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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 ...

Article

Benjamin R. Justesen

farmer, shoemaker, and longtime state legislator, was born in Warren County, North Carolina, the third son of free, mixed-race parents Hawkins Carter and Elizabeth Wiggins, who were married in 1845. Few details are known of his early life or education, only that his father, a prosperous farmer, could afford to hire a young white teacher, W. J. Fulford, to tutor his eight children in 1861, the last year before the Civil War.

During the Civil War, the teenage Carter served as an officer's attendant for a Warrenton acquaintance, Captain Stephen W. Jones of the Forty-sixth North Carolina Regiment's Company C, raised at Warrenton in early 1862 Jones s company saw action at Antietam and other battles and Jones was wounded at Spotsylvania Court House where Carter presumably helped care for him The eldest son of the Warren County sheriff and a former deputy sheriff himself ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

sharecropper and communist martyr, was born in Tallapoosa County, Alabama, a white majority county in the state's eastern piedmont. One of fifteen children, Gray was born into a family with a strong radical tradition. His father, whose name and occupation are unknown, was the son of Alfred Gray, an African American state legislator in Perry County, Alabama, during Reconstruction who famously vowed to fight for the Constitution “until hell freezes over.” A critic of both white racism and the inadequacy of the Freedmen's Bureau, Alfred Gray recognized that his outspoken militancy came at a price. “I may go to hell,” he told an interracial gathering in Uniontown in 1868 my home is hell but the white man shall go there with me Kelley 39 Ralph Gray who was only one year old when Reconstruction ended in Alabama grew up hearing stories of his grandfather s radicalism But ...

Article

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 ...

Article

farmer, miller, the first elected public official of African American descent in the state of Virginia, and the first and only African American representative to the House of Delegates for Lancaster County. Nickens was born in Lancaster County, Virginia, the youngest child of Armistead Stokalas Nickens Sr. and Polly Weaver Nickens. Armistead Sr. and Polly were wed on 21 January 1819 in Lancaster County, Virginia, and had two other children, Robert V. Nickens and Judith A. Nickens. The Nickens family had been free since the late seventeenth century, and several members of that family served in the American Revolution. Armistead's maternal grandfather, Elijah Weaver, was also a seaman during the Revolution.

Home schooled as a youth Nickens was taught to read and write by his father and went on to further self study with books he purchased on his own Armistead lost his father as ...

Article

Harvey Klehr

Communist Party leader, was born near Marion, Alabama, on a tenant farm worked by his parents, whose names are unknown. His father died when Perry was a small child, and he was raised by his uncle, Stokes King, and an aunt. He attended a rural school sporadically, receiving about fifteen months of formal education. By the time he was ten, he was working in the cotton fields. He moved on to a sawmill and then a pipe foundry before deciding to leave the South when he was eighteen.

Perry embarked on the life of an itinerant worker, traveling around the United States in search of work. He reached California in 1920 and used it as his base for the next twelve years Most winters he worked at a cottonseed oil mill in Los Angeles In the summers he went on the road as a harvest hand following ...

Article

Pedro de Weever

was born Lionel Bernard Scott in Cul de Sac, St. Maarten (the Dutch half of the island of St. Martin), on 28 January 1897, the son of Eliza Constance Gerot and John Francis Scott. Born into a poor, working-class family, Scott, also called Brother Bo, had six brothers and ten sisters. He attended the Cul de Sac School until the age of 14, after which he began to learn the trade of carpentry and, like many of his peers, entered the workforce to help his family make ends meet.

In 1917 at the age of 20 Scott married his first wife Louisa Mathilda Proctor That same year he left for the Dominican Republic to work in the sugarcane fields and to find work as a carpenter Economic opportunities on his home island were limited in the 1920s and many people from St Martin were forced to seek work ...

Article

Fernando Cajías de la Vega

was born in 1964 in Tocaña, part of the municipality of Coroico, located in the province of North Yungas in the department of La Paz, Bolivia. Yungas, an agricultural region, lies on the borderlands between Andean and Amazonian parts of the country and is home to most of the nation’s people of African and partial African descent. Although Bolivia’s African-descended population is smaller than that in most Latin American nations, and despite the government’s long neglect of Afro-Bolivian traditions and history, recent censuses suggest that there may be as many as 30,000 Afro-Bolivians. Vásquez was the son of Carlos Vásquez Zabala and Jacoba Larrea. He married Raymunda Rey, who was also an Afro-Bolivian, with whom he had five children: Nenrry (who would also be a political leader), Nilo, Diego, Denisse, and Fabricio.

Vásquez completed high school in Tocaña and primarily worked in agriculture distinguishing himself as a leader in the ...

Article

Floyd Ogburn

sharecropper and laborer, was born Odell Jones in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, the son of Dollie Jones and a father whose name is not known. Shortly after Odell was born, his mother requested that her oldest sister, Annie, and her husband, Willis Waller, become his adoptive parents. After marrying Carl G. Harris, Dollie moved to Logan, West Virginia, leaving her sister and brother-in-law to raise the child. Initially the Wallers owned a twenty-five-acre farm near Gretna, Virginia, and co-owned a wheat binder, which they occasionally allowed other farmers to use. Because Odell had to help the Wallers farm, he withdrew from high school at age sixteen, completing only the third year.

While land ownership assigned the Wallers an economic status more secure than that of many of their neighbors—black and white—the Depression years engendered endless toil and struggle. When Willis Waller died in April 1938 Annie could ...

Article

Jarod H. Roll

labor organizer, community activist, preacher, and farmer, was born Owen Hones Whitfield into a sharecropping family near Jonestown, Mississippi, in the heart of the Delta. His father's name was Thomas Whitfield; his mother's name is unknown. Like most children in the cotton South, Whitfield attended school sporadically. The Whitfield family moved frequently in search of better farming opportunities and often supplemented their income with wage work. During moves through Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi, Whitfield was able to save enough money from odd jobs to enroll at Okolona College, a small Baptist college in Mississippi, in 1912. He studied theology for two years, during which time he met and married Zella Glass, a thirteen-year-old cotton picker.

Newly married and with the first of seven children on the way, Whitfield continued his search for profitable farming. In 1922 the Whitfields moved to southeast Missouri ...