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Glenn Allen Knoblock

was a native of South Carolina. Baker was likely born enslaved, but nothing is known of his early life. In 1880, at the age of twenty-two, he was living in Effingham, South Carolina, with his eighteen-year old wife Lavinia and earned a living as a farmer. Nearly two decades later Baker's life, and that of his family, would be turned upside down and end in tragedy as a result of a political appointment following the presidential election of 1896.

By 1897Frazier and Lavinia Baker were living in Lake City, South Carolina, their family having grown to include six children, daughters Cora, Rosa, Sara and newborn Julia, and sons Lincoln and William. In the spring of 1897Frazier Baker received a political appointment from the newly elected president, William McKinley as postmaster of the predominantly white community of Lake City How Baker gained ...

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Steven J. Niven

wheelwright, politician, and postmaster, was born a slave in Athens, Georgia, to parents whose names have not been recorded. Little is known about the first three decades of his life, other than that he worked as a wheelwright for his master, a carriage maker. Davis learned to read and write while still a slave, skills that helped propel him to the forefront of black political leadership in Reconstruction-era Athens, alongside the tailor, William Finch.

Davis attended one of Georgia's earliest freedmen's conventions in Augusta in January 1866 and rose to prominence as captain of Athens's first black fire company. His reported “coolness and energy” in dealing with a major fire in Athens in 1866 was probably a factor in his election as one of Clarke County's two black delegates to Georgia's constitutional convention, which sat from 1867 to 1868 In the first elections ...

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Benjamin R. Justesen

politician and public official, was born in Georgetown, South Carolina, the son of a slave mother owned by the white planter E. H. Deas of Charleston, where the youth lived in 1860. Little is known of his childhood or early education in the small Sumter County town of Stateburg, where Edmund Deas moved after the Civil War and lived until the early 1870s.

By 1874, Deas had moved to Darlington, South Carolina, where he became active in Republican Party politics. Though not yet able to vote, he served as precinct chairman and campaign worker that year for the black Republican U.S. congressman Joseph H. Rainey, seeking reelection in the 2nd district, and by 1876, had become a federal constable in South Carolina. In 1878 he became chairman of his party's congressional district committee, serving for eight years, and in 1880 he was elected ...

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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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Mary Fields was born a slave in Tennessee, but little else is known of her early life. Some historical accounts have placed her on the Mississippi River in the early 1870s, and at least one researcher claims that she was a passenger on the Robert E. Lee when it raced the steamer Natchez in June 1870. By 1884 Fields was living in Toledo, Ohio, where she worked as a handywoman for an order of Ursuline nuns. She became attached to the mother superior of the convent, Mother Amadeus, who is variously reported as a close friend or as the master in a master-servant relationship. Shortly after Fields arrived at the convent, Mother Amadeus left for Montana to open a school for Blackfeet Native American girls. When Mother Amadeus fell ill in Helena, Fields came to her aid and decided to stay in Montana.

Fields assisted the Catholic mission ...

Article

Kelli Cardenas Walsh

The story of Mary Fields is one of race, gender, and age. She was the antithesis of the nineteenth-century Victorian image of womanhood. In an age of domesticity, Fields lived a frontier life dependent upon no one and uninhibited by Jim Crow.

A former slave, in freedom Fields became an independent, gunslinging, liquor-drinking woman in the untamed frontier of Montana. She stood six feet tall and was stout. Details about the early life of Mary Fields are sparse, other than that she was born into slavery in 1832. Judge Dunn in Hickman County, Tennessee, owned Fields and presumably owned her family. She was befriended by her master’s daughter, Dolly, and remained with the family after Emancipation.

Once she left the Dunn family Fields spent an unspecified time in Ohio and along the Mississippi River During this time Dolly joined a convent of Ursuline nuns taking the name of ...

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Charles Rosenberg

soldier in the 10th Cavalry, United States Army, was born in Columbia, Tennessee, the son and oldest child of William and Selena Frierson. William Frierson was a stone mason, like his brother Walter, whose family shared the same home. Although Frierson's first military enlistment reports his age as 18 years eight months, which would mean he was born in February 1874, in 1880 the census showed his age as three years. It is likely he exaggerated his age in order to qualify for enlistment. He may have been as young as fifteen.

Frierson enlisted as a private in Company K, 10th U.S. Cavalry, at Nashville, Tennessee, on 19 October 1892, listing his prior occupation as coachman, which would have given him considerable experience with horses. He was sent to Fort Custer, Montana, later writing (in 1905 An Adventure in the Big Horn Mountains or The Trials ...

Article

Robert F. Jefferson

postmaster, labor organizer, civil rights advocate, and community leader, was born in Hillsboro, Texas, the eleventh of twelve children of William Henry McGee and Mary Washington. The occupations of his parents are unknown. After his mother died in 1914, Henry moved to Chicago where he lived with his older brother, the Reverend Ford W. McGee—a future bishop of a South Side Holiness Church—for three years before returning to Hillsboro to rejoin his family. Then, Henry returned home to rejoin his father in Texas before the family relocated to Kansas City, Missouri.

After graduating from high school, Henry returned in 1927 to Chicago, where he attended Crane Junior College by day and worked the night shift as a substitute mail clerk in the Chicago Post Office. After earning an associate's degree in 1929 McGee had aspirations to continue his education but like countless ...

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Tariqah A. Nuriddin

coachman and fugitive slave, was born in Stevensburg, Virginia, to a mixed-race woman named Lucy. He was the youngest of four children at the time of his birth. Charles's extremely light skin did not free him from the bondage that he was allotted at birth—a bondage that was also the fate of his mother and siblings. As an infant, Charles was sold in an auction lot with his family for the sum of $875 to the highest bidder, Peter Hansborough, who also happened to be Charles’ father. A wealthy and powerful member of his community, Hansborough had considerable influence and connections in early-nineteenth-century Culpepper. Hence, it was not easy for Nalle to escape his owner, but Charles Nalle was a resourceful man.

Compared to many of his fellow slaves Nalle led a relatively comfortable life as a coachman but he still was discontent that he remained an illiterate slave in ...

Article

Crystal L. Joseph Bryant

lawyer, assistant postmaster, businessman, and state legislator, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, to a slave father and a prominent white woman.

Sources suggest that Paige escaped from Norfolk by way of the Underground Railroad at the age of nine or ten, hiding in a vessel leaving the port. The waters of the Chesapeake and its tributaries were often used as passageways to the North. Paige then traveled to Boston, where he made contact with the family of Judge George Ruffin, who had also moved from Virginia. Paige was educated in Boston, trained to be a machinist, and later returned to Virginia after the Civil War.

Considered to be one of the wealthiest African Americans in postwar Virginia Paige owned property in both Norfolk County and Norfolk City and had established an extensive law practice that included both black and white clients He served in the ...

Article

Alexander J. Chenault

politician, the first black and the longest serving postmaster in Mississippi, was born on 11 March 1856 in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi, near what is called the Cowan settlement. He was born a free person of color, as were his parents, Louis Piernas, a brick layer by trade, and Adelle Labat—with some of his male relatives having fought with General Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans. Piernas's father was born in Havana, Cuba, and his mother was born in Haiti. Devoutly Catholic, Louis was christened, baptized, and married Mary Louise Barabino at Our Lady of the Gulf Church in Bay St. Louis. In 1868 he began attending a private school for colored children in the church s yard attended by free mulattos and ex slave children studying French and English One of six children as a child he worked with his uncle in the oyster business He ...

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Joy Gleason Carew

journalist, postal systems specialist, and African American expatriate in the Soviet Union from 1932 to 1946, was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His parents' names are not known. Fed up with Jim Crow in the South and discrimination and racism in the North Smith joined hundreds of highly ambitious African Americans in the 1920s and 1930s who were anxious to test out the idea that there were societies outside the United States that would welcome all those of goodwill no matter the color of their skin Many blacks turned their attention to France as a result of experiences of World War I where the French had expressed solidarity with African American servicemen For others the quest was directed to the new Soviet Union a country that overtly offered sanctuary to oppressed people As Smith wrote in his memoirs I read avidly the reports of the Soviet experiment ...