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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 ...


Bardales, Juan  

Robinson A. Herrera

who lived in Trujillo, Honduras, an important Caribbean port during the colonial period, which is today an area with a substantial population of Garifuna people, the descendants of Africans and indigenous peoples from St. Vincent. Juan’s origins are unknown, as no documents indicate where he was born. He was married and was the father of several children, but the names of his family members are also unknown. In accordance with the Spanish pattern of naming African slaves, Bardales likely received his surname from a former owner. Juan’s origins and years of birth and death remain unclear, although the evidence indicates that he was likely born in the early sixteenth century and lived past 1565.

In 1544 and again in 1565, Bardales sought a royal reward for his services to the Spanish Crown. As a necessary step in requesting royal favors, Bardales had a probanza de méritos proof ...


Bishop, Stephen  

Elizabeth Mitchell

slave and guide, achieved fame in the decades preceding the Civil War. Nothing is known of his parents or early life, but it is known that Bishop was a slave belonging to Kentucky lawyer Franklin Gorin, who in the 1830s purchased Mammoth Cave for $5,000. Previous cave guides had been local white men, but Gorin either saw something promising in the teenaged Bishop or reasoned that he could save money by training a slave to do the same work. Either way, beginning in the spring of 1838 Bishop received training from the previous guide and quickly took to the job, learning the several miles of trail and numerous pits, rock formations, and other attractions of his underground place of employment.

Bishop was allowed to spend many hours exploring the cave on his own. In the fall of 1838 he penetrated a confusing maze of trails known as the ...


Collier, Holt  

Minor Ferris Buchanan

slave, soldier, hunter, guide, and pioneer, was born on Home Hill plantation, Jefferson County, Mississippi, the son of slaves Harrison and Daphne Collier. Little is known of Daphne Collier, although it is believed that she had some Native American ancestry. In 1815Harrison Collier accompanied the famed General Thomas Hinds when he fought alongside General Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812 at the Battle of New Orleans. As house servants the Colliers maintained a higher status on the plantation, and from all indications young Holt was a favorite of the Hinds family. At age ten he was taken into the upriver wilderness to serve as a juvenile valet and hostler on Plum Ridge plantation in what would later become known as Washington County in the Mississippi Delta.

At Plum Ridge plantation Holt was trained to hunt and kill anything that could be used as food for the growing ...


Columbus, Christopher  

Trevor Hall

and his elder son, Diego Columbus (1479?–1526), governor of Hispaniola during the first recorded revolt by enslaved Africans in the Americas, both had significant connections to Africa. The elder Columbus, known as Cristoforo Colombo in Italian and Cristóbal Colón in Spanish, remains a mysterious historic figure, even though, in the twentieth century alone, more than 250 scholarly articles and books were written on his origins (Sale, The Conquest of Paradise). Over a dozen birthdates have been claimed for him as well as at least twenty-five nationalities (Catz, p.83). Most biographers agree, though, that he was born in the Italian port of Genoa, the eldest son of Domenico Colombo, a wool worker and merchant, and Susanna Fontanarossa.

The sources also agree that, from about 1477 to 1485 Columbus and his brother Bartolemeu were mariners in Portugal involved in trade with West Africa Very little has been written ...


Dandara of Palmares  

Erica Lorraine Williams

a warrior who, along with her husband Zumbi, helped to defend Palmares, a famed Maroon community (quilombo) established in the late sixteenth century in the northeastern Brazilian captaincy of Alagoas. While many scholars have estimated that Palmares was home to up to 20,000 inhabitants, James Lockhart and Stuart Schwartz (1983) question such a high figure, which would have made Palmares the largest city in colonial Brazil. Nonetheless, Palmares is generally regarded as the largest and longest-lived fugitive community in Brazil. Today, Zumbi and Dandara maintain symbolic importance as Afro-Brazilians continue to struggle for racial and social equality.

While there are no public records of Dandara’s exact place or date of birth, her full name, or her parents’ names, sources say that she was most likely born in Brazil and moved to Palmares as a girl. Palmares was not a single community, but rather several mocambos ...


Dorantes, Esteban de  

Jeremy Rich

African-born slave who became one of the first Spanish explorers of North America, was probably born somewhere in Morocco in the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century. No sources are available for his early life. His travel companion Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca reported that Esteban was born in the Portuguese-controlled town of Azemmour, Morocco, around 1513. He may have been bought there and brought from elsewhere in Morocco or had come from somewhere else in the north of West Africa. He may also have chosen to sell himself into slavery to improve his life, given Azemmour’s numerous economic and environmental problems. He converted to Christianity after his enslavement. In 1520 he was sold to Andrés Dorantes de Carranza, a Spanish aristocrat. When Dorantes decided to make his fortune in North America in 1527, Esteban joined him.

This expedition led by Pánfilo Narváez of five caravels left Spain ...


Dorman, Isaiah  

Ann T. Keene

Dorman, Isaiah (?–26 June 1876), frontiersman and interpreter, was known as “Teat,” or the Wasicun Sapa (Black White Man), among the Sioux of Dakota Territory. Nothing is known of his life before he entered the territory as a young man around 1850; he is thought to have been an escaped slave who fled to the wilderness to avoid capture. Sioux tribal history records his presence in their midst from that date; he became known to white settlers in 1865, by which time he had become fluent in the Sioux dialect. About this time he married a Sioux woman and built a log cabin near Fort Rice, in Dakota Territory, not far from present-day Bismarck, North Dakota. For a while he earned a living cutting wood for the fort and for a trading firm, Durfee and Peck.

In November 1865 Dorman was hired by the U S Army ...



Penny Anne Welbourne

Also known as Estevan, Estevanico, Stephen the Black, and the Black Moor, Esteban was born in Azamor (or Azemmour), Morocco, between 1500 and 1503. By 1527 he had been taken from Africa, most likely by Spanish or Portuguese slave traders, and brought to Spain, where he became the “personal servant” (that is, slave) of Andrés Dorantes de Carranza.

In 1527 Dorantes volunteered himself and Esteban for a Spanish expedition to the New World, commanded by Don Pánfilo de Narváez. The purpose of the journey was to conquer and claim land from the Isle of Florida (discovered and named fifteen years earlier by Juan Ponce de León) to northeastern Mexico. At its start the exploration included approximately six hundred men aboard five vessels; of those men only four were still alive when they reached what is today Galveston Island, Texas: Esteban, his master, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca ...



E. Thomson Shields

Esteban (?–1539), African-born slave and explorer for Spain, , became the first African-American character portrayed in North American literature. What is known about Esteban (also called Estevan, Estevanico, and Stephen) comes from reports concerning two Spanish explorations into North America, the first led by Pánfilo de Narváez begun in 1527 and the second led by Fray Marcos de Niza in 1539. Esteban was a slave on the Narváez expedition to la Florida, or what is now the southeastern United States. He was one of the expedition’s four survivors, with Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, whose Relación (1542) tells about the men’s adventures; Andrés Dorantes de Carranza, Esteban’s owner; and Alonso Castillo Maldonado.

The first mention of Esteban in the Relación appears after the account of the expedition s second shipwreck near Galveston Island in 1528 Most of the expedition s members were lost at ...



Dedra McDonald Birzer

explorer, enslaved North African, and the first representative of the so-called Old World to encounter peoples of today's American Southwest, was born in Azamor, Morocco. His career as an explorer began in 1528 with the journey to Florida of Pánfilo de Narváez.

This initial Spanish exploration of Florida ended in disaster. The Narváez expedition included four hundred men sailing on five ships. They departed Havana, Cuba, in April 1528 and reached present-day Tampa Bay on 1 May. There Narváez split his forces, ordering the ships to sail along the coast while he marched inward with three hundred men, searching for a fabled city of gold and its attendant riches. A series of attacks by natives reduced the Spanish forces, but they continued their explorations, reaching Apalachen, principal settlement of the Apalachee people (located near present-day Tallahassee) by July 1528 Overwhelmed by native forces defended by highly ...



Liliana Obregón

Born in Azemmour, Morocco, Estebanico (also known as Estevanico, Esteban, Estevanico the Moor, Black Stephen, and Esteban de Dorantes) may have been captured by Portuguese slave traders in North Africa between 1513 and 1521, and later sold in Europe. In 1528 he accompanied his owner—a Spanish explorer named Andrés de Dorantes—on an expedition led by conquistador Pánfilo de Narváez to settle unknown territory in North America. When they arrived in Florida, Narváez's group of some 300 men encountered many obstacles and were forced to split up in order to survive.

The legendary explorer Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca headed the group that included Estebanico They traveled around the area now known as the Florida Panhandle and the Mississippi River and eventually wound up shipwrecked on what is now Galveston Island in Texas Over time almost all of the expedition s members ...



Glenn Allen Knoblock

Ohio frontier settler and slave, was likely born in Africa and brought to the American colonies by slave traders as a young boy. While details about nearly all of his life are speculative at best, Ezra was purchased at Baltimore, Maryland, by Dr. David McMahan in the years before the American Revolution. When Dr. McMahan decided to travel to the Ohio country to claim land for his own in early 1777 he brought along with him his two Negro slaves Ezra and Sam Eckert 123 Traveling overland from Fort Cumberland on the Braddock Road the three man party crossed the Monongahela River and made their way to Wheeling on the Ohio River Making their way on packhorses loaded with the provisions and supplies needed for homesteading as well as McMahan s medical gear the trip was a long and arduous one While details are lacking there can be ...


Fields, Mary  

Lisa E. Rivo

building foreman and caretaker, U.S. mail coach driver, Montana pioneer, also known as Black Mary or Stagecoach Mary, was born a slave in Hickman County, Tennessee. Information about Fields's parentage and early life remain unconfirmed, although James Franks, whose grandparents knew Fields in the late 1800s in Montana, writes that Fields was the daughter of Suzanna and Buck, slaves of the Dunne family, owners of a Hickman County plantation. The Dunnes sold Buck immediately following Mary's birth. According to Franks, the Dunnes allowed Suzanna to keep her daughter with her in quarters behind the kitchen, and Mary enjoyed a relatively privileged childhood, even becoming friends with the Dunne's daughter Dolly, who was about the same age as Mary. This arrangement, Franks writes, lasted until Suzanna's death forced fourteen-year-old Mary to take over her mother's household duties.

Whether or not Franks s account is accurate it is ...


Fields, Mary  

Mary Fields was born a slave in Tennessee, but little else is known of her early life. Some historical accounts have placed her on the Mississippi River in the early 1870s, and at least one researcher claims that she was a passenger on the Robert E. Lee when it raced the steamer Natchez in June 1870. By 1884 Fields was living in Toledo, Ohio, where she worked as a handywoman for an order of Ursuline nuns. She became attached to the mother superior of the convent, Mother Amadeus, who is variously reported as a close friend or as the master in a master-servant relationship. Shortly after Fields arrived at the convent, Mother Amadeus left for Montana to open a school for Blackfeet Native American girls. When Mother Amadeus fell ill in Helena, Fields came to her aid and decided to stay in Montana.

Fields assisted the Catholic mission ...


Fields, Stagecoach Mary  

Kelli Cardenas Walsh

The story of Mary Fields is one of race, gender, and age. She was the antithesis of the nineteenth-century Victorian image of womanhood. In an age of domesticity, Fields lived a frontier life dependent upon no one and uninhibited by Jim Crow.

A former slave, in freedom Fields became an independent, gunslinging, liquor-drinking woman in the untamed frontier of Montana. She stood six feet tall and was stout. Details about the early life of Mary Fields are sparse, other than that she was born into slavery in 1832. Judge Dunn in Hickman County, Tennessee, owned Fields and presumably owned her family. She was befriended by her master’s daughter, Dolly, and remained with the family after Emancipation.

Once she left the Dunn family Fields spent an unspecified time in Ohio and along the Mississippi River During this time Dolly joined a convent of Ursuline nuns taking the name of ...


Flake, Green  

Donna Tyler Hollie

former slave and Mormon pioneer, was born in Anson County, North Carolina. Nothing is known about his family or early childhood. At age ten, Green was given as a wedding gift to James Madison and Agnes Love Flake, wealthy plantation owners in Anson County. In 1841 the Flakes relocated to Kemper County, Mississippi, taking Green and other slaves with them to clear and work the new land. Two years later, the Flakes joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, as did several of their slaves, including Green.

The church, commonly known as the Mormon Church, was founded by Joseph Smith, in Fayette Township, New York, in 1830 Many of the group s tenets and practices they voted in a block they were antislavery and they took over land that Missourians did not wish them to have made them extremely unpopular Consequently the members ...


Garrido, João  

Trevor Hall

an enslaved West African who lived in Portugal and worked as a translator and mariner aboard Portuguese ships trading in West Africa. He appears in the historical record in 1477, during a war between Portugal and Spain (1475–1479) when he escaped his Portuguese master, who had taken him from Portugal to West Africa many times as a translator aboard Portuguese trading vessels. But on what proved to be his last voyage, Garrido escaped and remained in the region of Guinea in West Africa. It was there that he wrote Prince João, the future King João II (r. 1481–1495) of Portugal, requesting his freedom. Because Garrido was then resident in Africa, his request was granted.

In his 1477 letter to Prince João Garrido stated that he was a Christian who had been enslaved in Lagos southern Portugal by the squire Gonçalo Toscano The African informed the ...


Goyens, William  

Charles Rosenberg

was the first African American and perhaps the first of any color to become a millionaire in Texas. His life reflects substantial changes in the social and legal implications of skin color from the late eighteenth century to the mid-nineteeth century, distinct from, but closely related to, changes in the institution of slavery.

His father was a “free colored” man named William Goyens Sr. (or Goin), born in 1762, who enlisted in a company of the Tenth North Carolina Regiment May 1781–May 1782 for the Revolutionary War. After discharge from the militia, Goyens Sr. married an unknown woman referred to as “white,” who was the mother of the younger William Goyens. Goyens Sr. then remarried a colored woman named Elizabeth in 1793. Goyens Sr. received an invalid pension for North Carolina militia service in 1835, at the age of seventy-two (Research of Cindy Goins Hoelscher ...


Henry, the Navigator  

Jeremy Rich

known in Portugal as Infante Henrique, duke of Viseu, and a major contributor to Portuguese maritime exploration and Portugal’s ties to Africa, was born in the northern Portuguese city of Oporto on Ash Wednesday, 4 March 1394 Henrique was the third son of King John I of Portugal and his English queen Philippa of Lancaster He later became known in the English speaking world as Henry the Navigator for his promotion of naval exploration of West Africa As a prince Henrique received an extensive education in theology philosophy and the liberal arts Biographer Peter Edward Russell has argued that Henrique s English royal mother inspired him to follow in the footsteps of his Plantagenet aristocratic lineage One hint of this came from his personal motto Instead of using Portuguese Henrique picked as his maxim an Anglo French term talent de bien fere which meant in Middle French a hunger ...