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Steven J. Niven

paramilitary leader and agrarian activist, was born of unknown parentage, perhaps in Mississippi. He appears in the historical record on two occasions. The first was in the bloody political conflict known as the “campaign of 1875,” when white Democrats used tactics ranging from fraud to intimidation to violence and assassinations to wrest control of state government from the Republican Party.

In early September 1875, Cromwell traveled to the town of Clinton in Hinds County, Mississippi, to address a gathering of at least six hundred black men—some sources claim there were more than a thousand—who had organized into armed, paramilitary political clubs to defend their families, the black community, and the few remaining white Republicans against violent intimidation by white Democrats and their allies. Like other communities in the central part of the Magnolia State, a slight majority of citizens in Clinton were African American. Black Clintonians, notably Charles ...

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Steven J. Niven

laborer and lynching victim, was born Samuel Wilkes near Macon, Georgia. The names of his parents, who were probably farmers or sharecroppers, have not been recorded, but it is known that his father died when Samuel was a child. Samuel, his mother, his sister, and his brother then moved a few miles south to Marshall, in present-day Crisp County in Georgia, where they earned a reputation for honesty and hard work. Samuel learned to read and write and was considered in the town to be an intelligent young man, but there were few opportunities in Marshall for African Americans other than to work as a laborer picking peanuts or cotton.

Sometime before 1896 when Samuel was nineteen years old his sister married and his mother became seriously ill leaving Sam to be the sole breadwinner in the family since his brother was severely mentally handicapped Wilkes worked for ...

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Donald A. Ritchie

a Pentagon employee who became a celebrated witness during Senator Joseph McCarthy's investigation of Communism in the government, was born in Chester, South Carolina. One of six children of Katie and Clemon Crawford, tenant farmers, she began picking cotton at the age of five. While in her teens, she moved with her parents to Salisbury, North Carolina, where she attended but did not graduate from high school. At twenty-one she married Ernest Moss, a worker at a tobacco factory in Durham, North Carolina. They had one son.

Moss moved to Washington, D.C., in 1941, where her husband took a construction job and she ironed at a laundry. In 1943 she became a dessert cook for the Welfare and Recreation Association which assigned her to the Pentagon cafeteria As a condition of employment she joined the Washington Cafeteria Workers union a local chapter of the United Federal ...

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Steven J. Niven

farm laborer and justice of the peace, was born a slave in Alabama to parents whose names have not been recorded. It is not known when Parker arrived in Rolling Fork in Issaquena County in the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta, or why he left Alabama. It is possible that Parker, like many former slaves after emancipation, embarked on a perilous journey of several hundred miles to rejoin family members who had been sold to southwest Mississippi. Or he could have made that journey in the late 1860s when thousands of black freedmen and their families began flocking to the Delta in search of their own land. More likely he was himself one of thousands of African American slaves brought to the Delta in the decade before the outbreak of the Civil War by owners seeking the vast fortunes to be made from that region's dark, rich, alluvial soil.

Such fortunes could ...

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Susan M. Reverby and Elizabeth Sims

farmer, civil rights activist, and lead plaintiff in the lawsuit against the government in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, was born in Notasulga, Alabama, the third child of six children of Lucius and Alma Pollard. The Pollard family owned and farmed their land in the Notasulga area, just outside of Tuskegee, for generations after the Civil War. As with many farmers, they often needed to secure liens, with their animals as the collateral, in order to complete their crop. In the early 1900s the family began to buy more acreage, and by 1908 Pollard s father was farming 160 acres and was the first black man in the county to own a mechanical cotton picker Pollard learned early how to horse and cattle trade and to build upon his family s farming skills He was educated in the Shiloh School one of the earliest Rosenwald schools built ...

Article

Stephanie Gordon

the first black deputy marshal west of the Mississippi, was born in Paris, Texas, although some historians believe he was born near Van Buren, Arkansas. The son of slaves, Reeves spent his early years on a small farm in Grayson County, Texas, owned by George Reeves a former colonel in the Confederate army Very little is known about Reeves s early life and even less is known about his parents Early on he labored in the Texas cotton fields as a water boy where he learned stories and songs about black outlaws He liked them so much according to one source that he worried his mother with his preoccupation with badmen violence and guns Reeves was chosen as companion for Colonel Reeves s son and he served in this capacity until he was a young adult The relationship came to a quick end however when the two argued during ...

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Susan M. Reverby

farmer, mill worker, and the spokesman for the survivors of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study at the formal federal apology at the White House on 16 May 1997, was born in Tallassee, Alabama, the second of four children of Frank Shaw, a farmer. After his mother's death, Shaw's father moved the family to Plano, Texas, in search of a better life. Shaw excelled in his studies at the local segregated grammar schools, remembering always his lessons on the ancient world. When the farmland in Texas proved unyielding, Shaw returned to Tallassee and farming. The depression years proved difficult on the land, and Shaw was hired as the first black man to run a cord machine in a nearby textile mill. He would stay at the mill for forty-four years, while continuing to grow cotton, corn, and collard greens that were prized by his neighbors. He married Fannie ...

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Harold S. Forsythe

farmer and sharecroppers union activist, was born Ned Cobb in rural east-central Alabama. Shaw was one of six children of former slaves Hayes and Liza Culver Shaw. Ned Cobb is best known under the pseudonym Nate Shaw, because of the magnificent oral autobiography Shaw shared with Theodore Rosengarten. The book, All God's Dangers: the Life of Nate Shaw (1974), was perhaps the best single source for the consciousness and politics of the millions of illiterate black women and men who struggled in the decades after Emancipation to create a life in freedom. The fictionalized names of people and places in All God's Dangers are the best guide to this rich story.

Nate Shaw s father Hayes put Nate to work at farming tasks while he was a still a young boy Shaw s mother Liza died when he was nine years old and although he ...

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John Saillant

, slave, farm laborer, plaintiff in a civil suit, and freedman, was purchased as an infant in 1754 along with his mother and father, Dinah (b. c. 1735) and Mingo (b. c. 1734), by James Caldwell of Rutland District, Worcester County, Massachusetts. As a freedman, Walker married Elizabeth Harvey in 1786. The date of his death is unknown; an 1812 public record in Barre, Massachusetts (part of Rutland District that was incorporated separately in 1774 and renamed in 1776), refers to Walker as deceased. Prince Walker (c. 1762–1858), another freed slave who lived nearby, may have been Quok Walker's brother.

Sometime in Walker's youth Caldwell promised him his freedom, to be granted when he was in his mid-twenties. However, Caldwell died intestate when Walker was a minor. Caldwell's widow, Isabell inherited at least some ...

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Robert Fay

In July 1940 Odell Waller, an uneducated sharecropper, shot and killed his white landlord, Oscar Davis in a dispute over the shares Davis owed to him Waller claimed self defense but the all white jury found him guilty of first degree murder and sentenced him to death Waller s ...