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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

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

Eric W. Petenbrink

political theorist, was born Haywood Hall in South Omaha, Nebraska, the youngest of three children of Haywood Hall, a factory worker and janitor, and Harriet Thorpe Hall. When he was fifteen, racist violence in Omaha prompted the family to move to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where Hall soon dropped out of school and began working as a railroad dining car waiter. In 1915 the family moved to Chicago, Illinois, to be near extended family, and Hall enlisted in the military in 1917. He served in World War I for a year as part of an all-black unit in France, where he grew accustomed to the absence of racism. Hall married his first wife, Hazel, in 1920, but the marriage lasted only a few months. In spite of their lengthy separation, they did not officially divorce until 1932.

Hall s experiences in World War I and defending ...

Article

Graham Russell Hodges

Born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to free but poor black parents, Hodges received no education in his early years and at the age of ten shipped out as a “waiting boy” on a schooner bound from Philadelphia to the West Indies. Over the next few years he visited many European ports. During the American Revolution a British warship forced his vessel into New York harbor; destitute, friendless, and illiterate, he wandered throughout the region before settling in Warwick, in Orange County, New York. His employer, a man named Jennings, had acquired much property through litigation, actions that prompted his legal victims to plot to kill him. The conspirators brought Hodges into the plot and took advantage of his intemperance, developed during his years as a seaman, to persuade him to perform the killing. On 21 December 1819 Hodges shot his master in the woods The bullet severely wounded Jennings ...

Article

Carl E. Meacham

railroad fireman and union activist, was born Matt Meacham in the township of Springfield, Greene County, Alabama, the fifth of seven children of Anthony Meacham, an ex-slave and farmer, and Hazel Cooks, also a farmer. Almost five years old when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863, Anthony became a sharecropper in Greene County, but relocated, following a racially motivated financial dispute with the landowner, to nearby Pickens County about 1915. A defining moment in Meacham's life, it influenced his decision to confront the pervasive racism in the railroad industry in the 1940s.

Meacham's odyssey began at seventeen in July 1922 Like thousands of poorly educated yet ambitious rural Alabama black youths in the 1920s he migrated to the thriving small city of Tuscaloosa seeking a better life and in the process assumed a new surname Mitchell Hired as a coal heaver on the ...

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

Trevor Hall

was a ship owner and discoverer, colonizer, and governor of the Portuguese Cape Verde Islands off the Guinea coast (now known as Senegal). Born into a prominent family of cartographers in Genoa, de Noli played an important role in the fifteenth-century slave trade when he sailed to West Africa and transported Africans to Portugal as slaves. There is no information about his marriage; however, he had a daughter, the Portuguese noblewoman Branca de Aguiar. She inherited his Cape Verde governorship in 1497, when she married the Portuguese nobleman Jorge Correa de Sousa. Other relatives were his younger brother Bartholomeu and nephew Raphael de Noli, who like Antonio were ship captains.

Just before 1460 the three de Noli captains sailed their ships from the Mediterranean to Portugal where Prince Henry the Navigator hired Antonio to deliver horses to West Africa The Christian Prince Henry had formed a military alliance ...

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 ...