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Ballard, John  

Charles Rosenberg

pioneer settler in Los Angeles County, California, in the 1850s, blacksmith, teamster, firewood salesman, and landowner, was born in Kentucky around 1827. Although it is commonly assumed that he had been enslaved there, he arrived in California a free man prior to the Civil War, and nothing has been established about his previous life.

He was married on 6 November 1859 to a woman named Amanda, born in Texas, by Jesse Hamilton, the earliest pastor of First African Methodist Episcopal church, Los Angeles. Their first two children, Dora and Julia, were born in 1857 and 1859. In 1860 the household included a laborer named Juan Jose, recorded by the census as being of Indian ancestry. Another man of African descent, Oscar Smith from Mississippi lived next door and no race was specified for the other neighbors who had either English or Hispanic names ...

Article

Beasley, Delilah Leontium  

Kristal Brent Zook

journalist and historian of the early West, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the eldest of five children of Daniel Beasley, an engineer, and Margaret (Heines) Beasley, a homemaker. Although little is known about her childhood, at the age of twelve Beasley published her first writings in the black-owned newspaper, the Cleveland Gazette. By the time she was fifteen she was working as a columnist for the Cincinnati Enquirer, becoming the first African American woman to write for a mainstream newspaper on a regular basis.

Beasley lost both parents as a teenager and was forced to take a full-time job working as a domestic laborer for the family of a white judge named Hagan. Her career then took several unusual turns as Beasley, who was described by biographer Lorraine Crouchett as short well proportioned and speaking in a shrill light voice perhaps because of a chronic hearing ...

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

Dean, Harry Foster  

David H. Anthony

adventurer, mariner, and African emigrationist, was born to Susan Cuffe and John Dean in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Harry Foster Dean followed the family profession when he decided to become a seafarer. By the age of thirteen he was on an around-the-world cruise captained by his Uncle Silas. A decade later he had made his way to Southampton, England, where he was mentored by a Captain Forbes. He later reported that he won his captain's license in that port, beginning a new phase in his life. According to Dean, his mother, Susan, was a granddaughter of the black Yankee Paul Cuffe As the progeny of the Cuffe family Dean considered himself a black aristocrat Since Cuffe was a merchant and back to Africa advocate Dean dreamed of reversing the effects and trajectories of the Middle Passage and removing himself to his ancestral continent of origin Much of what ...

Article

Dungee, John William  

Charles Rosenberg

minister, active in the Underground Railroad, reputed to have founded ten churches, including the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, was born in 1833 on a plantation in New Kent County, Virginia. By the laws of that state, he was the property of the Ferrell family. His name was variously spelled Dungee, Dungy, Dunjy, and Dunjee. His children adopted the Dunjee spelling.

Five Ferrell heirs moved to Alabama, and sold the family's Virginia plantation in 1842 to former president John Tyler, who renamed it “Sherwood Forest.” Dungee was hired out to Virginia governor John Munford Gregory, and in later years spoke well of him. However, when the Ferrells—who had sold off many slaves, and had a reputation for severity—sent word that they wanted him sent to Alabama, Dungee escaped to Canada via the Underground Railroad in February 1860 arriving first in Hamilton Ontario then traveling via Toronto ...

Article

Ford, Arnold Josiah  

Sholomo B. Levy

rabbi, black nationalist, and emigrationist, was born in Bridgetown, Barbados, the son of Edward Ford and Elizabeth Augusta Braithwaite. Ford asserted that his father's ancestry could be traced to the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria and his mother's to the Mendi tribe of Sierra Leone. According to his family's oral history, their heritage extended back to one of the priestly families of the ancient Israelites, and in Barbados his family maintained customs and traditions that identified them with Judaism (Kobre, 27). His father was a policeman who also had a reputation as a “fiery preacher” at the Wesleyan Methodist Church where Arnold was baptized; it is not known if Edward's teaching espoused traditional Methodist beliefs or if it urged the embrace of Judaism that his son would later advocate.

Ford s parents intended for him to become a musician They provided him with private tutors who instructed ...

Article

Haynes, Thomas  

Melissa Nicole Stuckey

cofounder of Boley, Oklahoma, the largest all-black town in the United States, was the eldest child of Matthew and Dottie Haynes and was born in Red River County, Texas. Very little is known about Haynes's childhood and young adulthood. He was the eldest of more than twelve brothers and sisters, grew up on a farm, and had very little education during his formative years. By 1900 his parents had moved to Paris, Texas, a small city, which increased the educational opportunities available to Haynes's younger siblings, but whether the move took place early enough to allow Haynes to attend city schools is unknown. In the late 1880s or early 1890s, Haynes married and started a family. In 1899, shortly after his wife, whose name is unknown, passed away, he moved to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Territory, to begin anew. He was soon joined by his daughters, Winnie and George ...

Article

Holly, James Theodore  

David M. Dean

James Theodore Holly was born free in Washington, D.C., the son of James Overton Holly, a bootmaker, and Jane (maiden name unknown). At fourteen he and his family moved to Brooklyn, where he worked with his father. By 1848, while clerking for Lewis Tappan, an abolitionist, Holly became interested in the antislavery movement. In 1850 he and his brother Joseph set up as “fashionable bootmakers” in Burlington, Vermont, where both became involved with the growing debate over black emigration. James supported the American Colonization Society and Liberia, while Joseph believed that freed slaves should not have to leave the United States.

In 1851 Holly married Charlotte Ann Gordon (with whom he was to have five children) and moved to Windsor, Canada West (now Ontario), to coedit Henry Bibb's newspaper Voice of the Fugitive During his three years in the Windsor Detroit area Holly ...

Article

Hooks, Mathew “Bones”  

Mathias Hanses

a cowboy and town founder most famous for honoring enduring pioneers with single white flowers, was born in Orangeville, Texas, the eldest son of two former slaves, Alex and Annie Hooks. While still at the Hooks Plantation, located outside of Texarkana, Alex had learned to read and write (his owner taught him in defiance of the law and used him as a bookkeeper), which helped him avoid the economic toils so many penniless freedmen faced in the postbellum South. In Orangeville, Alex Hooks became a preacher and prominent educator in that tiny town's black community, and the Bible, accordingly, played a dominant role in the education of his five sons and three daughters. Wiry, skinny Mathew Hooks soon went by the nickname Bones and developed such rugged attitudes and salt of the earth perseverance as would enable his successes in the Lone Star State Among them were ...

Article

McCabe, Edwin Prescott  

Thomas Burnell Colbert

politician and land agent, was born in Troy, New York. Not long after his birth his family moved to Fall River, Massachusetts, then Newport, Rhode Island, and Bangor, Maine. When his father died McCabe quit school to support the family. As a young man McCabe worked on Wall Street in New York City before going to Chicago, where he clerked for the hotel owner Potter Palmer until 1872, when he received a clerkship at the Cook County federal Treasury office. In 1878, with his friend Abraham T. Hall Jr., editor of the African American newspaper the Chicago Conservator, McCabe journeyed to Kansas to join the African American Nicodemus colony, for which he served as secretary. In 1880 he married Sarah Bryant. They had two daughters who lived to adulthood and a son who died in infancy.

McCabe entered Republican politics in Kansas and in ...

Article

Montgomery, Isaiah Thornton  

David Mark Silver

planter and founder of Mound Bayou, Mississippi, was born on the “Hurricane” plantation of Joseph Davis at Davis Bend, Mississippi, the son of Benjamin Montgomery, the plantation business manager and later a planter and owner of a mercantile store, and Mary Lewis. As a result of his father's prominent position among the slaves, Montgomery was chosen at the age of nine or ten to serve as Davis's personal secretary and office attendant. Davis, the older brother of Confederate president Jefferson Davis, granted Montgomery full access to all the books, newspapers, and periodicals within his home, enabling Montgomery to continue the education begun first by his father and later continued by another slave. Following the Civil War, in November 1866 Davis sold his two plantations to the Montgomery family During the next fifteen years the Montgomerys struggled and ultimately failed to make the plantations profitable yet ...

Article

Montgomery, Isaiah Thornton  

David Mark Silver

Isaiah Thornton Montgomery was born on the “Hurricane” plantation of Joseph Davis at Davis Bend, Mississippi, the son of Benjamin Montgomery, the plantation business manager and later a planter and owner of a mercantile store, and Mary Lewis. As a result of his father's prominent position among the slaves, Montgomery was chosen at the age of nine or ten to serve as Davis's personal secretary and office attendant. Davis, the older brother of Confederate president Jefferson Davis, granted Montgomery full access to all the books, newspapers, and periodicals within his home, enabling Montgomery to continue the education begun first by his father and later continued by another slave. Following the Civil War, in November 1866 Davis sold his two plantations to the Montgomery family During the next fifteen years the Montgomerys struggled and ultimately failed to make the plantations profitable yet they still succeeded in ...

Article

Sheppard, William Henry  

Steven J. Niven

missionary, explorer, and human rights advocate, was born in Waynesboro, Virginia, the son of William H. Sheppard, a barbershop owner, and Sarah Francis “Fannie” Martin, a bath maid at a local spa, who had been born free. Because of his mother's free status, William, born just weeks before the end of the Civil War, was never classified as a slave, but his father may have been. Compared with most blacks in postbellum Virginia, the Sheppards lived in relative comfort, though William began full-time employment at eleven, first as a stable boy and then as a waiter. In 1881 Sheppard enrolled at the night school run by Booker T. Washington at Hampton Institute Virginia and financed his education by working on the institute s farm and in its bakery He also helped found a mission school for poor blacks nearby and wrote in his autobiography ...

Article

Turner, Henry McNeal  

Stephen W. Angell

African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church bishop and emigrationist, was born in Newberry, South Carolina, the son of Hardy Turner and Sarah Greer, free African Americans. Sarah made great efforts to obtain an education for her son, despite the state prohibition against teaching African Americans to read. In 1848, after Turner's father died and his mother remarried, he was hired as a janitor by lawyers in Abbeville, South Carolina. Recognizing Turner's intelligence, they helped him to master many subjects, including arithmetic, astronomy, geography, history, law, and theology.

From 1848 to 1851 Turner attended numerous camp meetings conducted by Methodist evangelists and underwent a powerful conversion experience. He soon joined the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, probably in 1849, and determined to undertake a ministerial career. He was licensed to preach in 1853 Subsequently he traveled throughout the South holding huge audiences of blacks and whites spellbound with ...

Article

Turner, Henry McNeal  

James Sellman

Henry McNeal Turner was, along with Frederick Douglass and the Reverend Henry Highland Garnet, one of the preeminent African American leaders of the late nineteenth century. Turner was born free to a teenaged mother, Sarah Turner, in Newberry Courthouse, South Carolina. His maternal grandmother, Hannah Greer—who voiced great pride in her African heritage—had a powerful influence on young Henry. From an early age, he envisioned becoming a leader of his people. While he was a teenager, Turner experienced a powerful religious conversion during a Methodist camp meeting at Sharon Camp Ground and soon decided to pursue a career in the ministry. In 1853 the nineteen-year-old Turner became a traveling evangelist for the Methodist Episcopal Church-South.

In 1858 Turner joined the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) and during the next five years served as a minister to three different congregations in Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington D ...

Article

Washington, George  

Darrell M. Milner

George Washington was born near Winchester in Frederick County, Virginia, the son of a mixed-race African American slave father named Washington and a white mother whose name is unrecorded. The nature of his parentage violated social conventions; his father was immediately sold, never to be involved in his life again, and his mother allowed baby George to be adopted by James C. Cochran and his wife, a white family. At age four George moved west with the Cochrans, settling first near Delaware City, Ohio; when he was nine, the family moved farther west, eventually to Bloomington on the Missouri frontier. As a black youth in the slave state of Missouri, Washington was denied a formal education, but he taught himself the rudiments of reading, writing, and mathematics. He also acquired the skills in woodcraft and marksmanship for which he would later become renowned.

By 1841 Washington and a partner ...

Article

Whitfield, James Monroe  

Johnnella E. Butler

James Monroe Whitfield was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, the son of parents whose names are unknown. Little else is known of his family except that he had a sister, a wife, two sons, and a daughter.

A celebrated poet, Whitfield published two volumes of poetry, Poems in 1846 and America, and Other Poems in 1853, the latter launching his career as an abolitionist and emigrationist. Richard Barksdale and Keneth Kinnamon point out Lord Byron's influence on his poetry's “brooding melancholy and latent anger” but see his strong abolitionist protest as more important. His poem “America” voiced the paradox of America as he saw it: “a boasted land of liberty” and “a land of blood and crime.” One of the most forceful writers and speakers for the abolitionist cause, Whitfield was seen by Frederick Douglass as unjustly buried in the precincts of a barber s shop ...