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Ellington, Arthur “Yank”  

Steven J. Niven

lynching survivor and litigant, was born in Noxubee County, Mississippi, to parents whose names are unknown. Nothing is known of his early life, but around 1932 he married a woman named Kate, with whom he had two children. They moved a few miles south of Noxubee, to Scooba in Kemper County, where he began working as a farm laborer for Raymond Stuart, a prominent white planter. Ellington's new home county, known since Reconstruction as “Bloody Kemper” because of its reputation for racial violence, had witnessed fourteen lynchings between 1883 and 1930, all of them of African Americans. Indeed, whites in Kemper lynched blacks at twice the rate of other counties in Mississippi, the state with the nation's worst record for lynching.

On 30 March 1934 Ellington nearly became the fifteenth black man lynched in Bloody Kemper following the discovery of his employer s dead body Raymond ...


Key, Elizabeth  

Steven J. Niven

early legal petitioner for freedom, was born near present-day Newport News, Virginia, to an unknown slave woman and Thomas Key, a white Englishman. Key served as a burgess in Virginia's colonial assembly. That Elizabeth's mother is described in colonial records simply as a “slave” is significant for two reasons. First, it means that she was probably not a Christian, since African-born or descended slaves and servants who followed that faith were usually characterized as such in the legal record. Second, it suggests that at least some Africans were being classified as lifetime chattel in Virginia as early as the 1620s, when there were only a few hundred blacks in the colony.

Like that of her mother and of others of African descent in seventeenth century Virginia the precise legal status of Elizabeth Key was not clearly defined Was she free like her father Or a slave like her mother ...


King, Rodney Glenn  

Shana L. Redmond

taxi driver whose videotaped beating by police officers in March 1991 provoked international outrage, was born in Sacramento, California, to working-class parents. His father was a construction worker and cleaner, and as a child Rodney worked long hours as a cleaner along with his father. His work schedule along with a learning disability contributed to his lack of academic success, and despite considerable athletic ability, he dropped out in 1984 during his senior year of high school. Afterward King found work in construction. During his early adulthood he had two daughters and married Crystal Waters, a woman with two children of her own. Prior to 1991 King was in and out of jail for crimes ranging from robbery to intoxication.King became an international celebrity and emblem of police abuse in 1991, when a videotape, shot by the amateur cameraman George Holliday was broadcast by Los Angeles ...


Knight, Joseph  

Stephen Mullen

was born in West Africa. He was taken from Guinea as a child by a Captain Knight and later adopted the surname of the slave trader who sold him into chattel slavery in the West Indies. Although Joseph remembered nothing of this sale, a planter John Wedderburn purchased him soon after the human cargo landed in Jamaica around 1766. Neither could have known that Joseph Knight would become a litigant in one of the most celebrated court cases in Scottish legal history.

As a Jacobite loyal to the Stuarts, Wedderburn had fled from Scotland to the West Indies after the failed Jacobite uprising of 1745. In Jamaica, he acquired profitable sugar plantations, including Glenisla in Westmoreland. In a triumphant return home around 1768 he purchased the Ballindean estate in Perthshire As he had developed a liking toward Joseph he took him back home to work as a ...


Leiper, Fanny  

Nicole S. Ribianszky

free woman of color, property holder, and washerwoman, was born into slavery in Natchez, Mississippi. The exact date of her birth is not now known. She was born to an enslaved woman, Hannah Frey, and to J. S. Miller, a white planter who lived outside of Natchez near the small town of Washington. Mrs. Margaret Overaker, a white woman, and her husband, George, owned Leiper and her mother. While Leiper was still a young girl, her mother was manumitted, but Leiper herself remained enslaved. Sometime around 1831, when Leiper was approximately twenty or twenty-one, she was freed, reportedly at the insistence of her father, who paid her owner $300. In 1834 or thereabouts, following the instructions of her white father, she was taken by boat up the Mississippi River to Cincinnati, Ohio, in the footsteps of her mother.

As was the case with ...


Montgomery, Ralph  

David Brodnax

slave and civil rights litigant, was born Rafe Nelson in Virginia and renamed after his master in infancy; nothing is known about his parents. In 1834 Montgomery, then a slave in Marion County, Missouri, heard stories of fortunes to be made in the lead mines of Dubuque, a rough frontier village of about two thousand people located on the upper Mississippi River in the Iowa Territory. Montgomery's sister Tilda was already living in Dubuque, where she was one of seventy-two other African Americans and sixteen slaves recorded in the county in the 1840 census, although slavery was illegal in Iowa. Ralph and his master Jordan Montgomery drew up an agreement allowing him to work in the mines for five years, after which he would pay $550 for his freedom; he may have hoped to purchase his sister's freedom as well.

When the five year period ended Montgomery had barely ...


Rhinelander, Alice Jones  

Angelita D. Reyes

cause célèbre, was born Alice Beatrice Jones, the daughter of a white mother and supposedly “black” father, both of whom had emigrated from England to the United States in 1891. While the race of her mother Elizabeth Jones was familiar and recognizable enough for Americans to classify as white, the racial background of George Jones, her father, was not as clearly determined. While general references considered him to be British of West Indian descent, he was distinctly not African American according to an array of witnesses and census documentation in the United States.

Various newspapers of the period described Alice Jones as “dusky,” “a tropical beauty,” or of a “Spanish complexion” (Lewis and Ardizzone, 63–66, 163). Not considering herself black in the American rhetorical denotation of race, Alice Jones Rhinelander affirmed during the annulment trial of the interracial marriage to Leonard Rhinelander (1903 ...


Serna, María Antonia  

Yesenia Barragan

free black woman and former slave in the province of Chocó in the Republic of New Granada (modern-day Colombia). In 1843 she initiated a successful lawsuit in her hometown of Lloró, a small gold-mining town south of Quibdó, the capital of Chocó, to free her enslaved son Juan. Serna was one of hundreds of free blacks in the Americas throughout the colonial and republican periods who utilized the judicial system to attain the freedom of their enslaved loved ones.

A former slave of Juan Roman a slaveholder and mine owner in Lloró María Antonia Serna acquired her freedom either through self manumission or other means such as being freed in her master s last will and testament sometime in the early nineteenth century She likely mined for gold in the alluvial rivers of Chocó or worked as a domestic slave for the Roman family two common tasks for female slaves ...


Sims, Thomas  

Eric Gardner

fugitive slave and litigant, was born to unknown parents in the late 1820s. In court documents tied to his famous 1851 fugitive slave case, Sims maintained that he was born in Florida, but both the agents of the slaveholder claiming him and the later public records listed Georgia as his place of birth. Sims also asserted that his father had purchased his freedom as a child, but Massachusetts courts never accepted this claim and instead found him to be the slave of James Potter If Sims was Potter s slave it is unlikely that the two ever interacted personally the South Carolina born Potter owned massive plantations outside of Savannah as well as several hundred slaves and he generally left their management to various agents Potter also had strong affinities for the North he graduated from Yale all of his children were born in Philadelphia and the family ...


Terranova, María de  

Pablo Miguel Sierra Silva

a prominent African free woman and fish vendor, whose lengthy judicial case would reach Mexico City’s high court and the Spanish king’s Royal Chancellery circa 1625. Although incorrectly identified in some legal documents as María de San Tomé, the African woman in question self-identified before Puebla’s courts as María de Terranova. María opted for the Terranova surname and toponym as a cultural and geographical identifier, which located her land of origin in present-day Nigeria, where she had been born around 1592. São Tomé, then, would have merely been the island and slaving port from which María was sent to New Spain as part of the massive African slave influx of the early seventeenth century. As a result, she formed part of the slave galleons that reached the port of Cartagena, before disembarking at the port-fortress of San Juan de Ulúa, Veracruz.

María de Terranova reached Puebla circa 1613 ...