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Article

Abraham  

Kenny A. Franks

also known as “Prophet,” was a runaway slave who became a prominent leader among the Seminole. Nothing is known about his parents or childhood. Fleeing his master, Abraham escaped south into Florida, and was eventually adopted into the Seminole tribe, with whom he enjoyed considerable status. In 1826 he accompanied a tribal delegation to Washington, D.C., and became an influential counselor to Micanopy, a leading Seminole leader. The Seminole, or Florida Indians, once were a part both of the Muskogee (Creek) nation that had been driven out of Georgia by the early English colonists, and also of the Oconee and Yamasee tribes that had been driven out of the Carolinas following the Yamasee uprising of 1715. They had first settled among the Lower Creeks in the Florida Panhandle and created a haven for runaway slaves. Indeed, Semino'le is the Creek word for “runaway.”

In 1818Andrew Jackson led ...

Article

Alexander, Archer  

Diane Mutti Burke

fugitive slave, was born near Richmond, Virginia, on a plantation owned by the Delaney family. Despite his memories of being well treated, his father, Aleck, was sold to pay his master's debts and taken south. Rev. Delaney justified Aleck's sale by claiming that the literate slave had shared ideas about freedom with other slaves in the neighborhood. When Rev. Delaney died in 1831, Alexander's mother, Chloe, was left to Mrs. Delaney, and eighteen-year-old Alexander was left to the master's son, Thomas. Chloe Alexander died six months after Thomas Delaney took her son with him to Missouri.

Delaney settled in western St Charles County Missouri where Alexander married a local slave woman named Louisa He later sold Alexander to Louisa s master Jim Hollman when he moved from the state and the couple spent the next twenty years living with their growing family on the Hollman farm Alexander was ...

Article

Brockden, Magadalene Beulah  

Katherine Faull

was born in the small West African nation of Popo in the first half of the eighteenth century. Beulah was captured by slave traders when she was ten years old. At the time of her birth, Popo was one of the very small African principalities on the so-called Slave Coast of West Africa. The exact route she followed to arrive in North America is still unknown, but she was eventually brought to Philadelphia, where she was purchased by Charles Brockden, the deputy master of the rolls of the Province of Pennsylvania, recorder of the deeds in Philadelphia, and one of the trustees of the First Moravian Church in Philadelphia.

From the time of his purchase of Beulah to tend his ailing wife Susannah née Fox Charles Brockden expressed concern for the enslaved teenager s spiritual well being In her memoir one of the earliest written by an African woman in ...

Article

Brown, Henry “Box”  

Paul Finkelman

Henry “Box” Brown was born a slave in Louisa County, Virginia, probably around 1815. By 1830 he was living in Richmond, where his master hired him out to work in a tobacco factory. Around 1836, when he would have been about twenty-one, Brown married a slave named Nancy, who was owned by a bank clerk. The owner promised not to sell Nancy but soon did so anyway. She was later resold to a Mr. Cottrell, who persuaded Brown to give him fifty dollars of the purchase price. Cottrell also promised never to sell Nancy, but in 1848 he sold her, and her children with Henry, to slave traders, who removed them from the state. Brown pleaded with his own master to buy Nancy and the children. As Brown wrote in his autobiography, “I went to my Christian master but he shoved me away from him as ...

Article

Brown, Henry “Box”  

Paul Finkelman and Richard Newman

escaped slave, was born on a plantation in Louisa County, Virginia, to unknown parents. As a youth, Brown lived with his parents, four sisters, and three brothers until the family was separated and his master hired him out at age fifteen to work in a tobacco factory in Richmond, Virginia. Brown's autobiography illuminates the vicissitudes of slave life but does not recount any further major events in his own life other than his marriage around 1836 to Nancy, the slave of a bank clerk, with whom he had three children. In August 1848 Nancy's owner sold her and her three children (Brown's children) to a slave trader who took them South. Brown begged his own master to purchase them, but he refused. Brown later wrote in his autobiography: “I went to my Christian master but he shoved me away According to his autobiography Brown actually saw his wife and ...

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Bruce, Henry Clay  

Diane Mutti Burke

author of a slave narrative, was born to slave parents in Prince Edward County, Virginia. The Lemuel Bruce family, including Pettis and Rebecca (Bruce) Perkinson, owned Henry Bruce and his mother and siblings. Bruce's many siblings included his younger brother, Blanche Kelso Bruce, the senator from Mississippi from 1875 to 1881.

Bruce spent most of his early childhood years on plantations and farms in Virginia, Missouri, and—briefly—Mississippi. Pettis Perkinson brought Bruce, his mother, and siblings back to Chariton County, Missouri, where he permanently settled in 1850 From the age of nine Bruce was frequently hired out to other employers in the community and worked at a variety of occupations including brick making tobacco manufacturing and general farm labor Bruce had a self described desire to learn and was taught to read by his young owner and playmate William Perkinson The older Bruce children taught their younger siblings ...

Article

Churchwell, Peter  

Brian Neumann

was born into slavery in Albemarle County, Virginia, to William and Dicey Churchwell. His owner was lawyer Reuben L. Gordon, who probably brought him to Orange County, Virginia sometime before 1840. On 25 December 1857, he married Maria Grey, who was probably also enslaved. Their daughter Harriet was born soon afterward, and Maria died in childbirth around 1859.

Churchwell escaped from slavery in August 1862 and made his way to Washington, D.C., where he spent the next two years working as a coachman. He enlisted in the Union army there on 13 July 1864 as a substitute for German lumber worker Jacob Leonhardt He mustered in as a private in Company H of the 23rd USCT Infantry Regiment later that day His enlistment records describe him as five feet two and a half inches tall with black hair black eyes and a black complexion After briefly ...

Article

Cudjoe  

Alonford James Robinson

The life and death of the Jamaican maroon (fugitive slave), Cudjoe, has become a symbol of black resistance in Jamaica. Cudjoe's story as the eighteenth century leader of the Clarendon maroons has also been a contested part of Jamaican history. Early European descriptions painted a caricatured portrait of him, while black recollections portrayed him as a fearless soldier.

Cudjoe was among more than 500 African-born slaves in the Jamaican parish of St. Clarendon who escaped after a violent insurrection in 1690. Cudjoe emerged as leader of a loose confederation of runaway slaves who lived in the Clarendon hills. The Clarendon maroons, led by Cudjoe, organized themselves into small gangs that secretly wandered into white towns to steal food and weapons.

Even though the Clarendon maroons were disunited they became skilled soldiers and expert marksmen Under Cudjoe s leadership they defended their freedom in a series of small skirmishes ...

Article

Garner, Margaret  

Laura Murphy

was born to an enslaved mother on Maplewood Plantation in Boone County, Kentucky. Her mother, Priscilla, worked in the plantation house and helped to raise the children of John P. Gaines, her owner and later a U.S. congressman and governor of the Oregon territory. While Priscilla is listed as “black” in the 1850 census, Margaret Garner is listed as “mulatto” suggesting that John Gaines was perhaps Margaret's father. When Gaines left to govern Oregon, he abruptly sold his plantation and all of the slaves on it to his brother, Archibald James, who thus became Margaret's owner.

On 27 January 1856 Garner and sixteen other slaves escaped from the various Kentucky plantations on which they worked They stole two horses to which they hitched a sled to carry them to the Ohio River Leaving Covington Kentucky together they crossed the frozen Ohio River after which they split up ...

Article

Gordon  

Frank H. Goodyear

escaped slave and Union soldier, was likely born on the plantation of John Lyon near Washington, Louisiana, an important steamboat port before the Civil War. Lyon was a cotton planter whose property was located on the Atchafalya River. The names of Gordon's parents and details about his youth are not known.

Gordon received a severe whipping for undisclosed reasons from the plantation's overseer in the fall of 1862. This beating left him with horrible welts on much of the surface of his back, and for the next two months Gordon recuperated in bed. Although Lyon discharged the overseer who carried out this vicious attack, Gordon decided to escape.

In March 1863 Gordon fled his home heading east toward the Mississippi River and Union lines Upon learning of his flight his master recruited several neighbors and together they chased after him with a pack of bloodhounds Gordon had anticipated ...

Article

Green, Shields  

Zoe Trodd

fugitive slave, was hanged for his participation in John Brown's raid at Harpers Ferry. Nothing is known about his family or early life except that he was from Charleston, South Carolina, and was nicknamed “Emperor.” Green escaped from slavery, leaving behind a son, and reached Canada, but then returned to the United States and sought out Frederick Douglass. In 1859 Green met Brown at Douglass's Rochester, New York, home. According to Douglass, Brown saw “at once what ‘stuff’ Green ‘was made of’ and confided to him his plans and purposes” (Life and Times, 757). Green felt a kindred chemistry too. He was ready to follow Brown and accepted a position in Brown's provisional government for a nation without slavery.

On 19 August 1859 with his raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry looming large on the horizon Brown summoned Douglass to a meeting that ...

Article

Green, Shields  

Lorenz Graham

Shields Green was born a slave in South Carolina and spent most of his life there. As a young man he escaped and fled to the North with the help of the Underground Railroad. In Rochester, New York, Green found shelter in the home of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who has given a detailed description of Green and especially of Green's relationship to radical abolitionist John Brown. Green first met Brown at Douglass's home. Douglass wrote that Green, or “Emperor,” as he was sometimes called, was “a man of few words, and his speech was singularly broken; but his courage and self-respect made him quite a dignified character. John Brown saw at once what ‘stuff’ Green ‘was made of,’ and confided to him his plans and purposes.” Green believed in Brown and trusted him. He promised to go with Brown whenever Brown might call him.

Two months before ...

Article

Green, Shields  

Lois Kerschen

one of the two black men captured and executed following the raid on the federal arsenal in Harpers Ferry, Virginia. A fugitive slave of pure African descent from Charleston, South Carolina, Shields Green was also known as Emperor. Green was in his early twenties and illiterate when he was introduced to John Brown at the home of Frederick Douglass in Rochester, New York. Douglass described Green as a man of few words, perhaps because his “speech was singularly broken.” Nonetheless, Brown admired Green's character and later asked Douglass to bring Green with him to a secret meeting on 19 August 1859 in Chambersburg Pennsylvania The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the proposed raid on Harpers Ferry Douglass knew the raid was a doomed mission and refused to participate Green on the other hand had become an avid follower of Brown over the three weeks during which they ...

Article

Green, William  

Laura Murphy

writer and laborer, was born a slave in Oxford Neck, Maryland, to an enslaved mother named Matilda Jackson. Green lamented throughout his life that he was born too early, because his mother was freed by the terms of her owner's will three months after his birth. Because he was born to a slave mother, he was a slave by law regardless of how little time remained in her tenure as a slave. Green still had hopes of being free in his lifetime because Molly Goldsbury, his owner, bequeathed to him a gradual emancipation by which Green could be freed when he turned twenty-five years old. However, she was not alive to ensure the proper execution of her will, and when he was sold after her death, there were no explicit provisions regarding his emancipation.

In his early years then Green was sold from owner to owner working ...

Article

Jemmy  

Steven J. Niven

leader of the 1739 Stono slave rebellion, was born in central Africa, most likely in the Kingdom of Kongo, now part of Angola, and brought as a slave to the British colony of South Carolina in the 1730s. A majority of the African slaves sold by the British Royal African Company to South Carolina in the early eighteenth century originated in Kongo, an independent kingdom that had converted to Christianity more than two hundred years earlier. If typical of Kongolese slaves brought to South Carolina, Jemmy would have worshipped a combination of Roman Catholicism and older African faiths and may well have had knowledge of Portuguese, or some Creolized variant of that language, which was the lingua franca of the slave trade and of the Kongo elite Jemmy s ability as a military leader and the fighting skills of his fellow rebels had probably been acquired through service in ...

Article

Johnson, Lucy Bagby  

Rhondda Robinson Thomas

believed to be the last fugitive slave returned to the South under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, was born Sara Lucy Bagby. Details about her ancestry, place of birth, and early years are unknown. At the time of her arrest in Cleveland, Ohio, on 19 January 1861, U.S. marshals identified Bagby as a slave of William S. Goshorn, a merchant from Wheeling, Virginia (now West Virginia). In 1852 Goshorn's father, John Goshorn, had purchased Bagby in Richmond, Virginia, and transported her to Wheeling. There she worked for John Goshorn until he sold her to his son William.

Bagby toiled for the Goshorns about eight years before seeking freedom. Shortly after federal marshals arrested and jailed her in Cleveland, she described her escape from slavery during an interview with a reporter from the Cleveland Morning Leader Bagby identified herself as twenty four year old ...

Article

Johnson, Lucy Bagby  

Russell H. Davis

Lucy Bagby Johnson's capture, detention, and trial in Cleveland, Ohio, created great excitement in the city in January 1861 and for a time threatened serious consequences. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 (one of two federal Fugitive Slave Laws passed by Congress) had led to other attempts to remove fugitive slaves from the city between 1850 and 1860, but the case of Johnson overshadowed them all in the interest and indignation it aroused.

On the morning of January 19, 1861 a group of law officers led by a deputy marshal forcibly entered the home where Lucy Bagby was employed removed her and placed her in the county jail on a charge filed by her owner of being a runaway slave A mob gathered about the jail and threatened to remove her from the custody of the sheriff Three of Cleveland s prominent white lawyers volunteered to act as ...

Article

Johnson, Mess  

Glenn Allen Knoblock

Ohio frontier settler, was likely born a slave in Maryland. Though Johnson's life remains largely undocumented in official records, oral tradition regarding his life and that of his family members has been extensively recorded. The fragmentary details they reveal are a fascinating commentary both on the role African Americans played in settling the Northwest Territory and the lives they led afterward in what would soon become the state of Ohio.

According to the Zanesville, Ohio, historian Norris Schneider in his book Y Bridge City, based in part on the oral history newspaper columns written by Elijah Church for the Zanesville Courier in 1878, Johnson was a slave in Maryland in 1799 when he learned that his master was going to sell him Perhaps afraid of being separated from his family Johnson decided to flee and with another slave named Sam made his way north to Pittsburgh ...

Article

Johnson, William Isaac  

Brian Neumann

was born into slavery in Albemarle County, Virginia, to unknown parents. His owners were Anderson and Nancy Johnson, who probably moved him and his family to Goochland County in the 1840s. Anderson put him to work before he turned ten years old, forcing him to tend the chickens, sheep, and cows. When he was a teenager, Anderson trained him as a butler and hired him out to a man in Richmond.

Decades later Johnson still vividly remembered the violence of slavery. Speaking to a Works Progress Administration (WPA) interviewer in 1937, he described Anderson beating his slaves, placing them in shackles, and selling them into the Deep South if they tried to escape. Johnson, however, also emphasized Black agency and resistance. He recalled his fellow slaves refusing to work, hiding in the woods to avoid being hired out, and forging slave passes to help others escape from bondage.

Anderson ...

Article

Kofi  

Kofi worked as a cooper, making and repairing wooden casks on a plantation on the Berbice River. He emerged as leader of one faction of the Berbice slaves who rose up in rebellion in 1763 The rebels successfully held most of the territory of Berbice for ten months After ...