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Abner, David, Sr.  

Charles Rosenberg

landowner, businessman, and state legislator, was born enslaved in Dallas County Alabama, to parents named Sarah and Pete, who had been born in South Carolina. David, like his parents, was the property of a family named Abner. There is some dispute as to his birth date—some giving 1826 and others 1838—but the most reliable date appears to be December 1820, as suggested by a letter from his youngest daughter. It is not known when David took the Abner surname for himself, a common but by no means universal practice for formerly enslaved persons. He was sent to Texas in 1843, driving a covered wagon for the newly married daughter (Thelma) of the man who held title to him.

Her father considered his new son in law unreliable and entrusted David to get his daughter safely to her new home and manage ...

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Anderson, Bruce  

Glenn Allen Knoblock

Civil War soldier and Medal of Honor winner, was born in Mexico, Oswego County, New York. Unrecorded in the 1850 federal census, the names of Anderson's parents are confirmed to be unknown. However, likely candidates are Samuel and Mary Anderson, the only black or “mulatto” family recorded living in Oswego County in the 1840 (town of Granby) and 1850 (town of West Oswego) censuses. Samuel Anderson was a native of Bermuda, and his wife, Mary, was a New York native. Bruce Anderson does appear in the 1860 census, listed as a fourteen-year-old “mulatto” residing in Johnstown, New York, on the farm of Henry Adams and his daughter Margaret; he was likely a simple laborer. How he came to live with the Adams family is unknown, but Anderson would remain a resident in the area—except during the time of his Civil War service—for the remainder of his life.

While some ...

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Anderson, Robert Ball  

Kevin Caprice

was born Robert Ball in Green County, Kentucky, the son of William Anderson, a slave who worked a nearby plantation. Robert’s mother’s name is unknown; she was a slave working on the same plantation as her son until she was sold to a Louisiana cane plantation when Robert was six. For the first twenty-one years of his life, Ball was a slave on a flax and hemp plantation. The son of a house servant, the favorite of his master and namesake, Colonel Robert Ball, and a house servant himself, Robert had certain privileges most slaves did not, such as larger and nicer living quarters, and less grueling labor. But throughout his adolescence, Robert never forgot his owners considered him no more than chattel.

While in bondage Robert Anderson was often faced with the cruelties of slavery He had only one article of clothing rarely had enough to eat and was ...

Article

Blair, Norval  

Betti Carol VanEpps-Taylor

farmer, patriarch, and founder of the Sully County Colored Colony, Dakota Territory (South Dakota became a state in 1889), was born in slavery, probably in Tennessee, and was freed at Emancipation. He married Mary Elizabeth Bagby Blair, reported to be half Cherokee. With their six adult children they founded South Dakota's only successful black agricultural colony. Five years out of slavery the family was farming near Morris, Illinois, about fifty miles southwest of Chicago. With substantial personal property, they held their land “free and clear.” An oral tradition among South Dakota African Americans suggests that Blair's successful bloodline of fast horses, his unseemly prosperity, and his interest in expanding his lands aroused jealousy among his white neighbors in Illinois, prompting him to consider relocating to Dakota Territory.

Sully County, just east of present‐day Pierre, South Dakota, opened for settlement in April 1883 The following year Norval Blair ...

Article

Bond, Scott  

Jacob Andrew Freedman

farmer and entrepreneur, was born near Canton, Mississippi, the only child of Wesley Rutledge and Anne Maben. Rutledge was the nephew of William H. Goodlow, the owner of the estate where Anne Maben was a house slave. Wesley worked as the manager of the house for his aunt and uncle. At birth Bond was given the surname Winfield, and at the age of eighteen months he was sent with his mother to Collierville, Tennessee, where they lived until he was five years old. Subsequently, they were sent to work on the Bond farm in Cross County, Arkansas. In Arkansas Anne Maben met and married William Bond, who gave Scott Bond his surname.

The family remained on the Bond farm until the conclusion of the Civil War when only months after gaining her freedom Anne Maben died leaving Bond in the care of his stepfather Bond his stepfather ...

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Brace, Jeffrey  

Kari J. Winter

slave, sailor, soldier, and farmer, was born Boyrereau Brinch, the seventh of eight children (four boys and four girls) born to Whryn Brinch, the son of Yarrah Brinch, and of Whryn Douden Wrogan, the daughter of Grassee Youghgon. He lived in the city of Deauyah in the kingdom of Bow-woo, which was probably situated in the Niger River basin, in the area that would later become Mali. In 1758 when he was around the age of sixteen Boyrereau was abducted by slave traders transported to Barbados and sold to Captain Isaac Mills of New Haven Connecticut who trained him for British naval service Like thousands of other slaves and freed Africans in the Caribbean Brace as he would come to be called years later after his manumission This may have been an anglicized version of Brinch was forced to labor aboard ship during ...

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Brown, Abraham  

Charles Rosenberg

was born in Charles City County, Virginia, the son of Abraham Brown, and his wife Sarah Brown. (The elder Abraham Brown called himself “Abraham Brown, Jr.” in a 1789 will, but Abraham Brown, Sr. was his uncle, not his father). The Browns were descended from William Brown, born around 1670, sometimes referenced in Virginia court records as “William Brown Negro.” Arthur Bunyan Caldwell, in History of the American Negro and his institutions, briefly refers to the family history being traceable back to England, but provides no details.

The Browns had been free for over a century, and many had owned enough property to be taxable, when Abraham Brown was born. Several had owned title to enslaved persons; Abraham owned three in 1810. His father at various times owned both slaves and indentured servants, including one John Bell, indentured in 1771 Abraham Brown Jr ...

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Clare, John  

Christopher Campbell

Northamptonshirepoet and labourer whose support for the Anti‐Slavery Movement was consistent with his consideration for the plight of the disfranchised within society. He corresponded with the literary editor and publisher Thomas Pringle secretary of the Anti Slavery Society on the subject of the colonial trade in trafficking humans I have a feeling on the broad principle of common humanity that slavery is not only impiety but disgracful to a country professing religion and there is evidence to suggest that Clare considered contributing to poetic anthologies on the subject He later utilized the language of abolition to describe his own wretched state in the asylum which he termed a slave ship from Africa While Clare expresses little condemnation for the machinery of imperialism as a system in the Blakean sense his account of meeting a black beggar outside St Paul s Cathedral London and his resolve to return with ...

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Covey, Edward  

Kelly Boyer Sagert

Edward Covey, about twenty-eight years old in 1834, lived with his wife and infant son, Edward, on a rented farm of 150 acres located about seven miles from Saint Michaels, Maryland. The Covey home was small, unpainted, and hidden nearly a mile from the main road. Before setting up as a small farmer, Covey worked as an overseer, where he may have gained his reputation as a “Negro breaker.” In 1834 he rented the services of Frederick Douglass for an entire year. Douglass, nearly sixteen years old, initially submitted to the regular whippings but he eventually fought back and later recorded that this was when he finally felt like a man.

Douglass's owner, Thomas Auld, leased his slave's services to Covey; through this arrangement, Covey would receive low-cost farm labor and Auld could expect a more submissive slave in return. On 1 January 1834 Douglass traveled the ...

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Downs, Perry  

Eric Gardner

The oldest child of Harriet Bailey, Downs was born enslaved to Aaron Anthony, the overseer for Colonel Edward Lloyd, a wealthy planter on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Like his younger brother Frederick Douglass, Downs probably saw his mother only intermittently, as Anthony regularly hired her out; Downs was reared by his grandmother Betsey Bailey and the extended kinship network of Bailey's relatives and children. Douglass's autobiographies relate only two stories of Downs's childhood, both of which speak directly to the complexity of a child's life as a slave. When Douglass was brought from his grandmother's cabin to live on Lloyd's plantation, Wye House, in late 1824, Downs tried to comfort the frightened six-year-old with gifts of peaches and pears. Days later, Downs—only eleven years old himself—was savagely beaten by Anthony.

When Anthony died in 1827 his slaves were divided among his heirs Douglass was sent to ...

Article

Goyens, William  

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

Green, Sam  

Kate Clifford Larson

preacher, farmer, and Underground Railroad agent, was born into slavery on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Although details of his early life and parents are unknown, he probably spent his childhood and young adulthood laboring for white masters in Caroline and Dorchester counties, eventually settling near the town of East New Market with his owner, Henry Nichols. Of mixed race background, possibly American Indian and African descent, Green was eventually manumitted in 1832 by a provision in Nichols's will that required Green be sold for a term of five years and then set free. Green, however, purchased his own freedom within the year.

Green married an enslaved woman named Catherine, also known as Kitty and they had two children who survived to adulthood Though Kitty and their children were owned by a different man it appears that they were allowed to live with Green in ...

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Johnson, Anthony  

John Howard Smith

a planter on Virginia's eastern shore, arrived in Virginia in 1621 aboard the James along with a handful of other Africans or Afro-Caribbeans listed as “servants.” His place and date of birth are not known, though it is supposed that he was born a free man in Africa. He worked his way out of slavery, became a farmer in Northampton County, and later a slaveholding planter in neighboring Accomack County, Virginia. Between his arrival and 1635, he belonged to Richard Bennett of Warresquioake County, on the south side of the James River, at which time he apparently won his freedom and that of his wife, Mary, who was also a slave of the Bennetts. Anthony and Mary Johnson produced at least four children and were married until Anthony's death.

Known in 1621 simply as “Antonio,” Johnson was listed in a 1625 census as a servant though whether ...

Article

Kingsley, Anna Madgigine Jai  

Philippe Girard

also known as Anta Majigeen Njaay or Anna Madgigine Jai, was an African-born slave, freedwoman, and planter who spent her adult life in North America and the Caribbean. Kingsley, originally named Anta Majigeen Njaay, came from the present-day country of Senegal on the western coast of Africa. Her exact birth date is unknown. Her ethnic background was Wolof, so she may have come from the Jolof Empire. She may have been exported through Gorée Island, a prominent slave-trading emporium near present-day Dakar, Senegal. After enduring the Middle Passage, she arrived on the Danish ship Sally in Havana, Cuba, in July 1806.

In October 1806 Kingsley was purchased by Zephaniah Kingsley Jr a Bristol born Quaker planter and merchant who had successively lived in England the United States and the Danish West Indies He was supportive of slavery an institution that underpinned his vast wealth but also progressive in ...

Article

Law, Eugenia  

Wanda Feranandopulle

from Hyman, Florence County, South Carolina, formerly enslaved, had eleven children, was a wife to Augustus (Guss) Law who was a legal voter, and was able to own land after the Civil War, when African Americans in the South acquired approximately 15 million acres.

Eugenia and some of her children worked as farm laborers, while others were teachers at the local McKnight School, and another also worked as a mail contractor using a horse and buggy.

Although the postwar Reconstruction era had encouraged African Americans to acquire property, Black landowners received very little or no support from the federal or state governments.

Eugenia did not attend school and could not read or write. In 1902 Guss Law left 450 acres of land and all possessions to Eugenia to be managed by her son Joe Although by the 1920s rural African American land ownership was declining Joe bucked this trend ...

Article

Lloyd, Edward, V  

Amy Speckart

Edward Lloyd V owned Wye Plantation in Talbot County, Maryland, when Frederick Douglass lived there for two years as the property of the plantation's clerk and head overseer, Aaron Anthony. In addition to being a farmer and slaveholder, Lloyd had a lengthy political career in state and federal office.

At the time of his death, Lloyd owned more land and slaves than anyone in Talbot County. His holdings included twelve thousand acres of land and more than six hundred slaves. Lloyd and his family lived on a plantation, along with one-third of their enslaved labor force and several employees; their estate also included approximately ten outlying farms. Wheat was the plantation's major cash crop. Distributed over the farms in 1826 were approximately 500 cattle 370 hogs 700 sheep 140 horses and 4 mules Lloyd was one of a handful of wealthy farmers in early nineteenth century Maryland who ...

Article

Lucas, Bohlen  

Steven J. Niven

slave driver, farmer, and Democratic Party activist was born a slave probably in Washington County Mississippi The names of his parents are not recorded On the eve of the Civil War and only sixteen he was working as a driver of slaves on a Delta plantation a position generally reserved for experienced laborers in their thirties or forties That Lucas achieved such a position at such an early age is suggestive of his willingness to work hard and to both obey and command authority Drivers enjoyed a fair degree of autonomy in their work and occupied a difficult middle position between their fellow slaves and those who owned them but most understood that the needs and desires of their owners came first Though some drivers interceded to protect the slaves from harsh treatment by white overseers or masters a minority abused their position by seeking sexual favors ...

Article

Montgomery, William Thornton  

Steven J. Niven

slave, farmer, and merchant, was born at Davis Bend, Mississippi, to Benjamin T. Montgomery and Mary Lewis, both slaves on the plantation of Joseph Davis, the elder brother of the future president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis. Thornton Montgomery, as he was generally known, was the eldest of the couple's four children who survived to adulthood. Little is known about his early life, other than that he grew up on the experimental plantation established by Joseph Davis at Davis Bend, modeled on the utopian communities of Robert Owen in New Lanark, Scotland, and New Harmony, Indiana.

Although all the African Americans at Davis Bend remained enslaved under Davis's plan, Benjamin Montgomery enjoyed a broader degree of autonomy than did most antebellum slaves He also worked hard to ensure that his children benefited from his successful management of the Davis lands and from the ...

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Pacalé, Yves  

Fiona J. L. Handley

slave, freeman, and successful agriculturalist, was either born in Natchitoches, Louisiana, or arrived in the French colony as an enslaved young adult. He may have been born in Africa, as Pacalé is not a Catholic name, while the name Yves would have been given at his baptism. In some records he is called Yves dit Pacalé—Yves known as Pacalé. He was baptized on 2 January 1736 as the son of Jean Baptiste and Marie, black slaves of the white French Derbanne family. Little is known of Pacalé's years as a slave. The period of the mid- to late eighteenth century was one of great change in Louisiana; the state was a French colony that in 1763 became Spanish making Natchitoches s role as a frontier post with Spanish Texas redundant The area s economy transformed from defense and trade to plantation agriculture focusing on the ...

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Patience, Crowder  

Juanita Patience Moss

slave, Union soldier, and farmer, was born to unknown parents in Chowan County, North Carolina, possibly on the Briols farm, located three miles from Edenton. Crowder was illiterate, and on his military records his surname is spelled Pacien. Some years after the Civil War, when his children entered school, their teachers spelled it Patience. When he applied for a government pension after the war, a member of the Fifth Massachusetts Colored Calvary by the name of Thomas Patience also gave his birthplace as that the Briols farm. Since the name of Patience is relatively uncommon, it is likely that they were brothers. Unfortunately, no records exist to verify the supposition.

When the Union army penetrated the South many slaves fled in search of the freedom promised to them if they could reach the Yankees Crowder Patience was one of these slaves At the age of eighteen he ...