferson received a significant bequest after his death in 1882 Following his service Jefferson returned to Washington and started a small business that furnished manure and other fertilizers to city lawns and gardens and collected and shipped it out of town His wealth grew as a result of real estate investments Partnerships and friendships with influential whites in the city s business community helped to mitigate the effects of discrimination and protect him from ...

Article

Sandra Opdycke

Isaac Myers was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of free African American parents, whose names and occupations are unknown. Myers was barred from public education, but he did attend a private day school run by a local clergyman. Leaving school at sixteen, he served an apprenticeship with a leading black ship caulker and then entered the trade himself, becoming by the age of twenty a supervisor, responsible for caulking some of Baltimore's largest clipper ships. During this period he married Emma V.; neither the precise year nor her full maiden name is known. They had three children, the first born in 1859.

Myers worked as a porter and shipping clerk for a wholesale grocer from 1860 to 1864 ran his own store for a year and then went back to ship caulking Soon after he returned to this trade however the city s white caulkers ...

Article

Sandra Opdycke

labor leader, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of free parents whose names and occupations are unknown. Myers was barred from public education, but he did attend a private day school run by a local clergyman. Leaving school at age sixteen he served an apprenticeship with a leading black ship caulker and then entered the trade himself, becoming by the age of twenty a supervisor, responsible for caulking some of Baltimore's largest clipper ships. During this period he married Emma V., though neither the precise year of the marriage nor her full maiden name is known. They had three children, the first born in 1859.

Myers worked as a porter and shipping clerk for a wholesale grocer from 1860 to 1864 ran his own store for a year and then went back to ship caulking Soon after he returned to this trade however the city ...

Article

Ian Rocksborough-Smith

civil rights, peace, and social justice organizer, and writer, was born Hunter Pitts O'Dell on the west side of Detroit, Michigan. Jack's parents were George Edwin O'Dell and Emily (Pitts) O'Dell. His father was a hotel and restaurant worker in Detroit who later owned a restaurant in Miami, Florida. His mother had studied music at Howard University and became an adult education teacher, a classical and jazz pianist, and an organist for Bethel AME Church in Detroit. His grandfather, John H. O'Dell, was a janitor in the Detroit Public Library system and a member of the Nacirema Club, which was a club for prominent African American Detroiters. Jack O'Dell later took his grandfather's signature, “J.H. O'Dell” as his nom de plume when he became a writer.

Raised by his paternal grandparents O Dell grew up during the Great Depression and witnessed the sit down ...

Article

Barton A. Myers

abolitionist, activist, soldier, and journalist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennysylvania, to William and Mary Stephens, free African Americans who had fled Virginia's eastern shore in the wake of the Nat Turner rebellion. Little is known of Stephens's early education, but he likely attended a combination of segregated primary schools in Philadelphia and the Sunday school of the First African Baptist, a fervently abolitionist church that his parents attended. Prior to the war Stephens worked as a cabinetmaker, a skilled position that offered him elite status in the urban Philadelphia black community.

Stephens's antebellum exploits included a wide range of civic and political activities. In 1853 he helped found the Banneker Institute, an African American literary society and library, honoring Benjamin Banneker the African American scientist and inventor While working with the society he met influential white leaders including General Oliver Otis Howard later head ...

Article

Marie Shear

the first black flight attendant of either sex for a U.S. airline and an activist, was born Ruth Carol Taylor in Boston, Massachusetts, the older of two children of Ruth Irene Powell, a registered nurse, and William Edison Taylor, a barber and farmer, who lived in nearby Cambridge.

After several years in New York City, the family moved to a farm in Trumansburg, in upstate New York, where Taylor grew up. She attended Elmira College for Women in Elmira, New York, and New York University in New York City, became a registered nurse in 1955 upon graduation from the Bellevue Schools of Nursing at New York University, and practiced nursing for the next three years.

With the nation s airlines under pressure to break the color line Taylor became one of about eight hundred Negro girls interviewed by Mohawk Airlines a regional carrier based in Ithaca New York ...

Article

John R. Van Atta

Vesey, Denmark (1767?–02 July 1822), slave insurrectionist, was born possibly in Africa. His family roots and early childhood are unknown. As a fourteen-year-old in a cargo of 390 slaves bound for St. Domingue (Haiti), his engaging appearance somehow caught Captain Joseph Vesey’s eye. Sold on arrival to a French planter, Denmark remained on that sugar- and cocoa-producing colony only a few months before being returned as “unsound and subject to epileptic fits.” Afterward, Captain Vesey kept the young slave for himself and in 1783 adopted Charleston, South Carolina, as a permanent home.

Literate multilingual and worldly Denmark Vesey s experience both as a slave and later as a free man differed radically from the ordinary Aboard his master s vessels he traveled around the Atlantic and became a skilled carpenter In an amazing stroke of fortune he won $1 500 in the Charleston East Bay lottery of ...

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Tiwanna M. Simpson

mariner, carpenter, abolitionist, was born either in Africa or the Caribbean and probably grew up as a slave on the Danish colony of St. Thomas, which is now a part of the U.S. Virgin Islands. When Denmark was about fourteen years old, the slave trader Captain Joseph Vesey purchased him to sell on the slave market in Saint Domingue (Haiti). The identity of Denmark Vesey's parents and his name at birth are unknown, but Joseph Vesey gave him the name “Telemaque.” He became “Denmark Vesey” in 1800, after he purchased his freedom from lottery winnings. Vesey's family life is difficult to reconstruct. He had at least three wives and several children, including three boys—Sandy, Polydore, and Robert—and a girl, Charlotte. His first and second wives, Beck and Polly, and their children lived as slaves. His third wife, Susan was a free woman of color ...

Article

Douglas R. Egerton

The man later known as Denmark Vesey was born about 1767, probably on the Caribbean sugar island of Saint Thomas. In 1822Captain Joseph Vesey, who was Denmark's second and fourth owner, recalled that when he first purchased the boy at the port of Charlotte Amalie in 1781, he appeared to be “about 14 years” old. Although the port functioned more as a transit slave station then an entrepôt to the island's sugar plantations, during the eighteenth century no more than 10 percent of all Africans carried to the Americas were children. Most likely the boy, whose original name and ancestry is lost to history, had simply reached an age and height that would fetch a goodly sum in the coastal barracoons.

Joseph Vesey, a Carolina-based slaver, purchased the boy in September or October of 1781 as part of a cargo of 390 bondpeople During ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

U.S. naval officer and submarine commander, was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Johnny Watson, who worked at a printing plant, and Virginia Watson, a community liaison and teacher's aide. One of six children, Anthony John Watson was raised in the Cabrini-Green public housing community and attended Chicago's Lane Technical High School, where he was a starter on the football team. Upon graduating in 1966 he entered the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle, and in June of that year he was recruited to the U.S. Naval Academy, where he became a “plebe” (first-year) midshipman.

Watson was one of only six African Americans to graduate in the class of 1970 at Annapolis. Indeed, at all of the nation's service academies by 1969 only 116 cadets were nonwhite Foner 211 Watson remained engaged in spite of the distractions and challenges faced by African American midshipmen at Annapolis in the late ...