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Article

Kate Tuttle

James P. Beckwourth, born of mixed-race parentage in Fredericksburg, Virginia, escaped an apprenticeship to a St. Louis, Missouri blacksmith and went west, taking a job with the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. He became an experienced trapper and fighter in the sparsely settled western territories. In 1824 the Crow Indian tribe adopted Beckwourth, who then married the daughter of the chief and earned such renown in battle that he was renamed Bloody Arm. Although he left the tribe after several years—and after earning honorary chief status—he continued a lifelong friendship with the Crows.

Criss-crossing the western and southern frontiers, Beckwourth worked as a guide, prospected for gold, served as a United States Army scout during the third Seminole War and was a rider for the Pony Express He also worked with California s Black Franchise League in an effort unsuccessful at the time to repeal a law barring blacks from ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

mountain man, fur trapper and trader, scout, translator, and explorer, was born James Pierson Beckwith in Frederick County, Virginia, the son of Sir Jennings Beckwith, a white Revolutionary War veteran and the descendant of minor Irish aristocrats who became prominent Virginians. Little is known about Jim's mother, a mixed-race slave working in the Beckwith household. Although he was born into slavery, Jim was manumitted by his father in the 1820s. In the early 1800s, Beckwith moved his family, which reputedly included fourteen children, to Missouri, eventually settling in St. Louis. Some commentators suggest that Beckwith, an adventurous outdoorsman, was seeking an environment less hostile to his racially mixed family.

As a young teenager, after four years of schooling, Jim Beckwourth as his name came to be spelled was apprenticed to a blacksmith Unhappy as a tradesman he fled to the newly discovered lead mines in Illinois s Fever ...

Article

Betti Carol VanEpps-Taylor

historian of African Americans in South Dakota, civic leader, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, was born in Yankton, South Dakota, the youngest of eleven children of Henry and Mary (Fristoe) Blakey. The large, extended Blakey clan began migrating from Missouri to South Dakota in 1904, where they acquired land and built a profitable and respected truck gardening business. Young Blakey completed eighth grade in country school and worked in the family business. Beginning in the mid‐1960s Blakey returned to school at Springfield State College (which later closed), where he obtained his GED and completed advanced training in building maintenance and pest control. On 22 October 1948 he married Dorothy Edwards in Athabaska, Alberta, Canada; the couple had three children.

Blakey was an ambitious, self‐taught businessman with a keen interest in civic activities and public service. Of his three successful businesses, Blakey's Janitorial Services, established in 1956 provided jobs for both ...

Article

Robert Olwell

The 1740 South Carolina slave code allowed slaves to attend the Charleston marketplace only if they carried tickets from their masters detailing precisely what they were to buy or sell and at what price However many of the enslaved parlayed this small de jure permit into a much larger de facto liberty by which they purchased goods coming to market and resold them for a profit In effect they acted as independent marketeers while still enslaved Customarily after paying their master an agreed upon wage such enslaved marketeers could keep any surplus they earned for themselves Such extra legal arrangements allowed individual slave owners to collect a steady income from their slaves labor and from the market even when they had no work for the slaves to do or produce of their own to sell But as enslaved marketeers came to dominate the marketplace slaveholders collectively expressed their resentment ...

Article

Karen A. Porter

Throughout the world, ecology, culture, politics, and history shape what work is to be done, who performs it and how, and the social meanings ascribed to it, but gender and age tend to organize work most decidedly. In Africa gender and age have greatly influenced children’s work across precolonial, colonial, and postcolonial periods. In addition, education and the continuing process of delocalization and integration into a world capitalist economy have affected the everyday experiences of millions of African children.

Article

Class  

Melissa N. Stein

While class has been a driving force in American history it has been particularly central to the story of both racism and African American life Throughout its history America developed a racialized class system by which African Americans were often shut out of venues of political and economic power regardless of individual circumstances Race and class have been virtually inseparable in America from its inception Furthermore as the black middle and upper classes grew following Emancipation so too did tensions among African Americans across class lines Thus the story of class for African Americans is one of blacks as a racialized class and one of class divisions among blacks Undeniably there have been instances in American history when blacks and whites have come together to protest shared economic exploitation and African Americans of different classes have fought side by side against institutional or structural racism However these fleeting moments of ...

Article

Marieta Joyner

Gallaudet University handyman, was born to parents about whom nothing is known, perhaps in the vicinity of Washington, D.C. In 1870, when he was about nine years old, he wandered from the National Association for the Relief of Destitute Colored Women and Children in Washington and was found on a cold winter night on the streets by Senator Aaron Cragin of New Hampshire. Cragin soon realized that the boy was deaf and took him to Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb (later Gallaudet University). Compassion for blacks was not new for Senator Cragin; fifteen years earlier, in a 4 August 1856 speech he argued passionately in support of Charles Sumner of Massachusetts the Senate s leading opponent of slavery who had been beaten almost to death with a cane by Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina Cragin also knew that there was only one ...

Article

George W. Reid

Thomas Day was born either on the British West Indies island of Nevis or in the rural portion of Caswell County, North Carolina, approximately 3 km (2 mi) from Milton. The date of his birth is also uncertain: either between 1785 and 1795 or between 1794 and 1804. He became well known in Milton for his beautifully carved chairs, small tables, and footstools made first of walnut and later of mahogany imported from the West Indies. By the time of his death, which was before the Civil War (1861–1865), he was reputed to be the wealthiest free black in his part of the state, with an estate worth about $100,000.

Evidence about Day s life is in many respects uncertain There appears to be no information about his father His mother is said to have been given her freedom in North Carolina and to have sent him ...

Article

Lois Rita Helmbold

The worldwide economic depression of the 1930s greatly increased the burden on many black women across the United States. Their triple responsibilities of holding down a job, caring for families and friends, and organizing to build communities and to fight for rights as citizens were more difficult than ever to fulfill. While hard times were hardly new to most black women, what was new was the severity of the Depression and the fact that people at the bottom of the economy found that their old ways of coping with hard times were obsolete. As one unemployed woman noted, “You can’t get no more job like you used to. I used to have a new job before I was let out from the old.”

While the Depression devastated the economy of the United States its local effects largely depended on the particular circumstances of individual communities At the time of the ...

Article

Jane E. Dabel

From the period of slavery onward, African American women have labored outside of the home in many roles, and most prominently as domestic servants. Because employment has been the key to their survival, and though racism and sexism have limited their employment opportunities, black women have always attempted to make the best of their employment situation. Throughout their wage-earning experiences, black women have always sought to control and shape their lives as laborers.

Article

Peter Eisenstadt and Graham Russell Hodges

Work has always characterized African American life in the Americas From the first arrivals in the 1610s blacks came or were brought to the New World to labor During the seventeenth century Africans in North America initially free but later largely enslaved were important workers in subsistence economies In the eighteenth century as the American economy matured enslaved blacks labored in staple crop agriculture in seaboard trades or as skilled assistants in small scale industry During the American Revolution a significant fraction toiled in the military services while most continued in their former roles After the Revolution with the massive growth of the cotton industry many blacks in the South became agricultural workers with a few in urban areas turning to the arts while in the upper South enslaved people worked in cereal agriculture Blacks in the North faced a long term crisis as rising immigration from northern Europe forced ...

Article

Barbara Walker

Millions of people in Africa earn their livelihood directly or indirectly from fishing. Due to the scarcity and expense of livestock, fish provide 60 to 75 percent of animal protein consumption in the population’s diet in many parts of the continent. Africa’s fishing industries are also an important source of export earnings. Globally, marine fishing off the coast of Africa accounts for roughly 5 percent of the world harvest, and inland fishing accounts for approximately 8 percent of the world harvest. Africa’s marine fisheries are generally fully exploited or overexploited. Africa’s inland fisheries are generally underexploited, though inland fisheries in Kenya and Uganda are overexploited, and inland fisheries in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, and Zambia are fully exploited.

Africans have relied on fish for their livelihood since ancient times Our earliest human ancestors in Africa almost certainly depended on fish as part ...

Primary Source

In the late 1930s, the New Deal Works Progress Administration (WPA) hired researchers from the Federal Writers Project to interview African Americans who had lived as slaves decades earlier. From 1936 to 1938, the WPA met with over 2,300 former slaves, almost all of whom were young children when the institution was abolished in 1865. In the excerpt below, John Love, then seventy-six years old, discusses life on a farm in Crockett, Texas. Love claims to have had multiple jobs following emancipation, including railroad worker and mail carrier. Moreover, he discusses relations between his community and a nearby Indian reservation, which he says maintained an active trading partnership with its neighbors.

Article

Gauchos  

Gauchos are generally indigenous, black, or of mixed race, including mestizo (of mixed indigenous and European descent). Bold and skillful horseback riders, they traditionally earned their livelihood on cattle ranges or by illegal horse and cattle trading at the Brazilian frontier. They captured wild horses and cattle with the lasso and the bola, a cord-and-weight type of sling thrown to entangle the legs of animals. Making leather brought them additional income. Many of them were also wandering minstrels. Politically, they played a role as revolutionaries in the history of Argentina.

The characteristic apparel of the gaucho includes a flat, brimmed hat; baggy trousers over boots; a wide belt of silver or coins; a woolen poncho; and a colorful scarf. In the latter part of the nineteenth century, the modernization of the cattle-raising business, the arrival in South America of European farmers and the portioning of the pampas ...

Article

J. C. Mutchler

Charlie Glass was apparently born in the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). Little is known about his parents or early life. According to “The Ballad of Charlie Glass,” by William Leslie Clark, Glass was “one quarter Cherokee” (Wyman & Hart). Legend has it that Glass moved to western Colorado after shooting the man who had killed his father. What is certainly factual is that Glass was working as a cowboy for the S-Cross Ranch in western Colorado by 1909.

Glass was, by reputation, a colorful character. He was known for going to town in fancy silk shirts and enjoying the saloons, card games, and brothels of the “Barbary Coast,” the red light district of Grand Junction, Colorado.

By 1917 Glass was employed by Oscar L. Turner a cattleman with large ranch holdings in the counties of Mesa Garfield and Rio Blanca in western Colorado and Grand and Uintah ...

Article

Tiffany M. Gill

Controlling black people's bodies was at the center of racial-based slavery in colonial America. The productive and reproductive capabilities of Africans and African Americans were policed to meet the stringent demands of a plantation economy. Still, even within this oppressive environment, Africans and African Americans, enslaved and free, found ways to define themselves and assert a level of authority over their physical selves. One area in which slaves and free blacks demonstrated some autonomy over their bodies was in the way they chose to adorn themselves and style their hair. African Americans in the early years of their presence in the New World developed and sustained a vibrant and meaningful system of hair care and beautification rituals. These seemingly frivolous practices of personal adornment provided a way for African Americans to pay homage to their African heritage and reclaim their bodies outside slave labor and degrading wage labor.

Article

Silvio A. Bedini

Peter Hill was born on July 19, 1767, presumably a son of slaves owned by Quaker clockmaker Joseph Hollinshead, Jr., of Burlington Township, New Jersey. Hill grew up in the Hollinshead household. As Hill grew older, his master trained him in the craft of clockmaking so that he could assist in Hollinshead's shop. When Hill reached the age of twenty-seven in 1794, he was manumitted, or released from slavery, by his master. His freedom was certified the following spring, when he was presented before a committee consisting of two overseers of the poor of the township and two justices of the peace of the county. In a document dated May 1, 1795 they certified that Hill on view and examination appears to us to be sound in mind and not under any bodily incapacity of obtaining a support and also is not under twenty one years ...

Article

Rayford W. Logan

Ben Hodges was the son of a black father and a Mexican mother Little is known about him until his arrival in Dodge City Kansas with one of the first herds of cattle from Texas Laying claim to descent from an old Spanish family he presented apparently legitimate documents to support legal action for recognition of his right to a large land grant in Kansas While his case was pending in court he also obtained a letter of credit that showed him to be the owner of thirty two sections of Kansas land Armed with this evidence he contracted for the delivery of thousands of cattle from ranges near the Beaver and Cimarron rivers Unable to secure the necessary financial banking for the purchase he obtained free railroad passes and used forged receipts in an attempt to swindle two cattlemen After his forgery was discovered he settled for a small ...

Article

Ella Howard

Since the late nineteenth century, African American homelessness has reflected the nation's persistent social, political, and economic inequality. In the decades following the Civil War, formerly enslaved people seeking work often joined the era's other “tramps” seeking employment. Traveling by foot and by rail, they performed migrant labor where possible. For the most part, hobo culture was racially integrated, and homeless African Americans were met by relative tolerance.

Primary Source

Robert Lemmons, a slave living in Texas, gained his freedom on 4 July 1865, when he was about seventeen years old. That day, his owner, John English, was killed in a skirmish with Comanche warriors. John’s brother Levi was so distraught in the aftermath of the battle that he freed Lemmons. Thus began Lemmons’s illustrious career as a cowboy in Dimmit County. Within five years, Lemmons taught himself to read and to earn money leasing plots of land. Along with his business skills, he also hired himself out as a ranch hand, and was highly adept at wrangling wild mustangs. By the twentieth century, Lemmons was so well known as a local legend that the Carrizo Springs Javelin published an article about him stating that he had by industry and economy acquired a competence and the respect and liking of his white neighbors In an interview below Lemmons discusses ...