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Charles Rosenberg

pioneer settler in Los Angeles County, California, in the 1850s, blacksmith, teamster, firewood salesman, and landowner, was born in Kentucky around 1827. Although it is commonly assumed that he had been enslaved there, he arrived in California a free man prior to the Civil War, and nothing has been established about his previous life.

He was married on 6 November 1859 to a woman named Amanda, born in Texas, by Jesse Hamilton, the earliest pastor of First African Methodist Episcopal church, Los Angeles. Their first two children, Dora and Julia, were born in 1857 and 1859. In 1860 the household included a laborer named Juan Jose, recorded by the census as being of Indian ancestry. Another man of African descent, Oscar Smith from Mississippi lived next door and no race was specified for the other neighbors who had either English or Hispanic names ...

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Kate Tuttle

James P. Beckwourth, born of mixed-race parentage in Fredericksburg, Virginia, escaped an apprenticeship to a St. Louis, Missouri blacksmith and went west, taking a job with the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. He became an experienced trapper and fighter in the sparsely settled western territories. In 1824 the Crow Indian tribe adopted Beckwourth, who then married the daughter of the chief and earned such renown in battle that he was renamed Bloody Arm. Although he left the tribe after several years—and after earning honorary chief status—he continued a lifelong friendship with the Crows.

Criss-crossing the western and southern frontiers, Beckwourth worked as a guide, prospected for gold, served as a United States Army scout during the third Seminole War and was a rider for the Pony Express He also worked with California s Black Franchise League in an effort unsuccessful at the time to repeal a law barring blacks from ...

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Lisa E. Rivo

mountain man, fur trapper and trader, scout, translator, and explorer, was born James Pierson Beckwith in Frederick County, Virginia, the son of Sir Jennings Beckwith, a white Revolutionary War veteran and the descendant of minor Irish aristocrats who became prominent Virginians. Little is known about Jim's mother, a mixed-race slave working in the Beckwith household. Although he was born into slavery, Jim was manumitted by his father in the 1820s. In the early 1800s, Beckwith moved his family, which reputedly included fourteen children, to Missouri, eventually settling in St. Louis. Some commentators suggest that Beckwith, an adventurous outdoorsman, was seeking an environment less hostile to his racially mixed family.

As a young teenager, after four years of schooling, Jim Beckwourth as his name came to be spelled was apprenticed to a blacksmith Unhappy as a tradesman he fled to the newly discovered lead mines in Illinois s Fever ...

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Frank L. Green

pioneer, farmer, and cattleman, was born probably in Pennsylvania or Louisiana. His mother was Scotch-Irish, his father perhaps West Indian. He may have been born as early as 1770, but that would have made him seventy-four years old by the time that he came to Oregon in 1844. Oral tradition among the family gives his birth year as 1779.

Bush was a successful cattle trader in Missouri beginning around 1820, and he became quite wealthy. In 1831 he married Isabella James, a German woman; they had five children. Because Missouri was not well disposed toward people of color, Bush took the opportunity to travel west in a wagon train led by Michael T. Simmons of Kentucky.

Bush found Oregon only a little more tolerant than Missouri The provisional government voted to exclude blacks and to whip those who would not leave but the legislation was ...

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Moya B. Hansen

noted farmer, was born to George Washington Bush (c. 1790–1863), a pioneer in the Oregon Territory, and Isabella James (c. 1809–1866), a German American. William was the eldest of five sons born in Missouri: Joseph Tolbert, Rial Bailey, Henry Sanford, and January Jackson.

William's grandfather Mathew Bush is believed to have been the son of a sailor from the British West Indies who married an Irish American woman named Maggie. William's father, George, was born in Pennsylvania and received a Quaker education from the Stevenson family for whom Mathew worked. The Bush family moved to Cumberland County, Tennessee, with the Stevensons and, as a free black man, Mathew was later able to inherit a portion of the Stevenson estate.

George Bush left Tennessee as a young man to join the U.S. Army. He fought at the 1812 Battle of New Orleans ...

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Julie Winch

writer, adventurer, and perennial litigant, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the grandson of Jacques Clamorgan, a French entrepreneur and land speculator. Jacques died in 1814, leaving as his heirs the four children he had fathered with his various slaves whom he then emancipated. One of those children, Apoline, was Cyprian Clamorgan's mother. Apoline never married. Instead, she lived with a series of white “protectors.” A Catholic by upbringing in a deeply Catholic community, she presented each of her children for baptism at the Old Cathedral and revealed to the priest the name of the father so it could be entered in the baptismal register. However, she did not live long enough to have Cyprian baptized, and the identity of his father died with her.

Clamorgan and his siblings, Louis, Henry, and Louise, were left in the care of a white neighbor, Charles Collins ...

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

Ann T. Keene

frontiersman and interpreter, was known as “Teat,” or the Wasicun Sapa (Black White Man), among the Sioux of Dakota Territory. Nothing is known of his life before he entered the territory as a young man around 1850. He is thought to have been an escaped slave who fled to the wilderness to avoid capture. Sioux tribal history records his presence in their midst from that date. He became known to white settlers in 1865, by which time he had become fluent in the Sioux dialect. About this time he married a Sioux woman and built a log cabin near Fort Rice, in Dakota Territory, not far from present-day Bismarck, North Dakota. For a while he earned a living cutting wood for the fort and for a trading firm, Durfee and Peck.

In November 1865 Dorman was hired by the U S Army to carry the ...

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Richard C. Lindberg

explorer and merchant, was born in San Marc, Haiti, the son of a slave woman (name unknown) and Dandonneau (first name unknown), scion of a prominent French Canadian family active in the North American fur trade. Surviving historical journals record the name of Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable (Pointe au Sable by some accounts), a Haitian of mixed-race ancestry, as the first permanent settler of Chicago. In her 1856 memoir of frontier life in the emerging Northwest Territory, Juliette Kinzie, the wife of the fur trader John Kinzie makes note of the fact that the first white man who settled here was a Negro Several of the voyageurs and commercial men who regularly traversed the shores of southern Lake Michigan in the last decade of the eighteenth century kept accurate records of their encounters in journals and ledger books One such entry describes du Sable as a ...

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Lisa E. Rivo

building foreman and caretaker, U.S. mail coach driver, Montana pioneer, also known as Black Mary or Stagecoach Mary, was born a slave in Hickman County, Tennessee. Information about Fields's parentage and early life remain unconfirmed, although James Franks, whose grandparents knew Fields in the late 1800s in Montana, writes that Fields was the daughter of Suzanna and Buck, slaves of the Dunne family, owners of a Hickman County plantation. The Dunnes sold Buck immediately following Mary's birth. According to Franks, the Dunnes allowed Suzanna to keep her daughter with her in quarters behind the kitchen, and Mary enjoyed a relatively privileged childhood, even becoming friends with the Dunne's daughter Dolly, who was about the same age as Mary. This arrangement, Franks writes, lasted until Suzanna's death forced fourteen-year-old Mary to take over her mother's household duties.

Whether or not Franks s account is accurate it is ...

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Jeremy Rich

Portuguese explorer who helped open up European commercial links to both western and eastern Africa, was born sometime between 1460 and 1469. He probably was born at Sines, a town on the southwestern coast of Portugal. His father was Estêvão da Gama, a knight in the court of the Duke of Viseu. Da Gama’s mother was Isabel Sodré, a woman of noble descent. It is a paradox that so little is known of da Gama’s life, given his fame as the first Portuguese sea captain to reach India. Since da Gama was a younger son, he may have entered Atlantic exploration to make up for losing out on his father’s inheritance.

At some point da Gama became an agent of King João II of Portugal who sought to promote Atlantic trade and exploration like his more famous predecessor Henry the Navigator Gama joined the Order of Santiago a brotherhood ...

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Jeremy Rich

important trader and a promoter of Portuguese ties to West Africa, was apparently born to a well-off family in Lisbon sometime in the opening decades of the fifteenth century. Little is known of his early life, personal family history, or even death. It is known, however, that Gomes apparently fought in Morocco and learned North African dances there. It is ironic that such obscurity surrounds a man who played a pivotal role in expanding Portuguese influence on the coast of West Africa.

Gomes first clearly enters the historical record in 1469. After the death in 1461 of Henry the Navigator the legendary supervisor of Portuguese maritime exploration of West Africa and the Atlantic Ocean the Portuguese crown became so distracted by its wars with the Islamic sultanate of Morocco and its Christian neighbor of Castile that efforts to develop trade with West African coastal communities slowed down King ...

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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

Vickey Kalambakal

gold miner and rancher who was legally stripped of his property and liberty, was born into slavery, most likely in the early nineteenth century. Nothing is known about him, including the place of his birth or his parents' names, until 1849 when he accompanied his owner Tucker Wood from Arkansas to California.

When Wood returned to Arkansas four years later, Hill stayed in California. A document filed in the county court of Tuolumne County states that Hill bought his freedom from Wood on 1 April 1853. Almost seven months later, on 27 October 1853 Hill filed a claim to 160 acres of land at the top of a canyon on the Stanislaus River in central California less than five miles from Sonora The claim was recorded and Hill began to work his land clearing and sowing forty acres with wheat and barley He also built a cabin to ...

Article

Elizabeth Zoe Vicary

William Alexander Leidesdorff was born in St. Croix in the Danish Virgin Islands, the son of William Leidesdorff, a Danish planter, and Anna Marie Sparks, an Afro-Caribbean slave. He was educated by his owner, who reportedly treated him more as a son than as a slave. As a young man he was sent to New Orleans to work for his uncle's cotton business as a master of ships sailing between New York and New Orleans. Both his father and uncle died soon after, leaving Leidesdorff a sizable inheritance. His newly acquired wealth enabled him to propose to a woman he had been courting, Hortense, who accepted. The engagement ended painfully, shortly before the wedding day, when Leidesdorff told his fiancée that he was of African descent through his mother. Hortense called off the wedding, and he, heartbroken, left New Orleans.

Arriving in California in 1841 aboard ...

Article

Elizabeth Zoe Vicary

pioneer, diplomat, and businessman, was born in St. Croix in the Danish Virgin Islands, the son of William Leidesdorff, a Danish planter, and Anna Marie Sparks, an Afro-Caribbean slave. He was educated by his owner, who reportedly treated him more like a son than a slave. As a young man he was sent to New Orleans to work for his uncle's cotton business as a master of ships sailing between New York and New Orleans. Both his father and his uncle died soon after, leaving Leidesdorff a sizable inheritance. His newly acquired wealth allowed him to propose to a white woman he had been courting, Hortense, who accepted. The engagement ended painfully shortly before the wedding date when Leidesdorff told his fiancée of his partial African descent. She called off the wedding, and he left New Orleans.

Arriving in California in 1841 aboard his ...

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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 ...

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Leland Conley Barrows

Franco-Senegalese habitant from Gorée, explorer of the Mauritanian Sahara, was born on Gorée Island in Senegal to a poor family. Although orphaned very young, he obtained a good education that included accounting. When choosing a career, he vacillated, like many of his habitant peers from Gorée and Saint-Louis, between work as a gum trader or a modest position in the colonial bureaucracy of Senegal. Taking employment in 1838 as a clerk in the French naval administration in Saint-Louis, he resigned a few months later to become a gum trading agent for François-Michel Pellegrin, the former mayor of Saint-Louis, who was one of the wealthiest habitants of Senegal. Not being very successful, Panet reentered the naval administration in 1845, first as a clerk and then as an accountant.

Between 1838 and 1854 Panet seems to have been won over to certain new ideas about the commercial future of Senegal ...

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One of San Francisco's most colorful and controversial characters in the late nineteenth century was Mary Ellen Pleasant, a former slave who moved to the city in 1849. She began managing a boarding house whose reputation for cards, liquor, and beautiful women—it is likely her services included procuring prostitutes—earned it a devoted following.

No mere businesswoman, Pleasant involved herself in both local and national politics. In 1858, she personally presented abolitionist John Brown with a $30,000 U.S. Treasury Bond, after which she traveled south to promote his upcoming revolt. When Brown was captured at Harpers Ferry, Pleasant returned to California under an assumed name, where she raised money for the Union cause in the Civil War, and continued her work for civil rights.

Throughout her life Pleasant helped escaped and former slaves find work in San Francisco mostly as domestic servants Some historians speculate that Pleasant ...

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Christopher Paul Moore

sailor and trader, was born in Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), probably the son of an Afro- Caribbean mother and a European father. Like other Atlantic Creoles—persons of African descent whose names suggest that they had long experience in the western Atlantic world—Rodrigues was among those navigators, traders, pirates, and fishermen who traversed the Atlantic as free men, before and during the slavery era of the Americas. Knowledgeable in the many languages, laws, religions, and trading etiquettes of the larger Atlantic world, their presence suggests the porous character of racial lines in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which allowed people of African descent to be employed and even rise to positions of authority in a world suffused with African slavery. Rodrigues arrived in the northeastern territory of North America following the arrival of at least two other free black men, including Esteban Gomez and Mathieu Da Costa.

In April ...